Myrtle for Lute backs

Umbellularia californica is a large hardwood tree native to the Pacific Northwest, commonly known as Myrtle, California Bay Laurel, Pepperwood, or Myrtlewood.

Myrtle physical properties are similar to African Mahogany and is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

While traveling through Oregon I stopped at a roadside shop specializing in beautiful decorative and functional objects made from myrtle.  Amazingly, they sourced all their wood locally and kiln dried in their own custom building.

I purchased a large plank of myrtle to experiment for lute backs.

Dimensioning and cutting the rib blanks was easy, with the band saw properly setup this is a pleasure.

I was able to get enough myrtle to make two complete 13 course baroque lute backs. 

The first myrtle set had a very straight figure and uniformity from rib to rib.

The resulting back was also very uniform and quite striking. 

I noticed a very slight yellow-greenish tint which I found troubling, and so I experimented with a darker stain. It produced a very pleasing effect.

The second set was rather wild !

Here is the completed lute.  I finished the instrument with true-oil.

A third and fourth sets of myrtle were cut from a board generously given to me by a violin maker and proved to be quite different from the first two sets.  I found these sets the most pleasing because the figure was interesting and the raw wood color very pleasing.

Working with myrtle was a joy. I found no particular issues cutting, sanding, bending, trimming or gluing.  As I remember the raw wood was very economical. 

With the right piece of wood, I would not hesitate to build more lute backs from myrtle.