Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bakewell Lake

I've never been much of a wood cutter.  I love wood and I love working with it, but up to now, never have I actually harvested lumber from a tree, or done any of the rough milling or even resawing of the sets of wood I have used to make my guitars.  Except for mahogany and spanish cedar billets I would buy at lumber mills in Panama, and later have someone else do the milling for neck blanks, all of the wood I have bought has been from luthier wood suppliers.  Not that there is anything wrong with that; they are professionals and their service saves much time and opens up the options for tone wood.

Being in Alaska, though, one has to take advantage of the fact that there is forest everywhere, and trees that can be harvested without even having to cut them down, since many trees actually fall naturally from age or not being able to hold on to the rocky soil that supports them.

One opportunity came when I flew down to Bakewell Lake in the Misty Fjords area of the Tongass National Forest as a volunteer for a week of feeding Coho salmon parr.  As we zipped from one end of the lake to the other on our motor boat, I noticed a huge old redcedar trunk on the beach.  It was close to the water and had been fairly weathered from the rain and rising lake levels.  Who knows when this tree actually fell, but redcedar timber is exceptionally impervious to the elements and takes a long time to rot.  

To find out if it was worth trying to cut a billet from the trunk, we first extracted a small wedge by plunging the chainsaw towards the core.  This small piece was very wet, but the wood showed no signs of rot!  We then proceeded to cut a larger wedge, as big as the length of the chainsaw could handle.  After removing this wedge form the trunk, we found out the inner core had some rot, but still left enough good wood for guitar tops.  

Since the area we were in was roadless, we could only cut what we could take back in the Beaver float plane.  Still, the wood has to be properly air dried and seasoned to be used for making guitars.  I will probably give the wood 10 years before I start using it.

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