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Thread: cypress as tonewood?

  1. #1
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    i came across some cypress at the water treatment plant where i work. this wood was used for a baffling system in a settling basin. the construction foreman said the cypress is very resistant to rotting while being under water. i was wondering, since spruce is also resistant to rot, would cypress be suitabe for a mandolin top? i only found a couple of boards with straight grain that measure about 12"x20"x2.5". the wood seems pretty light weight, but how is its strength to density ratio? any input would be appreciated.

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    Cut some pieces of the cypress and some of good spruce, then do some comparative flexure tests. You tell us. Make sure the pieces are all cut to the same dimensions.

  3. #3
    wood butcher Spruce's Avatar
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    What part of the world are living, toddr?

    I know quite a few Cajun fiddlemakers in Louisiana who swear by what they call "sinker" cypress that they haul up from the bottom of the bayous and mill up for fiddle tops...

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    Cypress is the wood of choice for flamenco guitars.

    I'm not sure whether we're talking the same species here, but I suspect it would make a good wood for the back and sides? Ought to give you a bright sounding instrument. Now I think about it, I'm surprised I haven't seen a cypress mandolin before.

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    Given that the cost of the spruce (of whatever variety) for a top is such a small component of a finished instrument, why would you want to spend all the time of making a mandolin with cypress? The strength to weight ratio of the latter is going to less than for spruce. Cypress (flat sawn) is an attractive wood but splits easily. A plank of the size you're describing would most likely be flat sawn and therefore not appropriate for a top anyway. Make some nice picture frames with it.
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    Weirdo a pizzico Eugene's Avatar
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    Out of curiosity, do you know what wood you are calling cypress, toddr? #True cypress (Cupressus spp.) is hard, sonically reflective, difficult to bend, and absolutely isn't used as the soundboard of modern instruments.

    There is a tree of southern US swamps that is more properly called baldcypress (Taxodium distichum); this tree is actually a redwood (along with the whopping Sequoia spp.). #It would probably be similar to redwood as a soundboard...but that's just a guess. It could be substantially different as most redwoods grow in moist but well-drained soils while Taxodium grows in inundation.




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    The Spanish cypress traditionally used for flamenco guitars (cupressus macrocarpa) is unlikely to be the same wood as anything known as cypress in the US.

    I made a flatback with it a few years ago (with a spruce soundboard). I'm not a player, but I think it sounded really nice. The notes seemed to come flying out of it almost before you'd played them. (If anyone wants to see some pics I can e-mail them to you.)

    I should try it if you can get some for a sensible price. It doesn't have the visual appeal of curly maple but it's a joy to work with. The scent it gives off is just heavenly.

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    Aged, dried, quarter-sawed spruce is the wood... I've grown-up in south Louisiana, still live here. If someone made anything other than a door or table out of this cypress, it would sound like it had been in the lake for 100 years! Every now and then I look at a pile of cypress my oldest som gave me, and I can't imagine spending my time making an instrument out of that. Spend the bucks and get some good wood....

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