First to use Cedar top?

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments
jungjaesung
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First to use Cedar top?

Post by jungjaesung » Sat Sep 12, 2015 5:18 am

Hi! I am curious on how spruce and cedar were chosen by the earliest builders to make guitar tops. A friend of mine has this funny idea that the Spanish says 'If it is not a cedar, it is not a guitar' and he believes it to be a fact but I kind of think that it is the other way around because all of the earliest guitars all had spruce tops. Torres exclusively built spruce tops and he practically invented the guitar. So I am just asking the community who can shed some light on the earlier stages of guitar building also when and who introduced the first cedar tops. it is very interesting to know.

gjo
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Re: First to use Cedar top?

Post by gjo » Sat Sep 12, 2015 6:56 am

The earliest I ever came across was from short before 1900 made by a german manufacturer from Markneukirchen. There seemed to have been a few batches made with cedar tops. A friend told me that he also had one in his workshop.

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Michael.N.
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Re: First to use Cedar top?

Post by Michael.N. » Sat Sep 12, 2015 7:07 am

Torres was good. . . but he wasn't that good.
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RobMacKillop
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Re: First to use Cedar top?

Post by RobMacKillop » Sat Sep 12, 2015 7:20 am

Torres certainly did not invent the guitar, practically or otherwise! He didn't really bring in anything new to what was already there, but he did understand balance and tension better than most others of his period.

It is generally understood (and therefore might be wrong) that the first Spanish maker to use cedar consistently was Jose Ramirez III. Segovia used one, and the rest is history.

jungjaesung
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Re: First to use Cedar top?

Post by jungjaesung » Sat Sep 12, 2015 8:21 am

RobMacKillop wrote:Torres certainly did not invent the guitar, practically or otherwise! He didn't really bring in anything new to what was already there, but he did understand balance and tension better than most others of his period.

It is generally understood (and therefore might be wrong) that the first Spanish maker to use cedar consistently was Jose Ramirez III. Segovia used one, and the rest is history.
Sorry for my mistake! I was under the impression that Torres started the design of the modern classical guitar we now use today. Back to the topic, cedar was first widely used by Ramirez? So is it safe to say the the original top wood used in the beginning is Spruce? Cedar being later discovered?

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Michael.N.
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Re: First to use Cedar top?

Post by Michael.N. » Sat Sep 12, 2015 8:46 am

I think it's safe to say that Torres took a lot of design elements from various sources and put them into one big box. . . and some smaller boxes too.
But yes, Spruce has a much greater history and a much longer tradition than Cedar, that is without question. Even if we forget about pre Torres, that also holds true. Cedar as a soundboard material is around 50 years old, Spruce is some 150 years old. Obviously I'm referring only to the larger modern Classical guitar. So yes, your friend has a 'funny idea'.
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guitarseller345645
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Re: First to use Cedar top?

Post by guitarseller345645 » Sat Sep 12, 2015 9:07 am

http://www.classicalguitarcanada.ca/201 ... l-guitars/

2) Second, Ramirez was the first manufacturer to widely use Western Red Cedar for soundboards, as you can see in the photo above. Cedar has some advantages over spruce, the main one being that cedar is on average about 15 -20% lighter in weight. Jose Ramirez 3rd believed so strongly in the superiority of cedar over spruce that he wrote in his book Things about the Guitar that “Stradivari would have used the American wood had he known about it.” The top in the above photo has a cedar soundboard with spruce bracing.

Prior to the 1950’s European spruce was the standard material for guitar tops. Nowadays cedar is more commonly used for classical guitars than spruce, although spruce remains an excellent soundboard material, many still preferring it to cedar for its tonal complexity.

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Michael.N.
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Re: First to use Cedar top?

Post by Michael.N. » Sat Sep 12, 2015 9:15 am

Well Jose Ramirez was wrong or he was stating that merely for effect. There's no way that Strad would have used Cedar. The bridge feet of a Violin would make a mess of the soundboard in pretty quick time. He would probably have to inlay Spruce to counteract it. The edges on a Violin would also be much more vulnerable, if they were of Cedar.
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simonm
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Re: First to use Cedar top?

Post by simonm » Sat Sep 12, 2015 12:56 pm

Michael.N. wrote:Well Jose Ramirez was wrong or he was stating that merely for effect. …..
It's called "marketing". :-)

I have heard two other stories about Ramirez and cedar. One was that there was simply not a decent supply chain for spruce after WWII so he took what he could get and that was wrc. The other story is that their was a misunderstanding/lost in translation event and he ended up with the wrc more or less by accident and decided to give it a try. (Maybe knowing about the Markneukirchen "experiments" that GJO mentioned above). I have no idea if either story is true or how "embroidered" they have become over the years.

It would be interesting to know how Markneukirchen guitars were finished. I can't see cedar surviving very well without a hard, fairly thick finish.

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Michael.N.
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Re: First to use Cedar top?

Post by Michael.N. » Sat Sep 12, 2015 1:11 pm

Probably finished with very little. Certainly not encased in some of the finishes we see today. I've never come across a Marki in Cedar, so it's use was probably a very, very tiny proportion of the output. They were sending thousands of instruments across to N. America circa 1900, so perhaps some of the payment was in the form of a few Cedar soundboards. It's possible.
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simonm
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Re: First to use Cedar top?

Post by simonm » Sat Sep 12, 2015 1:55 pm

Michael.N. wrote:Probably finished with very little. Certainly not encased in some of the finishes we see today. I've never come across a Marki in Cedar, so it's use was probably a very, very tiny proportion of the output. They were sending thousands of instruments across to N. America circa 1900, so perhaps some of the payment was in the form of a few Cedar soundboards. It's possible.
Yup. Thats sounds like a very logical explanation. Could also be the way Ramirez came by his first Cedar too. (I think one story said he though he was getting cedarella for necks. ).

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Re: First to use Cedar top?

Post by gjo » Sat Sep 12, 2015 5:04 pm

Michael.N. wrote:Probably finished with very little. Certainly not encased in some of the finishes we see today. I've never come across a Marki in Cedar, so it's use was probably a very, very tiny proportion of the output. They were sending thousands of instruments across to N. America circa 1900, so perhaps some of the payment was in the form of a few Cedar soundboards. It's possible.
The finish was much better than most others I have seen from that period. The guitar also had some decorations that seem to indicate that is was a better and more expensive model.

In the 1880s the manufacturers from Markneukirchen imported wood samples from Canada to test their qualities for musical instruments in the workshops of the members of the local chamber of commerce.

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Re: First to use Cedar top?

Post by Scot Tremblay » Sat Sep 12, 2015 7:11 pm

I have a Markneukirchen guitar, Staufer clone, with a cedar top. But as this style was made well into the 20th century I cannot definitively date it. I suspect pre WWI but it could be later.

I've always found the lack of Western Red Cedar in European wood working (not just musical instruments but furniture, carving etc) a bit puzzling. I'm not alone as many of the antique furniture restorers and scholars I've asked about this are at a loss to satisfactorily explain this lack. It must have been known from the earliest explorations of the West Coast of North America. The Spanish were here as early as 1776 (In Northern California and Oregon decades earlier) and the Russians even earlier in the 18th century, probably before. Both these explorers were in contact with the Native populations and traded many things including raw materials so it seems unlikely that they did not know of the wood. But why it didn't make it's way back to Europe when so many of the other "exotics" did...it's not found in cabinet linings, drawers and other parts of cabinetry where other aromatic woods imported from the New World were often used. Organized logging came later to the Pacific North West than it did in South America but by the 19th century things were in full swing so it's a mystery waiting to be solved... :reflechir:
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Michael.N.
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Re: First to use Cedar top?

Post by Michael.N. » Sat Sep 12, 2015 8:01 pm

I suspect it's partly tradition and the fact that it has limited uses, apart for fence posts!
It's not really decorative enough for use as a furniture wood and it's soft nature doesn't add to the appeal either. That just leaves the backs of chest of drawers and drawer linings. The Europeans had the alternative on their doorstep. Pretty much all the common Victorian furniture that I've seen was made of Pine throughout. The stuff was made in huge numbers. In fact there was a whole industry concerned with supplying this Pine for every domestic use. Back in the late 70's I was unfortunate to work in what I term the 'house bashing' trade. Some folk like to flatter themselves by calling it construction. The point is that I got to see the inside of many Victorian workers houses, of which there are countless thousands in the industrial north. Back in the 70's it was still possible to come across a house that had hardly been touched since that house was first erected in 1880 or even earlier. I rather think one would really struggle to find such a house like that now. Everything was Pine, the joists, the floorboards, the skirting boards, all the internal and external doors. But the internal doors and skirting boards had been 'grained' to look like a more expensive wood. In fact graining and marbling was virtually a trade of it's own. The furniture was treated in the exact same manner, grained.
The more up market furniture used a different type of Cedar for the drawer linings. I can't remember the type but it's the stuff that supposedly keeps the moths and other insects at bay. Maybe Cedar of Lebanon?
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Claudiosolares
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Re: First to use Cedar top?

Post by Claudiosolares » Thu Mar 01, 2018 8:29 pm

Michael.N. wrote:
Sat Sep 12, 2015 9:15 am
There's no way that Strad would have used Cedar. The bridge feet of a Violin would make a mess of the soundboard in pretty quick time. He would probably have to inlay Spruce to counteract it. The edges on a Violin would also be much more vulnerable, if they were of Cedar.
Strad also made Baroque guitars. That was probably the main context.
1985 Bertrand Martin: Spruce, Rosewood
2013 Feiga Siedler: Vihuela de Mano after E7048: Spruce, Indian Rosewood.
2014 Francisco Navarro: After Rodriguez: Cedar,Cocobolo
2016 Carlos Trujillo: Baroque guitar after Chechucci: Machiche, Spruce, Chicozapote

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