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Over the past few months, we’ve had some pretty amazing pieces come through here in the world of bass, particularly some gorgeous figured top beauties! In this feature, I’ll briefly go through a few examples of woods used as decorative tops and/or tone woods.
There are a ton of different varieties of figured maple. The more common patterns used in basses are Curly, Quilted, Birdseye, Spalted, and Flame (the flames are usually “graded”). Because of its ability to carry sound waves so well, it is a fine example of both form and function, and is also very popular in crafting bass necks. Pictured is an example of a AAAAA Flamed Maple top.
Normally a soft, indistinct, light (“weak”) wood, Buckeye rarely makes it into the world of crafting instruments. However, sourcing Buckeye Burl is particularly special due to scarcity and its stunning and unique appearance, making it a prize piece among luthiers and carpenters alike. For those of you who don’t know, a burl can be found in just about every species of tree, and is commonly a result of some sort of stress (insects, injury, fungus, etc). Don’t worry, this stuff is treated and sealed long before it’s milled into your beautiful bass.
For decades, Ash has been preferred by luthiers for various reasons, mostly being for its beautiful, wide grain patterns and also for its resonance. Although it’s not commonly used as a top wood, “Swamp” Ash is particularly distinctive for its light weight (while still maintaining the nice, vibrant tones). For bassists, it’s a win-win; you get the amazing tones from a gorgeous bass, all while not carrying a veritable boat-anchor.
Bocote: ‘Cordia spp’. Found in Mexico and Central America. See Bocote wood here.
Pistachio: ‘Pistacia vera’. Native to Iran, also cultivated in the Mediterranean and Middle East regions, as well as California. See Pistachio wood here.
Imbuia: ‘Ocotea porosa’. Found in Southern Brazil. See Imbuia wood here.
As you can see, there are a ton of options, with even more that aren’t listed. Chicago Music Exchange carries a wide variety of basses from custom builders. Reach out anytime if you’re looking to build your dream bass with one of them from the amazing woods that are available!
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