Pros and Cons of a "Fancy" Wood Cabinet

Discussion in 'Amp Tech Center' started by tfarny, Feb 3, 2020.

  1. tfarny

    tfarny Friend of Leo's

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    Apologies if this question isn't technical enough for the Amp Tech forum. I'm due soon to receive an Allen Amp (Accomplice Jr with some additions), which I am hoping will become my main all-purpose amp for many years. Looking for big-boy Fender tones in a highly portable and top quality format. I'm going to build my own combo cab (around 20x20, just big enough to play around with a few different speaker combos) - I'm comfortable with the overall building of the cab but I have a few decisions to make:

    I have some nice straight 3/4 Cherry boards and a little bit of walnut, enough to build a very pretty cabinet, cherry with a walnut "skunk stripe" down the middle. I know that it will weigh a bit more than pine, but A) I already have it, B) it's probably easier to make a fancy cab and slap a clear finish on it than to learn tolexing at this point, and C) I'd rather not buy stuff if I don't need to, seeing as I have a shed full of nice wood.
    I have a great source for 15 mil Baltic Birch Ply, the good stuff, and I could easily get all the nice pine that I want, but again either one costs money and a trip out the lumberyard.

    SO: Is an open back cherry cab going to sound worse than a pine or good plywood cab, all else equal? And any guesses as to how much more the thing will weigh by Cherry (the walnut will just be a 1" stripe).
    Finally, which would you do and why?
     
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  2. brookdalebill

    brookdalebill Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    Pros - Beauty, strength
    Con’s - (heavy) weight, extra care and maintenance

    I once owned a Deluxe Reverb housed in a stunning, Paul Rivera made dovetailed maple cabinet.
    It was incredibly beautiful and well made.
    It had a wicker grille, and was kinda heavy, but I was young and strong.
    Anyways, making the cabinet sounds like a cool project.
    Just as a side-note, Gerald Webber of Kendrick Amps thinks Canarywood sounds best.
    Dunno.
    I loved my maple cabinet.
     
  3. Vibrolux59

    Vibrolux59 Tele-Meister

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    I was a career woodworker and still have a really nicely equipped small shop but have never seriously thought about doing a "fancy wood" cabinet. It just seems impractical to me unless the amp is just going to sit in the corner of your living room. That said if you do I highly recommend conversion varnish for your topcoat. It will stay looking nice longer than most finishes in high use situations. I've done desktops that get used daily years ago that still look spectacular.

    It will be noticeably heavier, pine is pretty lightweight (and more resonant IMO)
     
  4. jimgchord

    jimgchord Tele-Afflicted

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    plywood is always going to be more stable than solid wood, baltic birch is quite heavy in its own right but it machines well and makes a nice sturdy cab. Keep in mind its only going to be as good as the method you use to join it together.
     
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  5. dougstrum

    dougstrum Tele-Afflicted

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    Cherry is so pretty, probably my favorite wood. I've got two 1x12 amps one is cherry the other fir. Both sound good to me. The amp made with fir is actually a couple of pounds heavier. IMG_20200203_184053199.jpg
     
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  6. Deeve

    Deeve Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    @tfarny - Life's too short for Tolex if you've got pretty wood on hand.
    If you go this way, don't just make it a square box w/ hidden cleats; make the fully visible dovetails and include radius edges and angles.
    What's available for a cool grille?

    I salvaged some expanded metal, enameled black and inner bug-screen, and set a single panel of white leather across the top of the cab, but left the alarming pink on the sides and bottom and added some casters, because it's heavy even though it's not exotic (PV 2x12)

    Peace - Deeve
     

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  7. uriah1

    uriah1 Telefied Gold Supporter

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    Old boogies were nice
     

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  8. Milspec

    Milspec Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Gerald Weber did some research on woods for his Kendrick amps and his conclusion was that the prettier the wood, the worst it often sounded. The exceptions were canary wood and zebra if I recall correctly. In his tests, void-free birch and pine were the best sounding materials with the hardwoods sounding the worst.

    I think you could go with Pine and then add a nice wood venear for looks...Epiphone did that back in the '40's and they sound really good while looking great.
     
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  9. Dan German

    Dan German Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    I was lucky. When the tolex got scruffy on my PRII, I just pulled it all off and finished the knotty pine underneath. I smile every time I look at it. And no, it's not a working amp being dragged around to honky tonks, just my living room player. But it sure looks nice.

    Edit: I suppose that means mine is lighter than if it had tolex!
     
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  10. tfarny

    tfarny Friend of Leo's

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    Thanks for sharing your experiences, all! Variety of viewpoints is good...I just think if it's going to cost me $50 more for a nice sheet of fancy plywood, plus an annoying / fascinating trip to the Lumberyard of the Stars (ML Condon) PLUS the expense of Tolex and glue, I might as well use what I got on hand (which will look nice at least for a couple years).

    I'm NOT going to buy pine, and then buy a veneer, then do a lam job, when I've got pretty wood in my shed, though! Working with fine woods is always a pleasure for me, fussing about with contact cement and a vinyl material does not sound like fun.

    Oh, and no dovetails - those are definitely overkill for any joint that isn't a kitchen drawer imhop. They look neat and are a mark of somebody who knows what they are doing / has a fancy dovetail jig (which I don't).
    Just a simple clean rabbet joint and possibly dowels (for fun) will do nicely since I'll integrate a 3 or 4 inch horizontal brace into the structure. That'll be fine unless it gets thrown out of an airplane...
     
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  11. Diverted

    Diverted Tele-Meister

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    033D5B84-52F8-46A1-BC0D-7935844AF9AC.jpeg 82267143-8868-47CF-B43D-C4EE3C069568.jpeg I’ve built a few cabs out of hardwood, mostly maple and sapele. They’re beautiful woods but expensive and super heavy. These days I stick mostly to Tolex unless someone asks for something fancy.
     
  12. Nickfl

    Nickfl Tele-Afflicted

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    You should consider that finished wood may sound different than a tolex covered cab as well. I've not done enough plain wood cabinets to really be able to say but I've heard others on here who have said that plain wood cabinets tend to be quite a bit brighter then if the same cabinet were covered with a material such as tolex.

    I'd also reconsider the rabbit joints. Honestly, what's the point of using "pretty wood" that you don't want to cover if you're not going to take the time to make an attractive joint? Half blind dovetails are nearly as quick and easy as rabbet joints with a jig, but if you dont want to buy a dovetail jig, box joints look almost as cool and are easy to do with a shop made jig.
     
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  13. jman72

    jman72 Tele-Afflicted

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    I did my 5e3 cabinet with pine and danish oil w/polyurethane. It is super light and gets more resonant every day! After 5 years of weekly rehearsals and many, many gigs, every ding, scratch, and beer stain just adds to its patina. I vote pine.

    amp_4.jpg

    amp_3.jpg
     
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  14. arlum

    arlum Tele-Meister Gold Supporter

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    A set of pop in casters would help preserve your back.
     
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  15. rangercaster

    rangercaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    Do not plan on gigging /moving a nice wood cab ... it will get dinged .. sound wise I doubt any major diff ...
     
  16. Diverted

    Diverted Tele-Meister

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    That 5e3 is gorgeous.
     
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  17. jman72

    jman72 Tele-Afflicted

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    Mine is dinged all to heck...and it looks cool! It's character!
     
  18. nojazzhere

    nojazzhere Poster Extraordinaire

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    That is simply beautiful!
    It may just be psychological, but I like a lightweight pine cabinet. Was Leo just cheap.....or did he know what he was doing? I don't make "fancy" cabinets......just functional and good sounding boxes.....and I use pine.
     
  19. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

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    Look up diy speaker cabinet design calculators. You can build a smaller and thus lighter cabinet with a little math and get better sounding output.

    .
     
  20. tfarny

    tfarny Friend of Leo's

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    Hoo boy that is nice looking! I love the other one too. You guys might sway me yet. I don't mind a few dings and I know Cherry is a very soft "hardwood" as it goes. It's also not even nearly as heavy as maple, probably midway between pine and maple if anything. So far, nobody has really posted anything convincing (just hearsay, which is great fwiw) that it won't sound as good made of Cherry (open back). That's my main concern.
     
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