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View Full Version : American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) can be lovely stuff



fungusgeek
11-10-2014, 03:12 PM
They took down a big old sycamore when they put in a new bridge near my house. I had an opportunity with a chain saw and wedges to take out some split quartered billets. To really show the strong medullary ray pattern the wood has to be sawn exactly parallel to the medullar rays, which is generally absolutely quarter sawn, though the rays seem to wander around a bit. I found that out of a large wedge shaped billet I could cut a couple of pieces, then had to cut a thrown-away tapered piece to realign the saw cut so it was parallel to the medullar rays again. Even a couple of degrees off and the pattern became only flecks, not strong lines.

If you have an opportunity to get some chunks of sycamore large enough, and quarter sawn enough, to re-saw with special attention paid to the ray direction (you can see it in the end grain) I highly recommend it. The wood works well, and is very similar to maple.

Chris_H
11-10-2014, 03:45 PM
Yes, Sycamore can be really pretty.

JooKulele
11-11-2014, 03:06 AM
That is some gorgeous wood. How's it sound?

fungusgeek
11-11-2014, 04:19 AM
Sounds great, though at this point I never build the same thing twice. I have a construction which is pretty similar with East Indian rosewood sides and back and the sycamore ones are very similar.

ksquine
11-15-2014, 07:04 AM
Nice score on the wood. Its very distinctive

AcornHouse
11-15-2014, 09:45 AM
How does it finish? I've used non-quartered sycamore in various woodworking projects (non-instrument) and it never wanted to sand/scrape/plane to a truly glassy smooth finish. It was smooth, but still a little grainy.
Of course, individual trees and where they came from vary, but I'm wondering if the quarter sawn-ness makes a difference.

fungusgeek
11-17-2014, 05:42 AM
It is a little 'grainy' on the quarter (not like cherry or maple) but I use CA as a pore filler and that levels things out rather nicely.

Ron B
11-19-2014, 12:22 PM
I remember reading somewhere that the internal structure of sycamore allows disks and full sections of trunk to dry without splitting. That property allowed the wood to be used for end-grain butchers' blocks and even for wagon wheels. I've since thought that I'd try to get my hands on a section of trunk to try a few related projects. Now I know that re-sawing any leftovers might yield some work blanks as pretty as yours