Red Spruce Tops

This is the place where I get my guitar tops. The below is an excerpt from a post on the Unofficial Martin Guitar Forum by my friend John Arnold. Link to full post here:

Once again, the Hampton brothers (Nathan and Matt) and I are back in the woods of Western NC cutting red spruce. There are hundreds of red spruce trees on this 300-acre tract, which is above 5000 feet elevation. The challenge is to find trees that are suitable for instruments. One of our most useful tools is an increment borer, a hollow bit that is screwed into the tree, taking a pencil-sized sample. We first began cutting here in 2013, harvesting two trees. The quality of that wood was so good that we again cut red spruce there last year.
This location is about 4 miles from a paved road, and the access is difficult. The narrow single track road to the site is severely eroded, and the only practical transportation is by four-wheelers.

This is Nathan with the landowner at the site. His wife inherited the land from her grandfather, and before our trip in 2013, the last time red spruce was cut in here was in the 1920’s.

Clearing a path through the rhododendron to get the wood out.

Matt splitting billets from the 24″ long blocks.

Matt and Nathan, with the last block from that tree. This particular one was about 27″ in diameter at breast height, and about 22″ where we stopped cutting on it. Though the diameter was still adequate, the heavy limbs (knots) made the upper section unusable for instruments.

Carrying billets. We also have pack frames to carry wood over longer distances. This was only maybe 60 yards to where we could put the wood on the four-wheeler, but the footing on the side of the steep hill is treacherous.

This is an exceptional 29 1/4″ red spruce. It may turn out to be one of the best in the whole tract. It is also the furthest down the mountain from the logging road, so it will take the most effort to bring home. The core sample was very nice.

Nate with the increment borer.

Checking out the sample.

Here is the ‘monster’…one of the largest red spruce trees I have seen on private land. The diameter is about 35 1/2″ . Nathan found this tree week before last.

Here they are finished transporting the wood up to the logging road. Just tidying up the gear. This photo shows the slope of the land, in the valley of a small creek. On either side of this little valley, the slope is greater.

The wood is loaded on the small flat bed trailer, to pull behind the four-wheeler. At this point, it is 3.1 miles to the truck, and another 0.8 mile to the highway.
It is slow going….taking maybe 45 minutes to get to the truck.

Loading up the big trailer for the trip home.

We brought home 26 billets. Considering that much of the time yesterday was spent scouting for trees in the ‘laurel thicket’, I think it was a very productive day.