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Curly Redwood


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Hello,

I am buying some curly redwood topsets for future builds.

I'm thinking carved tops over mahogany or white limba, as I've seen it used in this way already.

What can you tell me about the wood:

- How is it to work with (as compared to maple or mahogany) ??

- What can I expect tonewise, what is it likely to add to the tone recipe ??

- I read it can be left unfinished, would it be good at all for a fretboard ??

Thanks in advance.

Luis

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redwood is technically a softwood, still very solid.. but i would say a no-go for a fretboard

Its easier to work than maple or mahogany but can tear out quite easily

the tone is quite open and acoustic like

i wouldnt want to leave it unfinished, partly because it dents quite easily but it will also look so much better under a finish.. it does drink a lot of the finish though

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- How is it to work with (as compared to maple or mahogany) ??

It is less dense and softer. It machines well, but can be prone to split if you are not careful. The curl has a similar effect as with any other curly wood, makes the grain tricky to plane. It is softer though and is much easier to carve than say curly Maple(soft or especially hard maples).

-What can I expect tonewise, what is it likely to add to the tone recipe ??

Speaking to it's tone from an acoustic plates tap(thin wood, used for comparison). Redwood has amazing sustain, this sustain allows it to develop a lot of complexity. It has a nice higher frequency ring and full sounding bass that does not become tubby or muddy. It has good volume (responcive). Actually, most people fall in love with the sound of Redwood when they test it (it is noticably different than most softwoods). Now, a wood such as Maples tap will be very different. It will have more present highs when initially tapped. It will not ring nearly as long. Because the initial tap produces that strong fundemental and the volume drops more rapidly it will not allow the complexity to develop. Mahogany has a tap that rings longer milder high fundemental(although certainly present) and generally rings longer (volume of the ring falls off more gently) allowing complexity to develop. So, taking the leap from hardwood to softwood, there is usually a bit difference in responciveness (softwood are generally much more reactive, but the wood is lighter and generally weaker by volume of wood so that would be expected). If there is something that a softwood may add to the timbre, my hunch would be a more responcive body that could lead to more complexity and balance. I suspect the difference would be subtle though as this is only a top, and is not going to radically change the structural properties of the body. Translated to more common "tone wood" speak for solid bodies, I think it would add warmth, and sustain. Build a body completely out of Redwood, and use a fairly responcive neck wood(say Douglas Fir), and you may change things up quite a bit, extreamly light and dynamic.

- I read it can be left unfinished, would it be good at all for a fretboard ??

No, it needs a finish. Seal the wood with a good surface sealer, not a wood I would think of oiling or using an oil type finish on (Wez is right as with most softwoods it will drink it up, and the tap tone of softwood turns into a dull thud when it drinks up these kind of finishes). Absolutely not a good choice as a fretboard.

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Thanks for the fast and comprehensive replies.

So it's a candidate for a poly or nitro type of finish.

I'm now seriously thinking about using one topset (instead of maple) on one of my very next builds, which will be a honduras mahogany hollowbody. So not exactly an acoustic type top, but carved in and out would still be more significant than a top on a solidbody. I guess this wood might add favourably to the sound balance of this build.

So not good for FB. Not a problem, I have IRW, ebony and pauferro in-house to work with.

Thanks again.

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im building a guitar gith now with a very curly redwood top

here are my observations.

doesnt dye well, so dont try to do color stains that are so easy on maple :-p

everytime ive planed it ive gotten tear out at the ends so be careful, it is pretty soft, but i havent had a problem with it denting, yet.

it does look very pretty, andhas the best curly patterns of all woods i think :D i even tried bleaching it, but that didnt work as i would have hoped

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Yah yah, it's the only usable light in my 100 year old home, I’ve heard it before.

My observations on red wood (mine is old growth somewhat spalted I guess) is that it does tear easy so sanding is the preferred method for thickness sanding. If you press down with a thumb nail it will dent so I’m personally forgoing nitro for a harder poly coat on this one. Route it with a very sharp routing bit as the end grain is also prone to tear out.

The wood smells awesome when you are cutting it but I’ve heard a lot about it being cancerous… we all got to die someday though.

Edited by zyonsdream
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Yah yah, it's the only usable light in my 100 year old home, I’ve heard it before.

My observations on red wood (mine is old growth somewhat spalted I guess) is that it does tear easy so sanding is the preferred method for thickness sanding. If you press down with a thumb nail it will dent so I’m personally forgoing nitro for a harder poly coat on this one. Route it with a very sharp routing bit as the end grain is also prone to tear out.

The wood smells awesome when you are cutting it but I’ve heard a lot about it being cancerous… we all got to die someday though.

This post has been edited by zyonsdream: Today, 09:11 PM

yea but they did a few studies and shown wood dust to be a carcenogen

so were almost as prone to cancer as tobacco smokers

****...i smoke hookah :X

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Obviously anything you breathe in besides pure air can be harmful to you. I try to protect myself from wood dust but sometimes I become lax in doing so. Just keep in mind that these things end your life early but generally those are the crappy years where you are sick and decrepit anyways.

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Yah yah, it's the only usable light in my 100 year old home, I’ve heard it before.

My observations on red wood (mine is old growth somewhat spalted I guess) is that it does tear easy so sanding is the preferred method for thickness sanding. If you press down with a thumb nail it will dent so I’m personally forgoing nitro for a harder poly coat on this one. Route it with a very sharp routing bit as the end grain is also prone to tear out.

The wood smells awesome when you are cutting it but I’ve heard a lot about it being cancerous… we all got to die someday though.

Interesting, I have never thought much about old growth vs new growth burl. Burl wood is going to have grain structure that is all over the place (even more so than the wavy gravy curly, burl is almost like having bits of endgrain mixed all over the place), so I suspect that made your work a bit more touchy.

The curly Redwood and straight Grain Redwood I have worked with has varied a bit in terms of density, and to a degree hardness(although it is all relatively soft). The curly has no more or less of an issue with tearout than other curly woods. Both straight and curly are slightly more prone to splitting. Neither are tuff on the tools though.

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