Another nice spruce processed for musical instrument woods.
The Terrace area of British Columbia is known for its high quality spruce woods. This is the area where much of the spruce used to build early World War II aircraft came from. It is also known as an area that producers high quality spruce tonewood.
There are three spruce species that grow in this area. They are Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii) and White spruce (Picea glauca). On the eastern slopes of British Columbia's coast mountain range hybridization of these species is common. In the Skeena and Nass River drainages hybridization of the three species occurs most often and it appears that all of the spruce stands in this area (the community of Terrace is built on the banks of the Skeena River), 90 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, are not pure. The spruce in this area is known as Lutz or Roche spruce. What does this mean for tonewood use? Well, the very best of all worlds!! The size, strength and stiffness of Sitka and the texture and lustre of Engelmann/White Spruce. Large straight and clear spruce trees are in high demand. The history of use of spruce from this area has been poor. It's long fibre made it an ideal wood for pulp purposes and beautiful large clear trees were harvested and chipped for that purpose 50 years ago. Today, these trees have come into a proper demand. The unfortunate part of this demand is that quality wood is harder to find and becomes expensive. We all feel that!
There are two.
Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) is a common tree growing in wet areas throughout British Columbia. The wood is highly prized for a great many uses because of its very high resistance to decay, inherent stability and rich colour tones. Uses include, boat building, decking, roof shingles, building siding and tonewood! Western Red Cedar has been used primarily as top wood for classical guitars but has recently also found favour with the steel string community. It is said that Red Cedar has a very quick break in period so the instrument sounds as it always will very soon after completion, as opposed to spruce which can settle in over years. Large straight trees are still common but competition for the wood from other users is always an issue.
Yellow Cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis) is a sporadically spaced coastal tree found at all elevations. Unlike Western Red Cedar or the spruces Yellow Cedar rarely grows in 'stands'. It is typically found as single trees distributed in other dominate forest types. This wood is very aromatic and is most known for its use in Japanese Temples. Other uses include boat building, furniture and millwork and outdoor projects. It is also an excellent carving wood prized both by carvers and turners. Like Red Cedar, Yellow Cedar has very high resistance to decay. In the construction of musical instruments Yellow Cedar is most often found as backs and side of Flamenco guitars. Because of its sporadic distribution and its high value as temple wood the best trees can be difficult to acquire.
Although there a couple of different Birch species in British Columbia the Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera) is the only Birch that is suitably large enough for musical instruments. This tree has large distribution throughout British Columbia. Most common uses are for plywood veneers, hardwood flooring, cabinet and furniture lumber and firewood. Although Birch does not have a current reputation as an instrument wood many fine Gibson and Martin guitars and mandolins were built in 1940's and 50's from this wood. Contemporary builders report that the acoustic properties of this wood match or exceed the more common Big Leaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum). This wood is widely available for use as back and side woods. Although larger trees are required sourcing them is possible.