What is Sinker Redwood?
NC luthier Jay Lichty frequently builds custom acoustic guitars and ukuleles that feature Sinker redwood as the soundboard. Out of the dozens of species (see guitar tonewoods , ukulele tonewoods and soundboards) Jay works with for soundboards and backs and sides “sinker” is one of his favorites. It offers that winning combination of incredible beauty and lovely tone. Before we answer the question, What is Sinker Redwood? we’d like to share a few audio samples and images of instruments Jay has crafted from this fine wood …
Audio samples for your listening pleasure:
Wet Chill on Cocobolo Low G Tenor with Sinker Redwood Top
Summer's Gone on Cocobolo Low G Tenor with Sinker Redwood Top
Sometimes played on Cocobolo Baritone Ukulele with Sinker Redwood top
Gallery of “Sinker” Guitars and Ukuleles
So, what exactly is Sinker Redwood?
It is precious, reclaimed redwood felled by Northern California loggers, over a hundred years ago. Here is a bit of the story shared by Redwood Salvage Sales:
“Back in 1850 a ship in the China trade ran aground near present-day Mendocino, leading to the discovery of the region’s extensive virgin redwood forests. Before long an entrepreneurial San Francisco lumberman sailed up the coast with a 50,000-foot-per-day sawmill, set it up on the Big River, and went to work logging redwood trees.
With a life span ranging from 400 to 800 years, Sequoia sempevirens are found only along California’s northern coast, from Monterey County to just beyond the Oregon border. The world’s tallest tree, it can reach close to 400 feet, and attains up to a 23-foot diameter at the base. Redwood is valued not only for its beauty, but for its light weight and resistance to both fire and decay. Starting around 1852 and until about 1910, Mendocino supplied most of pioneering California’s enormous demand for redwood lumber.
In those faraway days, logs arrived at sawmills by floating down a river. Most logging in the Mendocino area occurred during the summer, when the Big River was low. Logs were hauled to the river by mule or oxen. Twenty-seven splash dams were constructed on the river, and behind each dam was a “deck”—a collection of recently harvested logs. As the deck grew higher and heavier, logs at the bottom were eventually pushed down into the river’s silt. In autumn, when the river swelled from rain, the dams would be dynamited open, allowing all the logs to rush downriver to the mill—except, of course, for those logs buried beneath the river’s bottom. Year after year, more and more sinkers settled into the silt and mud.” …
That is until a gentleman by the name of Arky Ciancutti learned about the logs in 1995. Read about Ciancutti’s discovery, about the reclamation and preservation of these beautiful logs and about the lodge that he constructed at www.redwoodsalvagesales.com.
“For me,” says Ciancutti, “the old growth wood is almost sacred. I feel the same way about the people who were on this land before us. The salvaging operation seemed to bring both worlds together: respect for the people who founded this area, and respect for the old trees. It’s been a wonderful experience.”
Now, back to our guitars and ukuleles with sinker redwood tops. Thankfully, some of these logs have been milled with luthiers in mind. In addition to having a fabulous tight grain, after 150 years of resting in rivers rich with minerals, sinker redwood almost glows with an infusion of burgundy, blond, red, purple, and brown tones. Deep rich tone, integrity of strength and stunning beauty are just a few ways to describe a Lichty guitar or ukulele that features a Sinker Redwood top.
Sacred trees transformed into beautiful instruments that will last for generations to come. Now you know a bit of the story behind Sinker Redwood.