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"best" wood for minimalist finish & big tone?

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by rlscherer, Apr 24, 2011.

  1. rlscherer

    rlscherer TDPRI Member

    Apr 9, 2011
    San Diego

    I am a minimalist when it comes to finish. And, so I ask: What body wood do you recommend for a Thinline that will get the minimal finish necessary? What does best with the least?

    I prefer a finish that is simple, protective & makes the wood look good. I simply want to protect the wood from me, my sweat, the elements, the gig-life, etc. I like the wood to feel as natural as possible in my hands. I don't mind minor little bumps and nicks, and I hate finishes that crack or chip off. I used to play a PRS, but after I chipped & cracked the finish completely off in a few spots, I felt like it crossed a line. Here was this guitar with this beautiful mirror-like, deep finish, but please ignore the spots where bare wood shows. I love a finish that wears and tears naturally, and absorbs bumps with grace—but still protects the guitar from sweat, spills, etc.

    Also: this will be a two humbucker guitar, but I'm not worried about maintaining any traditional wood choices (and I have an ash tele already). The T-style body is the most physically comfortable (and stylish), but I prefer Duane Allman or Derek Trucks for tone. Think big, sweet humbucker sounds, as well as the ability to go into the jazz world. Outside of guitar, I've always thought Sonny Rollins had great tone, and would love to get there somehow! I primarily play blues, jazz, Americana and so on. The guitar should sound woody, rich, "piano-like" (whatever that means), and so on.

    I've been considering all rosewood, walnut, korina, mahogany, koa, and any combination of backs & tops that will get me there. Pretty much the only woods I'm not considering are ash, alder & basswood. What would combine the big sounds with a simple, minimalist finish that looks natural?

    What do you recommend? Advice is always appreciated!

  2. Nash

    Nash Tele-Holic

    Mar 8, 2009
    Fullerton, CA
    Threads about "tone" wood generally get rather interesting, so I'll withhold my thought on that.

    As far as finish goes, it sounds like you'd be happiest with something like Tru-Oil.
  3. Jkal

    Jkal TDPRI Member

    May 8, 2009
    Austin, TX
    Here is a mahogany body with Tru Oil. Light sanding; no grain filler. I just like the feel of the guitar. Kent Armstrong P90s, and a short scale neck. Very "woody."

    Attached Files:

  4. piece of ash

    piece of ash Friend of Leo's

    Dec 29, 2010
    Sugar Land, TX
    Alder... proven tone... durable... could be oiled... doesn't require grain filler... will accept dyes... pretty grain possible.
  5. Colt W. Knight

    Colt W. Knight Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Jan 21, 2007
    Tucson, AZ

    You wouldn't have to use any finish, and it sounds fantastic!
  6. adjason

    adjason Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Jan 9, 2010
    I second the tru oil finish- really it will work on any wood...........so just find something that you like the look of and you are good to go (Mahogany would be my first pick but ash or even maple would work)
  7. Rob52

    Rob52 Tele-Holic

    Aug 5, 2009
    South of Melbourne, Austr
    Tru-oil and the like will probably give you the feel you're looking for, whether you'll get the degree of protection required to stand up to "the gig-life" depends on your expectations. Tru-oil is probably a more durable option than Danish oil or Tung oil

    Another option you could consider as a finish is a shellac with added crosslinkers, it's made by an Aussie company called U-Beaut. It's claimed add resistance to alcohol, heat and moisture to shellac while retaining it's normal qualities. It's promoted as suitable for furniture and musical instruments. I can't give you an opinion on how it stands up over time as I've just started using it myself, but I like the way it finishes. My taste in finishes sound similar to your own. Minimal, thin, low sheen and as unobtrusive as possible.

    As far as your list of possible wood options go, I'd be happy with any of them, weight being the only factor I'd probably consider, but if weight doesn't matter to you, or you're open to a semi hollow build then no problem.

    Like Nash, I won't touch the "tone wood" debate, it's been done to death and will be again, many times over. All wood has a tone of some sort, whether we like it, or how much it contributes to the final sound of an electric guitar is up to our own beliefs and ears.

    Given what you're aiming for I'd probably choose Mahogany, Korina, or Australian Blackwood, but that's just me.

    Good luck with your build.
  8. gitlvr

    gitlvr Friend of Leo's

    Aug 18, 2008
    Northern Va.
    This, IMHO. Alder finishes like a dream, is relatively light in weight, and has been used in solid body guitars pretty much from the beginning. If I had your requirements, that's what I'd choose.
  9. Kalebima

    Kalebima Tele-Meister

    Jan 27, 2011
    Montreal, QC
    I'm going to start my first build with cherry - supposedly it gives a nice warm sound similar to mahogany, and isn't that heavy. Pretty unique as well.
  10. davmac

    davmac Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 15, 2003
    Wirral, UK
    Whilst alder probably the best as an all-rounder, I just love the look of a plain danish oil finish on sapele.

  11. Fernder

    Fernder Tele-Meister

    Aug 23, 2008
    San Diego
    Nice to see another San Diegan on here!
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