Sycamore cello neck


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Hi all,

I just got a nice set of sycamore for a cello, including a neck block. My instinct is to graft the scroll onto a conventional piece of maple, but it seems like a waste, seeing as how there is enough wood for the whole neck. I've made a sycamore 5 string viola before, but I am worried about the cello neck, as it is so much bigger. I also wonder about the feel of the sycamore under the hand. Does anyone have any thoughts, advice or precautions as I go forward? Should I err on the side of caution and graft it?

Thanks in advance. Pictures below.

IMG_20181009_125648008.thumb.jpg.36093ff37226e75f389acc34ef00ab42.jpg

IMG_20181009_125708233_HDR.thumb.jpg.724c776c980d2a2b678301c05acb6582.jpg

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 Please forgive me if I’m wrong, but I had always imagined, that „sycamore“ is just a coloquial slang name for „maple“, (Acer pseudoplatanus) or do you have different tree/wood names in the states? Whatever the correct botanical term, It looks to me as though it would be nice wood to make bridges from.

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Looks like American sycamore, not European maple referred to as sycamore in the UK. One of the makers on this board commented they had to fill the neck to make it smooth enough for playing. I just picked up a nice set of cello sycamore from an American wood distributor here in the midwest, looks much like the neck you just purchased.

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Sycamore is a generic name for the genus Platanus in the States. London planetree and London Planetree is Platanus x acerifolia. The one with these huge radial rays like in the photo is the London Planetree in England which is called Sycamore in the States.

London Planetree is the huge tree with the light colored mottled bark and the leaves that look like maple but larger and the fruit in the form of small balls. Maple (Acer) usually have little winged seeds like a propeller.

Acer pseudoplatanus means a Maple that"looks like" "also translated as FALSE or SPURIOUS" Platano (Platanus). In the states, Sycamore is usually Platanus occidentalis. Sycamore in England is usually maple. It's like the Pine in England which is spruce in the States.

What a confusing answer!!! :wacko:

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Bruce beat me to it! Taxonomy is rarely straightforward. While there is some London Plane in the US, most "Sycamore" here is indeed platanus occidentalis, referred to variously as Sycamore, Buttonwood, lacewood, etc. I'm not sure I could tell whether what you have is occidentalis or London plane, but it is absolutely some cultivar of platanus. 

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8 hours ago, donbarzino said:

I made a bass neck of American sycamore that looks much like yours.

It was a pain to get it smooth and it tends to wear irregularly with

the hard flecks standing proud.

My sample was slightly less dense than maple but weaker and with an

interlocked grain that resists splitting.

Yeah, that's what I thought. I like the look of the wood, but the feel under the hand strikes me as less than ideal. I am going to make a 5 string cello with it.  It's going to look unconventional anyway, so might as well.

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Out in the field, London Plane, and American Sycamore are pretty easy to tell apart. You'll find London Plane mostly planted around cities as an ornamental. The bark, especially the lighter parts, has a distinct yellowish tinge to it. The American Sycamore often grows along streams and rivers. The lighter parts of the bark are almost chalky white, with the other parts of the bark being grayish to brown.

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10 minutes ago, FiddleDoug said:

Out in the field, London Plane, and American Sycamore are pretty easy to tell apart. You'll find London Plane mostly planted around cities as an ornamental. The bark, especially the lighter parts, has a distinct yellowish tinge to it. The American Sycamore often grows along streams and rivers. The lighter parts of the bark are almost chalky white, with the other parts of the bark being grayish to brown.

It is my expierience too, that, whenever one goes to some University Institute and ask which sort of wood something is, they want to see some leaves etc., but I would be interested to know what people would call the wood pictured in the OP

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I've made some violins with American Sycamore. I found a nice, wide, quartered, 4/4 board of it at Woodcraft years ago; it's almost gone now. It does need filling.  For a guitar neck you could fill and nitro it to get it really smooth, and no one would say boo.  I don't think you'd get away with that on a cello. For the reasons cited I like it better for backs, and especially ribs, and I ALWAYS use it for linings because of the interlocked grain. Dip in water, bend on the iron.  Simple, no problems.  I have problems with everything else I've tried.

It is probably pretty close to Big Leaf Maple in the way that it cuts, and feels.  

The flecks can be quite hard, but so can the curl on Big Leaf.  It's very resonate stuff.

I've always found that where the pattern on the wood shifts, the grain shifts direction too.  Surprise! 

I think it looks best with a lighter, blonde finish.  Like most woods, it's easy to  mess up the natural luster with varnish.

Ken

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49 minutes ago, jacobsaunders said:

It is my expierience too, that, whenever one goes to some University Institute and ask which sort of wood something is, they want to see some leaves etc., but I would be interested to know what people would call the wood pictured in the OP

I'm one of those people that would want to see the leaves to give a definitive answer.  Probably the flowers and fruit as well.  The wood looks like what I see harvested here in the states as American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis).  However, the lumber of London plane is very similar.  That's because the London plane tree is a hybrid of the American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) and the Oriental plane (Platanus orientalis).  The hybrid first occurred in the 17th century when American sycamores were brought to England from North America.

-Jim 

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There is a naming confusion between maple and sycamore, but part of the cause of that is that they are similar woods. So sycamore is likely to be strong enough.

And, of course, if one does join the scroll to a piece of maple, the joint is likely to be a weak spot.

Edited by Quadibloc
added consideration of join
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7 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

It is my expierience too, that, whenever one goes to some University Institute and ask which sort of wood something is, they want to see some leaves etc., but I would be interested to know what people would call the wood pictured in the OP

In the States I would call it by the common name of Sycamore or technically a species from the genus Platanus.

In England I would call it by the common name of Planetree or technically a species from the genus Platanus.

If I was in Italy, which I am, I would call it by the common name Platano or technically a species from the genus Platanus.

Because there are different species and hybrids you really do need to see the whole plant and not just the wood.

In German speaking countries, your guess is better than mine but it's probably by the common name Platane.

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You can probably get 3 scrolls out of that neck block. Far from a waste. I've made two sycamore basses and grafted the scrolls to maple necks. It's not the easiest wood to work, but it can look nice. It's very spongy with varnish so you need to test your ground application on off cuts.

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