In January of this year Jake and I took a break from the refreshing Duluth winter and went out to Anaheim, CA for the National Music Merchandiser’s trade show, otherwise known as NAMM. Among the more interesting conversations we had with a myriad of vendors was one we had with a long time wood supplier. I have been buying wood from him for many, many years as an independent wood dealer and now he works for the much larger organization North American Wood Products
In Portland, ME. He has been my main source of Englemann Spruce from the Vancouver area, (the very best source for this material), and I was interested to talk to him about arranging a new shipment. Alas, I was informed that this material was not available any longer. Wood harvesting, as it turns out, has its fashions just like every other industry and currently, Englemann spruce is out of fashion. What the wood harvesters are cutting now is mostly Sitka spruce because this is what the guitar makers are interested in and it is the guitar industry that drives the supply and demand for a lot of the wood, especially the front wood, that we use in early plucked instruments. This is an interesting turn of events in the sourcing of domestic tone woods.
We do have quite a bit of Englemann spruce in stock, but the word I am getting is that it will be harder and more expensive to obtain this wood going forward and, although I do not plan any price rises at the moment, the decreasing availability of this material going forward might necessitate some higher prices in the future.
The rise in popularity of Sitka spruce and greater availability is not necessarily good news for lute players. Although we have used this material successfully and made some really nice sounding instruments with it, it is a difficult wood to work with, especially to cut roses into, and has never been very popular with lute players.