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F-2 Dave
Feb-03-2009, 11:15pm
Was thinking about ordering one of the new Collings A models with the honey amber top and the tortise binding. One of the features of the MT is a Engleman Spruce top or for a couple hundred more, upgrade to a Sitka Spruce top. I know opinions vary among players and builders but, is there much difference in the two woods?

man dough nollij
Feb-03-2009, 11:21pm
Sounds odd. On Webers, the Sitka is standard, and there are upcharges to switch to Englemann or Cedar, if I'm not wrong.

Maybe Spruce can chime in on the relative values of these different woods. Can't imagine that sitka is more expensive to acquire than englemann. Nope.

Bernie Daniel
Feb-03-2009, 11:23pm
F-2 Dave: I know opinions vary among players and builders but, is there much difference in the two woods?

I would search on spruce -- there have been two (maybe three?) strings discussing more or less this exact topic within the last few months. One was very detail as to the differences in the properties of the woods.

Rick Turner
Feb-03-2009, 11:28pm
You've got to understand that you're dealing with averages here, and there is tremendous overlap among spruces when it comes to stiffness to weight, density, damping and its reciprocal "resonance", and all that. Typically red or Adirondack spruce has some of the highest stiffness to weight numbers you can every hope to see in spruce. However there is also some high altitude Engelmann which has similar numbers. Red spruce will tend to be harder and tougher than the softer and more easily dinged Engelmann.

But a lot of this is marketing spin. And then there is what the builder chooses to do with regard to bracing and graduating, and that can make all the difference.

Don't buy a name. Buy a sound.

F-2 Dave
Feb-03-2009, 11:31pm
Sorry, I misspoke. The MT, I was told, was Engleman, that is on the satin finish and the gloss top. The MT2 which is all gloss has the Red spruce top. I was just debating wether I should spend the extra for the Red Spruce.

lefty mandoman
Feb-04-2009, 12:07am
I own both a Collings MT and a MT2, and they both have their own distinct sound. I guess it depends on what you're using it for and obviously what sounds best to you. I use my MT2 (with a Adirondack top) mostly for Bluegrass because the Ad. top is brighter sounding and tends to cut better with louder instruments, such as a banjo, dobro, or a fiddle. The MT (with a Engleman top) has a warmer, darker, woodier tone that works well for Folk, Celtic, etc. Not to say you can't use either for different genres, but that's just what sounds best to me. You can't go wrong with either top.... in fact i bought my MT first and then bought the MT2 to replace the MT. It turns out i liked them both so much i had to keep them both! I would recommend that you go and play both, if possible, to see what works best for you.

Good luck and enjoy the journey!
:mandosmiley:

Paul Hostetter
Feb-04-2009, 12:56am
Whatever Collings mandolin you get, bear in mind that what you get on Day One will sound a lot different a year later. You might even think it had changed species just passing time.

How much of the upcharge is for the spruce and how much is for the gloss finish?

Rick Schmidlin
Feb-04-2009, 1:55am
My 2005 MF5 5 sound better this year then ever more open and vinatge.

Chuck Naill
Feb-04-2009, 6:11am
Here is a paragraph from Mr Gilchrist.

Tone

Gilchrist mandolin tone
Gilchrist builds different styles of mandolins depending on the woods he uses. This is what he said himself
"at one extreme is Red Spruce and Rock Maple, at the other extreme is Engelmann Spruce or European Spruce and a soft Maple such as European Maple. Red Spruce and Rock Maple makes a bright clear sounding mandolin with a very strong attack, characteristics the bluegrass players like.
Engelmann and a Soft Maple have a mellow, bassier sound that the classical players prefer (Gilchrist C style). Gilchrist also changes the resonant frequency of the soundbox to make a warmer or a brighter sounding instrument. Reducing the resonant frequency either by increasing the volume or reducing the surface area of the soundholes will produce a warmer tonal quality.

http://www.geocities.com/Paris/5701/mandolin/mando7.htm

chuck naill

Dale Ludewig
Feb-04-2009, 7:45am
IMHO, tone vs. resonant frequency of the body are two completely separate issues. It's been discussed many times. Changing sound hole size to change resonant body frequency has to be pretty huge. I think tonal quality will change faster, but not nearly as the effects of graduations.

Spruce
Feb-04-2009, 11:15am
Don't buy a name. Buy a sound.

+1...

And spelling the name correctly makes future searches more fruitful...

Chuck Naill
Feb-04-2009, 11:25am
And spelling the name correctly makes future searches more fruitful...

If we are going to be correct, its Red spruce, not Adirondack.;)

chuck naill/knoxville

Trey Young
Feb-04-2009, 11:38am
(Picea rubens);)

sunburst
Feb-04-2009, 11:41am
If we are going to be correct, its Red spruce, not Adirondack.;)

chuck naill/knoxville

It's red spruce. No capital needed. (or is that capatile...or catipult...or...)

D.E.Williams
Feb-04-2009, 11:45am
Hey, if it's from the Adirondacks, then it most certainly is Adirondack Spruce.
:)

Or should we say, Adirondack Red Spruce? As compared to Maine Red Spruce, or Appalachian Red Spruce, or Mario Proulx Canadian Red Spruce....
:mandosmiley:

Paul Hostetter
Feb-04-2009, 12:41pm
And spelling the name correctly makes future searches more fruitful...

+1.

http://www.lutherie.net/georg.engelmann.jpg


If we are going to be correct, its Red [er, red] spruce, not Adirondack.

Common names are only semi-correct in the first place, I wouldn't obsess over it. Picea rubens (literally "red spruce," also known as yellow spruce, West Virginia spruce, eastern spruce, and he-balsam) is a species of spruce native to eastern North America. Specifically, its habitat ranges from eastern Quebec to Nova Scotia, and from New England south in the Adirondack Mountains and Appalachians to western North Carolina.

Unless you're considering Gifford Pinchot's 1898 tract on the "Adirondack Spruce" (which he clearly identifies as red spruce, AKA Picea rubens), it seems the term Adirondack spruce is used exclusively by the lutherie community, and by no one else. P. rubens is the spruce of the Adirondacks, so it seems that common name is as appropriate as a non-scientific name can be. Without exception it's applied to that one species in the trade.

And only Stan Jay ever spelled it Adirondak! What a rascal!

Chuck Naill
Feb-04-2009, 1:40pm
Hey, if it's from the Adirondacks, then it most certainly is Adirondack Spruce.


There is white, black, and red spruce in that range, which are you referring to? :)

Around here we get our Red spruce from the Smoky Mountains and West Virginia in the Appalachian range.

Spruce, I capitalize proper names/nouns but not Latin designations as a tradition.

chuck

Paul Hostetter
Feb-04-2009, 1:58pm
Picea glauca in the Adirondacks? Did you plant some there? It's pretty rare, being that's about the southernmost it range might extend. Picea mariana lives there, but who really harvests it? Not a contender either. P. rubens is (or was, anyway) the dominant spruce of the Adirondacks.

Chuck Naill
Feb-04-2009, 2:01pm
Picea glauca in the Adirondacks? Did you plant some there? Picea mariana lives there, but who really harvests it? Not a contender. P. rubens is (or was, anyway) the dominant spruce of the Adirondacks.

Is this new information for you?

chuck naill/Tennessee

D.E.Williams
Feb-04-2009, 3:10pm
There is white, black, and red spruce in that range, which are you referring to? :)


All of it !

:))

I just realized I have a family camp up there somewhere (Uncle's). I may have to take a trip up and see if there's a big ol' tree that needs to be cut down.;)

F-2 Dave
Feb-04-2009, 3:15pm
I'm hoping to trade in a banjo for the better part of a mandolin. The closest dealer is Morgan Music, so my Adirondack/Englemann/Red Spruce/Picea Glauca will have to come from Lebanon. (maybe Cedar?)

Do you guys always go at it like this?

buddyellis
Feb-04-2009, 3:55pm
Is this new information for you?

chuck naill/Tennessee

I would very much doubt it. Paul has likely 'forgotten' more about the various spruces than most of us ever learned.

Chuck Naill
Feb-04-2009, 4:18pm
I would very much doubt it. Paul has likely 'forgotten' more about the various spruces than most of us ever learned.

First off, I meant no disrespect to the gentleman, but his reply was of a sarcastic nature IMHO, asking if I had planted a species of spruce. I have read and heard from other experts that the Adirondacks do indeed have more than one species of spruce. Therefore, its odd to hear a luthier defend the use of a mountain range to refer to a species of spruce.

We have Red spruce experts in Tennessee, Buddy. The late Ted Davis and his partner John Arnold resurrected the access of Red spruce for many builders including Collins and Martin over the past 20 years from their sourcing of trees from West Virginia and the Great Smoky Mountains through one in a life time opportunities. There two men and particularly John were/are a very close and dear friend who has been my teacher and luthier since the mid 80's. Therefore, when someone refers to Red spuce according to the mountain range it seems odd. In other words, we do not refer to the spruce from The Smokys as Smoky Mountain spruce, but Smoky Mountain Red spruce or West Virginia Red spruce or Cumberland Plateau Hard Rock Maple.

chuck naill

Paul Hostetter
Feb-04-2009, 5:03pm
its odd to hear a luthier defend the use of a mountain range to refer to a species of spruce.
Chuck, you are hanging onto a very dim point for dear life. Why? Google "Adirondack spruce" and you will get thousands of hits and virtually every single one refers to guitars or mandolins. And every single one of those also refers to exactly one species of spruce, Picea rubens, never in reference to other species of spruce.

"Adirondack spruce" is a common name, and it's commonly used by many thousands of people (far more, I'm sure, than ever used the term he-balsam) in a very specific way. Martin, for example, has always called red spruce Adirondack spruce. There's no "correct" common name, there are only correct scientific names. (In which, by the way, the genus is capitalized and the species is lower case.) Why are you right and everyone else is wrong?

Chuck Naill
Feb-04-2009, 5:53pm
Chuck, you are hanging onto a very dim point for dear life. Why? Google "Adirondack spruce" and you will get thousands of hits and virtually every single one refers to guitars or mandolins. And every single one of those also refers to exactly one species of spruce, Picea rubens, never in reference to other species of spruce.

"Adirondack spruce" is a common name, and it's commonly used by many thousands of people (far more, I'm sure, than ever used the term he-balsam) in a very specific way. Martin, for example, has always called red spruce Adirondack spruce. There's no "correct" common name, there are only correct scientific names. (In which, by the way, the genus is capitalized and the species is lower case.) Why are you right and everyone else is wrong?

Paul,

As a thinking man, I know the difference between being popular and being correct. I do not use Google as a proof source.There is no such thing as Adirondack spruce unless you are referring to the various species that grow in that region. If you look up picea rubens you will find that it is a reference to Red/red spruce. I used capitals as a matter of habit because it is a specific genre of spruce and as such a proper noun.

Red spruce grows here in the Southern Appalachians (not a part of the Adirondack range) and else where at about 4500 feet as seen in this photo of me in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park standing in groves of red/Red spruce.


http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i168/twelvefret/IMGP0112.jpg
http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i168/twelvefret/IMGP0118.jpg

The next photo is of the late Ted Davis measuring a 450 plus year old red/Red spruce brought down in 1995 by Hurrcaine Opal and miraculously obtained from Blaylock Construction by John Arnold.

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i168/twelvefret/Smokies1995C.jpg

Adirondack spruce is a marketing term, but I would not say that it is common in the since that academics would recognize it as a suitable synonym or reference for the common Latin term picea rubens

If you and others are obliged to use the term Adirondack I will know what you mean, but in the context of this thread, I was having some fun with Spruce. I was not intending to start a term war. :grin:

chuck naill/knoxville, tennessee

Philphool
Feb-04-2009, 5:57pm
...
Do you guys always go at it like this?

Oh yeah! Always in good fun! (mostly :grin:)

grandmainger
Feb-04-2009, 6:33pm
http://grandmainger.com/avatars/smileys/scared.gif Here comes the nit-picking formatting police:

'Red spruce' can only be used when [red] is the first word of a sentence. Any other use of 'red spruce' should be all lower case.

'Picea rubens' should never be written any other way. Details are as follows:
- Genus name: Picea, in italics with a capital letter
- Specific descriptor (epithet): rubens, in italics without capital letter
http://grandmainger.com/avatars/smileys/blahblah.gif

(Nit-picking) Germain

Rick Turner
Feb-04-2009, 7:19pm
And in kanji?

Dale Ludewig
Feb-04-2009, 7:38pm
Gads. Can't we quit now? I bought "red spruce" from Ted. I buy it from Old Standard. Maybe even have bought it from Spruce. Don't know for sure, but I think so. But it really doesn't matter in the end. Whether or not it grew in a specific area matters to me less than the quality of the wood. Sorry Rick, I don't know how to spell it in kanji. :)

F-2 Dave
Feb-04-2009, 7:47pm
OK. Paul, you should say something nice to Chuck. Chuck you should say something nice to Paul. I'll just order my mandolin with the Masonite top that I wanted in the first place.

grandmainger
Feb-04-2009, 8:05pm
And in kanji?

LOL :)) Attack of the geeks!

There is no kanji for 'spruce' as it is a word that came too late to East Asia. It's written in katakana: トウヒ (to-u-hi). The Japanese sometimes use kanji to write this トウヒ, but that is ususally when referring to Picea jezoensis (the jezo spruce, エゾ松), in which case トウヒ is written 唐檜.
There is a kanji for the whole pine family: 松 (matsu、the same kanji that is used for Matsu####a, now Panasonic).

Germain

PS: That's M a t s u s h i t a, without the censor bot :)

Chuck Naill
Feb-04-2009, 8:12pm
Whether or not it grew in a specific area matters to me less than the quality of the wood.

But it does matter. The Smoky Red tend to be mellow and the W. Virginia harder and louder.

Below is a photo of my J.W. Green fiddle using the 1995 Opal Smokys Red spruce. This wood provides a very mellow tone

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i168/twelvefret/IMG_0669.jpg

Below is my RedHorse Horner using the first Smoky Red Ted sourced in 1985. This wood is full bodied and balanced.


http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i168/twelvefret/IMG_1018.jpg
The 1990 log Ted and John sourced from W. Virginia is the hardest Ted said he ever got. John made a White oak 12 fret that is unbelieveable in tone and projection.
http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i168/twelvefret/IMG_0957.jpg

The next two are from the 1990 W. Virgina log and the same as the Oak 12 fret. The tonal characteristics and consistancy of this log is apparent is every build I have hear and played.

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i168/twelvefret/IMG_0929.jpg
http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i168/twelvefret/IMG_0589-1.jpg


Chuck you should say something nice to Paul

Paul,

I enjoyed visiting your web site. How does not wood topped banjo sound?

chuck naill

chuck

Dale Ludewig
Feb-04-2009, 8:24pm
Chuck, that is beautiful wood. My point was that I don't care where it came from. That it came from where it did is wonderful. It's lovely and I'll bet it's killer on sound. I'm not trying to be cranky. I'm only saying that good wood is good wood, no matter where it comes from. I wonder if we've got some fine stuff up here in the Northern Illinois area? Too cold to go look right now. :)

Oh, by the way: That is some tight grained spruce!

buddyellis
Feb-04-2009, 8:32pm
Adirondack spruce (http://www.lmii.com/carttwo/thirdproducts.asp?CategoryName=++Tops+-+Tonewood&NameProdHeader=Adirondack+(Red)+Spruce)

Adirondack spruce (http://www.pantheonguitars.com/adirondack.htm)

Adirondack spruce (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9B07EFDA123EE333A25756C0A9629C94 679ED7CF)

Adirondack spruce (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonewood#Topwoods_.28soundboard.29)

"Adirondak spruce" (http://www.martinguitar.com/guitars/features/tonewood.html)

Whether we like it or not, the term Adirondack spruce is a co-term for picea rubens There may not be much red spruce produced in the Adirondack region of the Apps, but it is an almost universally recognized term for picea rubens. Trying to argue otherwise is almost like trying to argue that black is white. Arguing that universally 'blue ridge' red spruce is 'warmer' than 'west virginia' red spruce is equally absurd. You simply cannot make those sorts of universal generalizations about any sort of wood -- there are too many variables. What altitude did it grow at? How dense is it? etc. etc etc.

P.S. it's generally not good form to come on a form and start jacking up longstanding, knowledgeable folk. And I'll leave this discussion now.

Chuck Naill
Feb-04-2009, 8:41pm
Oh, by the way: That is some tight grained spruce!

I hear what you are saying about good wood being good wood Dale. I have visited your site and you sure know how to put good wood to good use, sir (should I have capitalized the "s" in sir?:)))

I showed this before, but it bears re-showing. Below is a photo of a cross section from the 1995 log. John counted over 400 rings from the small end of the log. In some areas the GPI is 50 plus

Here is the photo and John's comments.

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i168/twelvefret/Smokies_SpruceHistory.jpg

John's comments:

"This is a section from the small end of the smaller log, where I counted 407 rings. That tree was already 14 feet tall in the year 1588. The dates I have highlighted are 1588 (at the center), 1620, 1688 (100 years old), 1776, 1788 (200 years old), 1865, and 1888 (300 years old).

Below are photos from Charles J. Horner's shop. He is joining a the top sections for an F5 mandolin using the material from the 1995 Opal Red spruce.

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i168/twelvefret/IMG_1349.jpg
http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i168/twelvefret/IMG_1360.jpg

chuck naill/Knoxville, Tennessee

Rob Grant
Feb-04-2009, 8:54pm
Now here's something that really fascinates me. Anybody know which side of the ecosystem this stuff grows on?<G>

man dough nollij
Feb-04-2009, 9:18pm
OK. Paul, you should say something nice to Chuck. Chuck you should say something nice to Paul. I'll just order my mandolin with the Masonite top that I wanted in the first place.


Dave,

Your hair looks particularly nice tonight. :whistling:

Chuck Naill
Feb-04-2009, 9:24pm
P.S. it's generally not good form to come on a form and start jacking up longstanding, knowledgeable folk. And I'll leave this discussion now.

I agree and I did not take anything you said personally.

Since you are from Silva, do you know Zane Fairchild in Maggie Valley? John made him a dreadnought out of that 1995 Smokys Red spruce. Here are the photos.

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i168/twelvefret/Zane02.jpg
http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i168/twelvefret/Zane09-1.jpg
http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i168/twelvefret/Zane3-1.jpg

chuck naill/knoxville

buddyellis
Feb-04-2009, 9:49pm
There's a guy around here, Chuck Norris (no not that one) that has an Arnold guitar with 'adi' (red spruce) top and thats a fine instrument.

Dale Ludewig
Feb-04-2009, 9:58pm
Chuck,
that is truly some amazing stuff. Now I'm not so sure about what Mix is doing (just kidding- it's also quite amazing, to my mind.)
It's quite great to be alive to be even to disagree or comment on such things. I'd rather be here thinking and commenting and building, which I should be doing right now except that it's too late for a geezer, than anywhere else.
This is great stuff.

Dale Ludewig
Feb-04-2009, 10:08pm
Oh my,
Chuck,
you should never ever capitalize "sir" or even use such a term for me. I'm just doing what I can. As I've said before, if you ever notice that I call myself an "artist", drive right over here and smack me. If I ever consider myself as such, I'm in trouble.

Chuck Naill
Feb-04-2009, 10:27pm
There's a guy around here, Chuck Norris (no not that one) that has an Arnold guitar with 'adi' (red spruce) top and thats a fine instrument.

Buddy,

John and I are getting together tomorrow, I will ask him about Chuck's guitar. I have a good banjo building friend, Noel Booth, near Balsam. Do you know him?

You should drive over to Newport sometimes and pay John a visit.


It's quite great to be alive to be even to disagree or comment on such things. I'd rather be here thinking and commenting and building, which I should be doing right now except that it's too late for a geezer, than anywhere else.
This is great stuff.

I agree totally, Mr Ludewig!

I am throughly eat up with Red/red spruce and my local builder friends like John and Charles Horner.

Mr Horner is simply amazing. Below is a cello he made from that 1990 W. Virginia tree. He made everything on this cello except the strings including boxwood pegs and tailpiece. The maple is from the Cumberland Plateau, but we do not call it Cumberland Plateau Maple or cumberlous platamus saccharum.:)

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i168/twelvefret/IMG_1446.jpg
http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i168/twelvefret/IMG_1430.jpg
http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i168/twelvefret/IMG_1428.jpg

chuck naill

Dale Ludewig
Feb-04-2009, 10:36pm
You can call it what you wish. It's a beautiful piece of work. We should all strive for such. I'll bet it sounds pretty good. :)

F-2 Dave
Feb-04-2009, 10:51pm
Dave,

Your hair looks particularly nice tonight. :whistling:

This old rats nest? Aw, shucks. Thanks Man Dough. Fine looking animal in your avatar.

sunburst
Feb-05-2009, 11:13am
While there's a pretty good chance that I know as much about red spruce as anyone on this board, and I have what is probably a lifetime supply (harvested with Ted davis in West Va. in 1989 and 1990), I have no Adirondack spruce. I don't care if it's become universally accepted, it will alway be red spruce to me, and I'll continue to "correct" anyone I'm talking to who refers to it by the Adirondack trade name. That's what that is; a "trade name", not a common name.

Chuck Naill
Feb-05-2009, 11:37am
(harvested with Ted davis in West Va. in 1989 and 1990)

John,

Ted told me before he died that the 1990 log was the hardest he had ever sourced. What has been your experiance?

John Arnold mentioned your name in relation to red/Red spruce last time we talked, BTW.

Best Regards,

chuck naill/knoxville

Dfyngravity
Feb-05-2009, 12:24pm
I have not background in instrument making but I soon hope to start building. I do however own a landscapes design and installation company. Though I do not have a degree in Arboriculture, I have taken courses in it and I am taking another one right now. So I do have a good knowledge in trees, but I am not a degree bearing expert.

Picea rubens, Red Spruce is found in the mountains from North Carolina to Nova Scotia. No matter where it is found, the mountains of North Carolina or the Adirondack mountains it is still the same tree, Picea rubens, Red Spruce. Now that being said, some instrument makers do use the common name Adirondack Red Spruce, and hopefully they refer to it in this way because the tree was cut from the Adirondack mountains, and not because they think this is its common name. It doesn't mean that a Red Spruce cut from the Adirondack mountains is any better than a Red Spruce cut from anywhere else, they are all the same tree.


Picea engelmannii, Engelmann Spruce, is found in British Columbia and Alberta to Oregon, Arizona, and New Mexico.

Anyways, I think the topic of this thread was about which one to use. With Collins mandolins, you probably need to play each one to decide which is better for you. Though each species have different tonal qualities, it is really left up to the person carving the wood. I do not know if they change the way they carve the Engelmann versus the Red Spruce, so it is hard to say. Typically speaking Red Spruce is going to give you a bright, focused, crisp tone and Engelmann is going to give you a rich, mellow tone with more overtones and a nice warm bass to it.

So I would say play them or go to www.gregboyd.com and listen to them. There are some nice sound clips of Collins with both Engelmann tops and Red Spruce tops. http://gregboyd.com/instruments.html?family=Mandolins&maker=Collings

sunburst
Feb-05-2009, 12:30pm
We cut two trees in 1989 and two in 1990, actually, 3 in 1990, but one had so much wind in it that a local logger bought it and we cut another.
I've had the wood from all four trees since, it's been moved from place to place, and has gotten mixed up. Some of the wood is pretty good and some is excellent and most is in between, but none stands out from the rest as harder. I'd have to say that I don't know which tree from 1990 Ted would have been referring to as being the hardest he ever had because all the wood I have is relatively similar, other than appearance.

Michael Cameron
Feb-05-2009, 2:23pm
John,
Ted told me before he died that the 1990 log was the hardest he had ever sourced. What has been your experiance?
John Arnold mentioned your name in relation to red/Red spruce last time we talked, BTW.
Best Regards,
chuck naill/knoxville

Hey Chuck,my very best pickin buddy,Garland Hurt, has/had several guitars made by Mr. Arnold. Garland is an amazing guitar picker;and,does the same kinda sweet pickin' on mandolin.

I hope to get down to Macon to see him today. I feel like I need to pay him tutor's fee every time we pick together. He's taught me a bunch.

Just for the sake of NOT hijacking the thread,I can't tell red,Englmann,Sitka,or he-balsa from she-balsa. Dendrology is not one of my stronger suits.

I enjoy all the spirited intercourse! :grin:

Chuck Naill
Feb-05-2009, 4:21pm
Hey Chuck,my very best pickin buddy,Garland Hurt, has/had several guitars made by Mr. Arnold. Garland is an amazing guitar picker;and,does the same kinda sweet pickin' on mandolin.

Garland and I have picked together. We both have high regards for Norman Blake's style, music, and breath or instruments that he can play. Thank you for reminding me of Mr Hurt, the last time I saw him was the 80's.

chuck naill/knoxville

bryce
Feb-05-2009, 8:29pm
I buy (adirondack spruce) from old standard. Thats what they sold it as. I assumed (Oh No) that it came from the adirondack range.
I have always been told that all adirondack spruce is red spruce, but not all red spruce is adirondack. I therefore thought adirondack spruce was red spruce that came from the adirondacks.
I guess I'll call Old Standard to see if my tops came from the adirondacks.
This is making my brain tired.

David

Chuck Naill
Feb-05-2009, 9:27pm
I buy (adirondack spruce) from old standard. Thats what they sold it as. I assumed (Oh No) that it came from the adirondack range.

Did you really or are you pulling our legs, David.


I have always been told that all adirondack spruce is red spruce, but not all red spruce is adirondack. I therefore thought adirondack spruce was red spruce that came from the adirondacks.

Well now you know the truth. There is not such thing as Adirondack spruce and besides, its easier for me to spell red/Red. :redface:

Dfyngravity
Feb-05-2009, 9:48pm
I don't know, maybe someone here knows, but are there more Red Spruces being harvested from the Adirondack mountains than any other place? I would assume if a supplier says it is Adirondack Red Spruce that they simply mean that the piece of Red Spruce came from the Adirondack mountains.

In essence though, Red Spruce is Red Spruce.....you just want to make sure it is a good piece of wood.

bryce
Feb-05-2009, 10:11pm
Old Standaed lists it as adirondack spruce on thier site. Call it what you like, it is very good wood. David

Dfyngravity
Feb-06-2009, 8:16am
I find this http://www.mythicguitar.com/tonewoods.html to be an interesting read.

It seems to me that people like to put a regional tag in front of Picea rubens "Red Spruce" because of previous "Golden Ages" of guitar or instrument making. Yet there wasn't necessarily any direct labeling saying where the Red Spruce was in fact coming from, just simply that it was Red Spruce.

Who knows, maybe someone was like hey, I have this Red Spruce from the Adirondacks and it seems to be a good wood.....lets use it on the guitar. The guitar turned out so good that the piece of Red Spruce from the Adirondacks became legendary. :mandosmiley:

Chuck Naill
Feb-06-2009, 8:28am
Who knows, maybe someone was like hey, I have this Red Spruce from the Adirondacks and it seems to be a good wood.....lets use it on the guitar. The guitar turned out so good that the piece of Red Spruce from the Adirondacks became legendary.

Since Martin was originally in New York, that make sense to me.

I noticed on a map that Nova Scotia has the largest stand of Red spruce. It would be interesting to know how much Red spruce was sourced from outside the Adirondack range.

All of this discussion make me wonder if those Adirondack chairs that L.L Bean sells are really from somewhere else.:grin:

buddyellis
Feb-06-2009, 8:32am
Pretty much, unless you come across an old growth, very high altitude tree somewhere, or find a stack of 100 year old beam laying around, sourcing red spruce with a 30gpi count is for all intents and purposes impossible these days -- the wood just doesn't exist on the open market that much, especially in guitar widths. That's not to say there aren't people who don't have it, but generally, the reality is that, like Brazilian rosewood, that wood passed into history back many years ago, much of it, sadly, turned into paper pulp (or Chanel #5 perfume, in the case of brazilian).

Chuck Naill
Feb-06-2009, 8:39am
Pretty much, unless you come across an old growth, very high altitude tree somewhere, or find a stack of 100 year old beam laying around, sourcing red spruce with a 30gpi count is for all intents and purposes impossible these days -

Actually, Buddy, I remember doing a core sampling with John Arnold 20 years ago near Cataloochie with some pretty tight grain There is also some very wide grow near Maggie. Availability of tight has a lot to doi with restrictions and topography.

Now that some long time and knowledgeable members have responded, can you appreciate that I was not "jacking" anyone around, Buddy?

buddyellis
Feb-06-2009, 8:41am
Yea, go to Cataloochee and cut some of those trees. See you in 30 years after you get out of the federal pen ;-) I know very well there are trees that exist. There are just very, very few that exist out side of the park in this area. There are quite a few trees up on the BRP (esp in the Balsam Mountain Campground area) that I'd love to get a hold of, they get windblown all the time up there, they saw them up and toss them in the ravine. And no, you were jacking people up. And I'll leave it at that.

Chuck Naill
Feb-06-2009, 9:11am
Yea, go to Cataloochee and cut some of those trees. See you in 30 years after you get out of the federal pen ;-) I know very well there are trees that exist. There are just very, very few that exist out side of the park in this area. There are quite a few trees up on the BRP (esp in the Balsam Mountain Campground area) that I'd love to get a hold of, they get windblown all the time up there, they saw them up and toss them in the ravine. And no, you were jacking people up. And I'll leave it at that.

Buddy,

I said "near" Cataoochee.

oldwave maker
Feb-06-2009, 11:21am
FWIW, top wood is compression grain red harvested by Arnold in 99, bottom is compression grain engelmann harvested by Musser in 98

JEStanek
Feb-06-2009, 11:25am
Gently, please gentlemen. This is an interesting conversation.

Jamie

D.E.Williams
Feb-06-2009, 12:01pm
It doesn't really matter what we call it, where we got it, or from where it came, 'cuz in a few years, CITES will make it illegal to cut, buy, and use...or transport from state to state.

;)

Don

F-2 Dave
Feb-06-2009, 4:23pm
When tone woods are outlawed, only outlaws will use tone woods.

John Arnold
Feb-07-2009, 1:54am
Hello everybody!
This is my first post on MC, and I hope it won't be the last. Chuck asked me to contribute to this thread, and it has been an interesting read.
Ted Davis asked me to join him in cutting red spruce in October 1990, after John Hamlett's trips with Ted in the summers of 1989 and 1990. Since then, Ted and I cut over 7000 guitar tops, and over 3000 mandolin/violin tops. We have sold red spruce to most of the major manufacturers, as well as a host of independent luthiers. I never imagined that I would be involved in cutting so much, and I will be eternally grateful to Ted for my involvement in the red spruce revival.
I prefer the name red spruce, for these reasons:
1) It is the name of the tree, literally translated from Picea rubens, just as Engelmann (Picea engelmanii), and Sitka (Picea sitchensis) are. We don't call Sitka 'Pacific coast spruce' or Engelmann 'Rocky Mountain spruce', do we?
2) Calling it 'Adirondack' implies that there is some superiority to the red spruce from that area, which I have not found to be true.
3) 'Adirondack spruce' is not specific, since white spruce and black spruce also grow there. To be fair, most of the 'Adirondack' spruce that is suitable for guitars is red spruce.

Picea glauca in the Adirondacks? Did you plant some there? It's pretty rare, being that's about the southernmost it range might extend.
The range maps for white spruce extend as far south as Pennsylvania. I saw white spruce growing in the Delaware Water Gap area of NE PA when I visited there. I have only been through the Adirondacks one time, and I didn't see any white spruce, but it is within the boundaries of the range maps. I also saw very few red spruce (and no black spruce) in the Adirondacks that were large enough for guitars. That is not surprising, since the area has been extensively logged numerous times. BTW, the same is true in West Virginia. The big trees are few and far between.

Martin, for example, has always called red spruce Adirondack spruce.
No, CFM III called it red spruce. This is a copy of the interview of him, conducted by Eric Schoenberg and Dana Bourgeois.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v18/arnoldgtr/WhichSpruceisThat-1.jpg

Today, Martin calls it Adirondack red spruce in most of their literature.

Whether or not it grew in a specific area matters to me less than the quality of the wood.
Exactly what Mr. Martin said.

I'm only saying that good wood is good wood, no matter where it comes from. I wonder if we've got some fine stuff up here in the Northern Illinois area? Too cold to go look right now.
That is outside the range of red spruce.

Arguing that universally 'blue ridge' red spruce is 'warmer' than 'west virginia' red spruce is equally absurd. You simply cannot make those sorts of universal generalizations about any sort of wood -- there are too many variables. What altitude did it grow at? How dense is it? etc. etc etc.
Altitude is probably not a factor because red spruce grows in such a narrow climate range. In the Smokies, red spruce only grows between 4500 and 6000 feet. The tightest-grained red spruce I have cut (up to 65 grains per inch) came from the 'warmest' end of that altitude range in the Smokies....4700 feet. It also was within 15 miles of the southern end of the red spruce range.
The most important factor affecting the growth rate is the availability of light. Next is soil quality. Those trees in the Smokies were in an old forest that was undisturbed for over 400 years, and they were growing on very thin soil on top of solid rock. When the remains of Hurricane Opal came through in October 1995, the combination of wind and rain felled those trees in a landslide. The soil was additionally weakened by the building of US 441 through the park.
I have several pieces of the Smokies spruce, from 1984, 1985, and 1995. In each case, it is a softer wood than similar old growth red spruce from West Virginia.

There's a guy around here, Chuck Norris (no not that one) that has an Arnold guitar with 'adi' (red spruce) top and that's a fine instrument.
The Chuck Norris guitar is one of the first dreads I built with the Smokies red spruce.

John Hamlett wrote:

We cut two trees in 1989 and two in 1990, actually, 3 in 1990, but one had so much wind in it that a local logger bought it and we cut another.
I've had the wood from all four trees since, it's been moved from place to place, and has gotten mixed up. Some of the wood is pretty good and some is excellent and most is in between, but none stands out from the rest as harder. I'd have to say that I don't know which tree from 1990 Ted would have been referring to as being the hardest he ever had because all the wood I have is relatively similar, other than appearance.
Ted did tell me about those two trips, and they were true adventures. In 1989, the butt cut block of the larger tree was rolled down a steep mountainside, hurdled the road, and continued on down the mountain. Ted had to rent a wrecker truck in order to retrieve it. Later on, the forest ranger said that they had made a mistake, allowing Ted to cut in an area that was protected. In the summer of 1998, Ted and I returned to an area nearby, where the Forest Service said they may allow cutting in the future. We marked several trees, hoping to get one a year or two later. A downburst storm in March 1999 felled some of those same trees, and we were able to cut some with a firewood permit. Talk about divine intervention!
In the summer of 1990 with John Hamlett, Ted hired local help to do the logging in an area further south, still in the WV National Forest. Pat Burgess was an interesting character, 67 years old, with teenage sons. He had lost a leg below the knee when he was 11 years old, but that didn't slow him down. He barely had a limp with his artificial leg, and could traverse the steep terrain as fast as anyone. They had a draft horse to pull the logs out. Pat told me he had logged violin wood in the 1940's to be shipped to Germany, cutting the logs 11 feet long. I asked him why 11 feet, and he said it was so they wouldn't cut it into stud lumber at the sawmill. I can just imagine CFM III and his dad visiting all these sawmills, picking from their 'violin logs'.
Though the summer trips to WV were good for Ted and John Hamlett, they pale in comparison to the October 1990 trip. The ranger had some big trees in mind, and showed them to Ted before he left for home. Ted, looking down from the top of the mountain, said, "They don't look that big". What he didn't realize was that he was only seeing the tops of the trees, above the other hardwoods like cherry and maple. When they walked down to the trees, it was obviously a strip of old growth timber...everything below (on private land) had been clear cut, while above it was a strip mine. The first red spruce tree they encountered was almost 34" in diameter at breast height, and easily over 100 feet tall. When Ted asked me to go with him that October, he excitedly showed me core samples the ranger had taken from those trees, showing the extremely tight grain. It turned out that the two trees we cut that fall were almost 400 years old, some of the oldest red spruce in West Virginia.
Ted's experience with cutting live spruce in the summer led both of us to conclude that fall and winter are much better times for logging. 'Summer logs' tend to grow blue stain in the sapwood, ruining the cosmetics of the most valuable part of the tree...the outside just under the bark. We learned that the red spruce goes dormant in the latter half of September, and stays dormant until late March. Trees cut in that 'window' are much less susceptible to blue stains, and cutting in October gives the most time to resaw the wood and get it dry before the summer heat causes problems. So, from that day on, we tried to always cut in October.
The other 'problem' that John alluded to was spiral growth. They wasted the cutting of one tree, since it had too much twist to be usable for instruments. I decided that since we had access to an increment borer (from the ranger), that I would see if the spiral could be detected in the core sample. It turns out that spiral is visible in the core sample, if you know what to look for. I later bought my own borer, and learned how to sort out this problem and others, simply by taking samples. I am proud to say that I avoided spiral growth almost entirely, with the exception of one tree from Maine. In that case, I had only taken one core sample, and it was from the only part of the tree that was not spiralled. We still used the wood, though the tops did have some runout.
We met Pat Burgess and his sons that October in 1990, on the top of the mountain. We proceeded down the steep hillside, finding the trees that Ted had seen that summer. Pat turned to Ted and said "You guys must be from Virginia". "Why?", Ted asked. "Because only Virginia boys log uphill." The terrain was too steep for Pat's horse, so we would have to figure out another way. We ended up using the boy's four-wheeler on private land, using a skidder road that had been built when the private land was logged in the 1960's. It was miserable work, primarily because of the incessant rain and cold.
By the way, I learned later that the private land, which was completely enclosed by National Forest, was owned by Mildred Natwick, an actress who had John Wayne and Alfred Hitchcock in her movie credits.
(To be continued)

John Arnold
Feb-07-2009, 2:03am
(Continued)

I buy (adirondack spruce) from old standard.
I know it is not all from the Adirondacks, because there is a famous photo of John Griffin (Old Standard) and Dana Bourgeois, standing next to a large red spruce log from Maine.

are there more Red Spruces being harvested from the Adirondack mountains than any other place? I would assume if a supplier says it is Adirondack Red Spruce that they simply mean that the piece of Red Spruce came from the Adirondack mountains.
I doubt it. The Adirondacks have been logged too much and too often. I believe most of the red spruce being cut today for instruments is Canadian, either from Quebec (Bouchet), or from New Brunswick.
I think we have established that 'Adirondack' is a trade name for red spruce, nothing more. If you want to be correct, you can provide the GPS coordinates for where the tree grew, something I can do for the majority of the red spruce I have cut.

Re: NC red spruce:

I know very well there are trees that exist. There are just very, very few that exist out side of the park in this area.
I have found hundreds of guitar-size red spruce on NC private land, adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway on the Maggie side. Most of them are wide-grained, something I was hesitant to pursue, at least until I saw some very wide-grained red spruce on recent Martins. The average grain count on those trees is probably 5-6 per inch. Incidentally, it is very high elevation, above 5500 feet.

in a few years, CITES will make it illegal to cut, buy, and use...or transport from state to state.
I know that is a joke, because CITES has no jurisdiction. The EPA could theoretically declare it endangered and restrict trade, but the red spruce is definitely not endangered. There are plenty of small trees, though pollution has slowed growth in certain areas. What is rare is to find red spruce that are large enough for a two-piece guitar top, since the common logging cycle is 30 years. Ted and I worked with the Forest Service in WV to designate certain areas for 'future tonewood production', extending the cycle to 60 years or more.

John

F-2 Dave
Feb-07-2009, 9:34am
Welcome John. I just got here myself and found it to be an interesting place.

Hans
Feb-07-2009, 10:01am
I've always called mine West Virginia red spruce 'cause that's where Ted said he got it.

Michael Gowell
Feb-07-2009, 10:11am
I love to see experts bicker...

Wonderful photo of that tall spruce next to the walking path. It would make a superb schooner mast, almost a shame to waste it on mandolins.

oldwave maker
Feb-07-2009, 11:02am
John- thanks for the wood stories. I'm finally getting around to using red I got from you at the y2k ASIA convention in Nashville.
John had a few big bearclaw red logs from the north country last time I stopped in at Old Standard:

D.E.Williams
Feb-07-2009, 11:33am
Nice to see you here John...and thanks for the stories. And yes, the CITES remark was a joke. :)

Shelby Eicher
Feb-07-2009, 12:12pm
I have a question. What are the common spruces that violins are crafted from? I haven't noticed violin makers talking about the different spruces like I do the mandolin builders.
Thanks,
Shelby Eicher

buddyellis
Feb-07-2009, 12:29pm
Generally picea abies (that is, Norway, German, Italian, Carpathian, or 'European Spruce' -- they are all the same species with different growing ranges) is the 'usual' violin wood.

Chuck Naill
Feb-07-2009, 1:20pm
I have a question. What are the common spruces that violins are crafted from? I haven't noticed violin makers talking about the different spruces like I do the mandolin builders.
Thanks,
Shelby Eicher


Traditionally European spruce is used and many makers prefer those woods.

Yes, there are exceptional makers using Red, Sitka, and Englemann. Stradivarius used local woods for his builds according to the book by the Hilll brothers http://www.cello.org/heaven/hill/index.htm this tells me that when Charles Horner constructs something he got from Ted Davis or Mr Arnold, he is following in the same foot steps.

Below is a fiddle recently acquired from Mr Horner for a student of Kenny Sears, a member of the Grand Ole Opry. The top looks very much like the 1995 log John accessed.

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i168/twelvefret/IMG_1166.jpg

Below is Kenny evaluating the violin.

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i168/twelvefret/IMG_1301.jpg

buddyellis
Feb-07-2009, 1:33pm
Concur, its more about 'tradition' than anything, just like the mando crowd & red spruce. Again, there's such potential overlap of the characteristics between species, that it really, IMO, says more about the luthier when an instrument turns out good than the particular sort of material. I think most of the the most successful luthiers find a group of material which is similar and predictable to work with, (or a supplier than can supply that predictability) and carve/rinse/repeat until they understand what needs to be done with the particular material and dial in what 'they want' in an instrument. That's probably one of the 'infant steps' to repeatability.

Chuck Naill
Feb-07-2009, 1:43pm
Concur, its more about 'tradition' than anything, just like the mando crowd & red spruce. Again, there's such potential overlap of the characteristics between species, that it really, IMO, says more about the luthier when an instrument turns out good than the particular sort of material. I think most of the the most successful luthiers find a group of material which is similar and predictable to work with, (or a supplier than can supply that predictability) and carve/rinse/repeat until they understand what needs to be done with the particular material and dial in what 'they want' in an instrument. That's probably one of the 'infant steps' to repeatability.

Since I promote the violins of Charles J. Horner, I often ask him about various spruce tone woods. His opinion is that the maple discribes the tone more than the spruce. He also says that if the instrument does not turn our well it is the builder and not the woods fault, perhaps this is something you would agree with.

I asked Mr Sears about why they had chosen the Horner that he did and he said it projected well but the tone was more mellow than one laying on the table made from Euro spruce. This is what I have noticed, that the Euro spruce is more striking regardless of the builder. When you consider what the requirements of solo violinist or orchestral musician is, it makes sense to use a tone wood that come closer to producing those needs.

For recording purposing I used something more mellow and I found that the 1990 and 1995 logs that John and Ted sourced to be more mellow than the 1985 tree, but it may more be the Red maple with the 1985 tree that make the RedHorse bark. :)