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  1. #1
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    Default "The Tree"

    Presumably everybody who builds instruments knows about "The Tree." This is a rather good article on the subject: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-...ree-180979792/

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    Registered User mingusb1's Avatar
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    Default Re: "The Tree"

    Interesting, thanks!

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    Registered User amowry's Avatar
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    Default Re: "The Tree"

    Jayson Bowerman just completed a beautiful mandolin from The Tree:

    https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid...58646545792119

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    Default Re: "The Tree"

    Interesting; I knew what it was but never heard the history.
    Bob Schmidt

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    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: "The Tree"

    Jason is an old friend, so in no way would I want to discourage or criticize him and he definitely knows how to build a good instrument; 'nice looking mandolin.

    There was a time a couple of decades ago when you could buy wood from "the tree" for $25 a board foot and it was all over the west coast. Now 95% of the mahogany that has a few wrinkles is said to be from the same tree and people are asking Tesla prices. I've had a hand in building several guitars from it and I've played several dozen by other builders that were the real deal. I appraised several hundred board foot of it at one point but passed on it because the asking price was waaaaaayyyyyyyy above Brazilian rosewood.

    You can say the same thing about the "Lucky Strike" redwood or the Ted Davis 1989 red spruce log. I've built many instruments from "the Tree", Ted's wood, and handled hundreds of sets from the real lucky strike tree.

    Bling bling bling....oooooh precious.... is nice for some, but it still comes down to the builder a whole lot more than a pretty board. Marketing nerds have tried to turn it into Lloyd Loar unicorns and fairy dust.

    I'll gladly take a boring looking instrument with a kick @$$ voice and a ton of power over a pretty board from the last Lorax tree any day of the year!
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    Default Re: "The Tree"

    Quote Originally Posted by j. condino View Post
    Bling bling bling....oooooh precious.... is nice for some, but it still comes down to the builder a whole lot more than a pretty board. Marketing nerds have tried to turn it into Lloyd Loar unicorns and fairy dust.

    I'll gladly take a boring looking instrument with a kick @$$ voice and a ton of power over a pretty board from the last Lorax tree any day of the year!
    I've always found it pretty interesting how many builds seem to lose sight of that second part, and prioritize aesthetics (I'm speaking mostly of guitar builds here, as that's what I'm more familiar with).

    And, since Jayson has some how made his we into the center of this conversation, I'll throw this out there. I know that a few months ago he was building a lot of things with The Tree... that mandolin, and a bunch of blinged out guitars. But that's what his clients apparently wanted, and were willing to pay for (though his wood markups are probably on the lower side of things).

    He is currently building me an OM guitar, and when we were specing it out, we talked a little bit about "upgrading' the back wood from his baseline walnut to some fancier stuff. But I told him, "tone first, looks second"... and he responded along the lines of "Ok, good to know, not everybody feels that way." And, after another talk about the tone I was after, he said "I think I have just what you want," and then he hopped back on his bike, rode over to the shop, and picked out a back for my approval that, while still quite attractive, was not an upcharge.

    That's all to say... I don't know what that's to say... I guess it seems that in the market of bespoke instruments, clients sometimes prefer to pay for bling, uniqueness, bespokeness over tone. Or maybe it's just that that's what they can control, and they figure it's going to sound good enough either way, but that it's the wow factor, the unobtainium factor that gets the bragging rights and envy of your friends? I don't know... something like that. But, as a builder, I guess you probably know that better than I do.

  9. #7

    Default Re: "The Tree"

    Just for fun I was browsing Santa Cruz guitar website and looking at their custom shop page and the available options for tone woods. In addition to several types of top wood, there are many upgrades available for back and sides, including two "tiers" of Brazilian that they offer. I won't mention the prices, other than to say they start at about 10 times what I would have guessed for the upgrades.

    That being said, they make a fine guitar by anyone's standards...

  10. #8
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: "The Tree"

    Agree with James. WHen you make mandolin out of mahogany it will most certainly sound different from the "traditional" combination of woods so hardly it will be "special tone". I've read folks write poems about holy tone of their "the tree" guitars only to find they have TOP made of it (to show off). Such guitar just cannot have the tone of spruce, of course some foks like tone of mahogany tops but this one is said to be even denser, so it will be so far from standard that I doubt many would love it as much as the owners. Bling and marketing all the way. The makers are forced to follow the marketing to get back the funds invested into the uberexpensive wood. and owners have to go on praising or their "investment" would lose value.
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    Registered User TheMandoKit's Avatar
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    Default Re: "The Tree"

    Interesting direction here; it sort of reminds me of the discussions of a few years back about "bear claw" spruce tops.

    Wasn't it Dana Bourgeois who said the "luthier's dirty little secret" was that the demand for fancy wood outstripped demand for wood that is relatively plain but sounds great?

    Then, there's the results of blindfolded tests of various instruments. The Smithso article references "predictive coding." There's also the idea that if you spent a lot for something, it must be superior to something that cost less.

    "The Tree" may be special and have some characteristics that make it particularly suitable as tonewood for stringed instruments. I'm not likely ever to play one, but there surely are other trees that have made and will make spectacular instruments.

    Sound, tone, quality, timbre, etc., are all so subjective. Great luthiers generally produce great instruments, and can pretty much focus in on the particular sound the player is looking for. But that may not be what someone else wants.

    <shrugs>

    There's just no substitute for playing, listening and finding what speaks to you.

    Wow, this turned into a bit of a rant. Need to cut down on the caffeine?
    Kit
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  13. #10

    Default Re: "The Tree"

    Good subject for a rant. Right up there with shooting the last rare fur bearing cat for some bit of rich person clothing: adventure, exclusivity, price… and some visual appeal. Or pieces of elephants and turtles. Not just marketing: it’s cultural too.
    Anyhow, woodworkers enjoy pattern and structure in wood, and have been veneering things since, at least, ancient Egypt. Veneer is defensible since it stretches the supply and avoids structural issues, but for our instrumental notions, solid wood is preferred.
    When Europe discovered those mahogany New World forests, even more expense and adventure was needed to dismember them for furniture.
    But that’s our culture, and unusual wood texture and grain is an enduring tradition, and maybe a human physiological wiring for pattern too.

    I like interesting wood, but a great deal of the attraction for burls, curls and flames lessened years ago when I first had to look at slides of cancers and mutations and unfortunately started looking at trees differently.

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    Default Re: "The Tree"

    On reading the article, a couple of my customers were appalled that anyone felled The Tree in the first place. Then again, there were the tens of thousands of acres of such wood that was burned to allow grazing of cattle. But you can't put it back in the donkey.

    As one friend observed, "It's fine with me as long as Slash is happy." To each his own.

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    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: "The Tree"

    Yeah, the part that gets me is the group that killed such a majestic old organism in the first place, and then just left it lying on the forest floor. Sad and wasteful. Once it was down I feel like it's better that it was found, used, valued and admired.

    Not on the same level at all, but my husband and I are currently having a (fairly heated) debate about a beautiful tall straight maple tree that is about 3' in diameter. Too close to the house, says he, and it's going to end up as firewood. Seems sad as well.
    "To be obsessed with the destination is to remove the focus from where you are." Philip Toshio Sudo, Zen Guitar

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    Default Re: "The Tree"

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    Not on the same level at all, but my husband and I are currently having a (fairly heated) debate about a beautiful tall straight maple tree that is about 3' in diameter. Too close to the house, says he, and it's going to end up as firewood. Seems sad as well.
    Sue just about finished cutting up two large maple trees for firewood. One fell and the other would have, they are big, but the center of a lot of the tree is hollow so not good for firewood. Your tree may still be good and you could use the log for boards, but there will still be a lot of firewood in the top. I got a whole winters worth out of my two trees. I am 100% wood so that is a lot.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    Default Re: "The Tree"

    Not on the same level at all, but my husband and I are currently having a (fairly heated) debate about a beautiful tall straight maple tree that is about 3' in diameter. Too close to the house, says he, and it's going to end up as firewood. Seems sad as well.
    Those discussions are difficult. They hit home to me because two years ago we had a derecho, an inland hurricane, pass through our area and lost tens of thousands of beautiful trees. I lost two maples and a cherry, which were all the hardwoods on my lot. The maples were close to a hundred years old. There is an archery club I am involved in that has 80 acres of timber. We had loggers come in and remove hundreds of trees which were too damaged to survive. This was done with the direction and consultation of the state DNR District Forester. It was a very difficult loss but a necessary first step to recovery. We will start replanting next spring.

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    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: "The Tree"

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    There is an archery club I am involved in that has 80 acres of timber.
    I wonder what trees are they growing?
    Adrian

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    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: "The Tree"

    While figured wood is quite beautiful, it’s the skill of the maker to create the instruments voice. If you get both, so much the better, but plain, straight grained material is handsome on its own. I’m a ‘sound first’ guy.

    After 2 trees fell on my house I developed a different relationship with urban trees.
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  24. #17

    Default Re: "The Tree"

    Quote Originally Posted by HoGo View Post
    I wonder what trees are they growing?
    Adrian

    When we replant, the areas that are being replanted will get a mix of hardwoods, primarily oaks and walnuts. Oaks require a near clear cut to get established, so there are only a few small areas where the damage was so great that it is clear enough. The trees the loggers removed were a mix of timbers, primarily oaks and hickories, some black walnut and some pallet lumber like cottonwood. They did not take a lot of maple. They said they have a hard time selling the maples because of staining from having set for a year. We have a couple of 3 or 4 acre yellow pine plantations that were devastated that we have to find a way to dispose of because there is no market for it nearby and it stains quickly.

    The natural timber succession in the area is to sugar maples. During prehistoric and even into historic times the native Americans had a maple sugaring camp near the area, about a mile or so closer to the river. The State Natural Resources forester promotes planting some oaks,walnuts the like to provide a mast crop for wildlife which the maple does not do. He says the cherries, maple and hickory will come naturally and that we will even have to clear back maple saplings to allow the other hardwoods to get established.

    There is still a lot of busted timber on the ground with a mix of species. If I had a sawmill I could cut all kinds of lumber but the cost of having it done and getting it there is pretty high. There are still some maples felled that the loggers did not take that I plan on recovering some pieces for mandolin backs and/or necks. There is one particularly good one that I have my eyes on but have not gotten around to cutting sections from it.

    Probably more than you wanted to know.

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    Default Re: "The Tree"

    "After 2 trees fell on my house I developed a different relationship with urban trees."


    Trees on the house is not good. An architect friend tells the story of advising a client couple to remove a bunch of loblolly pine and sweet gum trees from close to their house as part of a remodeling project and as a general safety precaution. They "liked the trees too much" to remove them. One night during a storm, the husband got up to use the bathroom. While in there, he heard a roar and a crash, and found he couldn't push the bedroom door back open. A big pine had fallen through the roof and into the bedroom, filling the room such that it jammed the door closed and pinned his wife in the bed. She had to be cut out of the room by the fire department. Very soon thereafter, they had all the trees removed from around the house.

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    Default Re: "The Tree"

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    Adrian

    Probably more than you wanted to know.
    Thanks Carl. It's always interesting (at least forme) to hear how folks are treating forest in other countries. I was interested mainly because it was archery club - if they plant trees specifically for bow woods like hickory or osage orange or such.
    Adrian

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    Default Re: "The Tree"

    If the "Tree" is denser it may sound more like Koa, which is also a good sounding tone wood. I have a couple Mahogany topped guitars and a Koa. They all sound very nice.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  31. #21

    Default Re: "The Tree"

    Quote Originally Posted by HoGo View Post
    Thanks Carl. It's always interesting (at least forme) to hear how folks are treating forest in other countries. I was interested mainly because it was archery club - if they plant trees specifically for bow woods like hickory or osage orange or such.
    I split a fallen hickory log for bow staves and have them setting in a machine shed rafters to dry for a couple of years. We may try making some bows if we have time and ambition. The forester has said we do not need to plant the hickory because squirrels will bring in nuts and it will come on its own.

    I talked to the forester one time about planting a stand of Osage Orange and he made fun of me about it because they consider it an invasive species. There is a little around here but the natural range stops about a couple of hundred miles or so south of us. It is fairly common about 50 miles south due to being planted for hedge rows in the 1800s. The Amish and Mennonite communities in that area still harvest it for fence posts.

    We may start a stand sometime anyway and not tell him but probably not in the immediate future.

  32. #22
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: "The Tree"

    To contribute to thread drift...
    I made a set of hickory go-bars a few years ago and they are reaching the end of their fatigue life and starting to crack at their centers. Last year a large osage orange tree washed up against the bridge in my driveway over the creek, and if any of the 4 short logs that I salvaged yield suitable material I'll make a set of go-bars from it. Also hoping (but not too optimistically) that I might get a few guitar sets.
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  34. #23
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: "The Tree"

    Your place looks like a jungle. :-) Like it!
    Adrian

  35. #24

    Default Re: "The Tree"

    Just to add a little of my own experience with “The Tree” used on a small-bodied guitar with a spruce top. To begin with my bias: I had no special love for The Tree. I generally am not drawn to mahogany instruments, and unlike much of the guitar market out there, did not find the figure on The Tree particularly attractive. It struck me as gaudy. So … I played this instrument built by a top builder, and he had first described the wood to me as “cardboard-y”, very floppy with no particular tap tone.

    But the guitar was incredible, with a remarkable energy and sustain almost like it was plugged in. One of the most unusual instruments I’ve ever played. The same builder had just sold another slightly larger guitar with the same wood and said if anything it sounded even better. Neither of us, especially me, was predisposed to like this stuff. But I was amazed at the sound.

    I’ve since played a Uke with The Tree wood on the back, and could hear some similarity. Also that video in the Smithsonian article of the guitar topped with The Tree has some of the same quality. So go figure (pun!). Putting aside the visual aspects, it is remarkable wood to hear.

  36. #25

    Default Re: "The Tree"

    John Hamlett wrote: “Last year a large osage orange tree washed up against the bridge in my driveway over the creek … Also hoping (but not too optimistically) that I might get a few guitar sets.”

    There’s been quite a bit of interest in Osage orange over in the guitar world. Supposedly “a bit chippy” so it requires very sharp tools to work, but according to one leading builder, its stiffness-to-weight ratio is so good it can be used as a “drop in” replacement for Brazilian rosewood. Good luck!

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