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Wood Butcher
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1 hour ago, Wood Butcher said:

How can you know this?

Peter Ratcliff has demonstrated the presence of sap wood and heart wood in Strads. 

And the suppliers in Italy confirm this is a viable way to supply the spruce, from trees grown in special conditions, such that they are very tall and thin but with 30-40 feet of low density and probably high stiffness to weight ratio, branch free trunk with very low run out ratio.

Everything you want and easy to log and split.

These trees are slightly younger than those around them, so they grow very tall and thin very quickly. You will see them in the UK too if you look hard enough, but they are unlikely to live 100 years in a commercial woodland before they are felled.

 

 

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Old Growth refers to trees that grew, from the time they were a seedling,  under a well established forest canopy.  These trees are forced to reach upward toward their light source, grow more slowly, tend to have very straight grain, and an absence of knots because there are few branches below the crown of the tree.

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The term "old growth" is used in the U.S. to define trees or forests that have survived the clear-cut logging that was practiced in the pine forests here for a couple of centuries.  That, and what Shunyata posted.  Precious few of these old growth trees/forests remain, almost all in protected forests and reserves, and only naturally dead trees would now be harvested.  The appeal of the term "old growth" used in describing instrument wood has not escaped current day marketers.

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5 hours ago, Shunyata said:

Old Growth refers to trees that grew, from the time they were a seedling,  under a well established forest canopy.  These trees are forced to reach upward toward their light source, grow more slowly, tend to have very straight grain, and an absence of knots because there are few branches below the crown of the tree.

I don't know how the "old growth" designation relates to this but yes most trees which grow under an existing canopy wi9ll grow slowly. However they often will twist or bend as they struggle to find light and very often will have branches which die but do not fall off for years causing black knots. while it is possible that these slow growing trees will eventually inherit a place in the canopy and start growing well it is still pretty rare. Active management such has been practiced for centuries in parts of Europe is far more likely to result in quality trees for whichever purpose they are managed for.

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9 hours ago, nathan slobodkin said:

I don't know how the "old growth" designation relates to this but yes most trees which grow under an existing canopy wi9ll grow slowly. However they often will twist or bend as they struggle to find light and very often will have branches which die but do not fall off for years causing black knots. while it is possible that these slow growing trees will eventually inherit a place in the canopy and start growing well it is still pretty rare. Active management such has been practiced for centuries in parts of Europe is far more likely to result in quality trees for whichever purpose they are managed for.

Yes, self-seeded trees growing under thick canopy will grow slowly and often irregularly.

But trees that are planted in existing forest yet with access to light will grow fast - they respond to the combination of restricted but attainable light and crowding. They also need to be brashed if the wood is to be top quality. The tradition of growing specimen beam oak is hundreds of years old and is still practised.

It's worth mentioning that when it comes to specialist forestry practices (cathedral oaks, Japanese temple hinoki, boatskin larch or tonewood) none of these have ever been left to nature. Willow for cricket bats, poplar for matches, presumably hickory for tool handles - all tended and nursed from planting onwards.

Hardwoods and softwoods behave very differently, and forestry practices are different. And it depends whether you're looking for length and straightness or density.

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9 hours ago, nathan slobodkin said:

I don't know how the "old growth" designation relates to this but yes most trees which grow under an existing canopy wi9ll grow slowly. However they often will twist or bend as they struggle to find light and very often will have branches which die but do not fall off for years causing black knots. while it is possible that these slow growing trees will eventually inherit a place in the canopy and start growing well it is still pretty rare. Active management such has been practiced for centuries in parts of Europe is far more likely to result in quality trees for whichever purpose they are managed for.

This thread is specifically about some Spruce boards for sale on the Luthier Exchange.

The Old Growth label is just a marketing term and doesn't tell us how the trees grew, which was at high altitude, hence the slow growth. Spruce grown at low medium altitude in the Alps grows rapidly.

Does the rate of growth affect the quality of the wood?

I doubt it. Why would it? After all the "Mini Ice Age" hypothesis in reference to Alpine Spruce grown in the 17thC didn't gain lasting credibility.

 

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6 minutes ago, martin swan said:

Yes, self-seeded trees growing under thick canopy will grow slowly and often irregularly.

But trees that are planted in existing forest yet with access to light will grow fast - they respond to the combination of restricted but attainable light and crowding. They also need to be brashed if the wood is to be top quality. The tradition of growing specimen beam oak is hundreds of years old and is still practised.

It's worth mentioning that when it comes to specialist forestry practices (cathedral oaks, Japanese temple hinoki, boatskin larch or tonewood) none of these have ever been left to nature. Willow for cricket bats, poplar for matches, presumably hickory for tool handles - all tended and nursed from planting onwards.

Hardwoods and softwoods behave very differently, and forestry practices are different. And it depends whether you're looking for length and straightness or density.

I agree with points apart from the Brashing thing for Spruce grown in the right conditions. It will have 30-40 feet of mostly branch free trunk. 

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41 minutes ago, sospiri said:

I agree with points apart from the Brashing thing for Spruce grown in the right conditions. It will have 30-40 feet of mostly branch free trunk. 

Maybe when you look at it standing, but under the surface there will be knots. 

Try milling up a few 100 year old conifers and you'll find out soon enough - if you're lucky you might get a third of the way to the heart before the timber becomes knotty.

 

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1 hour ago, sospiri said:

This thread is specifically about some Spruce boards for sale on the Luthier Exchange.

The Old Growth label is just a marketing term and doesn't tell us how the trees grew, which was at high altitude, hence the slow growth. Spruce grown at low medium altitude in the Alps grows rapidly.

Does the rate of growth affect the quality of the wood?

I doubt it. Why would it? After all the "Mini Ice Age" hypothesis in reference to Alpine Spruce grown in the 17thC didn't gain lasting credibility.

 

I disagree. WB, deliberately created a new thread to separate a terminology question from the advertisement of a tonewood sale. As far as meandering topics on MN goes, this one has stayed on track in discussion of trees and the production of useable tonewood. Of course the scope of individual interests vary, which is why discussions will tend to meander. I'm really enjoying this thread.

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18 minutes ago, martin swan said:

Maybe when you look at it standing, but under the surface there will be knots. 

Try milling up a few 100 year old conifers and you'll find out soon enough - if you're lucky you might get a third of the way to the heart before the timber becomes knotty.

 

I'll bet my bicycle Strad bough Spruce split from mostly branch free trees.

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1 minute ago, Jim Bress said:

I disagree. WB, deliberately created a new thread to separate a terminology question from the advertisement of a tonewood sale. As far as meandering topics on MN goes, this one has stayed on track in discussion of trees and the production of useable tonewood. Of course the scope of individual interests vary, which is why discussions will tend to meander. I'm really enjoying this thread.

Oh, I thought WB was looking to buy some nice Spruce. Judging by his questions, he seems as keen as me to find the stuff, but I already have enough to last a while.

I wonder if that wood has sold yet?

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15 minutes ago, sospiri said:

I'll bet my bicycle Strad bough Spruce split from mostly branch free trees.

A conifer isn't "branch free" all the way through the log unless it's been brashed throughout its life. Rare exceptions would be Baltic old growth where heavy snow has inhibited budding of lower branches, but even with these if you get close to the heart you will find knots ...

I am pretty sure that the trees used for tonewood by the classical Cremonese will have been husbanded - this is a practice that dates back at least to the Romans in Europe.

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1 hour ago, martin swan said:

A conifer isn't "branch free" all the way through the log unless it's been brashed throughout its life. Rare exceptions would be Baltic old growth where heavy snow has inhibited budding of lower branches, but even with these if you get close to the heart you will find knots ...

I am pretty sure that the trees used for tonewood by the classical Cremonese will have been husbanded - this is a practice that dates back at least to the Romans in Europe.

If I can find European Spruce that is mostly branch free for 20-30  feet  just one mile from my home, I'm sure there is Spruce in the Alps mostly branch free for 30-40 feet

What Peter Ratcliff describes is trees just 1 foot wide and 100 or so years old which will be as much as 150 feet tall. They will be hard to find, but if you spend enough time looking.

The whole operation could be done by one man without extreme exertion. For cello wood, it would be a lot more work. 

 

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40 minutes ago, sospiri said:

If I can find European Spruce that is mostly branch free for 20-30  feet  just one mile from my home, I'm sure there is Spruce in the Alps mostly branch free for 30-40 feet

What Peter Ratcliff describes is trees just 1 foot wide and 100 or so years old which will be as much as 150 feet tall. They will be hard to find, but if you spend enough time looking.

The whole operation could be done by one man without extreme exertion. For cello wood, it would be a lot more work. 

 

Take it to a sawmill, log it up, then tell me it's branch free. There's no way of knowing just by looking at the exterior of the tree.

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1 hour ago, sospiri said:

I did the work myself. On two trees. The 200 bolts have been drying for 2 years

You are saying that you got 20-30 feet of clean knot-free timber from European spruce local to you that hadn't been brashed?

Sospiri, you are living in a parallel universe.

The best stand of European larch we ever felled (about 50 trees around 150 years old, big trees ....) looked entirely clean for the first 12-15 feet. A boatbuilder came to inspect the stand and was very excited - he bought the lot, standing. We sent it all off to him in three 30 ton timber lorries, and he got 6 one-inch planks off each face before getting into the knots. The rest (more than three quarters of each log) was cut for beams.

All the other park grown coniferous timber we processed was significantly worse, and commercial forestry was good only for pallets or biomass.

I did this for a living, so maybe ease up a bit on the bullshit.

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5 minutes ago, martin swan said:

You are saying that you got 20-30 feet of clean knot-free timber from European spruce local to you that hadn't been brashed?

Sospiri, you are living in a parallel universe.

The best stand of European larch we ever felled (about 50 trees around 150 years old, big trees ....) looked entirely clean for the first 12-15 feet. A boatbuilder came to inspect the stand and was very excited - he bought the lot, standing. We sent it all off to him in three 30 ton timber lorries, and he got 6 one-inch planks off each face before getting into the knots. The rest (more than three quarters of each log) was cut for beams.

All the other park grown timber we processed was significantly worse, and commercial forestry was good only for pallets or biomass.

I did this for a living, so ease up on the bullshit.

Hey, you ease off okay. Those 200 Bolts are in my shed. I sawed and split the wood myself. Yes there were some knots, but only a few and not enough to abandon the mission. It is also low density.

I spent enough time searching a 20 mile radius, but found this just 1 1/4  miles away.

The growing conditions were the contributory factor. The other Spruce in the same stand was very different for the reasons I outlined earlier.

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28 minutes ago, sospiri said:

I would also like to add that I had help from the Forest Manager, who has been there for over 30 years.

So, these are trees that haven't been brashed or managed in any way, they grew 20-30 foot high without branches to the extent that you can get clean tonewood out of them, yet they grew sufficiently slowly that the wood is usable for more than making OSB?

But there's a Forest Manager?

I'm sorry this makes no sense to me ...

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23 minutes ago, Wood Butcher said:

I fear we have now entered Sospiri’s dream world, where all bows are made from Ipe, all violins are varnished with skin cells and two drops of linseed oil, and all bikes are made from steel.

Almost all student bows of the last few decades. It must be in the millions by now.

This old one here...stamped Japan

I wonder just how old?

You are welcome to take up the Stradivari ground debate with a real expert if you wish. He seems very keen to share his knowledge.

 

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34 minutes ago, martin swan said:

So, these are trees that haven't been brashed or managed in any way, they grew 20-30 foot high without branches to the extent that you can get clean tonewood out of them, yet they grew sufficiently slowly that the wood is usable for more than making OSB?

But there's a Forest Manager?

I'm sorry this makes no sense to me ...

They are managed. Any brashing would have to have been done Long ago. They were super skinny and Tall as Peter describes  but not so old. So they grew very tall very quickly.

There is natural brashing, there were small and very small brances within, but most of the splitting went very easily. As you doubtless know, this is many hours of work.

My other woodsman friend, the one with 60 years experience, he likes the wood very much. How good for violins? Let's find out shall we?

 

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