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  #1  
Old 01-03-2022, 09:54 PM
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Bruce Sexauer Bruce Sexauer is offline
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Default All Catalpa?

Am I the only builder who has tried Catalpa as a guitar timber? I have made 3 guitars and a Ukulele from it, two of those all Catalpa including the neck, and all of them are surprisingly good. More "normal" sounding than all Koa/Walnut/or Mahogany to my ear, and at least one of my customers has told me many times that his all Catalpa guitar is his favorite of the several Sexauer's he has owned. It has the added plans that it is at the top of the class for dimensional stability in variable humidity, when quarter sawn.

I am currently building another all Catalpa guitar which is intended as a Travel companion for a person who frequents the tropics or perhaps lives on a boat. It is my relatively small CN model, a petite 00, which i plan to stain, at least in part, with my nearly legendary Pernambuco concoction. Thoughts?

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Old 01-04-2022, 01:45 AM
Fathand Fathand is offline
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Where I grew up in Brantford, Ontario there were lots of large Catalpa trees in my neighborhood, never seen one cut down or lumber for sale though.

The grain, colouring, hardness and weight seem to be close to American Chestnut which I salvaged 2 small back/side sets out an old piano I hope to build with some day.
It also seems to be similar to Butternut. There is a builder named Bounsall who posted a build on facebook of 2 Butternut guitars and reported good tone.
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Old 01-04-2022, 08:22 AM
redir redir is offline
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I have made one guitar from Caltapa. I think I still have enough for another one. This was probably about 15 years ago but I seem to remember it being a decent guitar. I have not heard back from the owner since.

It grows quite well here in Virginia. Big beautiful trees with long bean pods on them.

Another tree that grows really well here is Paulownia and I have been wanting to try that.
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Old 01-07-2022, 03:38 PM
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I noticed a picture of a Paulownia guitar on my FB feed this morning, and thought it looked a lot like Catalpa. I have never seen the raw material, though I played a guitar made for it once at Schoenberg, and didn't notice the similarity.

The Catalpa WRX binding is going well, and so much quicker on the WRX that it is. Here's the top, complete less a bit more sanding:



This miter is as good as I get. Also, the Catalpa's medullary display is visible in this picture. It is quite a delicate figure!

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Old 01-07-2022, 04:02 PM
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There's a Royal Paulownia tree in my neighborhood.

When I was looking it up to figure out what it was, I
got the idea it was very similar to Catalpa. They both
have different kinds of showy flowers, but I read that
the wood was similar and highly prized in Japan(?)
for fancy box making.

You make pretty fancy boxes ...

-Mike
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Old 01-07-2022, 04:13 PM
Npeshman Npeshman is offline
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Absolutely gorgeous work there Bruce. I am looking forward to hearing it once complete. The catalpa looks to be on the more porous side of woods.
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Old 01-07-2022, 05:14 PM
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Lots of little pores in wide-ish bands, but not particularly deep. Here is my Pernambuco on Catalpa test piece with 3 coats of varnish on it, no pore filler, and it is approaching level. The number "1" is over an unstained bit of the wood:

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Old 01-08-2022, 12:12 AM
John Arnold John Arnold is offline
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Catalpa is ring porous, a characteristic it shares with many temperate hardwoods, including ash, oak, mulberry, sassafras, black locust, and Kentucky coffee tree, just to name a few.
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Old 01-08-2022, 03:28 AM
Npeshman Npeshman is offline
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Bruce and John thank you for the replies. I will need to brush up on my Dendrology.

Another question for you Bruce. With the Catalpa did you find you needed to get the top thinner than your typical spruce top as would be the case with most other hardwoods? I am also curious how you found the experience with building/using hardwood tops compared to standard spruces or cedars, as I know you have built a few now? I know black locust as been used for other parts of the guitar but wonder if it has enough stiffness for all that density for a decent top. Research on my part on that last one.
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Old 01-08-2022, 08:33 AM
willysunday willysunday is offline
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Bruce,

You mentioned the Catalpa guitar was destined for the tropics/ boat setting. Are there properties of the wood that make it a good choice for this climate?

Also, your "Pernambuco concoction" did you incorporate the P-dust into a varnish or shellac? I have used it over Mahogany on a 00 I built with Pernambuco bridge, fret board, headstock plate & tail piece. I was going to use it in the burst, but opted for some orange tint dye. Have you used it over top-wood? Top is Port Orford Cedar, which I really like.

The Catalpa guitar is looking great! Are you going to continue posting it?

bill
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  #11  
Old 01-08-2022, 10:59 AM
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I do not generally target specific thicknesses on any of my plates, preferring to continually hone my subject ability to judge structure by feel. Others have also asked about the Catalpa’s thickness, and so I did measure this top before assembly. It is .115” thick. I have measured other CN guitars tops as well, and none are as thick as this one. The all Myrtle one is around .085”! The Catalpa back on this guitar is thinner than the top, though I did not measure it.

I used Catalpa for this guitar partly because I have used it before, and loved the results, and mostly because when quarter sawn, Catalpa has amazingly little expansion and contraction in variable humidity. This stability means it is far more likely to survive what would amount to abuse in a more conventional guitar.
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Old 01-12-2022, 08:39 PM
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I have begun the finish on the All-Catalpa CN-WRX. The head plates are Myrtle, and along with the back and sides I did stain them with 2 applications of the P Juice. A bit more run out in the back that I like, but I feel good about getting the most neutral part of the back in the center. Better yet, technically, would have been in the center of the lower bout. Not going to beat myself up. The top is much better, run out wise, but it is also from a different tree.







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Old 01-13-2022, 08:34 AM
redir redir is offline
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I liken it to the BMW automobile logo if you know what I mean. I have seen that pattern in a lot of Carpathian spruce for some reason.
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Old 01-13-2022, 10:35 AM
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BMW! Run out is a fact of life, and more obvious in smaller trees, generally.
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  #15  
Old 01-13-2022, 02:19 PM
Fathand Fathand is offline
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I like the colour, particularly the back.

What does WRX stand for?
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