Ash wood

Ask your wood and other materials questions here. Please DO NOT post pictures and ask us to identify your wood, we have found that accurate ID is nearly impossible, and such discussions will be deleted. Thanks.
Post Reply
James Ansara
Posts: 11
Joined: Tue Apr 17, 2012 8:28 pm

Ash wood

Post by James Ansara »

Hi>Iam making a Telecaster guitar.I will be using a slab of flamed maple for the neck and a slab of birdseye maple for the fingerboard.The ash wood I have has almost no runout but it is northern ash and heavier than swamp ash.It is rather pretty in a Telecaster way and has a nice bold grain,finish will be clear nitro.Apart from potential balance problems in the finished guitar and obvious weight penalties would anyone know of reasons not to use northern ash?Stewmac calls their ash "Lighter weight than northern ash for good tone".Is this true?
Thanks for any advice in advance...

John Hamlett
Posts: 110
Joined: Thu Feb 02, 2012 10:59 am

Re: Ash wood

Post by John Hamlett »

James Ansara wrote:Stewmac calls their ash "Lighter weight than northern ash for good tone".Is this true?
In a word, "no".
Tone cannot be defined, tone is subjective, each person has his/her own opinion, how can a statement like that be true? OTOH, if it sounds good to *someone*, it has good tone, at least in that person's opinion, so "yes", it is true.
Sorry for the philosophical ramblings, but "sales speak" like that touches a nerve.
Do heavier and lighter bodies sound different? Probably. Is one better than the other? Matter of opinion.

Arnt Rian
Posts: 216
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 11:41 am
Location: Trondheim, Norway

Re: Ash wood

Post by Arnt Rian »

Lots of early Fenders had lighter (swamp?) ash bodies, and everybody loves those, so lighter must be better, right? ;) FWIW, I generally like lighter body woods on electrics, and I feel that for the type of sounds I'm after, clean/crunchy organic tube amp sounds, no hi-gain distortion stuff, they add more interesting colors to the sound. But John is right of course, it a matter of opinion, you need to figure out what YOU like.

David King
Posts: 2682
Joined: Sat Jan 07, 2012 10:01 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Re: Ash wood

Post by David King »

You should just ask your shoulder which one it likes better. The one that sounds better is the one that gets played

Clay Schaeffer
Posts: 1488
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:04 pm

Re: Ash wood

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

To avoid the weight penalties you could make the body slightly thinner, or "chamber" it under the pick guard.
" Swamp" ash was originally used because it was cheap. The telecaster was a poor man's axe.

User avatar
Mark Day
Posts: 62
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2012 8:10 pm

Re: Ash wood

Post by Mark Day »

I have a 1980 Fender Strat that is northern ash. It weighs more than any Les Paul I've picked up, but it sounds wonderful and sustains for days. I don't know how much the wood has to do with all that, but just FYI. It's also finished in clear polyester so you can get a good look at the ash. I have some ash lumber courtesy of the Emerald Ash Borer killing all of the ash trees in my mother's yard. I'm planing to build a Tele with it someday...

James Ansara
Posts: 11
Joined: Tue Apr 17, 2012 8:28 pm

Re: Ash wood

Post by James Ansara »

Thanks for the replies. The body is routed to finished shape. This build is in tandem with a friend who is making his Tele. of walnut wood so it will be interesting to feel and hear the diff. of the guitars before we add the electronics.Of course many other things will affect the tone as well. Now,if anyone needs some nice northern ash....

Karl Hoyt
Posts: 36
Joined: Sun Jan 08, 2012 9:04 am
Location: Cape Cod

Re: Ash wood

Post by Karl Hoyt »

I prefer northern ash, frankly , for electric guitars/basses. Why? It is plentiful, reasonably priced so you can pick through a stack of 8/4 ash and find light-ish planks, and damn, it sounds pretty good! Subjective I know and 'tonewood' debates can range on forever, get very heated, and be pointless. I'm a cheep Yankee and refuse to pay 40-60 bucks for an electric guitar blank. i agree with the poster who recognized that swamp ash was a trash wood in teh 50's and Leo got it cheap:-)

With that said, I really love northern(white) ash and have built dozens of basses out of the stuff which are being played by very appreciative customers.

With chambering, and keeping the thickness to about 1.5" as well as doing quite a bit of sculpting to my bass bodies, I can keep a northern ash bass down to about 8 pounds +/-. I have two sets of northern ash acoustic guitar woods that I'm going to get building on ASAP. I'll bet it sounds excellent!

go for it......


Mattia Valente
Posts: 23
Joined: Thu Jan 12, 2012 10:36 am

Re: Ash wood

Post by Mattia Valente »

I've only built guitars with swamp ash and some furniture with hard ash, and I do prefer both the look (subtle difference, granted, but still) and definitely the workability of swamp ash over hard ash. It is a bit more of a pain to grain fill, but only marginally so, and the weight is what sells it for me at the end of the day. I don't like heavy guitars.

Steven Palmer
Posts: 1
Joined: Mon Aug 06, 2012 8:39 am

Re: Ash wood

Post by Steven Palmer »

I have seen a lot here about using Northern ash and swamp ash for electric solid body guitars,
but I am thinking of using some northern ash as body woods for an acoustic 6 string? does anyone have any experience with ash on acoustics and are there any problems I should be made aware of up front? thanks.. Steve

Steve Senseney
Posts: 673
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 2:45 pm

Re: Ash wood

Post by Steve Senseney »

I have built acoustic guitars with ash. It bends very well, the guitars sound fine. The density is a little higher, so the neck is a little heavier.

Post Reply