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View Full Version : 450 Year Old Red Spruce Charles J. Horner F5



Chuck Naill
Apr-07-2009, 3:46pm
This is a February 2009 Charles J. Horner F5 made with Red spruce from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that was sourced by member and tonewood expert John Arnold in 1995 after Hurricane Opal brought down the tree onto Highway 441 near the Appalachian Trail.

Skip Kelley
Apr-07-2009, 3:51pm
Nice looking mandolin! Really nice figure in the inlay and maple back!

mandomania7923
Apr-07-2009, 4:49pm
sold?

mandozilla
Apr-08-2009, 3:06am
Man Chuck that's beautiful...I wonder what would one of those set a body back! :grin:

:mandosmiley:

Chuck Naill
Apr-08-2009, 5:54am
Man Chuck that's beautiful...I wonder what would one of those set a body back!


Send me a PM.

chuck

Michael Gowell
Apr-08-2009, 7:51am
Wow, 450 years...I didn't know Spruces in the US could get that old. I think with all fully mature trees (100+ yrs.) their topside mass begins to overpower the anchoring root system and they start to go down...yellow birch quickly, sequoia not so quickly...

Chuck Naill
Apr-08-2009, 9:21am
Wow, 450 years...I didn't know Spruces in the US could get that old. I think with all fully mature trees (100+ yrs.) their topside mass begins to overpower the anchoring root system and they start to go down...yellow birch quickly, sequoia not so quickly...


Below is a cross section of the log and the source ( John Arnold) providing written documentation from the "small" end of the log. There are sections where the grain is so dense that they appear as solid to the naked eye. The date at the top is 1588.


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

John's quote:

"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). "

Scott Austin
Apr-08-2009, 3:52pm
That is a nice piece of documentation do you have an idea as to the girth of the tree? or circumference Thanks Chuck.
Scott

Chuck Naill
Apr-08-2009, 4:22pm
That is a nice piece of documentation do you have an idea as to the girth of the tree? or circumference Thanks Chuck.
Scott

This is the late Ted Davis measureing one of the Smoky Reds. I will see if I can find out from John the answer to your question.

Where else can you get a mandolin and know the wood from tree to instrument. The added plus is having Charles Horner be your builder.


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


http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i168/twelvefret/Smokies1995B.jpg
http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i168/twelvefret/Smokies1995A.jpg

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i168/twelvefret/Smokies1997L.jpg
chuck

greg_tsam
Apr-08-2009, 5:53pm
So how does it sound?

I researched it (250-350 years) and was wondering how does it differ from others?

http://cfs.nrcan.gc.ca/subsite/maritimetrees/redspruce

Chuck Naill
Apr-08-2009, 6:27pm
So how does it sound?

I researched it (250-350 years) and was wondering how does it differ from others?


This Red spruce has been used to make violins, mandolins, and guitars. In each build the tone could be characterized as a mellow tone with good sustain and projection.

What makes the wood unique is where it was sourced and how tight the grain is. Most of the wood was sold as guitar tops making available tops for mandolins and violins scarce.

Here are some photos of the sections were the tree grew.

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i168/twelvefret/IMGP0114.jpg
http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i168/twelvefret/IMGP0112.jpg
http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i168/twelvefret/IMGP0118.jpg

chuck

PaulO
Apr-08-2009, 6:55pm
All I have to say is How Cool.

Smokin' Spruce from the Smokies.

Paul

Scott Austin
Apr-09-2009, 7:11am
Where else can you get a mandolin and know the wood from tree to instrument. The added plus is having Charles Horner be your builder.

This is a very personal touch which I find very interesting ,I am thinking of the future mandolin .
Thanks for this post .
Scott

Chuck Naill
Apr-09-2009, 7:30am
This is a very personal touch which I find very interesting ,I am thinking of the future mandolin .
Thanks for this post .
Scott

For me the musical instrument "package" ,if you will ,is more than going to a store and buying something. The wood was a tree that grew somewhere, weathered storms, parasites, disease, and climate changes to become large enough to be used for an instrument.

At some time a logger cut the tree or something like in the case of Hurricaine Opal brought the tree to the ground. Trucks, equipment, chain saws, axes, wedges, paraffin wax, band saws, stacking, etc went into making the even allowing the wood to become available. While there is nothing wrong with ordering your wood over the internet, there is something profound about making something from the tree.

Lastly, the wood must fall into the hands of a builder. What happens or does not happens then will determine if the tree is properly respected for its centuries of growth.

In the case of this red spruce, the reason that it was not sourced before the park was established was that it was inaccessible. Much of the lands that makes up the Great Smoky Mountains were logged by the Little River Company.

When you consider that in 1588, Stradivarius had not been born and the Amati brother were second generation instrument builders, the whole history thing makes playing a mandolin from this wood something special.

I have included a photo of a guitar John Arnold built Zane Fairchild using Smokys red spruce.

chuck

Scott Austin
Apr-09-2009, 7:36am
Chuck ,
I agree with your above post completely,I am a tree hugging carpenter, when building something I think of the materials I am using and their origin and find it gives me a better feel for the finished product as well as a better finished product.
Scott

Scott Austin
Apr-09-2009, 7:36am
by the way that is a very nice looking guitar

Scott Austin
Apr-09-2009, 7:38am
One more thing a sense of history makes for an enlightened life. In my humble opinion.

mandopete
Apr-09-2009, 8:03am
All I can say is, wow! Those are some fantastic photos and some wonderful history. It would be great to have this sort of "provenance" for any musical instrument.

Question - in the picture of Ted Davis above with the tree stump and tape measure I see sections marked 1, 2, 3 and 4. Is this what is meant by the term "quarter sawn" ?

Scott Austin
Apr-09-2009, 8:09am
think of the log end as a pie and cut into quarters,better and stronger cross grain in the wood
Scott

Michael Gowell
Apr-09-2009, 8:09am
Chuck - I was not for a moment doubting the 450-year age of the Spruce, simply marveling at the age that tree achieved. I am delighted, however, that such a rich thread ensued.

Chuck Naill
Apr-09-2009, 8:31am
Chuck - I was not for a moment doubting the 450-year age of the Spruce, simply marveling at the age that tree achieved. I am delighted, however, that such a rich thread ensued.

Not to worry, I just like to provide good documentation. I got that from hanging around John Arnold for the past 25 years he being an ME.


Question - in the picture of Ted Davis above with the tree stump and tape measure I see sections marked 1, 2, 3 and 4. Is this what is meant by the term "quarter sawn" ?

Yes, then the individual quarters are then "sliced" up for guitar tops. At the end of that process and wedge is left. That wedge is what mandolins and violins are carved from.

When you "slice" the wood each adjacent piece becomes the book match for the first slice you cut. This slicing is performed with a large band saw called a re-saw. Any luthier with better or knowledge that what I have described is incorrect, please respond.

chuck:)

Scott Austin
Apr-09-2009, 8:59am
Chuck that is a informative description
Scott

Bill Snyder
Apr-09-2009, 9:53pm
Here is diagram showing quartersawn, flatsawn and riftsawn. Quartersawn tends to be more stable than flatsawn.

Bill Snyder
Apr-09-2009, 10:38pm
Book matched would be cutting a board as shown by the dashed line and openning it up like a book and gluing it as illustrated.
The illustration looks more like a flatsawn board, but it still shows bookmatching.

Scott Austin
Apr-10-2009, 8:11am
more gooder yet.

Hans
Apr-10-2009, 9:03am
Whilst it is a very interesting story, and to have a mandolin built out of a section of a tree that was a seedling in the 1500's is kewl, I have built many mandolins from Ted's spruce, and it is not the age of the tree that is important. Most important is that the spruce/maple/ebony is acclimated to the shop it is built in. Most of the spruce that I have from Ted ranges from being cut in '89 to '98. I've bought some of that '98 wood in '00 and stored it stickered at 45% for a year before using on instruments. It made as good an instrument as the '89 spruce.
Looking at the section out of that tree, looks like at least two tops can come out of a wedge...if your top came out of an outer edge, it would have come from the last hundred years growth of the tree. So you can't really say that the top is 450 years old.
Sorry, but to me the top is 18 years old because that's when it was cut up. None of us builders count 90 grain lines and say this top is 90 years old. ~o)

Capt. E
Apr-10-2009, 9:34am
Maybe my gr-gr-gr-gr-grandfather went by that tree. Fine's Creek near Newport in Cocke County, TN is named for him. Cool thought.

Chuck Naill
Apr-10-2009, 9:54am
Whilst it is a very interesting story, and to have a mandolin built out of a section of a tree that was a seedling in the 1500's is kewl, I have built many mandolins from Ted's spruce, and it is not the age of the tree that is important.

What makes the tree special is where it is from, the excessively tight grain, and the age. As long as you have good material, the rest is up to you.

The best red spruce Ted cut (according to Ted) was in October 1990 when he and John traveled to West Virgina. Charles now has a life time supply of both the October 1995 Smoky and October 1990 W. Virginia.



Maybe my gr-gr-gr-gr-grandfather went by that tree. Fine's Creek near Newport in Cocke County, TN is named for him. Cool thought.

There is an exit on I-40 (exit 15) in North Carolina for Fines Creek. I travel that way sometimes when I am hiking up around Max Patch. CharlesE.

chuck

grandcanyonminstrel
Apr-13-2009, 9:11pm
Charles isn't the only one who now has a nice lifetime supply from those trees of Ted's. He also had another tree that was dated 1989 WV that was an exceptional tree; I've got a bit of that one also. The 1992 tree was also very nice. Even within the individual trees, there is a bit of variation. I'd also suspect that there may be some variation on the dates that are actually the same tree, he just cut them up at different times. It is a LOT of work to buck up an entire tree into sets by hand. I've got five cello sets from the same red spruce tree, all sequentially split from the same round. It is interesting how you can see a distinct difference in the gain density as you rotate around the tree from the northern aspect to the southern.

My suggestion for anyone who likes red spruce is to get a hold of John Arnold and gather up as much of Ted's wood as you can afford. It is not very often that any of us get a chance to gather up that nice of a selection of wood that has been hand split and seasoning in one place for 20 years- maybe a few times in a lifetime does that type of offer come up, if you are diligent.

In my collection of woods, I've got a giant set of sitka wedges that I'd call 450+ years old. They measure about 19" across each wedge, 3" thick at the deepest part, 48" tall, and each side has 450-475 growth rings on it. 'Been seasoning 20 years....regardless of what you call it or how you describe it, it is an impressive board and must have been an amazing tree....

As much as I lust after those giant trees from a luthier's perspective, I'll be the first to admit that my favorite thing to do with one of those old growth giants is to leave it standing and take a nap under it on a sunny summer day...

j.
www.condino.com

grassrootphilosopher
Apr-14-2009, 3:49am
Chuck,

IŽd appreciate sound clips too. Maybe the soundclip may not only incorporate the Horner mando but also the Arnold guitar, maybe played by Zane Fairchild. I wouldnŽt mind that one bit.

Darryl Wolfe
Apr-14-2009, 10:27am
I remember when that late 80's wood was cut while I still lived in Knoxville. Horner did not leave his quaint little shop in Westel very often, but he did make a bee-line to snag up some of that Red that was wide enough for him to build a carved top upright bass. He was ecstatic about it.