A network for historic guitars and vihuelas
What sort of wood is usually used for baroque guitar soundboards? The RCM catalogue refers to "fine- grained" or "fine to medium grained" but doesn't specify the kind of tree from which the wood has been taken. Is this ever cypress wood.
Spruce (the Christmas tree), usually European (Picea Abies). I've never seen Cypress used for a Baroque Guitar soundboard (actually, any Guitar). Of course it is frequently used for the Back/Sides of Flamenco Guitars. It is a strongly scented wood, with a soft spicy aroma. Very nice. I think Cypress was used for the soundboards of Italian Harpsichords. It's weight (density) isn't far off that of some of the heavier European Spruce. It may not make for the ideal Guitar soundboard but then again it may not be a disaster.
Some of the Spanish and Italian instruments were probably made with Spanish Fir (Abies pinsapo) soundboards. It's very like spruce (Picea Abies) in acoustic qualities but tends to be cruder, fairly course grained in comparison. It grows predominately at higher elevations in Andalucia and Morocco so wouldn't have the same tight grain of the the spruce from more Northern colder climates.
Thanks for the helpful observation made so far. Keep them coming! Monica
Cypress is a hardwood.
In general the only hardwood that's sometimes used for soundboards is mahogany (Martin Hawaiian guitars)
There are indeed some Italian harpsichords with cypress soundboards.
According to Sinier de Ridder the back and sides of the 'Vuillaume' Stradivari guitar (Cité de la Musique) are made of cypress.
Traditionally some kind of spruce (Picea) is used but I would like to try a guitar or vihuela with a Ceder (Thuya Plicata) soundboard.
The Spanish Fir suggestion mady by Scot is very interesting. It's most likely that they used the species that was most commonly available.
18th c. French hurdy-gurdies mostly had mahogany soundboards. I made two several years ago using a 1900ish shop counter. The sound was quieter than spruce, but very sweet and the volume was even throughout the compass. Both went to professionals. My mother's ukelele, circa 1920 (now gone to the Edinburgh University collection), seems to be entirely made of mahogany or a very similar wood.