King Billy Pine. Tonewood profile

Athrotaxis selaginoides | Tonewood Profile | “King Billy Pine”

King Billy Pine

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Quick Facts
Scientific name: Athrotaxis selaginoides
Trade names: King Billy Pine
Janka: ~1200 (no firm references)
Uses: Tops, veneer
RIYL: Ebony, Acacia
Bling factor: Grain variation common.
Availability: Rare
CITES status: Not listed. No restrictions

Note: (RIYL) Recommended If You Like

King Billy Pine mandolinNatural History

Although not a true pine, King Billy Pine is also known as King William Pine. King Billy Pine is an extremely slow growing species that like most spruces grows in high (400-1,120m) altitudes, often snow covered during winter. It’s range is limited to the north west and south west Tasmania.

It is an evergreen coniferous tree attaining heights of 20–30 m, with a trunk up to 1.5 m diameter and claw-like leaves.

King Billy Pine gets it’s name from William Lanne, most famous as the last surviving member of the Oyster Cove clan… read more here

Status

The species is threatened, with bushfires being the major cause of decline . These are often started as controlled fires to clear logging debris after timber harvests in nearby Eucalyptus forests. Some sources indicate up to 1/3 of the species’ range has been lost due to fires in the 20th century. Logging plays a smaller role in the King Billy Pine’s decline.

In Northern Europe, it is occasionally cultivated as an ornamental and is rather successful in Scotland where it receives rainfall for good growth and is documented to produce fertile seeds.

Physical properties

The timber has a light pink hue with very close grain. It is softer than sitka spruce and has a characteristic aroma when worked.  It’s physical properties is comparable to a pale red western cedar, but with greater stiffness. King billy pine has a specific gravity of 0.25.The janka is said to be around 1200 but I could not find any solid references for this figure.

As a tonewood…

It is less stiff across the grain than spruce and benefits from being left thicker on flattop construction and from a higher arch on archtops.

It is used for soundboards for guitars and violins although it excels as a mandolin top. Australian mandolin maker, Peter Coombe is a big fan:

“King Billy Pine is, in my humble opinion, one of the finest soundboard timbers that grows upon this earth. In my experience, it makes beautiful sweet clear sounding mandolins that many musicians prefer over the best spruce-topped instruments. It is not as strong as Spruce along the grain, so I use Red Spruce bracing, and carve the top a little higher than my Spruce tops.”

Huon Pine

Subjective tone…

I would broadly characterise the tone of King Billy Pine as sweet in the midrange with a strong bass and open trebles. It has headroom similar to redwood and responds much like cedar. This is my experience of the A and F style mandolins as well as flattop guitars made from this topwood.

Availability

As a threatened species, King Billy Pine is no longer commercially harvested and is only rarely available.

Links/ References:
Cole Clark Guitars http://www.coleclarkguitars.com/
Australian Tonewoods http://www.australiantonewoods.com/

©Terence Tan.

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Any infringement of copyright is entirely unintentional. Any copyright issues should be address to: writers@guitarbench.com. We will attempt to resolve these issues quickly.

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