American Sycamore wood movement

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I purchased a set of American sycamore for cello 2 years ago, which the dealer stated was dried in a vacuum kiln 5 years prior. The set contained a generous amount of rib stock and an oversized cello neck block, so I opted to make a cornerless violin from the same set. I took a piece of 4mm cello rib stock and milled it down to about 2.2 mm with my Wagner rotary plane, then cut it into 35mm wide strips with a band saw. Within an hour or two the most heavily, dramatically flecked and wavy grained pieces bowed to one side. The more lightly and consistently flecked pieces with straighter grain haven't moved as of yet. I’ve heard sycamore moves quite a bit if not dry or well quartered, but I’m thinking it’s more of an internal wood stress issue. I’m new to sycamore and it seems very springy, I’ve heard it bends well and also makes great linings. I’ve noticed you can actually feel the stiffness in the pieces that are more heavily flecked with longer and heavier medullary rays.



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I made a Vielle with sycamore about 5 or 6 years ago.I found the wood to be fairly stable, but to be fair I had been carrying that chunk around since Salt Lake City, so it was at least 20 years old  The instrument lives in Oregon and hasn't had any problems. The dust is a bit noxious.

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5 hours ago, Shunyata said:

Sycamore is toxic to humans.  Wear a mask when sawing or sanding this wood.  My uncle is in a,wood turning (lathework) club and knows some who have had health issues routinely working with this wood.

Before you make a statement like that, you should check it out. It's very possible that your uncle has heard of people that have had allergic reactions to the wood, but that can happen with most woods. Sycamore can be toxic to horses, but not humans, and can be used for food vessels.

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When having a tooth worked on my dentist inserted a small piece of sycamore as a spacer between two teeth.

I'm now reading conflicting things about the bending qualities of sycamore. One wood guide claims it resists steam bending, another says it steam bends well. The wood seams pretty elastic. Perhaps it's a bit tricky to bend but resist splitting?

I'm going to find out...

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I've made a couple sycamore violins. The piece I had was very resonant wood.  But then I've seen guitar makers using OAK.  What's up with that?  The two sound pretty good.  Like violins.  I had no problem with dust, but the walnut one I'm finishing didn't bother me either, and some people have trouble with that.  The ribs bend easy, (hot) and I even use it for my linings, because with the interlocked grain they don't snap!  I couldn't get spruce to bend at all.

The grain shifts.  The specks will go one direction, and the rays in the other.  So you have to watch sometimes when you are planing, or doing finish work. 

The flecks are very hard, and it takes a very sharp tool to get things really smooth.  That's probably the only thing against it that I found.    

I wouldn't worry about thin wood warping.  That's what thin wood does best.  My backs and bellies never stay flat either.  After it is tamed with the iron, and has linings on it, it will be fine. 

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I made a cello back out of American sycamore about 8 yrs ago. And it’s still the same as when I made it. Movement wise lol

and a neck at the same time that is still straight. It’s been sitting in my shop without a FB attached. Granted this a sampling of 2


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