Can anybody tell me about butternut as a body wood for bass?

Discussion in 'The Small Company Luthiers' started by Gordon_Gecko, Jul 6, 2006.


  1. Gordon_Gecko

    Gordon_Gecko Member

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  2. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Member

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    I've never used it, but Butternut is known in the lumber world as 'White Walnut'. If the density and pore structure are similar, the tone should be similar to Walnut - which can sound huge!!
     
  3. TAVD

    TAVD Guitar Player Gold Supporting Member

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    I've played a few butternut basses and they sounded great. From what I could tell, butternut sounds lighter and more resonate than walnut. Much more viable for solid bodies, ime.
     
  4. meangene

    meangene Member

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    I bet it tastes great with a little rum added. Hey its my birthday today so just having fun, other than that I have never worked with Butternut but routing Basswood to me has always smelled like roasted peanuts.
     
  5. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Member

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    Happy Birthday, Gene! Lemmee guess........mmmmmmm.....30?!!??;)
     
  6. Mike Dresch

    Mike Dresch Silver Supporting Member

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    Routing Basswood always smelled like Tinkertoys to me :)
     
  7. Gordon_Gecko

    Gordon_Gecko Member

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    OK... back on topic. I must choose between mahogany or butternut for a body wood... any thoughts??
     
  8. meangene

    meangene Member

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    Thanks bro's turning 40! DOH!

    Anyhow not many guys doing Mahogany basses although EB has a new one going on I think as a limited run Sterling. I would have to say take the Mahogany its a simple receipe for great tone no matter if its a guitar or bass. Butter Nut from what I think I remember has a similar grain pattern and probably even lighter weight following a Phillipine Mahogany or Luan theme but I could be completely out to lunch too.
     
  9. Spudboy

    Spudboy Member

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    Actually, butternut looks and hefts a lot like swamp ash. Some people can't even tell the difference.
     
  10. Dana Olsen

    Dana Olsen Gold Supporting Member

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    Hey Gene - Happy 29th (GRIN)

    Dana Olsen here, former Santa Barbara resident - I've played your guitars at Jensen's, and I've spent some time playing Peter Mendel's early RF model you built him. I'm a big fan of Baker guits. Met you at NAMM a couple times.

    And my sister lives in Grover Beach - we're practically neighbors (GRIN).

    Back on topic - All you builder types seem to be getting better with design viv-a-vis wood choice in electrics. Jack, it wouldn't surprise me if you could make a guitar that sounded HUGE out of lawn clippings & popsicle sticks.

    Anybody ever make a production insturment out of Walnut (which sounds probably like butternut?) To use as a tonal point of reference? I don't think I've ever heard a guitar made of walnut or butternut ...

    I'm trying to get a picture in my head of what a butternut or a walnut guitar would sound like.

    Thanks, Dana
     
  11. RickC

    RickC Gold Supporting Member

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    I played several butternut basses at the Philly show a couple of years ago. It was a small, high end custom builder; can't recall the name though. Anyway, the basses were light and resonant, and played like buttah (of course). But I remember thinking to myself that they might not cut well onstage. There are lots of high end basses like that; beautiful sounding in the store, lost in the mix. I don't *know* that was the case with these, just gut instinct based on experience and what I was hearing.

    /rick
     
  12. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Member

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    Dana,

    Thanks for the comment. Remember Gibson's "The Paul?" That was made in the late '70's to early or mid '80's, IIRC. All walnut construction. Walnut is usually heavier than mahogany, but from what I've experienced it's really the only tonewood that can hunt with mahogany in the bass response area. Tough to carve!!!!
     
  13. Dana Olsen

    Dana Olsen Gold Supporting Member

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    Excellent call Jack. I DO remember that guitar.

    Before you cited it, I'd completely forgotten about it.

    Thank You, Dana
     
  14. Barefoot

    Barefoot Senior Member

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    And dont forget the Ibanez Musician guits and basses from the late 70's and early 80's. I believe some of them were walnut bodies with maple or mahogany necks. Good fiddles.............
     
  15. T. Caster

    T. Caster Member

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    Butternut is a cousin of walnut, looks very much like it but much lighter in color. Same grain structure. It is quite a bit lighter in weight as well. It's classified as a hardwood, but in fact most of it is quite soft, you can easily dent it with a fingernail, at least the stock that I have. I have no idea what it would sound like, but it would probably get banged up pretty easily.It's very pretty though, has a nice sheen when hand planed. I took a pic of a board I have, but don't see a way to upload it to the site.

    Edit: Got a Photobucket account, will try to get a pic in here.

    http://i98.photobucket.com/albums/l279/T-Caster/P1010401.jpg

    Dan

    Can someone point the way to directions for putting an actual pic in a post, rather than the link to Photobucket?
     
  16. Luke

    Luke Senior Member

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    [SIZE=+1]I found this by googling: guitar wood butternut, at this link: http://www.guitarnation.com/articles/calkin.htm

    [/SIZE]
    Butternut. Also called white walnut, butternut is softer and less likely to be figured than black walnut. It's not really white, but a creamy light brown. Flatsawn stock shows prominent lines from the growth rings. I've never come across a quartersawn board of butternut, nor a piece large enough to make into a full-size guitar, much to my regret. The trees do grow large enough, however. The wood bends nicely, but go easy on the water as it is more absorbent than walnut or mahogany. It's a fuzzy wood, easy to sand, but the fuzz won't stay down. A long series of whiskerings will deal with it, but I normally sand to 220 grit, shoot a sealer coat which raises the grain and locks it, then sand with 320 to remove the whiskers. I've only gloss-finished butternut with CrystaLac and found pore filling unnecessary. A lacquer job might go faster if filler was used. On my low-end travel guitars, I shoot a coat of lacquer, sand with 320, then shoot two more coats, polish quickly by hand to make the surface silky, and call it quits. It's an attractive look, but I would never do it on an expensive instrument.


    If you want high tech info, go here:

    http://www.ukuleles.com/Technology/woodprop.html


    The only thing I will say against the wood is that it being so rarely used for guitars makes it a white elephant to sell later. I would purchase a used instrument made of the material first, give it time to determine if it is my holy grail, and then order a custom instrument made of it, fully knowing that my best case exit plan might be 25% of what I paid.
     

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