why aren't the same woods used for acoustics and solidbodies?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by bobbystroker, May 16, 2005.


  1. bobbystroker

    bobbystroker Guest

    why aren't the same tone woods used for acoustics and solidbodies?? Just curious. Would a spruce or cedar solid body sound bad? would a mohogany or alder acoustic sound bad? I hope this turns into an interesting discussion.
     
  2. Mark C

    Mark C Member

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    Hard to find spruce or cedar thick enough to make a solid body. I have a spruce body strat, sounds really good and it's very light.
     
  3. beNsteR

    beNsteR Member

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    Mark, where did you buy your spruce strat body from? im interested in building a partscaster with one.

    would you happen to know the difference in the brightness/attack of a spruce body compared to a light swamp ash body?
     
  4. bobbystroker

    bobbystroker Guest

    but are those woods any harder to find than some of the other woods used to make bodies (ie lacewood)? I saw a luthier that was making guitars out of cedar but when I went looking for info on it, I couldn't find any. Even Warmoth has no info on cedar for a hardbody guitar. Saw I thought I'd ask here.

    How does your spruce strat sound compared to an alder strat?
     
  5. ChrisB

    ChrisB Member

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    Funny that this thread just came up as I was just browsing the Eric Johnson forum and apparently his famous '54 strat "Virginia" had a spruce body.
     
  6. george4908

    george4908 Member

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    I've played a couple of solidbodies with spruce tops on them and they were great. One was an early Baker, a precursor to the Robben Ford model -- spruce over mahagony body, maple/rosewood neck. Unusual combination, but it worked. Another was a small builder's carved top Tele -- again, spruce over mahogany, with a (bolt-on) maple/rosewood neck. Interestingly, both used P-90s.

    While spruce has a high stiffness to weight ratio, it not as hard as most other guitar woods, and needs to be braced in acoustic guitars. If you used it as the main body wood in a solidbody, it might cause problems at the neck joint, I don't know. Cheap pine 2x4s and even balsa wood are in fact tonewoods, defined only as the ability to generate a tone when rapped or excited (not all woods do), but they're way too soft to use for guitars, except in special applications. Gibson uses balsa ("chromyte") in some of its Les Pauls for weight reduction.

    Apart from spruce and cedar, most of the same woods are used in acoustics and electrics -- mahogany, maple, rosewood and ebony being the most common, but even some exotic stuff like bubinga, lacewood and others are finding their way into both acoustics and electrics. As traditional woods become scarce, there's a lot of experimentation going on right now.
     
  7. 908SSP

    908SSP Member

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    Baker used balsa wood as filler for some of his solid body guitars to get the weight down yet still be solid. Parker can and has used spruce in a solid body guitar because the carbon/glass coating that covers the back and neck protects it from damage. The tone of the spruce Parkers is very rich and resonate. Solid spruce is also used for some solid acoustics via piezo pickups.
     
  8. Jim Soloway

    Jim Soloway Supporting Member

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    Some of those woods, especially those used for sides and backs, are extremely dense. The wood used in an acoustic body is extremely thin. When you try the same woods in the thickness need for solid body guitars, they can get VERY heavy. We've used several acoustic woods for 1/4" tops (rosewood, cocobolo, sapelle, bubinga), and I've been really happy with the results. I picked up a decent size piece of old growth spruce a while ago and I expect we'll get to it later this summer. The plan is to use it for tops matched with chambered light weight swamp ash bodies.
     
  9. Mark C

    Mark C Member

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    Some answers on my spruce strat.
    The body was made by a local luthier who is no longer doing guitars. A friend of mine had a guitar shop and we knew about the story that Virginia (Eric's 54) was possibly made out of spruce, so this guy asked our luthier friend about the possibility. He hunted around and found enough spruce to make three two piece bodies and one butcher block body. I have one and Pedro 58 has one. Since then, Pedro found some more spruce, although not as pretty as the first strat bodies, it seems to be light and fairly resonant (it taps nicely), and I've cut out a Tele body for myself that is currently drying and awaiting clear coat over the color coat. I don't know where he got the wood, but if you hunt around I'm sure it can be found - usually most luthier suppliers cut spruce down to a thickness for guitar tops. USA Custom guitars will cut a body out of wood supplied by the customer, so that's an option.

    As for what spruce does for a guitar:
    My strat is very light, like a lightweight 50's strat. Very acoustically alive as well and I'd say mine sounds a lot like a swamp ash bodied strat, yet the highs seem to be a little smoother. Maybe like a cross between the tone of alder and ash. I don't think most players would be disappointed by the tone of a spruce bodied guitar to say the least. As for softness, yes it is softer and more susceptible to dings than alder or ash and the finish likes to sink in showing grain lines. Haven't had any structural problems, and I've been playing the guitar for almost ten years.
     
  10. beNsteR

    beNsteR Member

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    Very cool. thanks for the info, Mark. I emailed both USCG and Warmoth to ask if they can make (or find the wood to make) a spruce strat body. awaiting their replies.

    I saw a Warmoth strat body on their site made out of very light White Limba Korina that looked very interesting too. I'm suddenly fascinated about alternative woods in strat bodies.
     
  11. Shades

    Shades Member

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    Some of the woods used for acoustics work well on electrics others don't. The physical working principles between a solidbody and an acoustic are different. That said I make both spruce and cedar solidbodies. Matched up properly to both the right design and the right neck woods and electronics they have a great open chime to them.
     
  12. bobbystroker

    bobbystroker Guest

    Can you elaborate a little on this? Besides the spruce and cedar, what other woods are commonly used for acoustics but not commonly used for solid bodies and vice versa. And what about makes a wood more suited to one application than the other?
     
  13. Motorhed

    Motorhed Member

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    i've seen quite a few all mahogany acoustics, i like the darker tone, but i think i like the tone of more traditional woods more.

    there's an ibanez acoustic talman in mf with an ash(or alder?) top, i have no idea what that'd be like.
     
  14. Shades

    Shades Member

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    Rosewoods are the most common example. One of the most common acoustic woods, is has a highly reflective function in acoustics. It can be used to make nice (but very different sounding) electrics but isn't used much for electric as it is much easier to get a bad result than a good one by just grabbing a piece of rosewood for a solidbody. Walnut and ebony are other back and side woods that work well on acoustic but don't work (IMO) for electric solid. Also Tops are chosen with a strength to weight ratio and elasticity to density ratio for acoustics, where it will need to funtion as a moving plate (basically a direct coupled wood speaker cone, braced to control frequency and withstand string tension) this is an entirely different approach to sound production than in a solidbody.
     
  15. daddyo

    daddyo Guest

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    I've also always want to make either a spruce or cedar strat. Up here in BC Canada, spruce and red cedar are plentiful and cheap and available in any size. I've especially been taken by the idea of a red cedar strat with a red cedar neck reinforced with carbon fibre with a rosewood fingerboard. Cedar is very light and I'm thinking Parker Fly weight here but without the funny shape (not that I dislike that shape).
     
  16. bobbystroker

    bobbystroker Guest

    cedar does seem like an interesting choice. and you'd have a great smelling guitar case and wouldn't have to worry about critters getting into it. :)
     
  17. dave251

    dave251 Member

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    Actually, the same woods ARE used...mahogany, maple, rosewood...although you rarely see the coniferous woods(softwoods) used in solid body guitars. The REAL reason you see solid body guitars use hardwoods is the finish....it's alot more durable over a hardwood. Of course, acoustic guitar REQUIRES the kind of tonal response and strength(yes, spruce and cedar are MUCH stronger for a given mass) that coniferous woods deliver. However, I believe we'll see the day when the traditional tone generating lumber(spruce or cedar) IS used for solid body guitars extensively.

    In fact, I've sold more than 100 guitars that use Western Red Cedar as the body lumber(the same lumber used for high dollar classical guitar tops). It's a wonderful tonewood, even if it is a bit soft.....and I have no problems finding it big enough....WRCedar can grow up to SIX FEET and much more in diameter....

    The sonic properties far outweigh the "dingability".

    Since my guitars use a piezo oriented to pick up the body tone, all of that resonance and sweetness one associates with fine acoustic guitars is realized.

    Here's a cross section photo of one of my guitar bodies....

    [​IMG]

    And here's a guitar, in it's natural color. This one has two floating humbuckers(this was also one of the last guitars to use a commercial neck; I'm building my own necks exclusively now) ....

    [​IMG]

    Here's an mp3 of my personal electroCoustic. Both parts are the same guitar, thru a Fender Pro Jr. Rhythm is mostly piezo, lead line is mostly neck humbucker.

    Angel Eyes

    Cedar is great/ spruce is wonderful too. In fact, my personal guitar uses Douglas Fir for neck lumber!

    I'm a believer in the coniferous woods. They're not near as pretty as the hardwoods...but they gots tone out the wazoo....
     
  18. LaXu

    LaXu Member

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    The Finnish Ruokangas Duke guitars use Spanish cedar in the bodies.

    I've got an old Yamaha SA-1200S semi-hollowbody that has a solid spruce top, I like it's tone better compared to the maple topped ones.

    [​IMG]
     
  19. TAVD

    TAVD Guitar Player Gold Supporting Member

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    I've used spanish cedar in the past and really like the end product (very light, excellent tone) but it's very difficult to work with. I made a strat body with a sp. cedar body & korina top that was under 4 pounds, including the bridge, pickups, electronics & hardware.

    I think Rick Turner has used it also for the past few years.

    A spruce body seems like it would be awesome too.
     
  20. Shades

    Shades Member

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    I use quite a bit of Spanish Cedar and love it. It is a bit hard to work with but that doesn't bug me much......The taste however..../Yuck!!!! that sawdust gets in your nose and drains down into your throat and it has to be one of the most Bitter tastes on earth.
     

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