local wood acoustic

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Mark Daigrepont
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Joined: Sat Apr 20, 2013 8:40 pm

local wood acoustic

Post by Mark Daigrepont »

Hi all,

It's been a really long time since I've visited for health reasons, but I'm back and kicking again.

I've been wanting to switch to making guitars from totally locally harvested woods, instead of the normal foreign exotics. With electrics that I build it isn't a problem; we have a huge selection of hardwoods here in south Louisiana to choose from. But for acoustics, I keep running into problems with a viable local soundboard material.

Down south here we have walnut, cherry, maple, pecan, ash, locust, persimmon, osage orange, catalpa, white and red oak (I've probably forgot a few) for use as an acoustic back/sides, fingerboards, and other needed parts. The only locally available "softwood" that could be used as a soundboard is cypress (bald cypress).

Does anyone have any experience with bald cypress as a soundboard material? I have a good friend who does nothing but mill cypress logs, so I have a steady, cheap supply. I could easily purchase billets or quarter logs and resaw them myself, but I just don't know cypress' soundboard qualities. I've been using for years as a furniture material, and love working with it - it is really easy to work and has a very pleasant scent.

Thanks in advance for any info!

Clay Schaeffer
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Re: local wood acoustic

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

I've never made a soundboard out of cypress, but the cypress wood I have seen I think would work closer to cedar than to spruce. I would look for a piece with relatively good across the grain stiffness, or at least brace it accordingly.
How successful the guitar is will probably be in the ear of the beholder, if you want it to sound like spruce then use a spruce top.

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G.S. Monroe
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Re: local wood acoustic

Post by G.S. Monroe »

Bald Cypress is Awesome. I've been building dulcimers and guitars out of recovered bald cypress here in Florida for close to a year now.
I recently built a slimline acoustic hollow body guitar that sounds fabulous and weighs less than 6 lbs.
A video sound check of this guitar is here... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwaqp6TyAUU

I know that bald cypress is a very rarely used as a tone wood by the luthier community. Currently I'm the only one that I know of that uses bald cypress as a primary tone wood. It has all the desired qualities... old slow growth, very tight, straight grain, very stable, light weight, and bends easily.

I buy the cypress from a local mill and I re-saw and plane my own sound boards.
Please give this wood a try, I think you won't regret it.

Note: The guitar in the video was designed for studio use. It has no sound holes for minimal feedback from monitors.

Mark Daigrepont
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Joined: Sat Apr 20, 2013 8:40 pm

Re: local wood acoustic

Post by Mark Daigrepont »

Thanks G.S.,

That slimline tele looks very nice.

I appreciate the input about cypress. I know the "normal" school of thought is if you can buy traditional proven lumber at a reasonable price, why consider anything else.....

I'm just stubborn I guess; we have so many great local woods down south that producing totally "local" guitar appeals to me; and you never know when you'll find that next wood that sounds great. 20 years ago I had an osage log sawn down, and everyone thought that the "yellow" wood was strange; but it makes a beautiful sounding acoustic! If osage was from Africa or South America, people would heralding it as a "holy grail" wood, lol!

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G.S. Monroe
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Re: local wood acoustic

Post by G.S. Monroe »

I agree that here on the gulf coast we have a marvelous selection of local woods to choose from.
As a builder of Folk Instruments, having local sourced woods is a big advantage, as true folk instruments are distinctly regional in flavor and style.

Michael Lewis
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Re: local wood acoustic

Post by Michael Lewis »

Local woods, yeah! Go for it. I am a big believer in using what you can get as locally as possible. The cypress should be very good, closely related to Port Orford cedar (actually a cypress) and Alaska Yellow cedar (also a cypress), which are both good tone woods.

Long Vu
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Joined: Thu May 29, 2014 6:10 pm

Re: local wood acoustic

Post by Long Vu »

Agree, 100% Domestic!!! There are plenty of woods domestically to make fine string instrument, guitars. A man's domestic is another 's exotic. Tropical woods offer fine choices and veriety but theirs popularity is due to the ability to supply manufactures with large quantity as demanded, and cheap. Thinking of cutting down one acre of forest to get to one tree makes me sick. Here my latest 100% domestic. Fine wood, sounds excellent.

Bay Laurel back/side/neck/bindings (backyard downed tree)
W Red Cedar top (1 by8 fence boardfrom Orchard Supply Hardware)
Olive Rosette/Headstock
Persimmon fretboard/bridge
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Jason Rodgers
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Re: local wood acoustic

Post by Jason Rodgers »

By using some of the maths out there for density and stiffness testing (brought to you by folks such as Alan Carruth, David Hurd, Brian Galloup, and of course Gore & Gillette), you can figure out how to dimension your less-familiar locally-sourced topwood stock to approximate known/accepted woods.

And yes, local woods rule!
-Ruining perfectly good wood, one day at a time.

Matthew Lau
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Re: local wood acoustic

Post by Matthew Lau »

Nice work Long!

Cypress is a perfectly fine soundboard wood. It can be quite powerful.
All the other woods you listed would be good alternatives.

The only thing that I can't find is a good local substitute for bridge stock--Brazilian rosewood really does make a difference.
Osage orange maybe? Al's guitar was awesome.

Walnut and cherry can work as a soundboard substitute for Mahogany, but aren't ideal.

How local is local?
If it's North America, there's an abundance of great cedar, spruces, cypress. Here in California, there's occassionally nice old growth redwood (hard to find) and red cedar. Spruce, Pine and Douglas fir (BORG whitewood) can also be surprisingly nice.

Tom Sommerville
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Re: local wood acoustic

Post by Tom Sommerville »

I've been looking for well-quartered cypress wood but found none locally in the widths I'm looking for.
Can anyone recommend an on-line source?

Thanks

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Bob Gramann
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Re: local wood acoustic

Post by Bob Gramann »

The Port Orford Cedar and Alaska Yellow Cedar offered at tonewood.com are both species of cypress.

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