One man's gathers what another man spills - Hunting for wood (legally of course!)

Greetings all:

I have 3 questions that are centered squarely in my values of "do it yourself" and "spend less"

The first...

1) What your ideas for finding old wood to first thoughts are cabinets, pianos, tables, house beams? Where to look...what to look for...reduce reuse recycle, etc.

2) What is the ideal set up and method for cutting a plank into "skins" around 1/8-3/16 inch, I am guessing its not first thought is band saw and a somewhat specialized guide that exerts pressure evenly across the plank and guides smoothly across the saw. Then I figure a drum sander. My guess is those two items are going to run $2,000 or so for both. Then its figuring out a process that gives some quality control...

3) Is this a ridiculous pursuit, should I pay people to prep my tops/sides/backs a la LMI/StewMAC etc? Would I be wasting money trying to save money? heh...wouldn't be the first time any of us had that happen...

Tags: Salvage, Wood

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Good luck I would give my eye teeth for some of that 200 year old 1\4 cut Spruce except that I don't have any [ teeth that is] .Bill""""""""'
Bill, I got some 500 yr old spruce about a month ago. John Arnold is selling some from Ted Davis' stash. That tree was here somewhere around the same time Columbus landed in America. Can't wait to hear it.
Hi Evan, I suppose that having gone through the whole evolution of a luthiers life, starting with nothing and totally clueless, and currently having a decent machine shop but still being half clueless, I guess I would say:

Reclaim and recycle things that can easily be put back into service as items - tables become tables again, house beams get fed back into houses or patios or the like - but when it comes to critical performance based items like soundboards, bodies and the likes I would give the wood to a machine shop with a specific brief or buy it through the luthiery supply places. The reasons are manifold; it takes a lot of skill to hand finish fine wood (the old luthiers did it when machines didn't exist - but time was not expensive then) and a lot of nice wood has gone into the fire due to good intentions overshadowing average skill levels. If you have time, skill and patience by all means go ahead - it's a rewarding thing to make something from fundamentals , otherwize, use your time productively and wait for the finished item to arrive in the mail and proceed from there. That's what I know, hope it helps. Rusty.
Luthiers split their wood until the last hundred years and then planed it to thickness. While time consuming we've only had power tools, for all practial purposes, since WWII so you've got lots of options if you're willing to invest the time in learning how to use and acquiring hand tools.

Lotsa smaller lumber available from pallets and skids, etc. including really hard tropical woods suitable for bridges and fretboards.

Have more computer time so to echo this look around after storm damage and you can probably find almost anything that grown in your region. The supposed "Adirondack" spruce is better known to forester's as "red" spruce and grows from Canada down to Western North Carolina if you're around this region and need a top wood (why I like the term "Applachian" spruce better). Walnut is quite common hear and often free as well as sugar ("hard, rock") maple and occasional butternut (locally abundant but not around Wise, Co., VA) - "rVirginia red cedar"(actually a juniper) might work for a top wood but finding a sufficiently clear large piece would be hard so top wood is the hardest item to find - walnut is much like mahogany for a back/neck wood and osage orange (if you want a locally growing wood for much of the nation east of the Mississippi) is easily hard and stable enough for bridge/fretboard if you can stand the wild orange color (which ages to a deep almost brown orange but still orange).

If you live in Florida there are all sorts of semi-tropical woods naturalized while mahogany is native to the southern tip. So much depends on where you live/travel to.


Granted, I haven't had the career of many of you men, but I have been running my shop for about 11 years. What I know is that if I start a pile in the back and keep collecting for "someday" most of that pile will be evicted in my annual spring cleaning. I know a guy who has been throwing sticks and sheets in his garage for forty years, and I am just waiting to see the pile of ashes when I drive by the next time. Why waste the space and why take the risk?

Of course, the opportunity to acquire something special warrants consideration, but only if it is going to get used in a timely fashion. If any of you have ever had to totally clean out your dad's shop containing a lifetime's collection of stuff that he was going to use someday, you would understand.

There is a logical manner to collecting and using. Making a pile just to make a pile creates less work space, and makes the shop look like an amateur shop experiment. I strive for a sense of balance and serenity in my shop, and having a pile of junk that I might use someday would only hinder progress. Just my .02.
Rick, Have been thinking about your comments for a bit and while there is much merit many of us - without being fathers - already have quite large junk/scrap "piles." Was partially raised by my grandparents who went through the Great Depression and could never throw away anything useable. So I won't address any of my other hobbies/interests/money makers (electronics, jewelry making, stone carving, et al.) but as far as wood goes most any scrap of quality wood can be made into something useful - especially if you started in wood working with a sharp pocket knife at 8 years old as I did. I whittled for almost ten years before using power tools and then still always carried around a knife and scrap of wood (walnut usually) to carve things. So all that wood that you might throw out every spring could make bridge pins, bridges, small carvings (I''ve yet to meet a child who didn't thrill at any wood carving you did that they consider as personalized - if you watch the boob tube - only movies for me - with good hand memory you can rough out several small items during a movie/program which only take a few minutes of good contentration and focus to finish) - of course, as mentioned, there's always the thermal energy that can be reclaimed also so saving wood really isn't that terrible. But I've got an attic with a folding latter that is too low for common use that I can "file and forget" woods in (make a pretty good "5 year kiln" also) - but even without an attic it's fairly easy to make a wood storage area where the wood can be kept dry enough to prevent deterioration.

Just my $0.002.

Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

The dumpsters did haul most of the junk away, and the estate sale was a doozy, but there was a nice surprise in the basement closet. A very dusty Millers Falls red box, with a brand new/ old 14" plane wrapped in oil paper in it. The old pictures, old knives, and my Grandpa's WWII decorations were nice to find, but there was a serious overdoing it of collecting.
When I get wood from trees other people are having cut down, I have already prepared myself to look at it for 3-5 yrs ( in various places as it dries) depending on how large the piece is.
I'm willing to make space to store green or dried wood.
If you look back on the price of all these woods that intrest luthiers, you can then think of the savings you'll have when your stored wood is cured out or you find a use for that scrap of pretty whatever.
So many kinds of wood are becoming hard or very exspensive to get. If you have scraps, find someone who carves, makes knives or pistol grips, etc.. if you can. I give a lot of mine to a friend who makes duck calls and very fancy boxes to put them in.
Just a thought. David
This guitar was made out of a bumbgia fireplace mantel that the builders son was going to throw into the dumpster when Less saw it and it became this beautiful guitar.

All of my guitars were made from lumber yard or trees I cut and dried for wood.

Taylor guitar built one from wood from the dumpster.

Keep your eyes open and it will show up where you least expect it.

Thats a fine guitar you have there Ron .It just shows what you can do with some ones cast offs.So Evan just keep looking and asking around .Good luck Bill.""""""""


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