The Prize Guitar for the 2023 Twisted Spruce Music Foundation Guitar Competition, Part One

The guitar before being an instrument was a tree and in it the birds sang. The wood knew music long before it was a guitar.

Atahulpha Yupanqui, guitarist and folk singer

This year's prize guitar is a double top classical guitar! I finished assembling the body to the neck early in April and the guitar is waiting for bindings, fretboard, bridge, frets and a French polish finish.

The top of this guitar is reclaimed old growth Redwood, sequoia sempervirens, is considered to be the tallest tree in the world, there are redwood trees at Humboldt State Park in California that are over four hundred feet tall!  Master luthier José Oribe began using redwood tops for some of his guitars 1967, and at one point over 80% of his orders were for redwood. Redwood lumber is strong, very stable dimensionally, it's voice has the warmth of cedar with the clarity of spruce.

The back and sides are California Laurel/Oregon Myrtle, an evergreen hardwood tree that ranges from Southwestern Oregon southward through the Coast Ranges of California to northern Baja California, and the west slopes of the Sierra Nevada. I was born and raised in the California Sierra Nevada and the old timers had several different names for the laurel, pepperwood, bay laurel, among others. The all parts of the tree are very aromatic, the leaves are used to flavor cooked dishes, the wood and bark smell like pepper. Laurel wood has a wonderful tap tone and it is as hard as hard maple, it makes an incredible sounding guitar. The back fillet is East Indian rosewood. To hear a short recording of a traditional Redwood/California Laurel that I made here is the link.

The neck is Port Orford Cedar, a conifer that lives in much of the same range as the Redwood Tree. The wood is light, strong, and is redolent of volatile ginger scented oil. Like the redwood, the Port Orford cedar has been over harvested and many trees have been lost to a parasitic, root rotting fungus that escaped from a tree nursery in Oregon. The neck fillet and headstock plates are East Indian rosewood.

When I hold the guitar by the neck and tap the top I can feel the top's vibrations with my hand, the tap tone is very loud, I suspect the voice of this guitar will be beautiful and full of allure.

I will share photos of the construction process in the next post.


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