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Salvaging elm and basswood

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Salvaging elm and basswood

Postby Karl Wicklund » Sun Jul 21, 2019 11:12 am

Storms came through two nights ago. No structural damage and no one hurt, but we lost trees. Power might be out for a week. In hope of making lemonade of lemons, and to somehow memorialize the loss of the shady yard, I’m attracted to the idea of harvesting two or thee logs. I’d have to hire someone to mill them.

We had a big old American Elm that apparently survived Dutch Elm, or came along just after the rest of the mature ones came down 45 years ago. Anyway, the tree uprooted. I could get an 8’ clear log between the root flare and the first branches. Probably 32” diameter. I’ve made a lap steel from elm before, and was very happy with it. Other suggestions for elm, instrument wise?

We’ve also got several huge basswoods down. I’m hoping to get a few electric guitar blanks, again, as much to save it from the burn pile than because it makes economic sense.

I won’t be able to get these logs under any cover more than a tarp for at least a few weeks. Do you think I should go ahead, or don’t bother? I know storm-downed trees can have weird stresses and cracks.

Any thoughts are much appreciated. Thanks!
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Re: Salvaging elm and basswood

Postby Bob Gramann » Sun Jul 21, 2019 11:59 am

Any wood that has a story is better than commodity wood. Write any stories down that you can remember about things that happened around those trees in your yard. Then, paint the cut ends of the logs to keep them from drying too quickly and cracking. After that, whenever you can get to them is probably soon enough. Some woods get eaten from the outside in by bugs in the bark after they fall. I don’t know if basswood and elm are such. And, just because you’re an instrument maker doesn’t mean all of the wood has to become instruments. Occasionally, you will need shelves or other furniture.
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Re: Salvaging elm and basswood

Postby Karl Wicklund » Sun Jul 21, 2019 9:53 pm

You’re right, Bob. The same tree I used for a lap steel also offered up two bench seats for our school.

I didn’t manage to save much of the elm - an overzealous helper sawed it up into 18” chunks. I could still find something workable there. The basswood is beautiful white and clear. I saved four 4’ sections about 32” across. Hopefully, I can make time for them in the next few days.
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Re: Salvaging elm and basswood

Postby Mark Wybierala » Mon Jul 22, 2019 9:13 am

I made a nice old fashioned trestle table from a birch tree that fell many years ago. My ex has it now but its easily worth $1000. I spent a lot of time researching construction including Quaker furniture techniques. I was an adventure.
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Re: Salvaging elm and basswood

Postby Brian Evans » Tue Jul 23, 2019 7:34 am

I'm using wood from a maple tree that fell over for all sorts of things. Much is spalted, much is excellent for necks. some is wide enough for a one piece archtop back.
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Re: Salvaging elm and basswood

Postby Karl Wicklund » Tue Jul 23, 2019 10:19 pm

As we’ve been further surveying the damage, I’ve found a couple ash logs and red oak logs worth saving, too. My cousin has offered to mill it for me. A silver lining for sure.
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Re: Salvaging elm and basswood

Postby David King » Wed Jul 24, 2019 12:54 pm

I love elm for basses. It's got a lovely color and grain too. Basswood is great for carving, I've only ever used it for model sailboats but many import guitars have been made from it and it probably sounds just fine. Wood that comes down in the summertime is particularly prone to staining so I'd try to get the bark off and get the ends sealed asap. Anything you can do to keep it in the shade will also help until you can get it sawn up and stickered. Sad to hear that the elm was chopped up. Doubly sad when you get around to trying to split it.
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