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How do I tell mahogany from alder?

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How do I tell mahogany from alder?

Postby Dave Locher » Wed Mar 27, 2013 12:56 pm

I have a late 1970s Gibson Marauder and I cannot figure out if the body is alder or mahogany. I have read that they were all alder and I have read that some were mahogany and I know from the three I've seen in my life that they varied wildly from year to year. Mine is thick and heavy. I always thought it was alder because it was finished in a yucky butterscotch color when I got it but while building my current guitar I learned that some mahogany is much lighter and more yellow than I would have thought.

Is there an easy way for me to determine which wood my guitar is made of? It seems awfully heavy and hard for mahogany. Is alder a harder, denser wood than mahogany?

It matters to me because I am already thinking about my second build and would like to use whichever wood the Marauder body is made from. If it's alder, I'll use alder. If it's mahogany, I'll stick with mahogany.

I did a google search but that just yielded a ton of different internet discussions where people said things like "I've never played an alder guitar but they are brighter" and junk like that, and Wikipedia didn't say anything about the grain, color, or any other quality of alder other than the fact that it is used for guitar bodies. A friend has alder kitchen cabinets so I know it's a close-grain wood but don't know how to really distinguish it from a light, yellowish mahogany??
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Re: How do I tell mahogany from alder?

Postby Barry Daniels » Wed Mar 27, 2013 1:07 pm

Mahogany is golden brown with open pores. Alder is white and no visible pores. Easy to tell apart.
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Re: How do I tell mahogany from alder?

Postby Charlie Schultz » Wed Mar 27, 2013 1:14 pm

Descriptions of grain and color can be found here: http://www.wood-database.com/wood-identification/
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Re: How do I tell mahogany from alder?

Postby Dave Locher » Wed Mar 27, 2013 3:14 pm

Thank you for that link, Charlie! I've bookmarked it.
It's mahogany for sure. I haven't figured out which variation, but it's clearly not alder and that's all I really needed to know. I appreciate the helpful info.
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Re: How do I tell mahogany from alder?

Postby Michael Lewis » Sat Mar 30, 2013 1:51 am

Dave, keep in mind that all species of wood vary. Some will be lighter and some will be heavier within the same species. You might like to select which piece of wood you buy rather than just asking for mahogany.
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Re: How do I tell mahogany from alder?

Postby Dave Locher » Tue Apr 02, 2013 5:05 pm

Thank you, Michael.
I understand what you mean - I used two different kinds of mahogany for my current body and they were different colors, different grains, etc. But at least now I know which variety to focus on.
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