沖縄の木は楽器に向かない?!

Okinawan wood is not suitable for making musical instruments?

Aren't Okinawan woods not suitable for making musical instruments?

I get asked that question a lot.

"Okinawa wood is soft"

"The humidity is too high for musical instrument making"

...

Is that really true?

Take the guitar for example.

Neck: Mahogany (Honduras/Philippines)

Fingerboard: Black ebony (Africa)

Body and back: Brazilian rosewood and Indian rosewood (Amazon basin and India)

Top plate: Spruce (Europe/Canada)

All of the trees except for spruce are southern trees that live near the equator.

From my experience, I have found that for the same tree species, the further south you go, the harder the wood becomes.

For example, even if it is the same type of cedar, the one from Tohoku is softer, while the one from Kyushu is firmer.

Furthermore, in Europe, people long for the sunny south,

It also symbolizes the wealth and power that comes with acquiring rare things.

In Columbus' time, pineapples were the object of desire for royalty and aristocracy.

Not only does it have an impact on the sound of the instrument,

It seems that there is a history of using rare materials in an elegant way.

I think wood is also distributed according to market principles.

Trees that are produced in large quantities, trees that are profitable, trees that are rare,

People who judge are influenced by commercials.

There are individual differences even within the same place of origin and tree species.

Not all rosewood is suitable for making musical instruments.

They range from high quality to third-class.

There aren't many people who can tell the difference between good and bad with their own eyes and ears.

By the way, the spruce that is currently the highest ranked for stringed instrument soundboards is

Lutz spruce grows near the border between Canada and Alaska.

It is said to be a hybrid of Sitka spruce and Englemann spruce.

At Terurushi's Woodworking Studio, we sometimes use spruce for the soundboard of some instruments.

We use high quality, dense Sitka spruce wood.

When purchasing, it is essential to look at it with your eyes, hit the wood and check the sound.

Regarding the humidity issue,

It is necessary to consider the outside humidity and the moisture content of the wood separately.

It is true that the temperature and humidity in Okinawa Prefecture are high.

This is an entirely separate issue from the moisture content of the wood.

Wood contains free water and bound water.

Free water is the water that evaporates from wood, just like when laundry dries.

On rainy days, this moisture returns to the tree.

On the other hand, bound water is water that remains within the wood cells and is bound to resin.

The free water in wood evaporates relatively quickly and the moisture content fluctuates.

Bound water in cells is stable water.

Over time, the amount of free water decreases and the amount of bound water increases.

Once the moisture content reaches the 20% range, the tree's movement seems to calm down.

"An inch makes a year," is what people used to say.

This means that it takes a year to dry one inch (about 3 cm) of large wood.

We process them after natural drying for at least 8 years.

However, sometimes you can feel moisture remaining in the larger pieces of wood.

(If this happens, continue drying.)

It is difficult to process the wood into musical instruments until the moisture content reaches the 10% range.

When wood moves, even a 3mm thick board

It is not something that can be overcome by human power.

Inside the tree is the stress that arises during the growth process.

"A tree grows as it pleases."

On the other hand, if you support the tree and make the most of its qualities,

It exerts its power to the fullest.

Even if the moisture content of wood is suddenly reduced using an artificial dryer,

The wood may suddenly absorb moisture from the outside air and swell.

Examples of floorboards pushing out aluminum sashes and cedar wall panels expanding

I've actually seen it.

This was likely the result of an effort to complete the work in a hurry.

Young wood with a small diameter also tends to behave violently.

(Maybe it's a bit like a human.)

The time of year when trees are cut down also matters.

In early winter, when the trees have shed their leaves and are asleep,

The best time to do this is when the tree is cut around the new moon, when the moisture is still in the roots.

A bamboo craftsman from Oita, Kyushu, had a similar story about when to cut the bamboo.

On the other hand, the worst thing is to cut trees in spring or summer when they are absorbing moisture from the ground.

If you only look for the materials, you won't know any of this.

For the past 40 years, we have been purchasing logs at selected times and drying them over the years.

The work of writing the year on each board and stacking the heavy lumber

It's definitely not easy.

But the joy of working closely with the ingredients is even greater.

We don't use it just because it's an Okinawan wood.

I have seen a lot of materials for musical instruments,

We believe in the potential of Okinawan wood.

The forests of southern islands have a wide variety of living organisms, but their populations are small.

The same goes for sea creatures.

There are few species in the northern seas, and they live in large schools.

I believe that the creatures living in the south are rich in individuality and diversity.

As for wood, there are not enough Okinawan wood to be sold on the national market.

Each piece has its own unique characteristics and is a precious wood.

From that, we further select wood that is suitable for musical instruments,

It takes time to develop into an instrument.

I'd also like to tell you a little about the mulberry wood that we use in Teruruushi's woodworking studio.

In the Age of the Gods, Susanoo

It was said that shrines should be made of cypress, boats of cedar or camphor, and coffins of cypress.

This is still true today.

According to the Hotsuma Tsutae, which is said to be older than the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki,

There is a passage that says, "The koto is made from mulberry wood."

It was believed that mulberry has the power to ward off evil, purify and protect.

Even today, the spell to ward off lightning is "Kuwabara, Kuwabara",

In Okinawa, we also say "kuwaginushichadeviru" (under the mulberry tree).

There are many other things to talk about regarding mulberry, but I will write about them in another post some other time…

Not only is it a legend, but the sound it makes when actually made into an instrument is beautiful!

It was something no other tree could match.

At Terurushi's woodworking studio, we also use other woods such as oak and isobar.

Mulberry wood is used for the parts that come into direct contact with the strings.

You may not notice it at first glance, but

The main part of the instrument is made of mulberry wood.

This is one of the major features of the instruments we make.

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