Oregon Myrtle. Tonewood database.

Umbellularia californica| Tonewood Profile | “Oregon Myrtle”


Tonewoods Database

We present and highly recommend viewing the pdf version of this article first as it contains the most up to date information and more photos.

 


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Quick Facts
Scientific name: Mbellularia Californica
Trade names: Oregon Myrtle/ California Laurel
Janka: 1270
Uses: Back & sides, drop tops, veneer
RIYL: Koa, Mahogany
Bling factor: Can be very highly figured.
Availability: Limited but steady
CITES status: Not listed. No restrictions

Note: (RIYL) Recommended If You Like
Bling factor rated out of a maximum of 10, based on the most highly figured sets we have seen.

 

Natural History


Native to the coastal forests of North West America from Southern Oregon and Northern California , Oregon Mrytle is a distinct species from that mentioned in the Bible. It’s pungent leaves has a similar flavor to bay leaves and can be mistaken for Bay Laurel.

An evergreen tree, it attains heights of 45m with a trunk diameter of 2m and lives to around 200 years of age.

 

Status
Although Oregon myrtle is widely and commonly distributed through it’s range, larger trees are hard to come by due to previous logging and it’s slow growth.

Physical properties
The timber is a rich golden-brown with great variance in color and grain patterns. It is a hard, heavy fine grained wood. Curly timber is often found in the older trees.

Oregon Mrytle has a Janka rating of 1270 and a Specific Gravity ranging from 0.51-0.55.

 

As a tonewood…
No two sets are alike due to the great variability of the color and curl. Oregon Mrytle finishes nicely and is easier to bend than Maple.

Michael Greenfield is a proponent of this wood and is greatly appreciated for Flamenco guitars by Les Stansell and Robert Ruck.

Les Stansell says: “Oregon Myrtle and California Laurel are the same species, however the temperate rainforest and high mineral content soil of the South Oregon Coast generally produces a larger tree with a much greater variety of color and grain configuration. It is and extremely stiff wood with an interlocking grain that is very resistant to splitting.   Its density and hardness ranges between Mahogany and Rosewood……its tonal response has much clarity and sustain, often compared to Mahogany and Koa.   For those with an open mind, Oregon Myrtle can produce and extraordinary guitar, however the more traditional players have not yet warmed up to its unusual look.

 

Subjective tone…
I would classify this wood as being very similar to maple with clear, bright trebles and great projection.

 

Availability
It is in high demand for cabinetry with a rather limited commercial supply, this tree is beginning to attract conservation efforts. Luthier supplies are limited and sporadic.

 

Tonewoods Database

Links:
Les Standsell Guitars
http://www.stansellguitars.com/
Special thanks to Les for his time, data and pictures

References:
Oregon Mrytle facts: http://www.stansellguitars.com/Myrtle_Facts.htm
Manual of Oregon Trees and Shrubs by William R. Randall
Native Trees of the San Francisco Bay Region by Woodbridge Metcalf


© Terence Tan.

Pictures copyright individual holders.- Les Standsell. Used with permission.

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