View Full Version : Cedar tree

01-07-2011, 07:25 AM
I'm no luthier but i am a guy with a more than few acres in northeast ms. i took down a sizeable cedar tree about 4 months ago, before i ever started playing ukulele, and it's been in the same spot since it fell. I have no idea if this would be a good tree to harvest for ukes or not. Any ideas? I'm sure there are multiple types/species of cedar trees, so I guess I need to figure out which mine is and give that info., but if it is useable, how should I go about getting it sawn??

01-07-2011, 08:46 AM
My short answer is I don't know. Chances are you have an Eastern Red Cedar tree. It's not the most conventional wood, but according to a buddy of mine more familiar with local woods this could make a nice top if it's free of knots and has a nice grain. You really won't know until you cut into it. As far as sawing it you need to have it quarter-sawn. If you know somebody with a saw mill that's the easiest. A more manual way would be to use a fro. I've never done this, but I heard it works well. I personally like the idea of making a uke out of all local woods (I'm in Charlotte, NC area). The closest I've come is using local black walnut for back and sides, and it had a very nice sound.

01-07-2011, 09:29 AM
thanks...i poked around the 'net and am now assuming it is, as you say eastern red cedar. i have access to a mill. thank you.

Michael Smith
01-07-2011, 01:37 PM
It seems like most of the conifers make good sounding tops. When you say big tree what to you mean? To get the best conifer top wood usually takes really big, old growth trees. You want grain lines to be really small over an area for 4 or 5 inches on the quarter, nicer if they are very evenly spaced. You can get really nice 3A one piece sitka spruce uke tops for $16 from Alaska Speciality Woods so it would be hard to make it worth it from a dollars ands cents perspective.

01-08-2011, 10:46 AM
If you have the log sitting on the ground please go right now and stick something under it to allow some air circulation. Even though it's Cedar, it can still get fungus and bugs.

As far as milling it, you want the widest section of the log quartersawn. This will create more work for the sawyer so be prepared to pay more. The widest board you will need for a tenor top is 4 3/4" without any pith or soft sapwood. Let the Sawyer know you need to get clear ~5" wide X 13" long X 1" thick boards quatersawn. Most hardwood trees would need to be a minumum of about 20" in diameter to get this wide of a quartered section so talk to the sawyer before you lug the log to him and make sure the log is big enough. Flatsawn tops are not a good choice.

I'm assuming it's Eastern Red Cedar (ERC). ERC doesn't take very long to dry and isn't very difficult to deal with during drying as the heartwood is pretty much dry on the live tree. Stack, sticker and ratchet strap it for a few months in the shade with a roof over it up off the ground or inside in a well ventilated area.

I've never seen it used for tops but would be interested in seeing and hearing how it works. ERC is a weed tree here and grows along fence lines like grass. I would be challenged to find one big enough to get a decent knot free, pitth free, quartersawn section for tops. It's not the same as the Cedar typically used for tops so bracing and thickness recommendations used for Western Cedars (cooler climate, closer growth rings, different strength and stiffness) may have to be modified. If you attach it to a East Indian Rosewood back and sides it will definitely have a unique smell. May want to store it with your woolens to keep the Moths away;)

Good luck with this! At the very least you'll have lumber for a lined closet or two and some blanket chests or a ton of Rabbit bedding.