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View Full Version : Spanish Cedar - Mahogany - Sapele



Vic D
05-26-2010, 01:26 PM
Aight, I'm all out of Spanish cedar and can't find any quartersawn locally, don't wanna pay the high price of ordering delivery. I can get sapele for like 5.50 a bd ft in the 8/4 flavor, didn't ask about the 6/4. So my question is, how does the sapele compare to Spanish cedar and like honduras mahogany? I like Spanish cedar over mahogany both for its ease of working and the light weight, but I haven't got any experience with sapele. I've seen some ukes with sapele necks and they look real nice so I'll probably go that route, just wondering what to expect.

thistle3585
05-26-2010, 01:57 PM
Vic,
Have you tried Paxton's? They stock some unique stuff in their retail store. Their prices are a bit high but you wont have to pay shipping.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
05-26-2010, 01:58 PM
I've tried sapele for necks before and it's much too heavy for my liking. My own preference is for Spanish cedar, then Honduran mahogany. African mahogany if nothing else is available. Luckily I have a reliable source for 12/4 Spanish cedar.

Vic D
05-26-2010, 02:11 PM
Chuck, 'preciate it. The search for Spanish cedar continues...
Andrew, yep, Paxton is my source for the sapele, unfortunately they don't have quartersawn african or honduran or Spanish cedar. I'll find some.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
05-26-2010, 02:24 PM
If I can buy Spanish cedar on an island you certainly can as well. Any hardwoods store should be able to order anything you want to your specs.

Kekani
05-26-2010, 02:57 PM
Goosebay Lumber - I usually call and specify 12/4 flatsawn.

Vic D
05-26-2010, 04:10 PM
Goosebay Lumber - I usually call and specify 12/4 flatsawn.

*Smacks forehead*, I didn't even think to ask the guy at Paxton if he had Spanish cedar in 12/4 flatsawn... Got the Goosebay site bookmarked just in case. Thanks Kekani.

Chuck: You've got a point, I'm just not looking hard enough and or using my noggin.

Pete Howlett
05-26-2010, 04:11 PM
The key to buying wood is to know how it is converted from the tree. 12/4 flatsawn yields ideal quartered necks. Have you read my neck thread - I drove 130 miles to get decent African grown Spanish cedar. It's great wood because it doesn't have the gum ducts you get in South American grown Spanish cedar. It ended up that I got 68 Necks for about $200. Just have to wait 6 months before I can use it.

Vic D
05-26-2010, 04:15 PM
Yep Pete, that's a great find. I just wasn't aware, being a noob and all that I could get that thickness... makes perfect sense now though lol. I told dude I was makin' necks and that I was clueless. He sounded busy though. After reading Goosebay's price list and dimension description and the tip from Kekani I've got it down now. Thanks guys!

Vic D
05-26-2010, 04:49 PM
You would think that I would have encountered this 12/4 thing somewhere in my reading... Just seems like everything I've read on it they say like 6/4 8/4 etc...I guess I just assumed buying hardwood was like buying pine or building lumber. Question, these stores like Paxton and Goosebay... do they all stop at 12/4?

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
05-26-2010, 05:09 PM
Most of your research has probably been guitar centric. If i'm not mistaken, almost all guitar necks are built up, using smaller dimensioned wood than the 12/4 that has been mentioned. Building ukuleles, we don't have near the strength requirements that you have for guitars so we can easily get by with one piece necks. When I order Spanish cedar I ask for either flatsawn or quartersawn (I almost never get quartersawn), it doesn't matter since the board will be ripped to 3" X 3" x 18" long pieces. Since the cross section is square I can rotate it to get any grain orientation I want. From each of these pieces I get two necks. The bigger the tree, the more consistent the grain tends to be in a given plank so I get the biggest boards as I can. In my case they come 12' long and anywhere between 9" to 14" wide. That's a lot of necks.

Vic D
05-26-2010, 05:18 PM
Right on everything Chuck. That puts things in better perspective. Hehehe, that's a ton of necks... I think I might have to repeat three times tonight before I go to bed, "ukuleles are not guitars.".

Pete Howlett
05-26-2010, 05:48 PM
Yes you will - they are not guitars! There has been many threads on this forum where posters have confused the two in terms of wood technology discussion and the merits of construction techniques and how they cross over/apply. Having been a guitar maker once I can honestly say that the two disciplines are different, right down to the critical consideration of materials selection - in many ways you can get away with so much in a ukulele and yet are paradoxically restricted by many 'constraints'. The real upside is you can use materials guitar makers have to reject - I made so many sopranos from the off-cuts from my Weissenborns; that kind for thing or being able to negotiate a pin knot, gum duct because the dimensions are that much smaller; or like Chuck, getting your fingerboard, bridge blank and bindings from a guitar fingerboard... there certainly is more to this game than meets the eye!

fahrner
05-26-2010, 06:09 PM
Chuck, Pete;
When you build necks do you orientate the grain parallel or perpendicular to the fret board?
Or does it not matter?

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
05-26-2010, 06:49 PM
I can only speak to what I apply in my own work. I'm sure others will disagree. It's my understanding that almost without exception, every component of wood that is used in acoustic instrument building should be quarter sawn, including necks. It have more to do with wood movement than it does strength. A quarter sawn board of any given dimension will shrink a lot less across it's width than it's flat sawn counter part. Can you imagine a quarter sawn neck mated to a flat sawn fret board? Chances are you're going to have some movement between the two pieces before long and develop a nasty ridge where the two pieces meet....or even worse. Some people also believe that quarter sawn braces are stronger because of their vertical grain orientation but simple testing proves that notion wrong. Quarter sawn braces are also much easier to carve! Aesthetically speaking, flat sawn pieces cannot be properly book matched for body construction, aside from the shrinkage problem.
Having said this, when you order a guitar neck blank from StewMac, you have your choice between flat or quarter sawn. Beats me why. Oh, and electric guitar builders seem to break most of these "rules" just because they are a squirrely bunch.....
$.02

Pete Howlett
05-26-2010, 07:11 PM
I always worry about putting ebony on cedar necks - different expansion rates and also if you have very dry ebony, it just sucks all of the water out of your glue - I think you'll find Collings Guitars epoxy their fingerboards on...oh, I forgot, ukulele making is not guitar making ;) I digress - everything quartered; a simple rule of thumb but hey, I use my cedar offcuts for back braces and bridgeplates...

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
05-26-2010, 07:16 PM
Much to the chagrin of repair people, I think a lot of the guitar builders are using epoxy on their finger boards now. Oops, I almost forgot, we ain't building guitars!

Ken W
05-26-2010, 07:27 PM
I was at Paxton in Cincinnati a couple of weeks ago and only saw 4/4 flatsawn. That said, I didn't flip through the entire stack. There may have been a random quartersawn or two in the stack. Even when flat sawing lumber a few boards come out quartersawn. My last neck came from a perfectly quartersawn cedar board (Western Red, not Spanish) that I found at Lowe's.

Vic D
05-26-2010, 07:59 PM
I was at Paxton in Cincinnati a couple of weeks ago and only saw 4/4 flatsawn. That said, I didn't flip through the entire stack. There may have been a random quartersawn or two in the stack. Even when flat sawing lumber a few boards come out quartersawn. My last neck came from a perfectly quartersawn cedar board (Western Red, not Spanish) that I found at Lowe's.

Oh that's terrible Ken... I can't pick any up till next week anyway but I'm gonna call them and see what they can do. I picked up all of my poplar (tulip?) from Lowe's. Someone told me a friend of his knows when the wood is coming in and snatches all the rainbow (mineral stained).. dagnabbit. I've got some nice western red I picked up there too... I think I told you about that. I might have to give Goosebay a ring.

I do wish I could find a board of quarter sawn poplar though. I suspect those are snatched up too. Which makes me think to add, in a previous post in another thread I wrote that the backs and sides don't have to be quarter sawn, which is true but if you want to warranty it for a long period your best bet is the more stable quarter sawn, as Chuck, Pete and others have pointed out. That seems to be the major consensus among the pros.

erich@muttcrew.net
05-26-2010, 11:30 PM
I don't think I can add any light to this forest - only a few sparks that will surely dwindle or be stomped out, but here they are...

We have used sapele for all kinds of stuff, including necks - it's heavy, that's certainly true, but you can take it way down and it does yield some nice tonal qualities. Check out the sustain on our little Brasiliana.

With mahogany and sapele I don't mind that much whether the neck is quartered or flatsawn. At least in the wood we have used so far the grain is so fine and so homogeneous that it doesn't seem to matter - time will tell. With the sapele we go by how the curl and ribbons are oriented.

Please be nice to your customers and your fellow luthiers and use hide glue or wood glue to join the fingerboard to the neck - epoxy is just wrong, wrong, wrong...

Pete Howlett
05-27-2010, 12:50 AM
If commercial wood like maple, poplar, alder, oak and cherry has been converted in the US it is more likely to be flat sawn because the sawing regime ensures it. This is because logs are sawn on a face and then rotated 90 degrees, sawn, rotated in this manner. If you have birdseye figure or flame in maple it is the only way to maximize the yield because these features tend to be only on the outside of the log. However, in Europe most boards are produced by through and through sawing which is consecutive cuts longitudinal through the log. This produces 'centre' boards which are always quarter sawn. Since African mills are controlled by European companies through and through is practiced there. My stacks of African cedar I went through in the week had lots of quartersawn which were clearly the remnants of a through and through sawing regime; and because they were milled for the window framing trade they were also in stock lengths and widths hence I could get 6" widths, and have them cross cut to 37" for me to yield 18.5" x 3" x 3" double neck blank billets. This was a timber yard with millions of dollars worth of hardwood that would usually deal wholesale that has learnt how to sell to the little guy. They squeezed me in their pick schedule for the day and I paid much less for my wood even with the travel costs than if I had bought it from a luthier supply house or ebay...

harpdog
05-27-2010, 02:01 AM
Not a builder, but I've read that sapelle is unpleasant to work with - the smell and the nature of the sawdust maybe?

Flyfish57
05-27-2010, 03:19 AM
Goosebay Lumber - I usually call and specify 12/4 flatsawn.

Goosebay Lumber in Chichester, NH?? I haven't been there, but I drive by them on my way to the White Mountains...I'll have to pop in.

Matt Clara
05-27-2010, 03:32 AM
Not a builder, but I've read that sapelle is unpleasant to work with - the smell and the nature of the sawdust maybe?

I've made one concert neck from sapelle, and didn't notice any problem with it (other than what Chuck said--it's kinda heavy for a neck). I've also worked with a similar wood called genuine mahogany. That stuff was like chewing on aspirins to work with. Literally, left a very bitter taste in your mouth.

Michael N.
05-27-2010, 04:17 AM
Peter. How much lighter is the African cedar in comparison to the SA stuff? I know the SA variety varies a lot in density and supplies of it are dwindling. I'm hoping the African variety is suitable for Nylon strung guitars.

thistle3585
05-27-2010, 04:37 AM
Vic,
You might also try Northwest Lumber in Indianapolis. That's just an hour and a half drive for you. They also have a nice selection of tools. http://www.northwestlumberco.com/ Back in the day, when Bushman was building the homegrown series, that's where they sourced their wood.

Sven
05-27-2010, 05:03 AM
... and only saw 4/4 flatsawn.
I can't understand this - how is this not suitable if you turn it 90 degrees?

Pete Howlett
05-27-2010, 05:04 AM
African cedar would be ideal for classical guitar necks. It's light, very stable and easy to carve. I have dated and cut 2 neck blanks just to see how they hold up in my conditioning room. the stuff I have worked which I bought last year has been a dream to carve.

Matt - genuine mahogany should be fairly 'tasteless'. Cedar on the other hand is like chewing on a bad peanut... are you sure it wasn't cedar you were using?

Vic D
05-27-2010, 05:45 AM
I can't understand this - how is this not suitable if you turn it 90 degrees?

It can be confusing, but the 4/4 is only an inch thick. In order to get the width of necks I'll need to find some 12/4 ( 12 quarters of an inch before surfacing ) and then cut that up.
This has turned into a very enlightening thread.

Matt Clara
05-27-2010, 05:56 AM
Matt - genuine mahogany should be fairly 'tasteless'. Cedar on the other hand is like chewing on a bad peanut... are you sure it wasn't cedar you were using?

Definitely isn't cedar. Resembles to some degree other mahoganies I've purchased (sapelle, african ribbon mahogany), and it didn't have the slightly sour/bitter taste of a bad peanut, but was exactly like crunching up a bitter pill. Here's a pic of a few inches of the board I bought (from a nice sawmill/woodworker's shop that's part of a chain of three shops here in Michigan, and which stocks 15-20 exotics on top of the indigenous species):
13147


If that doesn't work, click here (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=11785&d=1270840844).

Pete Howlett
05-27-2010, 08:04 AM
It's really hard to tell from that jpg especially if that is the true color. If it is color-correct then that looks very much like Phillipine mahogany to me...

fahrner
05-27-2010, 08:38 AM
I can't understand this - how is this not suitable if you turn it 90 degrees?
Think this is the question I was trying to ask of Chuck and Pete. Here's what I got.
Chuck for example would prefer quarter sawn stock for necks but typically ends up with flat sawn. Doesn't matter because he cuts it into 3"x3" blanks so the grain can be orientated any way he wants .
It's still flat sawn lumber but now looks quarter sawn. It sounds like Pete is able to get true quarter sawn neck blanks.
The grain is orientated perpendicular to the fret board assuming the fret board has been quarter sawn or flat sawn with it's grain perpendicular to it's plane. The important thing here is that the grain orientation is the same for both parts so that movement over time will be as close as possible considering the differences in the two materials.
Chuck, Pete; Do I understand correctly? Please feel free to blast me if I still have my head in the sand.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
05-27-2010, 09:30 AM
I don't think you are quite understanding it. There is no such thing as "true quarter sawn". It's either quarter sawn, flat sawn, rift sawn or somewhere in between. Quarter sawn ONLY has to do with the direction you orient the grain in your specific application. The sawyer doesn't go up to a log and say "This is a quarter sawn log". It all depends on how he wants to cut it. Even a 12" wide flat sawn board suddenly becomes quarter sawn if you stand it on it's edge. Usually however, these terms designate the grain orientation across the width of the board. If the width is the same as the height, as it would be in a 3" X 3" piece of stock, it becomes anything you wish. A squared cant of wood is both flat sawn and quarter sawn depending upon how you use it. Ei; set it one way, it's quarter sawn, rotate it 90 degrees it's flat sawn. Make sense? When we build instruments, we like all of our wood to be quarter saw across the width.

fahrner
05-27-2010, 10:43 AM
I don't think you are quite understanding it. There is no such thing as "true quarter sawn". It's either quarter sawn, flat sawn, rift sawn or somewhere in between. Quarter sawn ONLY has to do with the direction you orient the grain in your specific application. The sawyer doesn't go up to a log and say "This is a quarter sawn log". It all depends on how he wants to cut it. Even a 12" wide flat sawn board suddenly becomes quarter sawn if you stand it on it's edge. Usually however, these terms designate the grain orientation across the width of the board. If the width is the same as the height, as it would be in a 3" X 3" piece of stock, it becomes anything you wish. A squared cant of wood is both flat sawn and quarter sawn depending upon how you use it. Ei; set it one way, it's quarter sawn, rotate it 90 degrees it's flat sawn. Make sense? When we build instruments, we like all of our wood to be quarter saw across the width.
Chuck, Thank you. You're right, I wasn't understanding it. I think I was trying to take the terminology too literal. To me the term 'quarter sawn' has to do with the way the wood is cut from the log (so that the growth rings fall perpendicular to the cuts). The greater concern in uke building is grain orientation. Think I have it now. Thank you for your patience.
Fred

Matt Clara
05-27-2010, 11:01 AM
Chuck, Thank you. You're right, I wasn't understanding it. I think I was trying to take the terminology too literal. To me the term 'quarter sawn' has to do with the way the wood is cut from the log (so that the growth rings fall perpendicular to the cuts). The greater concern in uke building is grain orientation. Think I have it now. Thank you for your patience.
Fred

I knew I'd seen that graphic once before. Somebody posted it in response to a very noob question I asked a while back. You can find a couple more graphics like it here (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?19570-How-thick-is-it-%28ukulele-sides-bottom-top%29&p=218010#post218010).

thistle3585
05-27-2010, 11:39 AM
Chuck, Thank you. You're right, I wasn't understanding it. I think I was trying to take the terminology too literal. To me the term 'quarter sawn' has to do with the way the wood is cut from the log (so that the growth rings fall perpendicular to the cuts). The greater concern in uke building is grain orientation. Think I have it now. Thank you for your patience.
Fred

Fred you are correct. The term describes the process in which the wood is cut. After its sawn, we're too greedy to call it what it is because we know that 12/4 lumber on the quarter is more expensive per board foot than 12/4 flatsawn lumber. Retailers will take the few flatsawn boards that are on either side of the heartwood and sell them as quartersawn even though they weren't technically quartersawn. Is there a difference? I think there is. True quartered tonewood is often split which helps minimize grain run out which is why its so expensive. Another reason that quartersawn wood is so expensive is because there is more waste as a result of that process. Here is a drawing of a couple ways to cut wood.

Pete Howlett
05-27-2010, 12:06 PM
Ooh err, we are really getting our panties in a bunch aren't we? I do not know any commercial UK sawmill quarter sawing save a luthiers' supplier in Suffolk. Commercial mills will through and through saw and the center boards may but often won't be pulled as 'quarter sawn'. If they are savvy and want to add a premium to these boards they will be cored out so it looks as if it really has been 'quartered'. I selected my wood the other day, got quarter sawn boards and didn't pay a premium. This baloney is recycled and is more than 70 years old - a time when you might have had oak and walnut quarter sawn for paneling and wainscoting... When I get a chance to select lumber it is nearly always from the centre of the log for obvious reasons and because no commercial mill quarter saws these days they are not about to gouge you with all that rubbish about quartered wood being 'premium' - at least not here in the UK!

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
05-27-2010, 12:43 PM
No matter what you call it I think the important thing to remember is grain orientation. When working with individual wood components for acoustic instruments, you'll be fine if make sure the grain is vertical when viewed across its' width.
lllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll
And Pete, I'm not wearing my panties today. But maybe that's too much information......

fahrner
05-27-2010, 01:17 PM
Ooh err, we are really getting our panties in a bunch aren't we? I do not know any commercial UK sawmill quarter sawing save a luthiers' supplier in Suffolk. Commercial mills will through and through saw and the center boards may but often won't be pulled as 'quarter sawn'. If they are savvy and want to add a premium to these boards they will be cored out so it looks as if it really has been 'quartered'. I selected my wood the other day, got quarter sawn boards and didn't pay a premium. This baloney is recycled and is more than 70 years old - a time when you might have had oak and walnut quarter sawn for paneling and wainscoting... When I get a chance to select lumber it is nearly always from the centre of the log for obvious reasons and because no commercial mill quarter saws these days they are not about to gouge you with all that rubbish about quartered wood being 'premium' - at least not here in the UK!
No twisted knickers here Pete. Just simply trying to understand the vernacular used in this forum. How else can I learn from you guys?

erich@muttcrew.net
05-27-2010, 02:04 PM
For all intents and purposes, the boards with vertical grain ||||||||||||||||| are the same, regardless of how the sawyer actually goes about producing them. And it is fair - if not entirely accurate - to refer to these boards as quartered or on the quarter, etc.

Another issue, and one that has come up here and elsewhere in the forum recently, is which parts of the instrument actually need to have perpendicular grain and which woods are most sensitive in this regard. We have sapeli that you can turn this way and that all day and you still cannot make out which way the quarter (i.e. the vertical grain, if there is any) goes. With a spruce or cedar top it's another story - the grain lines are right there looking back at you - which is a good thing.

erich@muttcrew.net
05-27-2010, 02:13 PM
...Is there a difference? I think there is. True quartered tonewood is often split which helps minimize grain run out which is why its so expensive...

Sorry I missed your post, Andrew. You do have a point there. I remember seeing a clip on youtube some time ago about how Taylor selects their wood (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5EpVIEyYiSs) for guitar making. Worth a look.

fahrner
05-27-2010, 02:37 PM
Sorry I missed your post, Andrew. You do have a point there. I remember seeing a clip on youtube some time ago about how Taylor selects their wood (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5EpVIEyYiSs) for guitar making. Worth a look.

Andrew, Erich; Thank you both for the response.
Erich, the Taylor videos are very informative. Thanks for the link.

thistle3585
05-27-2010, 05:08 PM
We need a thread on how to choose tone wood. I'll be the first to admit that I know enough about wood to stir up trouble but I'm generally shooting from the hip when I choose it for an instrument. Its usually trial and error for me. My approach is grain, run out then cosmetics. I'm not too caught up on species.

Pete Howlett
05-27-2010, 11:13 PM
Most classical guitar builders chosose their wood from where it grows and not if it has a tap tone or whatever. Usually this is a limited region in Switzerland or Austria.

Just looking at the Taylor video - this is very clever marketing isn't it. Tying in the 'sustainable' credentials. Don't fall for it. They are buying wind down spruce because it is easier to assess and process. Cut a tree and you can have core rot and all sorts of other stuff going on so you have paid for a tree which is useless. All very clever...

erich@muttcrew.net
05-28-2010, 01:49 AM
Come on, Pete - give 'em some credit. If there weren't any (business, not just environmental) benifits they wouldn't be out there doing it like that. But if the stuff is down they might as well use it. And if they tell us they are out there saving the environment, then OK - that's one knotch in their favor in some people's book, and a good lesson in marketing for the rest.

More to the point of this thread, I think, is that they show how they split out exactly the sections of wood they want to use for tops - which is what Andrew was suggesting in an earlier post.

Pete Howlett
05-28-2010, 04:20 AM
Make no mistake about it - the videos, Factory Friday series and the magazine are ALL about marketing. We all do it. I am just saying caution when you look. It's not wholly about informing the public. In fact, in many ways it's about Taylor being able to take advantage and I mean advantage of their reputation, spending power etc to chose exactly where they get their wood from - like the 5 trees they buy each year from a village in Brazil to supply necks for their guitars instead of looking for a sustainable source nearer to home... they are taking the easy option because they can. The whole thing is very complex and I for one, tho I am grateful for the information Taylor produces don't buy into their sustainable credentials. They are in business to make money and not change the planet.

thistle3585
05-28-2010, 04:58 AM
Yes, Taylor is in business to make money but that doesn't detract from the fact that they buy an awful lot of trees that were blow downs instead of cutting live trees or are buying sustainable trees. I'm sure their not perfect but they are harvesting wood in a much more responsible manner than a lot of other folks. Its horrifying to see the amount of sitka that is being cut in Alaska and sent off to China. The few tonewood dealers that I know have never cut a live tree. There isn't any reason too.