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View Full Version : Using Spanish Cedar as tone wood??



UkeforJC
01-21-2011, 11:26 AM
Dear all,
Does any of you have the experience using curly Spanish cedar as tone wood?
Does it sound closed to Western red cedar wood?

I have heard many of you said that you used Spanish cedar for neck, but I haven't heard anybody said about using it as tone wood.

Any comment is appreciated.
Thank you..

erich@muttcrew.net
01-22-2011, 05:11 AM
Spanish cedar is a kind of mahogany (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meliaceae), so I guess you could use it for just about any part, though I don't think I've seen it used for anything but necks.

Kekani
01-22-2011, 07:04 AM
Does any of you have the experience using curly Spanish cedar as tone wood?
Does it sound closed to Western red cedar wood?

Not curly, no. It should sound nothing like WRC - one is soft and the other is hard, though not Ebony or Rosewood hard. Then again, given the right builder, its possible one could make it sound close. . .

As a tonewood, its possible, but I'd shy away just because of its texture. Yes, easy to work with, light weight. Hmmm, scratch the shy away part. . .

UkeforJC
01-22-2011, 07:25 AM
Thank you for your comments.
By the way, what is WRC? I have seen it many times in the forum, but I don't know what it stands for....haha..thanks

BobN
01-22-2011, 07:25 AM
There are instrument builders that use it:
http://www.ellisguitars.com/SpanishCedar.html
I have only used it for necks. I love the smell, but it doesn't taste very good.

Kekani
01-22-2011, 07:34 AM
Thank you for your comments.
By the way, what is WRC? I have seen it many times in the forum, but I don't know what it stands for....haha..thanks

Western Red Cedar.

ksquine
01-22-2011, 07:52 AM
I think it would make a good top for a uke. Spanish cedar is lighter than mahogany, heavier than spruce. It would probably sound somewhere in between those standards. Only one way to find out if its good ;)
It would be tricky to finish. Expect alot of time pore filling. It also dents easily.
Sure would make a nice smelling uke...and you could store cigars in it too!!

UkeforJC
01-22-2011, 08:59 AM
I have another question...

Is curly wood generally not a good choice for tonewood because of the sound? or is it just more challenging to work with?
thanks

I think in the past, there was a thread discussing this topic, but I can't find it.

Allen
01-22-2011, 09:33 AM
Using curly wood is generally not a good idea for tops. Quite acceptable for backs and sides. Reason being is that what you are seeing with the curl is the gain changing direction, ie going up, then down. Hence you have very short grain instead of the optimum long grain that runs the entire length of the top. This presents a lot of problems when you are taking the plate down to very thin dimensions, such as you typically do on ukes. In extreme examples of curly wood the actual wood fibres may be only fractionally longer than the thickness of the plate, leaving you with very little structural integrity.

In the guitar world, there is a recent trend to using very curly Red Wood (Sequoia) and these need to be laminated to a very stiff piece of spruce to provide the structural integrity for use as a top, while still giving the visual impact of the curly wood.

UkeforJC
01-22-2011, 01:54 PM
Using curly wood is generally not a good idea for tops. Quite acceptable for backs and sides. Reason being is that what you are seeing with the curl is the gain changing direction, ie going up, then down. Hence you have very short grain instead of the optimum long grain that runs the entire length of the top. This presents a lot of problems when you are taking the plate down to very thin dimensions, such as you typically do on ukes. In extreme examples of curly wood the actual wood fibres may be only fractionally longer than the thickness of the plate, leaving you with very little structural integrity.

In the guitar world, there is a recent trend to using very curly Red Wood (Sequoia) and these need to be laminated to a very stiff piece of spruce to provide the structural integrity for use as a top, while still giving the visual impact of the curly wood.

Very interesting...
this makes me wonder why curly koa is so popular?

Allen
01-22-2011, 09:12 PM
Because it looks so bloody good.

That uke that Rick Turner was showing in the NAMM video has a curly Koa top. He had it with him in Cairns were him and I were teaching a uke building course for the Cairns Uke Festival last June. His comment to me was it looks great, but doesn't sound as good as it could. Has to be thicker to compensate for all the short grain. It's a stunning instrument though, and I'm sure that whoever ends up getting it will be very happy.

I've had to use some very curly wood for customers guitars and ukes. They are no where near as responsive as ones that are built with less figured wood. But many (most) people listen with their eyes, and if it looks awesome then of course it sounds awesome too. Especially if they've already made up their mind about plunking down hard cash for that instrument.

Comes down to what the market wants, and ultimately what is moving off the shelf. If you put two instruments up for sale, one with un-figured wood and the other with curly wood I'd bet my pay-check that the first instrument that was picked up would be the one with the curly wood. Now if they were priced the same, no matter how good the un-figured one sounded as compared to the figured one, the figured one would sell first at least 90% of the time. I believe simply that people are drawn to petty and shiny things.

Most of my work comes from commissions and I have never yet had a customer tell me that they want some plain wood. Don't care what it looks like. Just has to sound awesome. That just never happens. They all want flash and bling. Then they tell me what kind of sound they are looking for etc. It's a delicate balancing act as others working this trade can attest to.

We now have a marketing plan that places a premium on highly figured instruments that grab your attention. You do the math.

BobN
01-23-2011, 04:04 AM
Because it looks so bloody good.

That uke that Rick Turner was showing in the NAMM video has a curly Koa top. He had it with him in Cairns were him and I were teaching a uke building course for the Cairns Uke Festival last June. His comment to me was it looks great, but doesn't sound as good as it could. Has to be thicker to compensate for all the short grain. It's a stunning instrument though, and I'm sure that whoever ends up getting it will be very happy.

I've had to use some very curly wood for customers guitars and ukes. They are no where near as responsive as ones that are built with less figured wood. But many (most) people listen with their eyes, and if it looks awesome then of course it sounds awesome too. Especially if they've already made up their mind about plunking down hard cash for that instrument.

Comes down to what the market wants, and ultimately what is moving off the shelf. If you put two instruments up for sale, one with un-figured wood and the other with curly wood I'd bet my pay-check that the first instrument that was picked up would be the one with the curly wood. Now if they were priced the same, no matter how good the un-figured one sounded as compared to the figured one, the figured one would sell first at least 90% of the time. I believe simply that people are drawn to petty and shiny things.

Most of my work comes from commissions and I have never yet had a customer tell me that they want some plain wood. Don't care what it looks like. Just has to sound awesome. That just never happens. They all want flash and bling. Then they tell me what kind of sound they are looking for etc. It's a delicate balancing act as others working this trade can attest to.

We now have a marketing plan that places a premium on highly figured instruments that grab your attention. You do the math.

Allen, that is a great post.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
01-23-2011, 07:09 AM
Not all curly koa needs to be thicker to be highly resonant. I've got some gorgeous koa with radical random curl and it's very floppy. This kind of koa is best used for making jewelry boxes and such. I've got other koa that is extremely tight fiddle back that is very stiff that needs to be thicknessed pretty thin in order for the sound board to move. Koa is the kind of wood that simply can not be built by the numbers, every piece has to be considered individually.
And yes, it's sad that many people want the most gorgeous 5A koa they can get and at the same time they also want the best sounding instrument that's ever been built. It's the job of the builder to explain to the customer what the limitations and expectations of these materials are.
Beyond curl and figure, I find a tonal difference in the color of koa I use with the lighter stuff sounding a bit more open than the darker wood. I'm not sure what the reason is behind this but it seems to me that some of the best darker, colorful koa is found growing in the higher elevations where the blonder koa is found lower and is faster growing. Some people feel that the color and/or distinctive grain patterns are influenced by trees being in the path of volcanic activity, with the silica from the ash being absorbed by the tree. That part is a mystery to me but I do shy away from making general statements about koa. Every tree and every board is unique. We all have our own theories though and I respect everyone's right to have their's. A lot of what we do well is simply voodoo anyway and difficult to explain or justify.

Allen
01-23-2011, 09:10 AM
A lot of what we do well is simply voodoo anyway and difficult to explain or justify.


Truer words have never been spoken Chuck.

Tasmanian Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) is very similar to Koa and displays the same characteristics in terms of how it sounds compared to the color.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
01-23-2011, 09:46 AM
Tasmanian Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) is very similar to Koa and displays the same characteristics in terms of how it sounds compared to the color.

Interesting. I wonder if growing elevation affects the color as it seems to do with koa.

Allen
01-23-2011, 09:22 PM
The better Blackwood comes from Tasmania and then in some areas of Victoria. They get a lot of cold air coming out of the Souther Ocean. Blackwood grows all the way up the eastern side of Australia and the local stuff I don't think is anywhere as good for instruments as the stuff from down south. I suppose it's similar to the elevation issue you have in Hawaii. Higher up and it gets colder. Slowing growth.

Pete Howlett
01-23-2011, 11:35 PM
Chuck is of course right :)

I can no longer get the koa I used 14 years ago; I am informed that the area where it was harvested is now logged out. This particular lot was a gorgeous pink colour with the density and sonic quality of Honduras Mahogany. I built a load of stunning Weissenborns with it and the offcuts were used for sopranos. All these instruments sounded amazing and tho I haven't built any 'dud' koa sopranos recently, none have matched that particular build period. I used to buy the koa in board form from Winkler Wood Products (Jorma's Dad's operation). A phone call, a request for pfc shorts pulled out of the kiln schedule and an agreement on price and shipping were all that was needed then... and then this silky, mild and subtly figured wood would arrive a month later... Sorting through my stash the other day for wood for the extreme build I found 10 sets of pink. There will be some sopranos later this year from this stuff.

southcoastukes
01-27-2011, 07:32 PM
There are probably tens of thousands of 4 stringers made from Cedro (Spanish Cedar). It's probably the most popular wood for Cuatros. It gives a warm, smooth sound, and has a strong percussive element. We use it a lot, and like it a lot.

Our Tenor Ukulele with more or less natural Cedro - just a bit of figure:

http://www.southcoastukes.com/index_files/tenoruke.htm

Our Baritone - aged wood - more figure:

http://www.southcoastukes.com/index_files/bariuke.htm

Our Soprano - with a highly figured soundbaord:

http://www.southcoastukes.com/index_files/cedartopwoods.htm


It is not as easy to finish as some woods, but not as difficult as others.