question about age of spruce tops

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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 HD-28 IR/Sitka
        2001 SCGC F Cutaway Maple/German
        2008 SCGC OT Madi/Italian
        2015 SCGC OM “The Tree” Hog/ European
        2016 SCGC 1934 D45 Braz/ Adi
        2016 Taylor K62 CE Limited Edition 12 string all Koa
        2019 SCGC FTC Granadillo/Redwood
        Life is a journey…not a guided tour,
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    • #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.

    • #1817

      Matt and tadol, thank you for your responses. Very enlightening regarding old growth versus new/relatively recent growth.


      I am researching the #1 of the limited edition series. Recently, Fellowship of the Acoustics offered the #5 for sale at Reverb. The product literature mentioned that the top was 100-year old spruce. I hadn’t seen that detail before and was trying to figure out the story behind the wood. If it was 100 years old in 1992, and if the age is measured from date cut, then it would have been cut circa 1892.


      Dream Guitars posted a video in 2016 on youtube of one of the limited editions and also mentioned the 100-year old top. Not sure what number it was.

    • #1818

      Mandolin Brothers sold at least two of the limited editions: #1 and #6. The #6 was listed in the March 1996 edition of The Vintage News. It had serial # 784. In the blurb (ad) for the guitar, they never mentioned the 100-year old spruce top, just the quilted mahogany. At that point in time, the source of the mahogany (The Tree) wasn’t used for marketing. Nobody knew they that were buying a guitar made with wood from a tree that had an unusual history.

    • #1819
      Matt Hayden

      Interesting to hear it sold that way; it seems kind of counterintuitive.  Sitka spruce trees can be 500 years old when cut, and Adirondack trees should be at least 200 years old to reach 20″ dbh (diameter at breast height, one way of measuring trees).    Certainly the time elapsed since cutting can affect the physical properties of wood, but that’s reliant on a large number of factors….

      Instruments get better with time and playing and care.  Two of those you can control…..

      • #1823

        Here is the text from the listing:


        90-8436 Santa Cruz (new) Vintage Artist Limited Edition, #784, #6 of ten made total, special quilted mahogany Vintage Artist.

        Doc Watson owns a regular Vintage Artist and has said many wonderful things about it. This one is fancier and only 10 were made. Was $3750. THIS IS ON SALE. Call us for the very reasonable price.


        There is a small black & white picture above the listing but it was photocopied and is low resolution. They may have published a more detailed listing in other issues. Interesting that this was still for sale in 1996 if it was made in 1992 or 1993. Directly under the listing was a new regular Vintage Artist with serial #1378.

    • #2314
      Acoustic Soul

      Hey thanks for explaining old growth.

      I always thought it meant wood that was logged and cut down in the early 20th century then saved by someone to be sold at a premium later to make an instrument out of.  I didn’t realize it just meant it was harvested from a climax forest that was untouched.

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