Why aren't/weren't Fenders made of Mahogany?

Mikhael

Member
Messages
3,713
Pine was apparently an extremely variable wood. I've played some pine-bodied Teles, and most were dead/dull sounding. A few were okay, and one was really exceptional. Add in their softness, and I can see why Fender steered away from that.

Maybe they needed extra drying time, I don't know. But it will definitely never be my first choice as a body wood (or even 5th choice).
 

The Birdman

Member
Messages
179
+1. Today with fender and others offering everything including mahogany in fender and fender style guitars, why are there so few? IMO the reason is sound. I've had mahogany fenders and they are IMO counter to what sounds good in a strat or tele. They are bright, and people don't get that because they think gibson=dark/fat so a fender would vibe darker with mahogany. Not so. It's the gibson design that makes them less chimey and bright. The mahogany just helps them from being too dark. Look at mahogany acoustics....they are much brighter then rosewood for example. It stands to reason that if mahogany did sound good to a lot of fender style players there would be a ot of them instead of mahogany being what...maybe .001% of all fender and fender style strats and teles? And it's no $. Today they use a lot of variants of mahogany that are used in a lot of acoustics even very inexpensive imports. So if it's an affordable material there why not in fender solidbodies and clone?

Granted, my tastes in fender tone aren't shared by every player on earth so there are people who will like it as witnessed by the fact they DO make some. Very very few, but some. But theres no arguing that if it were liked by a fair percentage of players there would be a lot more then a fraction of a percent made from mahogany. A few bucks more is not going to stop fender or anyone else from building a lot of mahogany strats and teles if they would sell, and with all the made in USA guys out there that will only buy $2k and up fenders, you aren't going to convince me no one is willing to pay $50 more for mahogany if it were well liked. Personally i can't stand the kind of top end it produces and i think most people that try them feel the same.

I have a limited release mahogany body Telecaster Elite Thinline from 2017, which has a Shawbucker neck pickup and the regular N4 bridge pickup. I purchased it used; the shop I got it from told me the original owner traded it in with flatwound strings on it. They scratched their head why, and put regular roundwound .009" to .042"s on it for sale. I purchased it after a short play, thinking it sounded fine. But, as I played it more and more, I realized how extremely BRIGHT it sounded on the N4 bridge pickup. So much so, that I almost decided to return it.

It became obvious that the original owner put the flatwound strings on it to tame the brightness. I've managed to tune it to my taste with nickel strings, and judicious use of the tone knobs (guitar and amp).

There is no issue with the tone of the Shawbucker neck pickup.

Also, I have a limited release 2017 American Professional Deluxe Tele with both body and neck made from mahogany. That instrument has Shawbuckers for both neck and bridge, and has no tone issues at all. So it seems, at least to me, that humbuckers and mahogany electric guitars do tend to go well together.
 

Musicmaster

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
511
get educated
4553ac6cb4dda1815b60d5640bdc13b9.jpg

1963 Duo Sonic with Mahogany body

I took this picture... This was my first project parts guitar that I ever had assembled. In hindsight there are a few things that I would've done differently that might have made it a keeper. I didn't know the difference between 250K and 500K pots at the time, and put in 500K... If I'd put in some CTS 250K pots I would've liked it far better, I suspect. Also, now that I know my own preferences, I wish I would've put a Lollar Blonde in the neck and a Blackface or Special in the bridge instead of Seymour Duncans. Seeing this picture pop up makes me sad. :cry:
 
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Elantric

Member
Messages
12,314
I took this picture... This was my first project parts guitar that I ever had assembled. In hindsight there are a few things that I would've done differently that might have made it a keeper. I didn't know the difference between 250K and 500K pots at the time, and put in 500K... If I'd put in some CTS 250K pots I would've liked it far better, I suspect. Also, now that I know my own preferences, I wish I would've put a Lollar Blonde in the neck and a Blackface or Special in the bridge instead of Seymour Duncans. Seeing this picture pop up makes me sad.:cry:

Glad to hear your story of that guitar! !
 

DigiPOV

Member
Messages
2,450
Gibson recently declared bankruptcy.

Is it *possible* that besides whatever business mistakes were made, that the Gibson designs (Les Paul, SG) are just not that good compared to Fender designs? Les Paul imo is a really poor ergonomic design, it sits weirdly on the leg, shorter scale length, neck dive, the laquered neck (slow), nubs, no trem, etc, etc..

The vast majority of other brands have based their guitars on Fender designs. Longer scale, double cutaway, bolt on neck, "lighter" woods.

Mahogany sounds good unplugged, but is it possible that for modern music, even the lowly Basswood has superior tonal qualities? I personally believe it does.

I think there is a certain egotism/arrogance held by the majority of "boutique" players, and they believe that mahogony/korina is a superior wood. Their standard bearer just went bankrupt. I like basswood, I like alder, mahogany is cool except for that hole in the mids.
 

scelerat

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,395
It's worth noting that Leo Fender's next consumer-facing brand launched with mahogany-bodied guitars as standard options. Sunburst G&L F-100s were mahogany. I have an '82 (first year) S-500 which is mahogany, with ebony fretboard. Looks great; sounds great. I've never thought my S-500 lacked anything in the midrange, but maybe the MFDs make up for it.

I think everything about the early Fender body choices had to do with the expense and practicality of materials.
 

scelerat

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,395
Gibson recently declared bankruptcy.

Is it *possible* that besides whatever business mistakes were made, that the Gibson designs (Les Paul, SG) are just not that good compared to Fender designs? Les Paul imo is a really poor ergonomic design, it sits weirdly on the leg, shorter scale length, neck dive, the laquered neck (slow), nubs, no trem, etc, etc..

I think it's kind of non-sequitur. A relatively small number of players buy guitars based on ergonomics. Everyone else buys on brand name recognition, visual appeal, and tone, probably in that order.
 

Mr Fingers

Member
Messages
3,875
Both companies have turned out a large number of failed designs. Objectively, though I seem to play my SG most of any electric, I think you have to give the prize to the Tele and Strat for holding up across a large range of musical styles and trends. Other than custom colors, bursts, and a few paisleys, Fender has mostly churned out beautifully useful players. Gibson has a long history of embellishment and posh -- all the way back to Orville's pretty crappy instruments (that developed into better ones). Gibson's push to be more elegant, sumptuous, and "elite" has nothing to do with musicality, and as that whole approach becomes increasingly irrelevant to young players, it really might become a case of "so long -- nobody wants that stuff anymore." LPs could indeed become like wooden tennis rackets -- good for the old game. The SG, on the other hand...
 

Bossanova

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
8,674
Gibson recently declared bankruptcy.

Is it *possible* that besides whatever business mistakes were made, that the Gibson designs (Les Paul, SG) are just not that good compared to Fender designs? Les Paul imo is a really poor ergonomic design, it sits weirdly on the leg, shorter scale length, neck dive, the laquered neck (slow), nubs, no trem, etc, etc..

The vast majority of other brands have based their guitars on Fender designs. Longer scale, double cutaway, bolt on neck, "lighter" woods.

Mahogany sounds good unplugged, but is it possible that for modern music, even the lowly Basswood has superior tonal qualities? I personally believe it does.

I think there is a certain egotism/arrogance held by the majority of "boutique" players, and they believe that mahogony/korina is a superior wood. Their standard bearer just went bankrupt. I like basswood, I like alder, mahogany is cool except for that hole in the mids.
No. The guitar business is profitable. There is nothing superior in the Fender designs, this is a tired argument. They’re both American treasures, to be honored and preserved.
 

gmann

Member
Messages
9,083
that's why i always wonder as to why F style guitars are so expensive nowadays when they were originally designed with cost in mind. hehe.
Workers these days have health care, paid vacation etc. Big modern plants cost money. Fender was a very small operation back in the day.
 

FennRx

Member
Messages
1,624
not a cheap locally available wood. Leo wanted both of those requirements so no mahogany
And the cheapest labor to assemble them.

Now pay Fender or some booteek “luthier” $3000+ to hand select your tone woods and masterbuild your guitar

;)
 

Jazzmaster60

Member
Messages
1,619
It's worth noting that Leo Fender's next consumer-facing brand launched with mahogany-bodied guitars as standard options. Sunburst G&L F-100s were mahogany. I have an '82 (first year) S-500 which is mahogany, with ebony fretboard. Looks great; sounds great. I've never thought my S-500 lacked anything in the midrange, but maybe the MFDs make up for it.

I think everything about the early Fender body choices had to do with the expense and practicality of materials.
I came here to say the exact same thing .
My Mahogany ‘82 S-500 is the bees knees .

I agree with you too, Ash and alder were chosen for economical and practical reasons .
 
Messages
5,459
I came here to say the exact same thing .
My Mahogany ‘82 S-500 is the bees knees .

I agree with you too, Ash and alder were chosen for economical and practical reasons .
Yes, curiously the ASAT Special isn't offered in mahogany for US-built models, yet you can have one in the Tribute series.
 

Chatnoir

Member
Messages
71
I came here to say the exact same thing .
My Mahogany ‘82 S-500 is the bees knees .

I agree with you too, Ash and alder were chosen for economical and practical reasons .

After my Tele and Jazzmaster build, I've become spoiled by the light weight; I'm replacing the oly white body on my 2016 MIA with an mahogany body (arctic white paint job by Pat Wilkins). I'm not worried about tone....
 

Samba

Member
Messages
483
In the Duchossoir Tele book, he argues that Leo went with ash on the Broadcaster because he was a fan of the "modern" furniture of the day that featured a translucent limed finish over "clear blond hardwood."

Also from digging in my books I found a pic of a 1963 Strat with mahogany body (50th anni Strat book). The collector who owns two of them notes that they are both warmer sounding than other vintage Strats in his collection.

LzsBQT2.png
 

Jon Silberman

10Q Jerry & Dickey
Silver Supporting Member
Messages
44,641
+1 - the mahogany-bodied Fenders that I've tried just didn't have it. Sounded small, dead, plinky, not complementary to the pickups at all. Guaranteed that there's some exception out there, though, some Fender that got a magic piece of mahogany that sounds great.
Bucking both Fender and Alembic traditions, I had this 25 1/2" scale guitar which I use almost exclusively in Strat-like split coil mode built with cocobolo on mahogany. It sounds amazing. (Then again, it also has other idiosyncrasies).

SilbermanTiger21.jpg
 

Mobass

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
787
I swap and forth between being a 'gibson' guy and a 'fender' guy every year or so.

Ive had a jazzcaster style build planned for quite some time now, held off because of a few decisions. Namely body wood... I was wondering what a mahogany telecaster might sound like
Here's my Mahogany partscaster. I built it with the intentions of a gibby like tele. Rose board, Harmonic Design Super 90 (P90 like) pups. Glendale bridge and Swingin Sixties steel saddles. Even a 16 radius neck (blasphemy). A feather weight at 7 lbs.
She's dark but a wonderful sounding guitar to my ears. A rocker but you can coax many "tele" like tones and more. Has a 4 way switch for the in series option. There you find the close but not exact P90 thunder. All in all I like. A lot. And what Mr. Kirn said. No more truth than that.


 




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