First build, what is the difference?

Pencilman

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Hi,

I'm a newbie at guitar building. I've built lot's of effect pedals but not a guitar yet. After years of delaying I finally took the plunge and decided to build a tele with a Brian May-ish pickup system. I managed to get my hands on a good piece of alder wood with help from a friend but it was a bit of a struggle to get for a decent price. I've seen that people also build from pine. While pine isn't really rare where I come from spruce is way more common and a friend of mine has loads of it in his workshop from a tear down a couple of years ago. So we were also deliberating on using spruce, but I wasn't really sure if it's a good substitute for pine. I've seen spruce bodies before but I never found out if it's a good choice or not.
 

epizootics

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First off, welcome to the board!

Building your own is lots of fun. Many here will tell you any piece of dry, stable wood will do the trick regardless of the species. We all make do with what's available locally. There are pros and cons to every type of lumber. In your case, I would assume that you are talking about Norway spruce (picea abies), which is the common spruce species in your part of the world. I am pretty sure a few folks here have built Teles with it. If it is cheaper and widely available, it also gives you a chance to f**k-up without losing too much on the build if you have to start over.
The downside to softer woods is that you have to be really careful not to dent your workpiece during work, and putting screw holes in the right place can be tricky because the harder part of the growth rings tends to deflect your drill bit. Run your drill at maximum speed, go slowly and you should be alright.
 

betocool

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Welcome!

What he said. I built my first Tele clone out of pine. I only had to replace the neck after I realised it was a disaster. But that was a year or so later. The body is still intact. Except of course, the time I dropped it on the floor after the third or fourth coat of paint. It didn't crack, but I think the scar is there somewhere.

Me, personally, I don't worry much about wood types for a solid body as long as I can build it and carry it afterwards. But that's just me... Some people think and do otherwise.

Good luck with the build! It is a very rewarding experience getting a guitar made to your liking!

Cheers,

Alberto
 

guitarbuilder

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It boils down to how much weight you want for a body and can you stand it if it gets dents. All sorts of species of wood have been used for guitars over the years. It seems that a 4 pound body is kind of ideal for a Telecaster style guitar for comfort and balance. Spruce is used for acoustic guitar tops.

As mentioned, use whatever you feel comfortable with using and can afford. You'll probably make a few more guitars once you get started. I've used pine, walnut, poplar, basswood, black willow, northern ash, hard maple, soft maple, mahogany, and others I can't think of right now.

Purists only want telecasters made from was was used since the early 1950's which is alder and swamp ash. Any timber free of defect and dried to a low moisture content can be used for a tele body. Even wood with defects can be used with some repair. Just get your wood and get started.
 

FuncleManson

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Whenever I have a question, I go to the Wood Database:

https://www.wood-database.com/

It probably won't tell you everything you need to know, but gives plenty of specs on weight, density, hardness, etc.

I've never used spruce, but I've used pine bodies for two projects--including the Esquire in my avatar photo--with three more (two Strats and a Tele) in the queue. It's light and easy to work with. The only real down side is that it's soft. But I only play at home and my guitars don't get banged around a lot, so it's great for me.
 

Ronkirn

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while some bemoan the soft characteristics of Spruce.... Just consider the millions of acoustics with Stika spruce tops that have survived ever since it was first used well over a hundred years ago.. and if that's not enough.. just note how well Old Willie's Trigger has resisted showing ANY signs of wear over the years.. looks as good today as it did yesterday....:p
 

Old Deaf Roadie

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IMO, the only quality you need from wood for an electric solid body guitar is the ability to hold a screw without stripping. Species contributes little to the overall sound on a solid body. Ugly grain can be hidden with paint.
Good luck on the build. Pics when it's finished go a long way here on TDPRI.
 

Pencilman

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IMO, the only quality you need from wood for an electric solid body guitar is the ability to hold a screw without stripping. Species contributes little to the overall sound on a solid body. Ugly grain can be hidden with paint.
Good luck on the build. Pics when it's finished go a long way here on TDPRI.

I'll post images for sure. It will probably be a longer process though. I didn't set myself a deadline. I find I work better that way because I don't try to rush things.
 

Ronkirn

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Species contributes little to the overall sound on a solid body.

and if you doubt that in any way.. just start paying attention whenever you hear a solid body guitar... without making a close examination, just identify the wood it's made of... With all the Hyperbole about the sonic properties of the different species of wood, one should be able to identify 'em with a pretty high percentage of accuracy...

But, if you honest with yourself, and admit to not having a clue, then the answer is obvious, use whatever will hold the parts and neck in the correct relative positions so that they can't all fall to the floor when ya stand up... and rock on..

In a solid body guitar, with rare exception, the type wood doesn't mean cack...


r
 

Bob J

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I’m still in the learning phase (working on my 4th guitar), and so far have mostly used “free” wood for my bodies. I’ve purchased some 1/4” ash and walnut for tops and/or backs because I like how they look, but the cores of the bodies have been Douglas Fir (construction grade wood) or pine (from a reclaimed bookshelf). Once I get good at this I may actually spend some money on nice wood for the body, but you can certainly make a decent playable guitar out of “woods of opportunity” while you hone your skills.
32B50669-04C6-4FD9-9E61-4B6F4422096A.jpeg
 

schmee

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Spruce should be fine, it is soft though and will dent easily.
It IS funny about Alder. It's everywhere where I live and we use it for firewood. I probably have 40 Alder trees on my land. There's a mill that makes it into wood for Cabinets etc. here locally. They typically have maybe 2 acres of stacks probably 12-20 feet high sitting around all milled and ready.
 

Freeman Keller

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As others have said, the species of wood that you use has very little impact on the tone of your guitar. You want wood that is workable in the woodshop, finishes well, holds screws, is relatively light and it available (and affordable). Spruce does meet those requirements.'

What really sets spruce off is that it has one of the highest strength and stiffness ratios to its density. That means a piece can be very light while still being strong. That is ideal for the soundboard of an acoustic guitar or archtop or violin - stiff and light is good. Those characteristics aren't really important for an electric, but of course it doesn't hurt.

Spruce is a relatively delicate wood compared to the hardwoods - on an acoustic guitar its edge is protected by binding and acoustics are usually kept in their case. Again, if you are careful with your electric it doesn't matter.

Finally, for most of us spruce is becoming expensive. In the US good quality adirondack spruce is very hard to find and in the PNW where I live a lot of good sitka is shipped to China to make pulp. Short story is that it tends to be expensive for us.

With those caveats and if spruce is available to you I would say go for it.

The other suggestion I always make for first time builders is to get a copy of Melvyn Hiscock's book on building electric guitars. He covers everything you need to know. There is a third edition recently out that is somewhat hard to source, the second is fine.

Good luck, have fun
 

Freeman Keller

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I'll add one more comment to the above. As you take your journey into lutherie and particularly as you hang out on internet forums where such subjects are discussed, you will learn that everyone has an opinion about "tone wood". It makes a difference, it doesn't make a difference. The difference is this, the difference is that. The best guitars are made out of this. The worst guitars are made out of this. This wood has more (insert word - sustain, resonance, brightness, mellow, warmth...) This wood has less

Ignore all of that - good guitars have been made out of about anything you can imagine. Including spruce
 
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oldunc

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while some bemoan the soft characteristics of Spruce.... Just consider the millions of acoustics with Stika spruce tops that have survived ever since it was first used well over a hundred years ago.. and if that's not enough.. just note how well Old Willie's Trigger has resisted showing ANY signs of wear over the years.. looks as good today as it did yesterday....:p
It is a beautiful instrument; I'm considering attempting a copy.
 

Mojotron

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Where I live, Alder is the cheapest wood that is in the right ballpark (football stadium...) as far as weight. But, I get a lot of Douglas-Fir for free and have made a lot of great guitars from Douglas-Fir; In fact, all of my favorite guitars are made from Douglas-Fir or Western Red Cedar. Spruce would likely be an excellent wood for making a guitar. Alder is a great wood, but not needed until you have a definitive need for that wood specifically, IMO... :)
 

Freeman Keller

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One thing to remember is that Pencilman is in Slovenia so his spruces (and other woods) will be different species than many of us are familiar with. I have a great big hunk of european spruce, probably from Germany, on my work bench right now - that is the prized wood of archtop and bowed instrument builders.
 




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