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Mahogany and the cost of it....yikes.

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by guitarbuilder, Nov 30, 2020.

  1. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Telefied Ad Free Member

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    So I'm in a Gibson mode now and wanted to start a couple more body blanks for projects that I've been putting off. I have an original Epiphone Olympic neck that was never used. I wanted to try an SG Jr, and 1967 ish Melody Maker for the fun of it. When I was a tween, my nose was pressed up against the window at Wurlitzer Music and just drooled. There was a red MM and probably a Kalamazoo one I can still see in my brain.

    So I started looking at mahogany and all I can say is
    WOW.

    I ended up with some Khaya for one and will try it out before I order any more. I don't like Sapele and I had some African Mahogany that was really dark and heavy and good for boat anchors.... I do have a few pieces of Genuine mahogany, but don't feel that these particular projects are worthy of it.

    I'm going to be real careful with my stash now. I can see some splice joints coming up here and there.
     
  2. alnico357

    alnico357 Tele-Afflicted

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    My 1996 Taylor 412 is made of Khaya, aka African mahogany. It is a nice looking, nice sounding guitar.
     
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  3. Jakedog

    Jakedog Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Don’t know what your source is, but it might pay to shop around. My experience may no longer be relevant, as it was about twenty years ago... but...

    Back in the late 90’s and early 00’s my younger brother made a go at opening his own custom guitar business. It didn’t ultimately succeed, as most don’t. But I have a couple of his guitars and they are amazing. At that time we discussed how expensive wood was, and he maintained it was all in where he shopped for it.

    He said buying wood from places that specialized in supplying luthiers and guitar companies was prohibitively expensive. He had searched around and found a supplier that specialized in supplying furniture manufacturers. It was literally anywhere from 50 to 90% cheaper for exotic and high grade “tone” woods.

    6D8ACD9E-953B-4DF8-9C76-21F2338CC1C9.jpeg

    This ain’t the greatest photo to show the grain on my tele. It’s really pretty spectacular. This top came from a piece of Lacewood that was very nearly the size of a good coffee table top, and several inches thick. That he bought for $30. This guitar also has a chambered mahogany body, a totally black ebony board, and a rock maple neck. I paid him for all the wood he used when he built it for me back in ‘02, and it was next to nothing.

    I know times have changed, and so have environmental laws. Like I said, this experience may no longer be relevant. Just thought I’d toss it out there.
     
  4. posttoastie

    posttoastie Tele-Afflicted

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    This solid 1 3/4 inch door is 1230 dollars. I imagine you can find a door company that you can buy Mahogany from. Seems like a lot of bodies can be made.

    [​IMG]
     
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  5. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    True mahogany is indeed much more pricey these days due to constrained supply. Something guitar builders can do to sometimes mitigate that is to be willing to buy "shorts" from their lumber purveyor. This is a good practice for a lot of "exotics" when one can work with shorter pieces successfully....guitar bodies and necks indeed to apply there. It's not a huge discount, but it often is less than regular pricing.

    The last time I bought true mahogany was 2003, honestly, and it wasn't inexpensive then. I mostly use sapele for when mahogany is called for these days, but I can appreciate that some folks don't prefer the "ribbon" figure for some applications. The workability is the same, however.
     
  6. DrASATele

    DrASATele Poster Extraordinaire

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    Indeed even in my local lumber shops the price is up a bit.
    I wish I had been better about buying body blank sizes instead of neck blank sizes.
     
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  7. Musekatcher

    Musekatcher Friend of Leo's

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    That's wild. The lines on the left waist, look like chisel marker lines, drawn in a pattern! That's a great piece of wood.
     
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  8. CapnCrunch

    CapnCrunch Friend of Leo's

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    If you're talking about Honduras Mahogany, ya, it's been hard to get for quite a few years. I have a local source that still stocks some, but to be honest, what is available is not at all like what you once could buy. I have a couple of pieces of Honduras that are super light weight that I've been hoarding, and that are destined to be set necks with carved tops. If you can find Honduras at all, you'll be lucky to find stuff that you might want to make into a guitar.

    I've started using Korina/Limba. My local place has lots of it, and it is light weight and makes great guitars. Another great body wood, if you can find it, is Obeche. It has open and inerlocked grain and looks a lot like mahogany when filled. It is very light weight. Another candidate is Spanish Cedar.

    All of the Khaya that I've picked up recently is right up there with Sapele in weight. They are both just too heavy for solid body guitars, at least in my opinion, unless you are going to make them hollow and put a top on them.
     
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2020
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  9. crazydave911

    crazydave911 Doctor of Teleocity

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    Superb build :)
     
  10. pshupe

    pshupe Tele-Meister

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    Over the last 8 yrs or so I have noticed Honduran Mahogany has pretty much doubled in price. I can still get it but know it has doubled makes it seem expensive. For building a custom guitar the cost is not prohibitive, it's just hard to swallow to pay 2x what it used to be. That's what happens when you get old. Do not ask me what I paid for my first house! LOL For reference I can get a very nice light Honduran Mahogany body blank from a local supplier cut to the exact spec I need for about $140. It used to be $70. I just bought one and it was 15" x 22 x 1 3/4" and quite a bit under 3 lbs/b.f.

    Where is your local place? I'm interested in large slabs of Korina. I can find thinner stuff that is quite inexpensive but wider stuff is very hard to find. I'm looking for one piece bodies in the 18" x 24" x 8/4 as a minimum.

    Regards Peter.
     
  11. CapnCrunch

    CapnCrunch Friend of Leo's

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    Hi Peter,

    I haven't seen it that wide here usually 8 to 10 inches wide by true 8/4, but I haven't actually gone out into their warehouse and picked through the stacks. Next time I'm there, I'll ask them. The place is called Edensaw woods in Port Townsend WA. Where are you? Hamilton Montana....Hamilton Ontario or are you a fan of the musical? If you can get wide Honduras at 3 lb/bd.ft. it's probably worth the price.
     
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  12. crazydave911

    crazydave911 Doctor of Teleocity

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    Marty, call my friends from Jefferies Woodworks, they buy and sell all over the world. The neck I'm making for the Guild clone I got in a batch from them, true South American mahogany, the damn good stuff. I kept the six neck blanks and gave the only body blank to my bestie, Rich. They'll tell you over the phone what they have, can get, price it and the shipping. If it's an order item you must prepay. But if they aren't happy with it they'll text a picture and offer a refund. Damn good folks

    Dave
     
  13. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I've been squirreling tropical American mahogany away for 20 years. I stopped buying it at 10 dollars a board foot many years ago. My local places don't even carry it now but have substitutes instead, mostly Sapele which I don't like the looks of. I did get some nice stuff off of ebay over the years, but the vendors are out of business now too. I have neck blanks. For body blanks I probably have enough for 2-3 carved top builds. One is a boat anchor and I suspect it is Sapele. I just don't want to use the good stuff frivolously on these next couple builds. Those good blanks probably are earmarked for a couple heirloom builds as I wind down this hobby. I'm not getting any younger and the eyes aren't what they used to be.
     
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  14. trev333

    trev333 Telefied Ad Free Member

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  15. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity

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    When I was building my first boat, this guy had an ad in Little Nickel want ads for S. American Mahogany. He had a garage stacked full of it. I bought a pickup load of boards for $100. It was unplaned 4/4 boards 6-9" wide. Very pink in color before finishing. hah, but damn, the teak I used on that boat was a whopping $6 a board ft!

    I have a very wide board here that is a full 1" thick planed. I bought it at an estate sale and I think it's 12-14" wide. They guy who died had a bunch of odd wood in the barn. But I'm not sure what it is, the grain looks a lot like that Phillipine stuff, however it's dark and has those black grains like African, but fairly light weight. I've wanted to build a body of it but just never have.
     
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  16. crazydave911

    crazydave911 Doctor of Teleocity

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    From the weight and grain I'd try Sycamore. Lighter than available mahogany I know about and quartersawn prettier than new puppies. I THOUGHT about staining the sycamore on my Strat Bass but it wasn't the primo stuff like I sent Rich. But with just shellac base coat I saw the possibilities :). If I EVER build that SC Special of my dreams? It will be quartersawn sycamore. Custom builders have also copped to the ease of bending and beauty of sycamore binding. Way easier to work with. The parlour I was building for me was quartersawn sycamore, walnut binding and a cedar too. A guy kept hanging around, watching but didn't say much so I let him stay. When I finished I sat in my shop chair playing it and smiling. The guy pipes up, what'll you take for it. Not wanting to sell it I said sternly, two grand. He smiled a huge one and began counting out Benjamin's. I was stunned and couldn't back out with my ethics. Not that I didn't need the money (boy did I) but I learned a hard lesson. The very reason when Rich agreed to build me a Dewdrop, he got a shipment of sycamore and eastern red cedar ;)

    Just a thought friend

    Dave
     
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  17. pshupe

    pshupe Tele-Meister

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    I'm in Hamilton ON Canada. I can get 8 - 10" wide boards all day long and it is cheap. I think about US$7.50 a b.f., I'm doing the Can$ to US$ conversion. The Geniune, S.A., Honduran I get is about US$20 b.f. for a local place that is about 20 mins from me. I have 3 places within 45 mins that stock Mahogany. Hard maple is dirt cheap here, and I cut down and mill my own trees. Usually black walnut. Black walnut is crazy here, almost as expensive as Honduran Mahogany. I mill it in slabs and sell it for about US$11 b.f. Glad I'm not buying it. ;-)

    I bought about 6 Korina body blanks last month from Commercial Forest Products in California. It was great stuff and they were awesome to deal with. It wasn't cheap though at about US$150 - US$200 per body blank. That's about US$30 b.f. But how else are you gonna make a one piece Explorers and Modernes??
    IMG_0642.JPG


    Cheers Peter.
     
  18. CapnCrunch

    CapnCrunch Friend of Leo's

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    Sounds like you've got it pretty well dialed in. Beautiful blanks you have sitting there. I don't mind doing 2 piece bodies, and actually prefer it with Black Limba. The joint becomes the center line, and those bodies have really cool designs on the end grain. Walnut is through the roof here too. Non figured Western Big leaf Maple is dirt cheap, but anything with figure gets labeled "Luthier" wood and it goes for $20+ a b.f. A lot of the figured wood from my immediate vicinity goes directly to Gibson and PRS. I have some really out of this world figured Western Maple that is awaiting the right guitars too. I just build them to play, and have more than I can play now. My kids may have to build them.
     
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  19. devrock

    devrock Tele-Meister

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    It really does depend on where you can shop for the stuff. I've found the lumber places that don't sell online to be much more affordable for both mahogany and white black limba. If you saw the stash of limba I have that I got in upstate NY a year ago) and what I paid for the massive one-pc blanks, you'd punch me in the face. :D I usually get my mahogany from a place outside of NYC. Buying long planks of it and having them cut it for me seems to work for me.

    On the flip side, prices seem to be slowly climbing on a lot of wood species the past few months. One vendor I've purchased from a few times has really great pricing on most of their body blanks is Keim Lumber in OH: https://shop.keimlumber.com/solidbodyblanks

    Another favorite of mine is Gilmer, but their mahogany prices include pucker factor lately, so I don't think I'd look there right now.
     
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  20. wadeeinkauf

    wadeeinkauf Tele-Holic

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    Marty thanks for bringing this topic up and for all you that are sharing your alternatives to mahogany. The problem I ran into with the mahogany I was getting here in central California was that it had "fuzzy grain" you could actually pull the fibers out of the grain while sanding or worse, planning. I was having my local cabinet shop order some mahogany lumber for me and they said they had switched to sapele because of this. I still have a piece of the last mahogany I bought which is much lighter in weight and color than sapele and other mahogany I have bought. I am not sure WHAT kind of mahogany it is...Unless you deal with a specialty shop mahogany is like a generic name for anything close. I switched to sapele and really like everything about it EXCEPT the STRIPS. Since I use it as the back body on my drop tops it's not too bad but I will be searching for a replacement as I do not like the STRIPES. Since February I have not been able to get into the inside of the lumber building I buy my wood from. You have to order it unseen and pick it up in the yard but obviously that does not work for guitar making. I am on my last 4 builds of my lumber stash then I may actually have to start doing the yard work! You are talking about the price of mahogany, the roasted maple neck blanks I get have gone up from $32 to near $50 in the last 4 years not including shipping.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2020
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