Coastal Redwood. Tonewood profile

Sequoia sempervirens | Tonewood Profile | “Coastal Redwood”

Coastal Redwood

Tonewoods Database

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Coastal/ California Redwood technically refers to the species Sequoia sempervirens. There are 2 other different, separate species are also referred to as Redwood:
  • Sequoiadendron giganteum- giant sequoia
  • Metasequoia- Dawn Redwood

Quick Facts
Scientific name: Sequoia sempervirens
Trade names: Coastal or California Redwood
Janka: ~450 (no firm references)
Uses: Tops, veneer
RIYL: Cedar/ spruce
Bling factor: Curly tops are not uncommon
Availability: Rare
CITES status: Not listed. No restrictions

Note: (RIYL) Recommended If You Like

Lucky strike redwood michael bashkin guitar

Natural History

Coastal Redwood is sole living example of the Sequoia genus with a natural range from to coastal California to southwestern Oregon. Sequoia sempervirens is a long lived, evergreen tree. It can live for a maximum of 2,200 years and can reach up to 115m high and 8 m in diameter.

Redwood has a soft fibrous bark up to 30 cm thick and when exposed reveals a bright red-brown interior. Coastal Redwoods reproduce both sexually, asexually and through burls. It’s burls are capable of sprouting into new trees once removed from the parent tree.

Status

The species as once subject to indiscriminate logging but now there are 899,000 acres (364,000 ha) of second growth redwood forest in California, managed for timber production.

Notable Trees

  1. Hyperion is currently the tallest tree measuring at 115.55 m high. it was discovered in the summer of 2006 by Chris Atkins and Michael Taylor and has been measured as the world’s tallest living organism.
  2. Lucky Strike is the most famous redwood tree amongst guitarists. Harvested by Craig and Alica Carter, ‘Lucky Strike’ is the name Craig gave to a log he thought of as almost, if not truly perfect for guitar tops. Read more about the lucky strike log here.

Physical properties

The timber has a deep red hue with straight grain and can often have curly grain. Coastal Redwood is valued for its straight grained beauty, light weight, and resistance to decay. The janka of redwood is around 450 and it has a specific gravity of 0.45.

As a tonewood…

Due to old age and large size of the logs, tops can vary greatly from soft to very stiff and whilst the very best tops can display an exceptional stiffness to weight ratio, some can physically resemble cardboard.

It is used for soundboards for guitars and the burls as top plates for electrics. Noted luthier, Dana Bourgeois says:

“Redwood is usually darker in color than cedar and often displays the same general tonal characteristics, leaning slightly toward darker tones, less definition in the bass, and lower velocity of sound.

Michael Bashkin: “Assuming the quality of the redwood is good (LS) it can have an exellant strength to weight ratio and logitudinal and cross grain stiffness. In fact I find the cross grain stiffness is stiffer than many other top woods.  It works well but is prone to spliting along the grain which is a a bit off a mystery to me as the woods exhibits a high degree of cross grain medulary rays, or cross-grain silk.”

Coastal Redwood

Subjective tone…

I would broadly characterise the tone of Coastal redwood as being a crisper than Cedar with all the rich, complex overtones of cedar.

Availability

As a managed species, Redwood stocks are still limited and the majority of tonewood is currently sourced from naturally fallen trees or the “sinker” wood from sunken logs dredged from some of the N.California rivers.

Links/ References:
Bourgeois Guitars http://www.pantheonguitars.com/
LMI http://lmii.com
Special thanks to Hank Mauel and Michael Bashkin for their help with this article.

©Terence Tan.

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