I do monitor moisture levels. I buy from reliable sources (locally for 90% of it). When I buy the wood, it’s typically ready to go. I let it acclimate to my shop before doing anything to it. Any woods that are high in moisture sit and wait… sometimes years before I use them.
On a neck through build, the wings don’t have as much of a tonal contribution as a neck/body combo you’d experience from a bolt neck. The wings are more-so along for the ride. Some of the heavier/more dense woods can weigh in a bit tonally. Most of my builds are geared towards being lighter vs heavier. With neck through, the majority of the tonal influence comes from the neck woods and the fingerboard. The wings (especially if they’re on the lightweight side) serve more of a means of weight reduction, giving a more neutral tonal response. The wings are important to the overal full body resonance of the instrument. So; with that in mind, they are part of the sound of the instrument.
I took a lot of mental inventory on upper fret access based off basses I had played over the years and came up with something that is both functional and cosmetically pleasing to my eye. With the end goal in mind, I had to find a means of carving things in a way to make it happen (via grinder, rasps and various files).
Specific to my brand; 34″ and 33″ sound very even and predictable. 35″ yields a slightly more piano like character to the overtones of the low B and low E strings, yet leaves higher notes on higher strings (G & high C) choked and shorter on sustain. 32″ seems to be the breaking point where there is an automatic “ok….something sounds different here” effect on tone. There is more natural low end. The shorter you go, the rounder and more tubby the low end becomes. Pickup placement becomes an important part of how this tone is delivered (whether you want to bring out more of the naturally existing low end or manage it).
Another thing I’ll say about different scale length and tone; the way an instrument feels influences the way you play it. This can have as much of a tonal impact as carefully selected wood combinations.
Yes. They can be sanded/steamed out and the damaged areas can be easily re-oiled.
Tops are 95% cosmetic (especially on a neck through build). They can add to the overall sonic character by means of weight/density and how the combined components resonate with the string vibrations.