question about age of spruce tops

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This topic contains 6 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  Matt Hayden 3 days, 6 hours ago.

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  • #1739


    I’m noticing that the limited edition vintage artists from the early 1990’s are described as having 100-year old spruce. Does this mean that the spruce tree was 100 years old? Or was the tree cut down 100 years ago? Also, does anyone know what kind of spruce was used in this run of 10 guitars?

  • #1746


    Welcome Weird, we should be able to get that answer with all the knowledge here…thanks for joining

  • #1759


    Well, you know you can get a rough idea of the minimum age of a top by counting the growth lines – its not uncommon for tops to be cut from trees that are 150+ years old, and its certainly not unheard of for luthiers to store tops for decades, and for them to leave them to other luthiers when they can’t continue building. What the story on those particular tops might be, I’m afraid I don’t know –

  • #1787

    Matt Hayden

    The term is vague.  Since a great many spruce trees (etc) live to be several hundred years old (4-500), the wood is typically older than that.  In my experience, it means that the wood was *cut* 100 years ago (or whatever) and consequently has been cut and drying since then. In the main, time from cut is important, because that’s when the wood starts to dry, but it’s not a guarantee – wood must be treated and stored properly to age well without cracking or developing internal shakes.



    • #1788


      Thanks Matt and Tadol for your responses.
      So….Would “Old Growth” mean that the spruce is more toward the 400-500 year old tree before harvest?
      What is the age since harvest/cutting of the 1934 Adi tops?

      1993 Martin Custom HD-28 Eir/Sitka
      2001 SCGC Custom F Cutaway Maple/Sitka

      2008 SCGC Custom Otis Taylor H Madi/Italian
      2015 SCGC Custom OM “The Tree” Hog/European
      2016 SCGC Custom 1934 D-45 Braz/ Adi

  • #1793


    Well – old growth generally means wood that’s come from a forest that has not been previously commercially logged by man –  a settler or farmer may have taken out a handful of trees, but most of the growth is natural and from a continuous ecosystem that hasn’t been radically interfered with – just wind, water, fire basically. Once man goes in and chops a bunch of trees down (usually clear-cutting) then the next growth doesn’t germinate and grow under the same conditions as the original forest. It generally gets a faster start, is more mono-species, and grows more quickly with the abundance of water and light, and doesn’t have the same slow growth rings and density that the older trees developed having to compete for those same resources in an established forest. So, there are trees that are a couple hundred years old, but they are a new generation, and while large and very good material, its not the same as the real “old-growth”. We are probably one of the last generations that had the luxury of using true old-growth lumber to build our decks and fences, and doors and moldings. The hope is we protect as much of that habitat that’s left as we can, as it isn’t just the trees. But an awful lot of it is on government land, and the dollars it represents with little to no investment required are one of the reasons those lands are under attack – and we are in danger of losing even more with a coal-crazy leadership –

  • #1796

    Matt Hayden

    Tad’s right – old-growth roughly means ‘before humans first logged it.’  Some of those trees are over a millennium old.

    Roy Underhill of The Woodwright’s Shop noted that the forests of early America seemed unquenchable, with many older trees that took two or three or more pairs of arms to encircle; now we’re lucky to find a 16” diameter cherry tree, ditto for walnut.  The forests of eastern North America have been logged over 2x since European settlement, more or less, with a very few pristine areas in places like the Adirondacks and the Pisgah forests.

    This is what caused the Brazilian tropical rainforest to get logged out, and it’ll be what gets swietenia mahoganies and diospyros ebonies on CITES 2…..if we don’t preserve them, they’ll die out and need to be protected so future generations will have them.

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