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BC yellow cedar vs Spanish cypress   You are logged in as Guest
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Posts: 16
Joined: Jul. 10 2021
From: Alaska

BC yellow cedar vs Spanish cypress 

Next spring I’ll be building a guitar in Spain using no electricity whatsoever, just hand tools and traditional methods. I’ll be building a blanca, and the backs and sides will be either BC yellow cedar (cypress) or Spanish cypress. I haven’t built any instruments yet, though two months prior to this I will have completed a classical guitar build with Robbie O’Brien, so I don’t have a very intimate knowledge with subtleties in different woods. I’m aware that the backs and sides aren’t nearly as important as the top for the sound that is produced but that it certainly does provide its essence. I imagine these two would be very similar, but are there certain qualities that makes them diverge from each other tonally?

Since this guitar is being built with purely traditional means, I’m preferring it to be as traditional as possible, so I’m leaning towards the Spanish cypress, but in the end what I really want is a very traditional flamenco guitar with the best possible sound as well. Can anyone provide insight on this?

(I tried to use the search feature but wasn’t able to find any5ing to answer my question)

EDIT: I found this great website describing the tones and properties of many different woods:


**Cypress Cupressus sempervirens, Mediterranean Cypress
1) Clear penetrating sound excellent response and tap tone. It has become the wood of choice for Flamenco construction because it s easy to come by. It is also true that it makes for great classical playing. Cypress allows for a crisp sound with little sustain but very penetrating trebles. Also great to accompany singing. The pale coloring of the grain makes the resulting instrument a striking one.

Cypress is one of the few coniferous woods, which are suitable for backs and sides for their comparable high density. It is mostly used for Flamenco guitars. Besides its light-yellow color, its appearance is typical for coniferous woods. Remarkable is its intensive, aromatic smell, which lasts for years.

2) True cypress (Cupressus spp.) is hard, sonically reflective, difficult to bend, and absolutely isn't used as the soundboard of modern instruments. There is a tree of southern US swamps that is more properly called bald cypress (Taxodium distichum); this tree is actually a redwood (along with the whopping Sequoia spp.). It would probably be similar to redwood as a soundboard...but that's just a guess. It could be substantially different as most redwoods grow in moist but well-drained soils while Taxodium grows in inundation.
The Spanish cypress traditionally used for flamenco guitars (cupressus macrocarpa) is unlikely to be the same as US woods.

3) Canadian Cypress Botanical Name: (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis) Canadian Cypress/Yellow Cedar Alaskan Yellow Cedar, aka Canadian cypress, is so closely related to the true cypresses that it has been classified with them by botanists in the past. It is an excellent carving wood, with fine even texture, and very close-grained. It is one of the most stable woods in terms of dimensional change due to moisture content change. It works easily and finishes well. Though YC/CDN Cypress is not a traditional wood, it is gaining popularity. Many custom builders use YC/CDN cypress for guitar tops, including archtops (jazz guitars and mandolins). It is also used for backs and sides of Flamenco guitars. It is a denser wood than Red Cedar, with a specific gravity very close to Sitka Spruce. It has a nice light yellow color and a pleasant aroma. Tonewise, the wood is very well suited for flatpicking steel string guitars. With a specific gravity close to Sitka and Adirondack Spruce it makes a very good soundboard material as well as back/sides.

Any other insights from any luthiers who have worked with both would be greatly appreciated
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 23 2021 16:17:09

Posts: 1318
Joined: Aug. 24 2017

RE: BC yellow cedar vs Spanish cypress (in reply to Tikahtnu

Hi Tikahtnu,

I don’t think there’s any question. I wouldn’t even bother delving too deep into options or weigh pros and cons. If you’re going to Spain to build a traditional Flamenco guitar, then use Spanish/Mediterranean Cypress. When in Rome, etc....

Not knowing anything about this course, wouldn’t they be supplying the materials? If not, I think you could call Mad Inter in Madrid and get them to make you up a wood bundle, or the teacher could do it for you. They generally have full wood kits available, but even if they don’t, they’ll still set you up, they’ll know what you need. They could ship it right to the course location, and shipping might even be free, if you spend enough.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 24 2021 2:30:22
ernandez R

Posts: 575
Joined: Mar. 25 2019
From: Alaska USA

RE: BC yellow cedar vs Spanish cypress (in reply to Tikahtnu

I am sure you will be provided with woods or even choice of woods, like Rob said, when in Spain...

My AYC landed yesterday and I had one billet loaded into the the band saw shuttle as soon as I had it unboxed!

This is my first experience AYC and I've never had any Spanish cypress in my hand.



I prefer my flamenco guitar spicy,
doesn't have to be fast,
should have some meat on the bones,
can be raw or well done,
as long as it doesn't sound like it's turning green on an elevator floor.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 24 2021 12:28:59

Posts: 16
Joined: Jul. 10 2021
From: Alaska

RE: BC yellow cedar vs Spanish cypress (in reply to Tikahtnu

Yeah the wood is being provided. For the top I can choose from Canadian spruce (same species as Sitka spruce), western red cedar, and redwood. I think I’ll go with the spruce here. I have always preferred cedar for classical guitars but I think that’s because I always had cedar and never really gave spruce much time to grow on me. Now I have a cheap cordoba f7 (I know, I’ll give you time to spit) and I actually am starting to prefer it over my cedar cordoba c9 parlor, which is of much higher quality both build-wise and quality of the sound. However I’ve always played in a more pseudo-flamenco style and didn’t realize how much I enjoy the sound of my style on spruce rather than cedar. What I’ve read about redwood is a bit of a mixed bag, but the positive reviews are very positive. I would be tempted to go with that, as I do like the idea of a darker topped blanca as it isn’t something I’ve seen before, but I’ve also read that it’s fragile and I’m looking for the traditional sound which I assume spruce would be better suited to providing.

For the backs and sides he’s providing Spanish cypress and BC yellow cedar, which is the same species as Alaskan yellow cedar. I’m leaning towards the BC yellow cedar as I’ve read it’s a bit easier to work, and as we’ll be doing all the wood removal by hand, I think it may prove preferable. Though perhaps the difference here is negligible. And Rob I share your sentiments that I should go with the traditional Spanish cypress, but the top won’t be of European wood so it kind of nullifies that aspect for me. I think as long as the guitar sounds traditional I’ll be happy. Regardless of whether I choose Spanish cypress or BC Yellow cedar, the neck will be made of Spanish cedar. But at this point I’m only an “armchair” guitar builder (a la armchair sailor), so I don’t have any experience yet to really discern between the two other than this bit I’ve read.

Another reason I’m leaning towards the BCYC is that I’ve read the quality of Spanish cypress has been in decline, which would make sense. There’s a lot of yellow cedar dying off right now because it’s not handling the changing climate very well, so I assume yellow cedar would surely have Spanish cypress beat in the quality to price ratio, though all of the wood is provided in the cost of the course so the price of the wood isn’t much of an issue. But I would still assume that the yellow cedar may be of higher quality, but I’m also a moron in the making so any input there would be valued.

That’s great about the AYC ernandez, I have the AYC lumber from the same company waiting to go into the deck of my boat. I was scheduled to have my mizzen mast lowered at the boatyard yesterday but there was another boat taking up my spot who was having engine trouble and they weren’t able to move him yet… oh well, rescheduled for Tuesday.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 24 2021 22:17:50

Posts: 8550
Joined: Oct. 16 2009

RE: BC yellow cedar vs Spanish cypress (in reply to Tikahtnu

They all work, Port Orford Cedar ( which is really a cypress) Alaskan Yellow Cedar, California Nutmeg ( rare) Hinoki from Japan or Taiwan, all cousins. The key is tree specific, trees with harder surface wood that’s stiff along the grain work well. The thumbnail test and flexibility along the grain is how you test it. Poke your thumbnail into it, the soft stuff you can drive your nail into is less desirable. Look for a tough surface. Thin it to 4mm or 3~ does it stay stiff as Cypress?

It makes lighter guitars and so balance becomes a problem. Leave backs slightly meaty I think upper 2mm like 2.8 to 3mm

I’ve made a lot of guitars with all those woods. They tend to make like light guitars, I’d use a bigger plantilla, the biggest that fits into a case because you get few extra grams of fat on your body. People are going to bitch that it’s not Mediterranean Cypress, just be ready.

Try to get it from trees growing in cold areas, it grows slower and has less contrast between summer and winter wood. It’s probably better.

  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 25 2021 8:50:04
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