From Tree to Mandolin. A Picture Essay
We’re very fortunate to live in a spectacular part of the country, the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. And it just happens to be covered in many places with Engelmann Spruce, arguably one of the best tone spruces in the world, and one of the most commonly used woods for mandolin tops, especially for our A style oval holes, mandolas and octaves.
So it makes sense that we would harvest it ourselves, though the endeavor proves to be more challenging than one might think. The search for the “right” tree is an arduous task. Engelmann grows in elevations of 8,000 to 10,000 feet. We cut only standing dead trees. And even with close inspection prior to cutting, the real value isn’t revealed until the tree is on the ground, cut into rounds and split up. Even then, much of the tree is delegated to firewood (believe it or not, folks around here call Spruce, Aspen and Fir “firewood”!).
Recently, my wife April Moon recorded in pictures and videos the taking of a large tree in the late Fall of 2013 that has imparted to us well over 100 artist grade hand split tops to date. The video and pictures, in sequence, follow the cutting, splitting and processing of the “tops” right up to the carving process.