Ash too heavy, maple too soft?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by strömsborg, Dec 24, 2017.

  1. strömsborg

    strömsborg Senior Member

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    So ash could replace maple in, say, a Gibson 335 or a Rickenbacker 330? I want to byild a blue Rick 620 one day, but with the prices Rickenbacker charges for original hardware it's apparently made from solid gold.
    I wonder if the other way around would work. Ash is commonly used for handles for hammers and axes, is it maybe to flexible for a guitar neck?
     
  2. Bill Hicklin

    Bill Hicklin Senior Member

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    Ash in theory would make a perfectly acceptable neck (hell, Danelectro used poplar!), but that open grain, like oak, wouldn't feel very good for the majority of players.
     
  3. pshupe

    pshupe Senior Member

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    Generally 8-10% is fine for air dried wood. The kiln may be able to take it down to 6-8% but it will still take on moisture and release moisture. Finish helps to minimize the speed with which the wood will do that but it will always move with different humidity, but for electric guitars it isn't as problematic as the wood is thicker and would take a severe swing to crack. The most common side effect could be "fret sprout", which happens when it is quite dry. The wood shrinks and the ends of the frets stick out a bit. You may have to adjust the truss rod slightly and you will definitely notice tuning differences over a long period of time.

    ARandall - nice guitar. I have an all ash LP, which was my first build and also heavily chambered to get into the standard solidbody LP range.
    ash-weight02.JPG
    I chambered until I got the body down to 4 1/2 lbs and here is the completed guitar. Horrible picture but you get the idea.
    LP-front.JPG

    It was my first build and the wood was essentially free. I had cut the tree down a few years before.

    Cheers Peter
     
    dickjonesify and truckermde like this.
  4. geoffstgermaine

    geoffstgermaine Senior Member

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    I'm familiar with a number of high end bass builders who routinely use Ash for necks. Michael Tobias at MTD Guitars and Fodera Guitars both use Ash for necks. Fodera also uses Red Oak and while I haven't played either an Ash or Oak necked bass from either of them I would have to believe the necks are grain filled.

    I have some very tight and straight grained Ash I'm holding onto for bass neck stock.
     
  5. ARandall

    ARandall Senior Member

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    Well, the 335 has laminations for all faces....so the construction is a bit different. But you can certainly cut a top to thin 1/4" depth with a double carving method.....and the back rout out to a 1/4" depth left. But it wouldn't be as strong.....and you'd need approx 20mm on the sides to have enough gluing size for the top and to provide support.
    I did this with a 335 build......but not so extreme on the back thickness. Even then within hours the body blank wanted to cup. I had to get the top glued on quick smart - but even then I had about 2-3" of cup I had to counter in the clamping process
     
  6. Bill Hicklin

    Bill Hicklin Senior Member

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    A fully-carved archtop is a very different beast, not for the fainthearted. And all that work would, frankly, be wasted once you stick the center block in there. I fully approve undertaking an archtop build (get Bob Benedetto's book), but save it for an L-5 or Emperor or other full-depth jazzbox.
     
  7. pshupe

    pshupe Senior Member

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    Absolutely agree. I'd stay away from the traditional arch top as these are different animals and would require a totally different skill set and set of tools as well. You could easily do a fully chambered guitar in the shape of a 335, which is a lot easier coming from the traditional electric solid body builds. I believe this is how the CS-336s are built. I think they are a bit smaller than the 335. They are trying to bridge between the LP and the 335. There is also an ES-339, which is then the same size as the 336 but built like the 335. Correct me if I am wrong as this is off the top of my head. The 330 - 360 Rickenbackers, which I have built a few, are a completely hollowed out build, which would be easily doable with ash, or just use the norway maple for the whole thing.

    I am starting to bridge the gap myself in contemplating a ES-335 build where I will bend the sides, probably 3 ply laminate, and then carve the top and back from a solid book matched set of maple boards.

    Keep in mind that ash is not an easy wood to work with. The defined grain has very different hardness qualities and you have to be very careful when sanding to not get divots in the softer grain. It also would require a lot of pore filling, unless you like the open grain look. I kind of like it on my first build as I did not pore fill and just shot nitro until I was happy with the finish. Good luck.

    Cheers Peter.
     
  8. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

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    Ash is very strong and resilient! Look at shovel and axe handles....usually ash. Heck, it's even been reported that big ash dowels are used to hit hard speeding balls across fields without shattering and breaking every time!
     
  9. Spotcheck Billy

    Spotcheck Billy Senior Member

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    Look at JohnP90's thread where he does essentially what is being discussed here. A 336-ish build from solid wood pieces.
     
  10. kakerlak

    kakerlak Senior Member

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    Ever seen a Guild D-46? Ash back, sides and neck:

    [​IMG]
     

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