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Thread: Douglas fir

  1. #1
    I really look like that soliver's Avatar
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    Default Douglas fir

    I recently bought a huge and heavy length of 8/4 "Douglas fir" at my lumber yard for a project and ended up with a LOT left over. I always have trouble with the Cafe's search feature, but I did find this thread: https://mandolincafe.com/forum/threa...ir-as-tonewood ... I couldn't find a definitive answer as to whether or not Doug Fir was a suitable tonewood. I am primarily interested in resawing it for flat top instruments.

    The above thread talked about a lot of other kinds of Firs, but I didn't see a ye or nay on Doug Fir.

    What I have has a really nice even grain, DEFINITELY quarter sawn and heavy as a ton of bricks (but that might be because its 2' thick 8' wide and about 9 or 10 feet long).
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  2. #2
    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Douglas fir

    That was a big tree, 8’ wide

    Plenty of folks have used it for soundboards. I would judge it like a different species of spruce. Could have hidden pitch pockets, but fine grained material should work very well. Never made an instrument from it, but I’ve machined thousands of board feet, 4/4 to 16/4, all CVG.

    Finished, most folks couldn’t tell it from a spruce, especially a very silky piece.
    Play it like you mean it

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  4. #3
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    Default Re: Douglas fir

    Yes, it is a viable sound board wood, if it is good and stiff. It is not used very often, but it has been used with success.

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    Registered User bennyb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Douglas fir

    If you run "Condino douglas" in this forum's search, you'll get some results from back in the aughts. Whether suitable for flat tops: don't think that ever came up.
    benny

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  8. #5
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Douglas fir

    It is known to develop top cracks/splits more than spruce, but other than that it is generally considered a very good top wood.
    (Rolf Gerhardt used it for years in Unicorn mandolins. I'm not sure if he was still using it when Phoenix mandolins became his brand, but he quit using it because of the number of top cracks.)
    Last edited by sunburst; Apr-19-2021 at 10:37pm. Reason: double post, somehow

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  10. #6
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    Default Re: Douglas fir

    Thanks all... 8'!!! Oops typo, obviously meant 8".

    In the other thread I posted above there was a bit of discussion on Rolf's use and ending use of Doug Fir. Thanks again everyone!
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  11. #7
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    Default Re: Douglas fir

    Since John has indicated that at least one very competent builder has experienced cracking, it might not hurt to double your seasoning time before you use it.

    2 summers wouldn't hurt, or at least one summer in an old time tin roofed wood shed if you've got one, followed by a winter in the room with the woodstove, if you've got one. You might want to wax the ends first.

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  13. #8
    Jo Dusepo, luthier Dusepo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Douglas fir

    I've heard douglas fir works well as a soundboard, but is more prone to splitting with humidity and temperature changes. Never used it myself though.

    P.S. I find it much easier to search by going to your chosen search engine and entering:
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    This will search for whatever you enter as the search term only within the domain after the word site:.
    I am a luthier specialising in historical and world stringed instruments. You can see more info at my website.

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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Douglas fir

    Sonny Morris has built some real nice sounding mandolins with Doug fir tops.

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    Registered User Ken's Avatar
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    Default Re: Douglas fir

    My first three mandos built in 1980-81, had carved Doug fir tops. Also made a dulcimer just prior to those with a carved Doug fir top. I still have one of the mandos and the dulcimer, no problems with cracks or splits and I'm not known for being overly cautious with handling my instruments.
    Peace

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  19. #11
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    Default Re: Douglas fir

    Thanks Dusepo! That will be helpful in the future!

    I may give it a go! If nothing else, I have plenty of wood to practice resawing with

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    Since John has indicated that at least one very competent builder has experienced cracking, it might not hurt to double your seasoning time before you use it.

    2 summers wouldn't hurt, or at least one summer in an old time tin roofed wood shed if you've got one, followed by a winter in the room with the woodstove, if you've got one. You might want to wax the ends first.
    Clarify for me a little bit:

    1. is this even in light of it having been seasoned at the lumberyard (where is was stored indoors?

    2. Would this be before or after its been resawn?

    3. Since I don't have a tin roof'd shed or wood burning stove (assuming you're serious and not joking), do you mean to store it somewhere where its out of the weather but still exposed to the temperature fluctuations? If not, would my humidity controlled shop suffice? Or is the idea that it foes through the changes in humidity in order to stabilize?
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  20. #12
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    Default Re: Douglas fir

    There are woodworkers who would disagree but I think it is most important to have it in your shop for a while. If it comes from a hot and dry place into a more humid place (or vice versa) it will be more prone to deforming after it is cut. You can use a moisture meter. Rather than looking for a number, look for stability in the number over several weeks. Also don't just put it on your floor. Put some risers under it. You want airflow on all sides.

  21. #13
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    Default Re: Douglas fir

    I was more or less kidding about the woodshed and the woodstove, though in the old days, before central heat and air, people were known to store wood in the rafters of their shops. I was serious about the extra drying time, though. You never know how long lumber yard wood has been seasoned. A stable environment is probably the best. You might want to re-saw it first, but not too thin.

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    Default Re: Douglas fir

    The second guy I knew who built a mandolin in 1973 used Douglas fir stair treads.

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    Default Re: Douglas fir

    Thanks for that clarification Richard.

    With a much as I have, it's likely I could yield quite a bit even after messing a fair amount up!... I'll try to resaw some in the coming days and share pics. I bought it to patch holes in some antique doors that were said to be fir but turned out to be Cedar. It's really good looking stuff!
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  25. #16
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Douglas fir

    No way, not possible, the ONLY woods for mandolins are traditional maple and spruce, anythin' else is, "... a whole lotta' nuthin'..." .
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  26. #17
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Douglas fir

    Quote Originally Posted by sunburst View Post
    (Rolf Gerhardt used it for years in Unicorn mandolins. I'm not sure if he was still using it when Phoenix mandolins became his brand, but he quit using it because of the number of top cracks.)
    I just have one of his early mandolins for extensive neck repairs. Certainly the top is not spruce but I guessed it was redwood or cedar because of the thickness. No cracks on top.
    Adrian

  27. #18

    Default Re: Douglas fir

    Gibson briefly looked into using it in the late 70s. Around 1980 when I had a connection at Gibson in Kalamazoo, JP Motes gave me a fine grained fir F5 top that had been roughed on the chair seat carver. I remember it being fairly dense with a sharp ring. I don't recall him saying why they didn't pursue it. I'm guessing, along with the color, it's tone was likely on the brittle side for a mandolin. The piece also had a pitch pocket in it.

  28. #19

    Default Re: Douglas fir

    I have a mandolin made by Peter Coombe in December 2000. When I bought it (maybe 15 years ago), I emailed Peter and he told me the woods he'd used. I'm almost positive that he said it had an unusual top (for him) and that he had used a piece of Douglas Fir he had for the top and was very pleased with how it came out.

    I like it a lot, and it's travelled a fair bit and taken a few knocks. No sign of any problems with the top.

    If you're interested in what it sounds like, I'll record a little bit of it and post on YouTube.

    Kenny

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    Default Re: Douglas fir

    I have both an A and an F in the rack in the white that have fir tops.. I've made four others using the same, and have no problems with splits or cracks.. did have a pitch pocket scare, but lucked out and sanded it away.. only real problem was the small fuzzy little splinters in the hands that can pop up now and again.. Keith
    kterry

  30. #21
    Maurice McMurry
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    Default Re: Douglas fir

    My mandocello has douglas fir braces. I am hoping to get someone to come over and try it. I have an ad in the classifieds, other.

  31. #22

    Default Re: Douglas fir

    I bought a large piece of quartered and fine grained Douglas thinking it was going to be a lot of tops in the future, but some test pieces turned out so easily split that I've abandoned the idea. I use DF for braces some times.

  32. #23
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Douglas fir

    I bought some doug fir and maple and I’m making this...Click image for larger version. 

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  34. #24
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    Default Re: Douglas fir

    Spent some time with the bandsaw this evening and finally got around to resewing both the Birch and the Douglas Fir. This piece had a nice dark streak in it and was already more or less to length. I think I got 3 or 4 flat top sets out of it.... I'll set it on a shelf and let it dry a while and try it down the road.

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    aka: Spencer
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  36. #25
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Douglas fir

    The streak looks great, should make for a great looking top. I hope the tone matches!
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