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Thread: Sinker (very old) tonewood ?

  1. #1
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    Default Sinker (very old) tonewood ?

    Does anyone here have any experience/knowledge with "sinker" tonewood? I have some some mahogany and a couple of redwood tops that were said to be from trees that were recovered from rivers where they were submerged for ~100 years or so. Does this long-term aging change the wood structure itself? Both woods are very hard and ring like ceramic when tapped. I know all woods have a range of hardness characteristics, but does the age make a difference? I assume they were dried as usual after being reclaimed from the depths.

  2. #2
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    I've said it here before and I will say it again: It is very difficult to look at a piece of wood and identify it as "sinker" wood. Thus I'm skeptical that some of these sinker claims are real. I live in an area that really does have sinker redwood. I know the people who recovered it and know it is legit. We are actually one of the primary sources. However, if I was buying "sinker" wood from an unknown source I would be... skeptical. This does not mean that the wood you have is not real sinker wood, but one must view such claims with slitty eyes. Plus, does one believe that wood lying at the bottom of a river gives it some sort of magical property? There are good theories behind such claims (mineral deposition, etc.etc.) and I won't say it ain't so, but I think the craftmanship and the shape of the ukulele has a lot more to do with how an instrument sounds than the amount of mineral deposits in the tonewood. Also, just because a crappy, wide grained piece of wood sat at the bottom of a river for 100 years does not a great tonewood make. From your description of the wood, it sound like good tonewood. Who cares whether it is sinker or not. Buy good sounding wood and don't get too hung about whether it is "sinker wood". If you can get hooked up with the real stuff at a reasonable price, go for it.

  3. #3
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    Thank you for the info. You answered my real question - whether there was something "magical" about it or maybe just made for a good story. I agree that skills and craftsmanship are the key factors, not age of the wood, in a good sounding instrument. I think Ken Timms' "palette uke" from a few years back makes that point. I have a lot to learn. Thanks!

  4. #4
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    I've played a part in building hundreds of guitars with sinker mahogany. There seems to be something about it beyond currently cut mahogany. Every set has been readily identified as sinker because it stinks so badly when bent or sanded. It reeks! Redwood that gets stained from being underwater is among the prettiest top woods going, and is obviously sinker. I wouldn't pay a premium for sinker that looks like regular redwood, but the stripey stuff? Zowie! Its beautiful and kicks butt as a top wood.

  5. #5
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    If smell is an indicator then this mahogany is sinker. I ran a piece through the thickness sander and something left a bad smell in my shop. I've got nothing but nice woods from Bob Cefalu @ RC tonewoods.

  6. #6
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    I build with a lot of Red wood sinker and very tight grain old growth. My experience with sinker is it seem much denser and gives a brighter sound then standard old growth.We don't buy sets only billets and logs so we know what we are getting.
    Perry Bullinger
    Covered Bridge Ukuleles

  7. #7
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    i can't exactly remember this from at least 20 years ago. they were reclaiming sinker wood and perhaps making violins out of it, in any case some acoustic instrument work and they were getting outstanding results. it is very likely that it's going to be spectacular used as a sound board. wood isn't just wood. there is some stuff out there that is premium and priceless.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by chuck in ny View Post
    i can't exactly remember this from at least 20 years ago. they were reclaiming sinker wood and perhaps making violins out of it, in any case some acoustic instrument work and they were getting outstanding results. it is very likely that it's going to be spectacular used as a sound board. wood isn't just wood. there is some stuff out there that is premium and priceless.
    The first sinker wood I heard about was maple recovered from Lake Superior. That was decades ago. Then I met a woman at a GAL conference who was selling sinker redwood sets reclaimed from logs washed up on California ocean shores. Current reports from Belize suggest that there are more sinker mahogany logs in the rivers than there are standing trees, perhaps hundreds of thousands. So such wood will likely be around for as long as people are willing to pay for it. In these "green times" it may be worth as much as a selling point as it is as a wonderful tonewood.

  9. #9
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    When they were recovering sinker redwood here on Big River, the scuba diver said he could see massive logs going down into the mud as far as you can see. Really massive old stuff. Basically the whole river bed was filled with old growth redwood. Thousands of years worth of wood. Now getting them out that is the question. Not easy. Now the riverbed is a protected State Park. No more wood out of there. However there was plenty pulled out and it is still being sold. Lovely stuff.

  10. #10
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    I have recently been making tenors with soundboards of Redwood from old water tanks atop New York City buildings. It has been sitting up there absorbing minerals from NY water for maybe 80-90 years. I guess you could not call it "sinker" but has sure made nice sounding ukuleles. Eric Devine found planks from an old water tank on Maui and his experience was that it also made great soundboards. Is it the age or does it absorb good stuff from the water, Maybe just because it is old and experienced Redwood. Anyhow, I love the stuff.

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