Forgive the complete ignorance. I am not a fiddler or builder but interested in other acoustic stringed instruments. I am wondering if anyone has any experience with a cedar or redwood topped fiddle? It seems these are never built and I wondered what the reason was. Just trying to get some basic info. I love spruce instruments but wondered about anyone experimenting with other soundboard woods. Thx
There's a guy here on the Hangout who uses unusual woods.
I'd venture to say, spruce and maple likely have the desired tonal qualities to make the particular notes available from the fiddle.
I have used western red cedar once for a violin top. It turned out to be to flexible to maintain the arch. This in turn caused the neck to warp the top plate. The instrument would not stay in tune. Replacement of the top plate corrected the problems. The plate was replaced with Engelmann spruce.
I have never tried Redwood for a top plate.
I have played a fiddle made largely from cherry and also one made largely from walnut, both built by friends. They were very attractive and sounded good to me, an old hack fiddler. But I have no idea whether they would cut the mustard for top-notch fiddlers or those playing in philharmonics.
If you talk to luthiers about this they tend to stick for the most part with "tried and true" materials and techniques. My suspicion is that there simply isn't a demand for things that will be considered non-traditional. And if they're going to spend a month or so making an instrument they don't want to make something that could have a very limited market.
Old world builders didn't have access to western red cedar or redwood. They also didn't have Adirondack, Red, Sitka or Engleman spruce or big leaf maple, all of which are prized by today's luthiers.
WRC always has a very straight, tight grain. A lot of redwood does too. I have six instruments custom built with these woods - two mandolins, a 10 string mandola, octave mandolin, a 10 string mandocello and a 10 string Hardanger viola.
The all have a remarkably resonant, rich, mellow tone. I consider them all superior to my spruce topped instruments. This is likely at least as much due to the custom builders I've worked with as the selection of wood.
I have seen other people use red cedar with goo results, again taste is involved, some like a dark tone some like the bright, a lot of variables involved with instruments