Salvaged pine and cypress

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Warren May
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Salvaged pine and cypress

Post by Warren May »

Our local architectural salvage yard has loads of cypress and heart pine in over 8/4 size and very wide. I live in Mississippi and they used cypress and pine in building timbers for roof and floor joists in large buildings. Both have some nice looking grain patterns and the dealer told me most of it was from 100 year old buildings and may be old growth wood, especially the cypress. Before the home building crash lots of the local builders used the beams as architectural features in new homes. The cypress is very light and the heart pine is fairly heavy. Do you folks feel either of these would be useful in guitarmaking or instrument building?

Mario Proulx
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Re: Salvaged pine and cypress

Post by Mario Proulx »

The cypress might hold promise as a soundboard material, the heavy pine would likely be okay for solidbody guitars. You'll have to judge each piece individually...

David King
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Re: Salvaged pine and cypress

Post by David King »

Is it bald cypress (Taxodium distichum)? If you are into lighter density solid bodies I'd go with that first.

Warren May
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Re: Salvaged pine and cypress

Post by Warren May »

Thanks for the encouragement. Yes, some of the heart pine is very heavy and dense but some seemed light enough. The cypress is bald cypress, I assume, since it was cut out of the swamps around here. Thanks again. I may go tomorrow and buy a couple of boards. He is only asking $7 per board foot which sounds reasonable enough.

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G.S. Monroe
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Re: Salvaged pine and cypress

Post by G.S. Monroe »

I have been building with recovered bald cypress for nearly a year now.
The Red Heart Cypress in the core makes wonderful necks for Stick Dulcimers and Cigar Box Guitars.
It is rather stable wood and provides a clear bright tone.
The straight grained cuts are very nice for soundboards.
I thickness plane mine to 3/16 inch and book match the panels.

I would say that the bald cypress is very comparable to the rest of the cypress family (the Mediterranean cypress [cypressus sempervirens], Port Orford Cedar, Alaskan Yellow Cedar, Western Red Cedar). With the exception that it seems to cost a whole lot less.

G.S. Monroe

Warren May
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Re: Salvaged pine and cypress

Post by Warren May »

Thanks for the input, G.S. What part of the country are you from? Just asking because I don't think I ever saw any for sale until moving to the Gulf Coast area.

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G.S. Monroe
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Re: Salvaged pine and cypress

Post by G.S. Monroe »

I'm in Central Florida...

I do most of my stick dulcimer sales on eBay, and the local crafts market.
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Jim McConkey
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Re: Salvaged pine and cypress

Post by Jim McConkey »

Sorry, G.S., you may not post links to either an auction or your own web site. Please review our Forum Policy.
MIMForum Staff - Way North of Baltimore

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G.S. Monroe
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Re: Salvaged pine and cypress

Post by G.S. Monroe »

My apologies, I did not mean to offend, only to validate my claims about a rather remarkable but little know tone wood.

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Jim McConkey
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Re: Salvaged pine and cypress

Post by Jim McConkey »

No problem. Mistakes happen all the time here. You can point users to other informative web sites, but not your own. This Forum is for the sharing of knowledge on instrument building and not for self-promotion and advertising. Although you no doubt had the best intentions, others have abused this Forum in the past, so the self-promotion rule is one that we try to enforce uniformly.
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Warren May
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Re: Salvaged pine and cypress

Post by Warren May »

G.S., I found one of your information sites. Nice Blog. Reading around the web it sounds like bald cypress is possibly related to redwood and its Janka hardness is identical to Sitka Spruce. As soon as I can get some funds together, I think I'll buy some of the salvaged timbers and try it out. Using it for other projects, it does seem it might be similar to redwood qualities but I've not built instruments from it. Any advice on what to look for in terms of grain pattern? Sounds like the straight grain stuff is what to look for and I'm assuming heart wood to get close rings and high ring count. Problem is that I don't think I can tell much with the wood he has since it is very rough...3" to 4" thick, 12' or more long and 12" or more wide and well weathered. It isn't sinker cypress so not sure if it is too dry. These were old beams from century old buildings. His price seems really cheap but I don't want to buy something I can't use and any advice about selecting the right wood is most appreciated.

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G.S. Monroe
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Re: Salvaged pine and cypress

Post by G.S. Monroe »

Warren, I buy rough cut planks from a local private sawmill. And I use the entire plank. The heartwood (Red Heart) makes for good sturdy necks, tails, and small parts like the outriders (wings) on the peghead, or for use making bridges. Out closer to the bark is the lighter straight grain, and I use that for the sound boards. You will be surprised how much quartersawn lumber is out there. The sawmills are hunting for the figured "pecky" wood, and quartersawn pecky is the premium cut, so just about every sawmill will quartersaw their cypress logs ( you don't know if it's "pecky" until you cut into it). Look for the quartersawn or near quartersawn planks first.

There are 2 things that you should know going in. Cypress can be a little brittle in the lighter straight grain wood ( like spruce ).
If you torque it along the grain it will separate. But since most luthiers use bracing under the soundboards it's not much of an issue.
Also, cypress is quite weather resistant, due to having a certain amount of resin in the wood. It will gum up sandpaper quickly, and will cause a film build up on bandsaw blades. But, it is not a dusty wood. The sawdust just piles up in a clump and doesn't fill the air. I will use course 80 - 120 grit drums, belts, and sandpaper to rough shape it, but for finishing I suggest course steel wool followed by fine steel wool. I tend to favor oil finishes over lacquers, but that's a personal preference. But one tip I found is that if you "wet sand" using fine steel wool and virgin olive oil you can buff out a very nice silky smooth finish on the neck.

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