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North American Softwoods

North America Softwoods

from their 1990 GAL Convention panel discussion

by Ted Davis, Bruce Harvie, Steve McMinn, Byron Will, and Dave Wilson

moderated by Joseph Johnson

Previously published in American Lutherie #31, 1992 and The Big Red Book of American Lutherie, Volume Three, 2004



Why don’t each of you tell us who you are, where you’re from, and a little bit of what you’ve done.

Ted: My name is Ted Davis and I live in Tennessee near the Smokey Mountains. The Smokeys have red spruce in them and when I found out this wood was useful, I started pursuing it. In the last two years, after a ten-year search, I have managed to find and cut a small amount of red spruce. It was the wood that was used by Martin and Gibson around the turn of the century, up into the 1940s.

Bruce: My name is Bruce Harvie and I have a company called Orcas Island Tonewoods in the San Juan Islands of Washington. I have spread myself very thin cutting all the Northwest species — western red cedar, Port Orford cedar, Sitka spruce, Engelmann spruce — and I’ve just returned from cutting some red spruce.

Byron: I’m Byron Will and my interest is more from an instrument maker’s point of view. I started building harpsichords in 1975 when I moved to the Pacific Northwest from Wisconsin. I wasn’t very satisfied with the woods I had been using. After seeing these gorgeous Northwest trees I started wondering about their physical and acoustical properties and how useful they’d be in my work. I decided to try some of the local softwoods and learned quite a bit through the years.

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