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Thread: High Altitude Pine for tops?

  1. #1
    iii mandolin Geoff B's Avatar
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    Default High Altitude Pine for tops?

    Hi All!
    I have not been active here for quite some time and am gonna try to work my way back!
    Has anyone used tight grained pine for instrument tops?
    Recently I came across some downed trees that appear to be some sort of Pine from around 10,000 feet near Fairplay, Colorado. It is straight and tight grained and looks to have some potential. I know it is not bristlecone pine, figure it is most likely lodgepole pine.
    I cut a few logs from low on the trunks and split them up and cut one thin piece to dry quickly. It seems to have a resonant tone when tapped, and seems quite lively (for lack of a better word).
    I'm wondering if anyone has used high altitude pine that, in appearance, seems to behave like spruce?

    Geoff

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: High Altitude Pine for tops?

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff B View Post
    ...I'm wondering if anyone has used high altitude pine...
    I have not.
    Here's what I would do:
    Cut a piece of the "mystery wood" like a guitar top (thin, wide, long) and cut an identical piece of spruce (same thickness, width and length) then weigh the two. I would then set up some way to measure the stiffness... maybe even stiffness with the grain and across the grain.
    If the stiffness to weight ratio comes out to be similar to the spruce, I'd consider it to be potential top wood. If it is significantly heavier, or significantly less stiff, I would consider it less likely to make a good top. If it turns out to be significantly heavier and significantly less stiff, I'd say it's firewood, though perhaps not very good firewood (spoken by someone who has lived among eastern US hardwoods all his life).

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    Registered User fscotte's Avatar
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    Default Re: High Altitude Pine for tops?

    Sounds kinda like douglas fir. Super lively but wow does it splinter.

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    Default Re: High Altitude Pine for tops?

    Geoff- Don Musser dmussergtrs@yahoo.com might know, he harvested a lot of different high altitude woods in the rockies over the years.

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    Registered User colorado_al's Avatar
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    Default Re: High Altitude Pine for tops?

    In Colorado Douglas fir doesn't grow much above 9000-9500 ft. Neither does Ponderosa. Lodgepole will grow up to 11000 ft. Blue spruce can grow up to 11500 ft. You can even get Englemann spruce up to 11000 ft.
    What does the bark look like? How widely spaced are the limbs?
    Are there intact limbs near the bottom of the trunk or mostly clustered on the upper half to third? What do nearby standing trees look like?
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    iii mandolin Geoff B's Avatar
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    Default Re: High Altitude Pine for tops?

    Thanks!
    John, I have something like that test scenario lined up in my mind. I just need to make sure the wood's moisture level has evened out before proceeding. I have strong feelings it's gonna be close, and equally strong feelings that my curiosity isn't gonna be stopped on this... I imagine you know what that's like.
    Fscotte, definitely not splintery/splitty like Douglass fir. I've used D.fir on tops before and it is it's own special thing. Though firs are in this region, this particular wood is definitely not it.
    Bill, thanks, I know I've met Don Musser before, but will get in touch with him!

    Cheers, and still want to hear anyone else's experience!
    Geoff

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    iii mandolin Geoff B's Avatar
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    Default Re: High Altitude Pine for tops?

    Quote Originally Posted by colorado_al View Post
    Douglas fir doesn't grow much above 9000-9500 ft. Neither does Ponderosa. Lodgepole will grow up to 11000 ft. Blue spruce can grow up to 11500 ft. You can even get Englemann spruce up to 11000 ft.
    What does the bark look like? How widely spaced are the limbs?
    Are there intact limbs near the bottom of the trunk or mostly clustered on the upper half to third?
    Yes, I think we were above the firs. Lots of blue spruce and this pine, and a scattering of bristlecone pine, getting more as you go higher. Most of the trees I was looking at were about 18"-20 in diameter, bark is darker (not red/orange like ponderosa) and somewhat flaky. Limbs spaced a few feet apart going up, and the bottom 6-8' of trunk were generally limb free on the larger ones. Where the forest is thicker that span of no limbs is higher, but the trees were only in the 30' tall range, so yeah, mainly on the top half of tree. Mostly straight trunks too. All signs point to lodgepole to me, but if you are in the know I'd like to know! Also, the needles were paired in 2's, which I think is a lodgepole thing.

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    Default Re: High Altitude Pine for tops?

    Maybe you're looking in the wrong state?

    Sorry, can't resist this.


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    Registered User Al Trujillo's Avatar
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    Default Re: High Altitude Pine for tops?

    Your last description makes me think of Lodgepole. Quite a bit of it in that area. Makes great firewood too.

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    Registered User colorado_al's Avatar
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    Default Re: High Altitude Pine for tops?

    Sounds like lodgepole to me too. Probably growing pretty slowly above 10000 ft. There isn't a lot of lodgepole in Park County, mostly occurring in the Northern and Western edges bordering Clear Creek, Summit, and Lake counties.
    Here a map of its prevalence in CO
    https://csfs.colostate.edu/colorado-...odgepole-pine/
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: High Altitude Pine for tops?

    Pine is typically heavier than spruce due to high resin content.
    If it is the case you may consider baking the top... DIY "roasted" or torrefied wood... When I tried it with spruce, resins oozed out from the wood to the surface. You need to dry the wood first and isolate the wood from oxygen presence but that's pretty easy. You only need large enough oven...
    Adrian

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    Default Re: High Altitude Pine for tops?

    I haven't lived out West in a while, but doesn't Lodgepole Pine have a spiral growth pattern? Would that cause trouble using it as an instrument top?

  16. #13
    iii mandolin Geoff B's Avatar
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    Default Re: High Altitude Pine for tops?

    Quote Originally Posted by HoGo View Post
    Pine is typically heavier than spruce due to high resin content.
    If it is the case you may consider baking the top... DIY "roasted" or torrefied wood... When I tried it with spruce, resins oozed out from the wood to the surface. You need to dry the wood first and isolate the wood from oxygen presence but that's pretty easy. You only need large enough oven...
    Good call, I was thinking along those lines for dealing with resins and sap etc.. I had some Englemann spruce and big leaf maple torrefied by a company in the midwest a couple years ago and was impressed how much stuff came out. I imagine pine would be on another level!

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    iii mandolin Geoff B's Avatar
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    Default Re: High Altitude Pine for tops?

    Quote Originally Posted by A 4 View Post
    I haven't lived out West in a while, but doesn't Lodgepole Pine have a spiral growth pattern? Would that cause trouble using it as an instrument top?
    I saw some trees that looked spirally at the base and just left them there. I was able to get 3 that split pretty straight and will resaw nicely without too much runout... I hope...

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    Default Re: High Altitude Pine for tops?

    I read in Frets magazine many years ago that Siminoff built a top out of some kind of pine and he said it sounded real good so maybe you can contact Roger and get his opinion or at least some info that you might be able to use...I am pretty sure it was Roger that wrote the article....

    Willie

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    Default Re: High Altitude Pine for tops?

    Quote Originally Posted by HoGo View Post
    Pine is typically heavier than spruce due to high resin content.
    If it is the case you may consider baking the top... DIY "roasted" or torrefied wood... When I tried it with spruce, resins oozed out from the wood to the surface. You need to dry the wood first and isolate the wood from oxygen presence but that's pretty easy. You only need large enough oven...
    What's an easy way to remove oxygen? Is there such a thing as a heat proof vacuum bag?

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    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: High Altitude Pine for tops?

    First I heated the wood at 110C to get rid of water contents (I weighed it regularly till weight stopped dropping) then I packed it tightly into aluminum foil (thicker for BBQ), folded well and use heatproof aluminum tape to seal the folds.
    I didi some test pieces and liked results of 4hours heating at 180-190C (CELSIUS! not Fahrenheit)
    I split testpieces and processed just one half and the color was just slightly darker than unprocessed wood and was covered with resin spots coming out of wood. The commercial wood is finished by rehumidification, but I left that step to nature. It will absorb as much water as it wants before I finish the mandolin.
    Use electric oven, never gas.
    Adrian

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