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Cottonwood? Any experience out there?

Postby Hewesy » Mon May 20, 2019 5:44 pm

Hi all,

I've been following the various guitar build threads recently, most of them using Pitbull guitar kits it seems, and this Tele kit has taken my eye due to the use of "Zebrawood": https://www.pitbullguitars.com/shop/gui ... uitar-kit/

Now this isn't using actually Zebrawood (which is endangered so kinda a good thing!) but I'm curious as to how good Cottonwood actually is?

Its supposedly a Poplar sub-species, Poplar being a relatively common tonewood but t'interweb seems rather mixed on whether it is much cop for guitars or not.

Anyone have any experience? I'm expecting it to create a useable guitar, perhaps not my main go to but something of value. Too much to ask for £100 kit perhaps?

Thoughts and comments appreciated...

Hewesy
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Re: Cottonwood? Any experience out there?

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon May 20, 2019 6:16 pm

Reading the words "*Zebra wood is a manufactured wood, made from Cottonwood (a sub-species of Poplar) and treated with colour to give this unique effect." sets alarm bells ringing, it looks like it's just posh plywood (engineered timber as the say in the flooring trade) cut on a slant by the looks of it. The wood is probably fine but the layers of glue between the laminates usually kill of any resonance (mind you, you can build a workable electric guitar body out of nearly anything). It's not expensive though so could well be worth a punt if you are keen to build a guitar and, if you do a good job and it looks nice, I expect you'll get your money back on ebay.
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Re: Cottonwood? Any experience out there?

Postby Hewesy » Mon May 20, 2019 6:26 pm

Cheers Sam,

That's pretty much where I'd got to with it, I think it'd look cool but I really wanted to build on it with adding in decent pickups with no scratch plate to make the most if the wood.

Sadly though I suspect you are right and it is just laminates/layers to get the colour before cutting to shape.

Hmm, I really want to build something as a keeper so I might head back to the board on this.

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Re: Cottonwood? Any experience out there?

Postby John Egan » Mon May 20, 2019 8:23 pm

Hewesy wrote:Hi all,

I've been following the various guitar build threads recently, most of them using Pitbull guitar kits it seems, and this Tele kit has taken my eye due to the use of "Zebrawood": https://www.pitbullguitars.com/shop/gui ... uitar-kit/

Now this isn't using actually Zebrawood (which is endangered so kinda a good thing!) but I'm curious as to how good Cottonwood actually is?

Its supposedly a Poplar sub-species, Poplar being a relatively common tonewood but t'interweb seems rather mixed on whether it is much cop for guitars or not.

Anyone have any experience? I'm expecting it to create a useable guitar, perhaps not my main go to but something of value. Too much to ask for £100 kit perhaps?

Thoughts and comments appreciated...

Hewesy

Poplar is a decent choice for an electric body. I had a Peavey USA Tele (called a Reactor, I think) which had a poplar body. It was a really good little guitar. However, I don't know anything about the cottonwood process.
A good route fora home build is the "bitsa" approach. It has worked well for me on a number of occasions. Guitar shops do have gash bodies and necks lying around from time to time and they are usually open to reasonable offers. If you can find decent examples, you will have the basis for a decent guitar. Some times they also come with bridges and/or pickups fitted (which may or may not be to your liking). It's an approach worth trying.

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Re: Cottonwood? Any experience out there?

Postby Watchmaker » Mon May 20, 2019 8:37 pm

I dunno about conttonwood, but the laminate they display is interesting. It's not laminated like a standard ply and the way it's stacked not only gives a pretty fair imitation of natural grain but I'm willing to bet its pretty stable. ..unless it delaminates right down the middle. :?

I wonder how it weighs out.

slightly off-topic but I've built a few franken casters using bodies and necks from these guys and have nothing but the best things to say about 'em. They made my favorite neck to my specs and are very supportive, great service, great quality, etc.
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Re: Cottonwood? Any experience out there?

Postby blinddrew » Mon May 20, 2019 8:53 pm

Not sure if Wonks is on holiday or just taking some time out but he's probably a good person to take a stab at answering this. He does know his woods pretty well.
As an aside, Pitbull have recently changed (or are changing) their kit supplier, hence these new models. Whilst the long-term proof will take a while to come through, the initial samples and new kits appear to be of a generally higher quality than the previous ones - which were generally not bad at all.
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Re: Cottonwood? Any experience out there?

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon May 20, 2019 10:08 pm

Hard to do as cheaply as this though
Watchmaker wrote:I dunno about conttonwood, but the laminate they display is interesting. It's not laminated like a standard ply and the way it's stacked not only gives a pretty fair imitation of natural grain but I'm willing to bet its pretty stable. ..unless it delaminates right down the middle. :?

It's not stability that would concern me but the deadening effect of the glues. Wood resonated, plywood less so, high tech wood laminates fall in the middle I guess but why compromise the tone for looks when a cap, veneer or even photo reproduction will supply the look with only a single glue joint (even when mated to a two or three piece 'spread' that's a lot less glue area in the body).
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Re: Cottonwood? Any experience out there?

Postby Hewesy » Wed May 22, 2019 7:28 pm

Thanks all,

@John Egan - that would be my ideal, sadly my local shops don't typically carry bodies or necks (I've been trying for 25yrs to change their minds) but that would be my ideal. Maybe I need to cast my net wider and trawl some other shops...

The laminate process does concern me too though its reassuring to hear Pitbull are well regarded. I've also been looking at their Rick style guitar so that might be a better start perhaps.

On a side note I've not seen Wonks post for a bit either so hopefully all is well.

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Re: Cottonwood? Any experience out there?

Postby Hewesy » Wed May 22, 2019 7:29 pm

Watchmaker wrote:I dunno about conttonwood, but the laminate they display is interesting. It's not laminated like a standard ply and the way it's stacked not only gives a pretty fair imitation of natural grain but I'm willing to bet its pretty stable. ..unless it delaminates right down the middle. :?

I wonder how it weighs out.

slightly off-topic but I've built a few franken casters using bodies and necks from these guys and have nothing but the best things to say about 'em. They made my favorite neck to my specs and are very supportive, great service, great quality, etc.

Thanks, interesting link. Warmoth would be my ideal but these bodies look good too...

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Re: Cottonwood? Any experience out there?

Postby John Egan » Wed May 22, 2019 8:25 pm

Hewesy wrote:Thanks all,
@John Egan - that would be my ideal, sadly my local shops don't typically carry bodies or necks (I've been trying for 25yrs to change their minds) but that would be my ideal. Maybe I need to cast my net wider and trawl some other shops...
Hewesy


Here in the UK, some of the smaller shops sometimes have bodies and necks from guitars (bolt-on) that have been dismantled for some reason. I recently picked up a Mexican Strat body for very little money. OK, it is pink, but a new paint job will sort that out. I'm currently looking for a neck to go with it. I wondered if it might be possible to pick up such items in pawn shops in the USA ?
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Re: Cottonwood? Any experience out there?

Postby Sam Spoons » Wed May 22, 2019 10:50 pm

I just saw a 'Partcaster' Strat on FB marketplace for a couple of hundred quid with decent hardware and a MIM neck. I'd be inclined to buy somebody else's build and rebuild it to your spec.
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Re: Cottonwood? Any experience out there?

Postby BigRedX » Thu May 23, 2019 1:28 pm

I still remain to be convinced about the contribution of "tone wood" in solid guitar construction. And worrying about glue? Modern guitars are full of the stuff. Few bodies are made out of a single piece of wood these days. And what about multi-laminate necks?

There are plenty of well respected luthiers out there building solid bodied instruments with multi-laminate bodies and necks. Take a look at the work of Jens Ritter for one.

At least with Cottonwood you are likely to get more consistency from one body to the next, compared with ordinary wood.
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Re: Cottonwood? Any experience out there?

Postby Sam Spoons » Thu May 23, 2019 3:19 pm

Agreed there are many other factors that make a bigger difference than the body wood but you can usually tell if an electric guitar is going to sound lively/responsive or otherwise before you plug it in so the materials and construction must make a difference or solids would all sound the same.
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Re: Cottonwood? Any experience out there?

Postby Luke W » Thu May 23, 2019 4:19 pm

I'm of the opinion that the type of wood a solid bodied electric guitar is made of has about as much of a bearing on the sound of the guitar as the colour of the shirt of whoever put it together. But I'm also quite miserable and like exaggerating from time to time.

If the wood is solid enough to hold its shape and have the appropriate hardware screwed into it, it'll more than likely make a perfectly playable guitar, people have made guitars from all sorts of strange things!
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Re: Cottonwood? Any experience out there?

Postby Sam Spoons » Thu May 23, 2019 5:22 pm

Luke W wrote:people have made guitars from all sorts of strange things!


True and many of them have sounded sh1t :bouncy:

Totally agree you can make a playable electric out of nearly anything solid but the properties of that material and the quality of the build do make a difference to how they sound.

Try picking up a Les Paul and strum it unplugged, now do the same with a Strat...... What us making them sound different ('cos they definitely do)? Is it the bolt on neck, different scale length, the trem bridge as opposed to tunomatic and stop bar tailpiece? Undoubtedly but if you then compare a LP to an SG you'll hear a difference there too, the only significant constructional differences are the shape, the weight and the body wood.
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Re: Cottonwood? Any experience out there?

Postby Luke W » Thu May 23, 2019 7:38 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:Try picking up a Les Paul and strum it unplugged, now do the same with a Strat...... What us making them sound different ('cos they definitely do)? Is it the bolt on neck, different scale length, the trem bridge as opposed to tunomatic and stop bar tailpiece? Undoubtedly but if you then compare a LP to an SG you'll hear a difference there too, the only significant constructional differences are the shape, the weight and the body wood.

Absolutely, but I think the shape and weight are probably bigger factors in that than the wood itself. If we were talking two SGs or two LPs, but made with different wood then my guess is that the difference would be even less again.

I'm not going to deny that there is any effect on the sound at all, anything that affects how the strings vibrate will of course make a difference, but I think in most cases it will be hidden among so many other factors.

Sam Spoons wrote:True and many of them have sounded sh1t :bouncy:

That I can't argue with :D
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Re: Cottonwood? Any experience out there?

Postby Sam Spoons » Thu May 23, 2019 9:56 pm

We're on the same page, though I suspect shape makes no difference, weight and rigidity certainly do, especially when you compare a LP to an SG as the neck is so much better supported on the LP. But my '75 LP Custom sounds radically different to my two Strats and sounded very different to the 'real' SG that I sold to buy it in 1978. I suspect the difference between a cheap plywood LP and a 'proper' Maple/Mahogany bodied one is pretty huge and is as much down to the plywood body being inferior as it is to the a poor neck and dodgy build.
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Re: Cottonwood? Any experience out there?

Postby BigRedX » Fri May 24, 2019 9:28 am

I don't think you can lay the blame for plywood-bodied guitars sounding bad, simply at the fact they are made out of plywood. Just about every other component - pickups, electric and hardware - on them will be below that standard you would expect from a decent instrument.

And leaving all the other factors aside, there's the quality of the plywood to be considered. The typical plywood sheet, will have all sorts of defects in it such as voids, knots etc. For the same reason you wouldn't want to make a solid guitar body completely out of spalted or burled wood (although they can look good as decorative tops).

If you pick your plywood carefully there's no reason why the resulting solid bodied instrument can't be as good as something made from a more conventional "tone wood". The dutch luthier Baz Extravaganza, made a bass entirely out of plywood he had selected himself from his local DYI superstore. He said that there was little difference between this bass and a similar design he'd built previously out of more conventional materials.

Image

And of course there is also this instrument from Jens Ritter:

Image
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Re: Cottonwood? Any experience out there?

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri May 24, 2019 10:22 am

My mate Brian built this out of OSB retrieved from a skip

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Re: Cottonwood? Any experience out there?

Postby Hewesy » Sun May 26, 2019 6:29 pm

Brian got some skills...

Thanks all, food for thought. The Squier rebuild is a sensible option, funnily enough I almost bought an odd Fernandes/Fender bitsa from my local Cash Convertors last week and in the end I decided a Squier would be a safer bet (not knocking the brands here it was just a very odd mix of bits...!).

Or I guess just go the Warmoth route and know you'll love it.

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