View Full Version : Spanish Cedar Necks

03-07-2013, 03:09 AM
Hello everybody, just a quick question,

Are Spanish Cedar necks stable over the long run compared to Mahogany ?

I've had excellent experiences with Mahogany necks when it comes to change in atmospheric conditions (RH and heat) during travel etc...

If Spanish Cedar, which is a hardwood in its own right, is relatively softer than Mahogany, would a neck made from it be more susceptible to warping ?

SC necks may decrease sustain a bit just because of being lighter, but if the stiffness to weight ratio is the same then they may be quite stable woods, save the extra nick or two you'd probably end with compared to a mahogany neck.

Martin seems to use them much more extensively now, even without a reduction in the cost of their guitars.

Your thoughts are highly appreciated
Cheers and God Bless

Aubade Acoustics
03-07-2013, 06:24 AM
Having used Spanish cedar quite a bit I think it is all about $$$ and availability. I personally hate using it for anything except firewood because of the foul taste it leaves on your tongue. I have also found it to be less stable than Mahogany in my uses. Just not a big fan of it.

03-07-2013, 06:29 AM
Thanks for your reply, so should I expect problems with the neck over the long run ? especially with medium gauge steel strings?

charles Tauber
03-07-2013, 07:38 AM
Spanish Cedar has been a preferred wood for classical guitar necks for a very long time and has been used very successfully for that instrument.

I have not used it on a steel string guitar and it wouldn't be my first choice, being lighter and less stiff than other woods, including mahogany. I have not found it to be less stable than mahogany. However, if used for a steel string guitar neck, particularly with medium gauge strings, I'd suggest reinforcing it with stiffer woods or carbon fiber in addition to the use of an adjustable truss rod. (Even some classical guitar makers reinforce it to increase stiffness.)

It smells very nice while working it - and thereafter if left unfinished. I've not found that it tastes any worse than a lot of other woods.

With the decreasing availability of Honduras Mahogany, and increasing price, I expect we will increasingly see alternatives to mahogany used.

03-07-2013, 07:50 AM
Thanks for your reply.
I don't know how Martin reinforces and manufactures its necks made with Spanish Cedar, but would you walk away from such a guitar and feel safer with a Mahogany neck ?

charles Tauber
03-07-2013, 08:37 AM
I don't know how Martin reinforces and manufactures its necks made with Spanish Cedar, but would you walk away from such a guitar and feel safer with a Mahogany neck ?


This is one of those subjects that drives me nuts: you've hit an artery.

Most of the major manufacturers have lifetime warranties on their guitars. If I bought, for example, a Martin guitar, I don't give a $^&( how it was made or of what it is made. All I'd care about is that I like how it played and sounded and felt. The warranty will take care of any faults in their design, their manufacturing and their choice of materials. One buys a Martin guitar because of their expertise (and fame) in making guitars. Why would I want to micro-manage them having recognized them as experts in making guitars? If they aren't experts, why would I buy one from them? It's circular: either they are experts who can select materials adequate for the task - and I don't need to tell them how to do it - or they aren't, in which case, why would I buy one of their instruments?

When you buy a car, will you not buy a specific model/manufacturer because it uses a specific aluminum alloy for its engine block? (Yes, I know, there are many who would say, "Yes".)

To answer your question directly, no, it wouldn't matter to me what wood the neck was made from, or how it was reinforced, provided I liked it aesthetically. The only place I would draw the line, on a new instrument, is that it would have to have an adjustable truss rod.

03-07-2013, 10:40 AM
i currently am focused on building small guitars -parlors and such, strung with extra lights and i really like cedro (spanish cedar). i primarily choose it for it's lightness because of my interest in building guitars for people with mobility issues, aches, pains, shoulder problems, etc... and reducing neck dive is a primary concern for me to keep the cg of the instrument optimized as much as possible.

were i to build a dreadnought guitar that someone would use mediums or thicker strings on, then i would give more consideration to neck re-enforcement but i'd do this regardless what the neck wood was anyway -it's just good craft imo.

working wise, it at least smells nice and cuts well. i don't notice any taste difference with 'hog as they both taste bitter to me. (why do we care what wood tastes like again?) actually 'hog dust makes me feel dopey after a couple of hours. one thing that is a slight irritant are the hidden pitch pockets one finds in cedro but this is a minor problem.

would i walk away from a guitar with a neck made from spanish cedar? -no. i could care less with what and how the instrument was crafted. it's all about if the guitar has something to offer soundwise that i'm after. for me it would be silly (no negation intended) to walk away from a guitar crafted from a "controversial" material or method regardless if the arguments for or against have any logical basis or not.

imo with the exception of carbon fiber, a truss rod is a must on a new, modern, steel string guitar. but if you're buying vintage -let's say 1930-36 or earlier?, then you probably don't have much choice.

to be honest i've played and have been around a lot of vintage guitars -mostly old parlors of many, many brands, i'm guessing nearly a thousand of them. since the majority of these that i've been exposed to were made between the civil war and 1930 i suspect that a whole bunch of them had cedar or mahogany necks. the main issues that i see is neck movement and top warpage. not the neck shaft itself, but the entire neck moving upward at the heel block and the top rolling up at the bridge -basically the guitar colapsing into itself. i've seen split fretboards and broken/repaired headstocks primarily due to owner mistreatment and a mis-understanding of humidity. imo i don't think the concern is 'hog vs. spanish cedar but the general mistreatment by father time, mr. weather, and numerous owners.

if you were interested you could pm steve of vintage parlor guitars fame (shameless plug) for a more informed opinion regarding (i would think at least) the sum of smaller guitars made with various materials in the last 100+ years or so. he may even have input on larger body guitars as well.:)

03-07-2013, 11:30 AM
I don't normally taste the wood I work with, what the heck are you guys talking about? :ha:

03-07-2013, 12:09 PM
Thank you all for your great comments, its a relief to hear all what was said. I'm no expert on woods, i'm no luthier either, and it neck material seemed like an issue i'd like to calify before i commit to buying a guitar, especially that I travel quite often between places with different climatic conditions and neck warping has become a phobia.

Thanks again and God bless

03-07-2013, 02:08 PM
Why are there so many people tasting the wood they use? I must be doing it wrong when I build my guitars!