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Thread: Redwood - Old growth or new growth for soundboards?

  1. #1
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    Default Redwood - Old growth or new growth for soundboards?

    I have been holding on to some redwood 2x10s that I originally used for my waterbed frame in the 70s!

    2 of these boards are quarter sawn, old-growth with very dense rings - see picture. There is also another board, quarter sawn and clearly 2nd growth - much wider growth rings.

    Redwood.jpg

    Last year I began making ukuleles and have made 4 or 5 sopranos using the old growth for the soundboard, at about 1.5mm thick. The sound, to my somewhat naive ear, has been fantastic - loud with great overtones and long sustain.

    I am getting ready to resaw another batch of soundboards. I always prefer old growth for other wood projects due mostly to beauty, but perhaps that isn't the best criterion for a uke?

    All things being equal, what differences, if any, would you expect using old-growth vs new-growth redwood for the soundboard?

    Thank you!

  2. #2

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    That's an awesome looking chunk of Redwood. I suppose I'd default to to old growth typically. But a question: is wider growth rings always indicative of old growth? Also, I made a uke with White Cedar (thuja) locally occurring, with not terribly tight grain and fairly floppy, but it has turned out to be a very nice sounding instrument.
    https://longfellowguitaranduke.wordpress.com/

    gmail me at longfellowguitaranduke

  3. #3
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    Redwood can be very floppy/non stiff.

    I don't care if it's old or new, as long as its stiff.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brett S. View Post
    That's an awesome looking chunk of Redwood. I suppose I'd default to to old growth typically. But a question: is wider growth rings always indicative of old growth? Also, I made a uke with White Cedar (thuja) locally occurring, with not terribly tight grain and fairly floppy, but it has turned out to be a very nice sounding instrument.
    I suppose not *always* but in general, I believe so.
    (actually, I believe always, but wanted leave a bit of wiggle room...)
    Last edited by eclipsme; 05-06-2020 at 10:35 AM.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beau Hannam Ukuleles View Post
    Redwood can be very floppy/non stiff.

    I don't care if it's old or new, as long as its stiff.
    By stiff, do you mean resistant to bending along the grain? If so, then yes, this is quite stiff. I assume this goes along with the tight grain, but perhaps not.

    This is also quite brittle across the grain, snapping easily, esp. at the thickness of the soundboard.

    Thanks...

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by eclipsme View Post
    By stiff, do you mean resistant to bending along the grain? If so, then yes, this is quite stiff. I assume this goes along with the tight grain, but perhaps not.

    This is also quite brittle across the grain, snapping easily, esp. at the thickness of the soundboard.

    Thanks...
    By stiff, i usually mean across the grain

  7. #7
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    I have some salvage redwood planks, 2"X16"X6' They have tight grain but is at 60. Is this too far from 90 to use for a sound board?

  8. #8

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    I would avoid any redwood that breaks easily across the grain. In my experience a redwood top can be a little thicker. Crossgrain stiffness isn't as important on smaller instruments in my experience.
    Last edited by Ken Franklin; 05-24-2020 at 08:44 PM.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beau Hannam Ukuleles View Post
    By stiff, i usually mean across the grain
    To be clear on terms, I am saying that if you hold the soundboard at the top and bottom and try to bend, it is quite stiff.
    If you hold it along the sides, it will split along the grain.

    Is this what you mean as well?

    Thanks!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by eclipsme View Post
    To be clear on terms, I am saying that if you hold the soundboard at the top and bottom and try to bend, it is quite stiff.
    If you hold it along the sides, it will split along the grain.

    Is this what you mean as well?

    Thanks!
    woodgrain_1.jpg

    All wood is strong(er) along the grain. I don't bother to flex test in that direction.

    Across the grain is pretty much all you should be worried about when buying wood.

    All wood will break if you flex it across the grain enough- Redwood is more brittle then spruce, much like cedar is.

    Redwood shouldn't immediately break across the grain, but it will break far quicker then other woods.

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