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western red cedar

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by mojoziggy, Jan 8, 2006.

  1. mojoziggy


    Sep 26, 2004
    I am having a bass made for me, and one of the options is to use a piece of red cedar for the top. I've seen a few old threads here that talk about cedar as a good option, but no definitive positive or negative comments or comments about tone from those who have used it.

    Would those of you who have tried it let me know of the pros and cons of using Western Red Cedar, both for tone and durability of the instrument?

    andrew downing
  2. I thought that was cedar of Lebanon, often used for drawer bottoms so they smell nice when you open them...
  3. D McCartney

    D McCartney crosswind downwind bass

    Aug 1, 2005
    Tacoma WA
    Well, we want our bottoms to smell nice when we open our drawers, don't we? :p

    Cedar is supposed to keep fleas away, too.
  4. Cedar is the tone wood of choice for high-end Flamenco guitars, a lot of classicals guitars use it too. I know of two guitars builders who went in and bought a old tree in Spain. Last I heard they are waiting for a full moon in winter to cut it down then ship it to a lumber mill. Or some such craziness.
    I have a cedar guitar, and it does smell nice after it's been played hard for a while. But guitars aren’t basses who knows….
  5. Sorry to hijack, but Fred - the couple that wants to hear the Charley Brown song - I think I'll start a new thread on The Most Ridiculous Request You've Had at a Gig. After half an hour of playing acoustic pre-war blues recently, we had a guy come up and ask if we could play something by Kylie Minogue...

    And now back to our regularly scheduled program...
  6. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    Last spring I played a bass made by Gorman and the top was red cedar. It was a beautiful bass and the sound was wonderful (it was just a bit out of my price range). He's a luthier in Canada.
  7. mojoziggy


    Sep 26, 2004

    I will contact Donald Gorman about that.
  8. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Jeff Bollbach has built a couple basses with cedar tops. Jeff? BTW, the cedar used on flamenco guitars is Spanish Cedar, a completely different wood. It resembles soft mahogany, and smells like a cigar box. I've recently used some for block replacements, and it's a dream to work with. Makes the shop smell yummy... :)
  9. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    Where d'ya get that idea? :smug:
  10. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Dan Hachez, of course! When I visited his shop he had two new basses in the works. "Nice mahogany blocks", said I. "Spanish Cedar", said Dan, who spent several minutes with me extolling its virtues. Never too old to learn something new, am I. :)
  11. Spanish cedar is used for flaminco guitar necks and linings and blocks, but not for backs or tops. Spanish cypress is the wood used for backs and sides. There is a big difference between cypress and cedar, cypress was thought of as a cheap alternative wood for guitars back in the mid 1800's in spain. The gypsies could only affort a cheaper guitar and thus the flaminco sound emerged from this...or so the story goes.

    Red cedar for guitar tops were first introduced by Ramerez in this century and were thought to sound better on a new instrument whereas spruce needs a break-in period.

    Spanish cedar is as Arnold wrote, a mahogany looking wood grows in central and south America. It is used for cigar boxes. I use it for necks, linings, blocks on my classical guitars. It bleeds sap for years. I will bet if you were to look into the Hatchez bass after one hot summer you could see the sap comming out of the pores on his blocks. After a finish is applied sap will not bleed, but it doesn't smell nice either.

    Red cedar is a pacific northwest soft wood that is primarily cut for roof shingles. I have been working on getting a sawyer to cut it for me in bass size, it has been 3 years now and no luck. It is a bit soft but I would definately use it for top wood. Maybe the break in period will be shorter.
  12. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    +1 Cypress on the flamenco. Bright and punchy. And in a pinch excellent for tap dancing.
  13. My recollection was that Gorman's bass was redwood, not western red cedar. According to some guitar luthiers, the two have very similar properties, at least when it comes to guitars.
  14. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    So Arnold would you recommend spanish cedar as a good choice for neck blocks? I don't know why, but I always assumed neck blocks should be hardwood for strength or something. But it'd be a lot more work shaping a hardwood block.

    I'm starting to assemble the wood and mold for the bass I'm making and I can get Spanish cedar quite easily. I'm using Western Red Cedar for the top and maple or silky oak for the back and ribs. (depends whatever dining table top comes my way first!). Still thinking about the neck ...
  15. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    I use tight-grained spruce for my neck blocks. Poplar and willow are also fine. Dan Hachez, the top bassmaker in the world, uses Spanish Cedar, so I guess it's OK.