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Light Weight Body Wood

How light is light, really…

Phone Caller:  “I’d like to buy a lightweight (LW) body please, but no one has what I need.”
USACG: (Thinking this will be easy) “We typically have those in stock, what specifically were you looking for?”
Phone Caller: “I’d like a 2 lb Mahogany body please.”
USACG: (now realizing the impossible task at hand) “um did you say 5lbs?”

Sounds funny now, but when you are on that call and trying to get a well-meaning customer to understand that I could find a unicorn, stuff it still alive into a shipping box, and ship it to them faster than what they want, things must be tred upon lightly!

Here are some facts about wood weight to keep in mind:

  • Alder – great tone wood, LW means something in the 3lb to 3lb 15oz range.  Alder has gone up in price twice in the last 12 months and we are seeing some scarcity not only in the LW stuff but also in the wood itself.
  • Swamp Ash – basically the same as Alder above BUT there has been a recent blight in the stuff being milled so the LW stuff hasn’t been as abundant.
  • Mahogany – 5 to 6 lbs is pretty typical here and if you want LW we consider anything in the mid 4’s to mid 5’s LW.
  • Basswood – LW is the same as Alder and Swamp Ash and depending on the body and the routs it can be pretty low, in the 3lb range.
  • Pawlonia – this is a distant cousin of Ash and is EXTREMELY lightweight.  A full body of Pawlonia can be in the 2lb range BUT BUT BUT, we don’t suggest it.  It tends to not hold screws very well.  One of our favorites is a 3 piece body with a center made of Swamp Ash and wings of Pawlonia.  Will yield a 3-4lb body almost every time and holding screws is not a problem!
  • Maple – don’t ask for lightweight maple.  There is no such thing.  It’s all heavy.  It sounds AMAZING, but you are going to have to sit down a lot or essentially be a body builder if you’re going to gig with it.  Do you sometimes wonder why so many guitarists use a different guitar in the studio than on the road?   Wanna bet that studio guitar is an all maple body?!
  • Pine – in that 3 to just under 4 lbs range is considered LW in our world.
  • Roasted Alder/Swamp Ash/Basswood/Pine – the Tempering process does shave a few ounces off so you will hear us say that these woods are consistently lighter weight than their non-roasted counterparts.

There are of course other good woods out there.  Limba/Korina comes to mind.  We don’t keep that stuff in stock and it does tend to be a few ounces heavier than say Alder or Swamp but not as bad as Mahogany when you find the right piece.  We’d like to stock more of the Black and White varieties of Limba but finding consistent quality and quantity is harder with these types of woods.

A quick footnote, we do offer “Chambered bodies” and you might be surprised how many guitars you play that don’t look chambered yet actually are.  You don’t have to put the F hole in there ya know and chambering will always knock off a few unwanted ounces!

Hope this helps you understand weights a bit better and if you want our opinion…there is such a thing as “too light!”