Is an oak guitar body worth it? Can oak be used for making guitar necks? Can an oak guitar body last for a long time? What are the advantages and disadvantages of using oak in your guitar? How does an oak guitar body sound? Oak is a known wood for making instruments, but you will rarely see a guitar that uses oak, which is why we will go to find out what is the reason behind this.
So, what is an oak? Oak is a tree or a shrub under the genus Quercus of the beech family. They are native to the Northern Hemisphere, but they extend from cool temperatures up to tropical latitudes in the Americas, Asia, Europe, and North Africa. North America is where you see its largest number of species, while its second-largest diversity is in China.
Oaks usually have spirally-arranged leaves, with lobate margins in most of its species. It is able to produce both male and female flowers as it is a monoecious tree. It also produces a fruit that is called an acorn, which contains tannic acid that helps guard against fungi and insects.
Oak is a popular wood for making high-end drum shells. Gretsch, Pearl, DW, Tama, Sonor, and many more drum companies use oak wood as the primary material for their drum shells. Oak is a dense wood that is known to offer a punchy tone and lots of low ends. Oak drum sets have a reputation for being loud and powerful, as they are usually used for live performances.
However, even though oak drum kits are really good-sounding drum sets, there is no extensive production with these drum kits as oak trees are a rarity to find, and they are also difficult to work with. They are also known to be more expensive compared to other drum kits on the market.
Other Wood Materials and Oak For Guitar Bodies
Although oak has never been really known as a wood material for making guitar bodies, there are some luthiers that use it for customization purposes. Some samples of acoustic guitars that are made of oak really sound good.
One of the main reasons why oak was never really used by huge guitar manufacturing companies for making guitar bodies is that they are heavy. They tend to blunt your tools, and they are difficult to finish as well. Its grain is not really that attractive for an acoustic or electric guitar.
Leo Fender was able to make some steel guitars out of oak in the company’s earliest years but ultimately abandoned them when he found out that the acidity of the oak caused his finishes to flake. He was able to conclude that whatever nitro and sealer, or lack thereof, he was using didn’t work well with oak back in the day.
For making guitar bodies, there are specific woods that the known guitar manufacturing companies really use, like the Alder, Ash, Basswood, Mahogany, Walnut, Koa, Maple, and many more.
Alder is a popular wood for making electric guitar bodies. They are lightweight with soft tight pores and have a sizable swirling grain pattern to them. These woods’ larger rings and sections give additional strength and complexity to their tones. Alder has a wider scope of tones, as they retain more highs and also give room for the low ends.
Ash or also known as swamp ash, is another popular wood material for making electric guitar bodies. Ash is known for its bright tone and long-sustaining qualities. The wood produces a pronounced high-end, which is why it is usually used in electric guitars that have single-coil pickups.
Mahogany is widely used for acoustic guitars, but they are also used by Gibson for their electric guitars. They are relatively economical, durable, resonant, attractive, and easy to work with. It has a warm sound, which is great for electric guitars that come with humbucker pickups. For acoustic guitars, they sound a little bit twangier but not as brilliant compared to other woods.
Basswood is one of the most inexpensive tonewoods that are used for making guitar bodies. They are very easy to work with as they are easy to cut, sand, and finish. Because it is softwood with tight grains, it usually dampens sharp highs and softens them. Deep low-ends are not deeply resonated by the Basswood, which is why their mids are more pronounced.
Although maple is known as a wood material for making guitar necks, it is also a great wood for making guitar bodies. Guitars made from maple are easily identifiable because of their bright tone, moderate weight, and characteristic grain patterns. It has a great sustain with plenty of bite, as it shouts some bright highs and upper mid-range.
Other Wood Materials And Oak For Guitar Necks
Oak is relatively porous and is prone to warping, which is why it is not really a good choice to use for making guitar necks. Using oak can help in the overall sound profile of your guitar as it produces clear high-end. Laminating it would be a better solution to improve its strength and stability.
Maple is a popular wood for making guitar necks, especially as Fender usually uses it in their electric guitars. It has great sustain and stability, as it is also dense, hard, and strong. Maple has less reaction to environmental changes compared to other tone woods, which is why they are a favorite for most guitar companies.
Another popular wood material for making guitar necks is rosewood. It has a great sustain as it also smoothens the high frequencies. It mutes the overtones that come from the high-ends, resulting in a strong fundamental that still has mid and low-mid overtones.
Mahogany is also a great option for making guitar necks as they are very stable and less likely to warp. It has open pores, which makes it more responsive than a Maple. It can also absorb more string vibrations than Maple, resulting in a compressed attack and highs. Gibson prefers using mahogany for their guitar necks as they have a warmer and fatter guitar tone, which is perfect for their humbucker pickups.
Example Of A Guitar With A Body Made Of Oak
A perfect example of an electric guitar whose body is made of oak is the Ibanez Prestige S6570SK. The electric guitar has a solid silky oak top. Although oak is a little bit heavy for a solid-body electric guitar, it still has a very nice warm and balanced tone when it comes to electric guitars.
Overall, an oak guitar body can have its many advantages and disadvantages, but as you can rarely see guitars that are made of oak, we all now know that these woods are not easy to work with even though they sound good for a tonewood.