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We need to talk about 'Paulownia' Tone wood..

Discussion in 'Vintage Tele Discussion Forum (pre-1974)' started by acVox, Oct 9, 2020.

  1. branbolio

    branbolio Tele-Meister

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    Sounds like he is! Surprised me too, you’d think that would make it tough to do repairs and such. He also seems to like his pin up girls on the pick guard so...
     
  2. regularslinky

    regularslinky Tele-Afflicted

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    I have a G&L Comanche made of paulownia - although, like Fender, they call it "empress." It's lightweight, but not extremely light - I have Teles made of pine and swamp ash that are as light or lighter. No problems with any screws stripping after several years. Sounds like a Comanche, doesn't hurt my back.
     
  3. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    There are many wood species that are very light in weight.
    Seems like paulownia is popular because it grows near the cheapest labor on earth, not because it’s otherwise special.
    But after years of us assembling Tel shaped guitars with $39 GFS bodies, the wood has gotten lots of internet chatter.

    Seems to me that the excitement is a mix of it being good for $39, and it being light for us old guys with bad backs.

    I have yet to read anywhere that pro players choose it for an overall superior guitar sound.

    As for the Fender Brad Paisley model with a three layer two species body, that’s a three layer two species thing not a paulownia thing.
    Multi piece bodies made in laminate like the Paisley are more damped than resonant, so I would not put the Paisley model in the category of pro players who use paulownia for superior sound.

    If you want to buy quality lumber and build a quality light weight body, I think there is more evidence in support of using a harder more durable wood and chambering the body to get the weight you want.

    Or if you like the idea of a very soft easily dented wood, there maybe be domestic lumber in the pine and spruce family.
    Advantages of choosing a local softwood include:

    No shipping from Asia or other distant land.
    Possible superb tonewood like European spruce if that’s a goal.
    Support local business where workers might earn a living wage.

    I’m not familiar with all the lumber in the EU and UK but there’s a long tradition of fine woodworking near you to look at for nicer timber options.

    If you want a $39 ultra light sorta Tele shaped body then paulownia is a fine choice!
     
  4. branbolio

    branbolio Tele-Meister

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    Guitarmill gets their paulownia locally grown in Tennessee... so it doesn’t all come from Asia. I’m curious what other wood you think would be lighter because I haven’t come across any. The next lightest thing Ive found is Western red cedar, but it’s still a bit heavier.
     
  5. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    There's a huge paulownia tree right across the street from me. I look at it and think of all the guitars it could make. :lol: But it's a nice tree to look at, and home to many birds.

    As far as the grain look, my paulownia 12-string has a fairly pleasing grain to it...

    TELE 12 B-05.jpg

    TELE 12 B-04.jpg

    Yep, dents.


    TELE 12 B-08.jpg
     
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  6. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Not lighter but there are many light weight wood species.
    Pine alone has like 200 varieties.
    The point isn’t to find a wood that barely survives the handling a guitar is subject to while balancing poorly on a strap.
    Does any player wish for those features?
    The point is that there are so many choices and paulownia is just not superior in any way, so go handle some lumber piles and pick some nice boards if you’re in the mood for milling.

    Personally I choose harder stock chambered for weight reduction.
    But not for acoustic goals.
    Spruce, pine, fir, those include some sound board suitable examples.
    Of the goal is nice acoustics from an electric, there are better species for acoustic properties.

    As far as the varieties in the paulownia family, I’ve read that some is heavier and some grows in the US, but that info does not tell me that it’s a great guitar wood or tonewood.

    With so many lumber options, and particularly if building your own for enjoyment, damn pick some nice lumber!

    We see this trend right now, right?
    Stepping back from the fact that it’s trendy, and that when not using our electric guitar as an electric guitar it sounds kinda loud, why exactly would we choose to make a really nice guitar with this particular species?

    We talk about it a lot and mostly the advantage is super cheap and super light, mixed in with GFS inconsistency and poor balance on a strap.
    Still not seeing a solid clear line of reasoning for choosing the stuff?
     
  7. orpheo

    orpheo TDPRI Member

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    I would guess that Paulonia is something akin to abachi, obeche and ayous. Soft. However, I love to use it because it is affordable (those trees grow insanely fast!), takes dyes well, and it sounds great. Great alternative to alder or mahogany. In fact, some of my favorite strats and LP's have an obeche back (with a maple top on the LP's) and those sound huge.
     
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  8. luthier59

    luthier59 TDPRI Member

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  9. luthier59

    luthier59 TDPRI Member

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    The Brad Paisley telecaster has paulownia sandwiched between spruce top and back it weighs in at just 6 lbs. I was walking to my shop and a friend was playing his unplugged I could hear it clearly from 70 feet away. I would say they killed it with that combo even with that thick flake paint job. Probably the most resonant solid body guitar I've ever heard unplugged .
     
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  10. radiocaster

    radiocaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    Much prefer tone plywood and tone MFD.
     
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  11. NGS Guitars

    NGS Guitars TDPRI Member

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    Great idea that. Plugging for strap screws is good idea. Supa glue any other screw holes too.

    It's a great wood and finishes up much like Ash with lovely grain etc. This red Tele went out recently.

    NG
    www.ngsguitars.com Red Paulownia Telecaster NGS relic Guitars.jpg
     
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  12. WalthamMoosical

    WalthamMoosical Tele-Holic Ad Free Member

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    buncha dinosaurs, it's tonetransistors FTW these days, get with the program and get your earbuds in

    let the germanium vs. silicon debate begin resume
     
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  13. 4pickupguy

    4pickupguy Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Basswood is as light as Paulownia and a bit softer. Warmoth makes Basswood bodies but sadly they don’t make Paulownia bodies yet.
     
  14. DrASATele

    DrASATele Poster Extraordinaire

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    In the Tele Home Depot section Preeb used this wood as a core to one of his original models. He hollowed out sections on a mahogany body and filled it with this stuff. It's a very impressive build and all of his treads are pretty sweet.
     
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  15. megalo82

    megalo82 TDPRI Member

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    963AF221-A1A8-46B3-9E64-E1FDA55E5FA3.jpeg AD8B9003-1200-47E8-BB6D-5AE1F316FA40.jpeg I have milled a body today: 28mm paulownia top + 18mm pine back, 3,4 lbs (still have to drill holes)

    I’ve followed the advice of a luthier, mixed the wood for middle frequencies enhancement

    I’ll let you know how it sound!
     
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  16. TheLoneRoger

    TheLoneRoger TDPRI Member

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    One thing I know about Paulownia is that it grows like a weed!
    They're very popular in Europe as shade trees outside cafes - plant one and it'll be shading your customers before you know it.
    Some friends of mine in France planted one out the front of their house and within a few years they had to cut it down because the damned thing was taking over!
    So if Paulownia wood is now a thing, plant some seeds - you'll have a quicker return on your investment than with just about any other tree on the planet!
     
  17. Vermoulian

    Vermoulian Tele-Meister

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    My experience with paulownia is similar to many other posters in this thread. Last year I built two parts Strats using GFS paulownia bodies, and they turned out great. One with a maple/rosewood neck does not exhibit any neck dive issues. A traditional Strat trem bridge with a steel block is fairly hefty so that may make a difference, compared to a Tele, I suppose. My other paulownia Strat has a solid "Brazilian ebony" neck with locking tuners, which is particularly heavy, so that one does have some neck dive, but it's not insurmountable playing with a cloth strap.

    I have not had any issues (so far, knock on tonewood) with screws stripping, but I haven't been too hard on them, and haven't taken them apart and put them back together. I have experienced getting a visible ding in the finish from relatively minor contact. But hey, natural relic-ing.

    In my experience, when dealing with a very resonant or hollow body, the way that the body absorbs acoustic energy from the strings will shape the tone to an extent---different bodies will absorb different frequencies with more or less efficiency. But, the heavier the bridge, the more that effect is minimized. (A more massive bridge resists the transfer of acoustic energy, which is why such bridges are generally considered to increase sustain.) So, if you like the idea of an ultra-light paulownia body but are concerned that it will suck tone (and I have not found that to be a problem at all, but opinions may vary), you may be able to avoid that by using a higher mass bridge, which can also help with any potential neck dive.
     
  18. mkdaws32

    mkdaws32 Tele-Afflicted Gold Supporter

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    I agree - the grain on the three I have is really nice. It's not ash, pine or alder, but I think it's "own" grain pattern is fantastic.
     
  19. Bendyha

    Bendyha Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    I made this 29 fret guitar for slide playing out of paulownia planks I ought at the local hardware store. They where about 3/4" thick and 10" wide, so the body is made up of two layers glued up together. To avoid neck dive I made the neck out of paulownia as well, and used super light tuners. For rigidity I put a few carbon rods under the fingerboard. Since making it about 2 1/2 years ago, the neck hasn't bent at all, and it keeps its tuning really well. The bridge is a block of set-in ebony, with a bone strip, so like the alumitone pickup, also very light. I opted to paint it, so the appearance of the grain is irrelevant. It is so light the guitar, that it is a shock to people who pick it up. The sound is okay, and the sustain as good as I could hope for. Due to the softness of the wood, I made the rather odd full shape to the back of the head for added strength.
    upload_2020-10-13_19-24-49.png upload_2020-10-13_19-25-28.png upload_2020-10-13_19-26-10.png
     
  20. sockgtr

    sockgtr Tele-Meister

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    I have a BP tele and it's just over 5lbs, super light weight. It also sustains more than any of my other guitars. It's kinda ridiculous. The tone is definitely different when compared to my other teles -- mahogany thinline, alder thinline, ash, alder. There's a kinda "hollow-ness" on the lower notes, probably a result of the decay envelope. I've played a few of these and they all exhibit this characteristic.

    NOTE: I play mainly on the neck pickup with a huge 3.5mm pick, so what I pull out of a guitar is not likely to be what other people get.

    As for "neck dive", I never experience this. The right arm should always be resting on the lower bout, which exerts an automatic mild downward pressure. This is the position when playing seated. The left hand should never "hold" the guitar. When standing, adjust the strap so the guitar is in the same position as when seated. Viola! no problems with "neck dive".
     
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