Umbellularia californica| Tonewood Profile | “Oregon Myrtle”
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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.
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.
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.
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.”
I would classify this wood as being very similar to maple with clear, bright trebles and great projection.
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.
Les Standsell Guitars http://www.stansellguitars.com/
Special thanks to Les for his time, data and pictures
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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