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View Full Version : Port Orford Cedar vs. Redwood Top



sashmic
12-01-2013, 05:20 AM
Hello awesome forum people!

Just got on the Mya Moe build schedule for a cocobolo back and sides tenor classic. I want something to warm up and give greater depth to the "brightness" of the back and sides, so I am torn between Port Orford Cedar and Redwood for the topwood.

Aesthetically, I'm fine with either, but tonally, I'm just not sure. If anyone has experience with either Redwood or POC (or better, both), please chime in!

Thanks all :)

bborzell
12-01-2013, 06:12 AM
Too many variables for a reliable comparison. The variation between two instruments with the same species top can be greater than any difference noted between one uke with cedar and another with redwood.

You can be reasonably sure that both cedar and redwood will offer up a warmer tone than spruce as a rule, but beyond that, it's the luck of the draw. I suggest choosing by appearance and moving on. Either top is very likely to end up leaning in the tone direction you are looking for.

OTOH, you can order one of each (same otherwise model built by the same person) and answer the question yourself; it's only money.;)

PhilUSAFRet
12-01-2013, 01:35 PM
Not sure about redwood, but was told by a well known luthier that cedar sounds as good as it's going to sound when built...it will not improve with age. Not sure if the same applies to redwood or not. Maybe some of our luthiers will chime in.

Ipcmlr
12-01-2013, 02:18 PM
I've only had experience with a cocobolo with redwood top. It sounds awesome on my tenor. The only tenor I have. Like it much better than the only other tenor I've owned (all koa koaloha). You can't go wrong with either POC or redwood as its a mya moe :D

Edit: My uke is sinker redwood with cocobolo so slightly different from redwood.

Doc_J
12-01-2013, 03:42 PM
I've got a POC topped tenor and a sinker redwood tenor. Both are great. The POC is more of a Cyprus than a cedar, however it smells so good, and feels great. It's more responsive than redwood or spruce, so say it will be the brighter of the two. Redwood is between red cedar and spruce, a great place to be. It will be warmer than POC.

In the hands of a skilled luthier, either will sound great.

BTW Here is some good info I lifted from : http://tonewooddatasource.weebly.com/species--attributes.html

Port Orford Cedar Chamaecyparis lawsoniana
Actually a rare variety of Cypress (Lawson Cypress) which grows along the S. Oregon Coast where it's endured for over 50 million years. This is an incredibly light weight, yet tough wood possessing phenomenal tonal qualities. Acoustic and electric guitars made of POC are light weight and sound magnificent. The tone of Port Orford Cedar could be described as bold and direct throughout the fundamentals with little overtone content. It has slightly better headroom to Sitka spruce and but responds to the touch in the same way.

Port Orford Cedar –– also known as Port Orford White Cedar, Oregon Cedar, Ginger Pine or Lawson Cypress, is a rare variety of Cypress that grows in a very limited range along the Pacific Coast, from far northern California into southern Oregon. Despite harsh conditions, these trees have existed in the Pacific NW for over 50 million years and can grow to 180 feet and live to be over 500 years old.

Port Orford Cedar is one of the more unique woods growing in North America. It is a creamy, off-white color with straight, somewhat uneven medium grain and often completely free of knots. It has an almost ginger like aroma. Ring counts can exceed 40/inch. It is very light, yet very strong, (an unusual combination), and highly workable for carving, turning & machining. It’s highly prized for boat building, cabinetry, furniture, doors, built-ins, etc. Port Orford Cedar is also one of the most acid, pest and rot resistant woods known and highly sought in China and Japan to make coffins. In addition to its exceptional beauty, strength, and durability, it has also been used for back and sides as well as necks. Much of the US production is exported to Japan for furniture.

The lumber has a faint yellowish white hue with very fine grain and an even texture. It is stiffer and lighter than Alaskan Yellow Cedar. The aroma is peppery which is typical of the cypress family. In use, it is durable and easy to work. It was once used as arrow shafts due it’s split resistance. Luthiers find it is more resistant to splitting than any other top wood. It has a Janka rating of 720 and a specific gravity of 0.44.

Port Orford Cedar is both beautiful and distinctive when finished. Because of the nearly white color, it has often been stained to mimic other woods. It takes a high polish and has a lovely satiny look to it. It forms good strength glue bonds and takes a finish very well without need of fill. It’s great stiffness and lightness has appealed to flattop makers Greg Byers, James Goodall and Les Stansell.

Les Standsell says: “Oregon Cypress (Port Orford “White” Cedar) displays all the most desirable structural and resonance qualities sought after by instrument makers…….it has the highest stiffness/weight ratio of “all” wood species. In addition, when compared to all other North American softwoods, POC ranks highest in elasticity and resistance to crushing, shearing, denting and splitting. POC is ideal for Flamenco guitars as a substitute for: other Spruces and Cedars (tops and bracing)... Spanish Cypress (backs and sides)…and Spanish Cedar (necks).”



*Redwood Sequoia sempervirens, endl
Another tonally superior wood from the coastal mountains of Northern California, the only significant alternative to cedar tops is redwood. Redwood has come into its own as a legitimate tonewood. It is richer in color than cedar with darker reds. Though similar tonally to cedar, some say redwood is more robust & brighter.
Salvaged old growth Redwood can be found in burl, straight and curly grain. This beautiful tight grain wood provides the finest quality acoustic guitar soundboards, highly resonate solid bodies. Redwood has long been used for decking and other architectural features, and for fancy furniture when burled or figured. Redwood also makes very high quality acoustic guitar soundboards, highly resonate solid bodies, and stunning, intensely figured tops for electric guitars.

This is among the largest living organisms on the earth, often reaching a staggering 300 plus feet in height. It is extremely resilient to rot and infestation, so we are fortunate to be able to salvage very old stumps, (often 50 or more years old), and reclaimed beams, which still yield high quality monster curl and tight, straight grain old growth wood, without endangering the few remaining old growth groves.

The timber has a deep red hue with straight grain and can often have curly grain. Coastal Redwood is valued for its straight grained beauty, light weight, and resistance to decay. Due to old age and large size of the logs, tops can vary greatly from soft to very stiff and whilst the very best tops can display an exceptional stiffness to weight ratio, some can physically resemble cardboard. It is used for soundboards for guitars and the burls as top plates for electrics. Redwood is extremely light, but soft and brittle, so care must be used when working with Redwood. and stunning, intensely figured tops for electric guitars.

You could characterize the tone of Coastal redwood as being a crisper than Cedar with all the rich, complex overtones of cedar. Sinker redwood sounds like across between cypress and regular redwood. When the present supply of it is used, there will be no more due to changes in California environmental law. Use it with light gauge strings.

Noted luthier, Dana Bourgeois says: “Redwood is usually darker in color than cedar and often displays the same general tonal characteristics, leaning slightly toward darker tones, less definition in the bass, and lower velocity of sound.”

Tom West:"Redwood makes excellant top wood. The right piece will be light and stiff and very responsive and seem to want to ring forever.........maybe not quite that long. It is also very stable and does not move as much as spruce due to RH changes. The only knock against redwood is that it is not very resistive to a shock from a bang against another object."

Michael Bashkin: “Assuming the quality of the redwood is good, it can have an excellent strength to weight ratio and longitudinal and cross grain stiffness. In fact I find the cross grain stiffness is stiffer than many other top woods. It works well but is prone to splitting along the grain which is a bit off a mystery to me as the woods exhibits a high degree of cross grain medullary rays, or cross-grain silk.”

Redwood (Northern California) is more rich in the bass than cedar and responds to subtle playing with a round, piano-like crisp balanced sound. Lacquer and glue do not bond quite as well as the spruces. Because of this (as with Cedar), light gauge strings are recommended only on guitars with these tops. Many luthiers (i.e. Breedlove) get redwood from recycled lumber and timber salvage.

The janka of redwood is around 450 and it has a specific gravity of 0.45.

coolkayaker1
12-01-2013, 05:41 PM
Redwood has more of a tenancy to ding, and to split if improperly humidified, than POC/Cypress. One consideration.

didgeridoo2
12-01-2013, 09:00 PM
I'd choose the one that looks better to you. Being that Mya Moe is building it, they will be more influenced by the build than the material. They are pretty close in terms of tone that it won't make much of a difference.

PhilUSAFRet
12-02-2013, 03:08 AM
Redwood has more of a tenancy to ding, and to split if improperly humidified, than POC/Cypress. One consideration.

Something I hadn't heard about redwood. Good information to consider. Not sure I'd want anything easier to ding than cedar.

sashmic
12-02-2013, 04:18 AM
Thanks for the input guys, I really appreciate it.

Yeah, for a non-gloss finish, I'm not sure I'm terribly keen on a redwood top.

I think I'll stick to POC :)

Bill Mc
12-02-2013, 04:53 AM
Hello awesome forum people!

Just got on the Mya Moe build schedule for a cocobolo back and sides tenor classic. I want something to warm up and give greater depth to the "brightness" of the back and sides, so I am torn between Port Orford Cedar and Redwood for the topwood.

Aesthetically, I'm fine with either, but tonally, I'm just not sure. If anyone has experience with either Redwood or POC (or better, both), please chime in!

Thanks all :)

What did your luthier say about the tonal differences between these woods on ukuleles they build? Wouldn't that be your best source for information?

mikelz777
12-02-2013, 05:02 AM
Is redwood a temperamental wood? From reading the posts, it sounds like it dings more easily and is prone to split along the grain. Is it more prone to split as a character of the wood or only if it is not handled carefully and kept under proper humidification? I have been looking at something with a redwood top but now after reading this I'm second guessing myself.

cigarfan
12-02-2013, 06:36 AM
I own a couple Redwood topped instruments and with normal care they are not especially sensitive to damage or cracking per se. Redwood is a little more dense than Western Red Cedar which is the softest top wood I am aware of. Both Redwood and Western Red Cedar will ding more easily. Cracking is something that will happen to any solid wood instrument that not properly humidified. Redwood is not more prone to cracking that any other species when properly humidified. Port Orford Cedar on the other hand is not as soft as Redwood or Western Red Cedar. Fact is it is one of the hardest species you can use on a top and there fore less prone to dings. That said, there isn't a top wood out there (that I know of) that won't ding if you run it into something.

It's all relative!

Ipcmlr
12-02-2013, 06:53 AM
Ill just chime in on how easy the redwood top dings. Part of the equation is the finish. Mine doesn't ding as easily as I thought it would.I had a cedar top which was dinged easily because of the super thin finish. It was plain cedar not POC though.

mikelz777
12-02-2013, 07:18 AM
Thanks for those responses. So if I were comparing a redwood top and a red cedar top (gloss finish, rosewood back and sides) is there really any appreciable difference in durability and resistance to dings and splits? I'm gentle with instruments, I'm confident I can keep it properly humidified and I'm not a hard strummer but sometimes accidents happen and an instrument might take a little knock. Maybe I'm taking on the wrong impression but what's been written kind of makes it sound like redwood is fragile and requires extra care. I don't want to feel like I'm playing something with an egg-shell top.

cigarfan
12-02-2013, 08:00 AM
Thanks for those responses. So if I were comparing a redwood top and a red cedar top (gloss finish, rosewood back and sides) is there really any appreciable difference in durability and resistance to dings and splits? I'm gentle with instruments, I'm confident I can keep it properly humidified and I'm not a hard strummer but sometimes accidents happen and an instrument might take a little knock. Maybe I'm taking on the wrong impression but what's been written kind of makes it sound like redwood is fragile and requires extra care. I don't want to feel like I'm playing something with an egg-shell top.

Like you, I care for my guitars but I play them first and foremost. My redwood guitars/ukuleles are not any more wear marked than anything others. To say redwood is an "egg shell" top is quite a stretch. I have a 25 year old spruce topped guitar that has far more wear marks than any of my redwood instruments. Only because it has more years of playing. It sounds like you take care of your instruments. You should get redwood for the tonal aspects and let the durability thing work itself out.

Bottom line ... Western Red Cedar is a "little" softer than Redwood but both are softer than most species of Spruce. With a gloss finish all of them wear close to the same.

mikelz777
12-02-2013, 08:16 AM
Thanks for the reassurances and your response. I'm not all that concerned about dings here and there, that kind of thing happens and I don't need a pristine beauty years down the road. If it shows some signs of being played, that's part of the deal. I guess I was more concerned that redwood was brittle and fragile and that some inadvertent knock against a table or chair would cause it to split easily.

chuck in ny
12-02-2013, 09:21 AM
you all are killing me. don't mention fine variations of wood species to a cabinetmaker. i may have to have a uke made with a port orford cedar top. how cool would that be.

LindseyG
12-02-2013, 11:25 PM
For what it's worth, i have Mya Moe #1113, tenor cocobolo with the port orford cedar top, and I couldn't be happier. It's bright but resonant, just the sound I was looking for.

sashmic
12-05-2013, 06:07 PM
Hey BillMC: Mya Moe told me that both woods are tonally similar, so I was just looking for some extra input. Where I live it's not easy to get hands-on wood experience, so I can't see for myself which I would prefer.

LindseyG: Your uke (and Aaron's demo vid) was what convinced me to go for cocobolo! The resonance that came through on the vid was just amazing, even though I tend to prefer balanced or warm rather than bright ukes. I'm very jealous of that sapwood middle. Have you tried a High-G on it?

bellgamin
10-13-2016, 12:34 PM
POC is NOT cedar. It is cypress (Chamaecyparis Lawsoniana). Comments on POC based on cedar characteristics are meaningless.

Mezcalero
10-13-2016, 12:59 PM
Better late than never with that critical input :)

Ukulele Eddie
10-13-2016, 01:34 PM
Unless you have a strong aesthetics preference for one over the other, I would ask Mya Moe their recommendation based on the music you play and your playing style (e.g., strumming vs. fingerstyle; strong attack vs. light attack, etc.).

I believe that the builder has by far the biggest impact on sound, followed by the top and then a distant third would be the body wood. Think of the body as adding color or seasoning. Personally, I choose body woods for aesthetic reasons. To wit, you read many comments from folks who say that spruce/maple ukes are bright. I have a handful of them and not one of them is what I'd call bright.

Fun decision to make!

johnson430
10-13-2016, 02:12 PM
Better late than never with that critical input :)

LOL. Last post before today: 3 years ago,

Ukulele Eddie
10-13-2016, 02:17 PM
Doh, this three is three years old!!! :wallbash:

2xbass
10-13-2016, 03:14 PM
I would expect Redwood to be noticeably darker and warmer sounding than POC which most say is between Cedar and Spruce in terms of brightness. That's also my experience from playing other instruments and owning a tenor with a Sinker Redwood top. I have a custom on order which will have a POC top and I specifically went for it to get a brighter-but-not-too-bright sound.