What would you do with a really old redwood beam

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Matthew Lau
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What would you do with a really old redwood beam

Post by Matthew Lau »

I bought a 30" x 4" x 6" beam of really old, really tight grained redwood.
It's so tight grained, that I thought it was mahogany almost.
It's also hard, heavy, and rings like a bell.

Any suggestions how to use it?
This is truly different stuff.

-Matt

Michael Lewis
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Re: What would you do with a really old redwood beam

Post by Michael Lewis »

Hi Matt, redwood can vary considerably in qualities, so I would take into account the weight and stiffness first, and since you say it rings like a bell I guess it is stiff. I have some that rings like cast iron or glass, and makes great tops for acoustic instruments. Bear in mind it is not as universal as spruce but if you can exploit the qualities for your preferences you can do some great things. Stuff like that generally contribute to long and clear sustain and clear note to note separation which is great if you are looking for it but it is not everyone's preference. It works well for adding clarity and sustain to dropped tunings if you want to go there.

Softer woods like soft redwood and spruces tend to be "sweeter" and less focused in tone. Realize these terms are not scientific or guaranteed, but I hope you get the idea and put it to good use. Should make an outstanding baritone guitar, harp guitar, or acoustic bass. Glue up as many pieces as it takes to get the width you need

Mario Proulx
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Re: What would you do with a really old redwood beam

Post by Mario Proulx »

It's not large enough for any but the smallest of guitars, but what you have there could become wonderful mandolin tops! At 30" long, you get 2 mandolin tops per length. Carefully cut, you could have as many as 10 tops for carved mandolins, or a few dozen flatop mandolin tops! Uke tops would be another fine use for the beam, as would some violins/violas.

There's at least one mandolin builder(Ray something; I forget his last name right now!) who specializes in redwood topped mandolins, and I've never played one of his that I didn't think was less than excellent.

Alan Carruth
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Re: What would you do with a really old redwood beam

Post by Alan Carruth »

Michael Lewis wrote:
".....since you say it rings like a bell I guess it is stiff."

That doesn't follow. Stiffness (Young's modulus) along the grain in softwoods is most closely correlated with density. Softwoods in general do tend to have a higher Young's modulus at a given density than hardwoods, which is one reason we tend to use them in tops. Some of the denser spruces can hhave along-grain Young's modulus as high as Indian rosewood.

'Ring' is a function of damping: how fast the material dissipates energy. Redwood and Western red cedar tend to have low damping, whether they are dense and stiff or not. The famous 'LS' redwood has damping that's as low as that of Brazilian rosewood, but it's not as stiff along the grain. Sitka with the same stiffness will tend to have higher damping, just because that's the way the wood is.

Alan Carruth \ Luthier

Nicholas Blanton
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Re: What would you do with a really old redwood beam

Post by Nicholas Blanton »

I agree it would be good for carved mandolin family tops- might sound really good for a mandocello.
A thing to beware of, however, is figure. Old-growth dense redwood can be very wavey or curly, ( or, you could say, if it's curly, it's likely to be dense).
It looks like it would be really beautiful on a top. But. With curl that wide, it's also deep, and If you cut it thin enough to make a guitar or mandolin top, you will cut through a wave. That means at the wave the wood will have very short grain, and it will crack right through. If you clean up the side of that beam and find a regular, strong curl, abandon any thoughts of using it for anything but a decorative veneer or keeping it at least 1/2" thick for something else.

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Mark Swanson
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Re: What would you do with a really old redwood beam

Post by Mark Swanson »

Well, not everyone believes that curly redwood won't work for thin acoustic tops. If you look around you'll find that many builders use it. I have built a bunch of guitars with it and I have never had one fail and they get good comments on the tone too.
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Clay Schaeffer
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Re: What would you do with a really old redwood beam

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

Hi Matthew,
That piece of wood might be perfect for mountain dulcimer tops. Even if the grain is curly , no worries, as the stress is on the end blocks, not a pinned bridge.

Matthew Lau
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Re: What would you do with a really old redwood beam

Post by Matthew Lau »

I'm not actually sure if it's got any figure.
The wood looks very straight and even, but then again, it's not perfectly on the quarter.
However, I don't think that there's runout (but I'm no expert).

I noticed is that it feels very heavy for it's size.
I really don't think that it'll float.

What I dropped it (on accident) on the concrete road, it didn't dent.
Instead, there was a really loud "ping!" like a bit of metal or glass.

Between Guitar and Mandolin, what do you think would be the best use of this stuff?
I've never built a mandolin, but I'd like to do a Lyon and Healy some day.
Currently, my main focus has been smaller-bodied guitars.
Is there an optimal for redwood, or is it just a matter of good wood being good wood?

-Matt

Darrel Friesen
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Re: What would you do with a really old redwood beam

Post by Darrel Friesen »

Matthew Lau wrote:I'm not actually sure if it's got any figure.
The wood looks very straight and even, but then again, it's not perfectly on the quarter.
However, I don't think that there's runout (but I'm no expert).

I noticed is that it feels very heavy for it's size.
I really don't think that it'll float.

What I dropped it (on accident) on the concrete road, it didn't dent.
Instead, there was a really loud "ping!" like a bit of metal or glass.

Between Guitar and Mandolin, what do you think would be the best use of this stuff?
I've never built a mandolin, but I'd like to do a Lyon and Healy some day.
Currently, my main focus has been smaller-bodied guitars.
Is there an optimal for redwood, or is it just a matter of good wood being good wood

-Matt
If it feels heavy enough that you don't think it will float, then it sure doesn't sound like redwood, which is relatively light in my experience. Certainly much lighter than maple, which floats just fine.

Jim Kirby
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Re: What would you do with a really old redwood beam

Post by Jim Kirby »

Mario Proulx wrote:It's not large enough for any but the smallest of guitars, ....
Why not 4 piece tops?

Mario Proulx
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Re: What would you do with a really old redwood beam

Post by Mario Proulx »


Why not 4 piece tops?



A hard sell.... Plus, that would be much more wasteful than using the billet for instruments to which it is sized correctly.

Michael Lewis
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Re: What would you do with a really old redwood beam

Post by Michael Lewis »

Matt, I think you need to identify the wood to a certainty. If it is as heavy as you say it probably is not a sequoia sempervirons, which is known in the lumber industry as redwood. I have seen descriptions of padauk translated from Chinese as "redwood" which can cause considerable confusion. It is after all, -red- wood, just not redwood as we know it.

Matthew Lau
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Re: What would you do with a really old redwood beam

Post by Matthew Lau »

Michael,

Thank you for your feedback.
I'm pretty sure that it's a sequoia from the smell and taste.
I haven't literally tried floating it in the bathtub.

However, I could be wrong.
I may pass it along to my friend, the retired pomologist and violin builder.
Also, I might be just an hour away from you. I'm staying in Davis.

Michael Lewis
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Re: What would you do with a really old redwood beam

Post by Michael Lewis »

Bring it up and I can tell you if it is redwood or not.

Seth Ellis
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Re: What would you do with a really old redwood beam

Post by Seth Ellis »

This redwood top came from an old beam. The beam was a main joist in an old sawmill in Oregon that was being taken down. It's very fine grain old growth redwood and sounds fabulous.

http://wallygoots.smugmug.com/Hobbies/C ... va33-L.jpg

Matthew Lau
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Re: What would you do with a really old redwood beam

Post by Matthew Lau »

Great find!

Btw, I brought it up to my luthier mentor.
It's definitely Redwood...really old redwood.
It's also perfectly quartersawn, and will probably sound great.

Robert Seymour
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Re: What would you do with a really old redwood beam

Post by Robert Seymour »

I'm pretty sure that it's a sequoia from the smell and taste.
the TASTE!?

Clay Schaeffer
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Re: What would you do with a really old redwood beam

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

Most woodworkers sooner or later taste their wood whether they want to or not. I resawed some sassafras yesterday and the taste was positively medicinal! (and not in a good way ) Taste being a combination of tongue and olfactory sensations, some people develop a bad taste in their mouth for wood working. <g>

Chuck Tweedy
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Re: What would you do with a really old redwood beam

Post by Chuck Tweedy »

True dat.
I think many of us know -very well- the wonderful taste of Spanish Cedar.
I really don't mind it much any more.
Likes to drink Rosewood Juice

Matthew Lau
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Re: What would you do with a really old redwood beam

Post by Matthew Lau »

Yup, the taste. :D

Years ago, I read a book called "The Flamenco Guitar," by David George.
It had an interesting interview of Manuel Reyes.
He mentioned something about tasting the wood.

Now, as a weird habit, I occasionally chew a small sliver of the wood that I'm working on.
Of course, I haven't built too many guitars yet.

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