A while ago, I got my hands on a beautiful piece of bubinga wood; it had such an intense, natural colour I immediately decided to turn it into something.
Given the durability of this species of wood, I concluded the ideal use for it would be a handcrafted electric bass, with an intense, blues-style sound.
As soon as I started to work with it, the timber released a ridiculously strong smell; if I had to describe it, I would say it smelled like a pair of trainers after a week in the gym. It was an odour I’d never encountered from wood before, but it’s a standard feature of bubinga. Thank goodness for face masks!
Leaving aside the stink, bubinga is an African wood that is mostly used for furniture-making, and is not commonly turned into musical instruments, although a few high-end companies like Warwick have experimented with it.
As bubinga is so heavy and dense, I expected excellent sustain and a warm sound at all frequencies, so to highlight these characteristics I decided to make the neck from mahogany, with an ebony fretboard.
Finally, since the sound of an instrument depends both on the wood and on the pickups, I chose Nordstrand NP4 and NJ4 pickups, to maintain a jazzy timbre.
Once it was all assembled, I couldn’t bring myself to cover up the natural colour of the bubinga, so I used oil-based varnishes (which luckily took the edge off the characteristic smell).
When I tested it out, the sound was exactly as I’d imagined it: warm and deep, with incredible sustain and volume and a good attack.
The only downside is the weight of the bass, the result of the density of the bubinga wood, but this detail can easily be brushed aside when you consider how well it plays.
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