Thursday, October 13, 2011

Make Way For The Envirocaster!

What the heck is the Envirocaster, you ask?

Birdseye Maple for the neck and fretboards and Swamp Ash for the body.

The necks are cut and ready to shape.

I even used American Black Walnut for the marker dots.

Back in August, the Gibson guitar factory in Nashville, Tennessee was raided by the US Justice Department who confiscated some of the wood they used. The USJD claims the use of this wood violates certain international laws. I'm not going to get into who is right or wrong in this case, but I can say it has had a scary affect on luthiers everywhere.

As a result of this action, I've decided to build a guitar using woods, which are not protected by any trade or environmental laws. To do this, I'll have to forgo my usual choice of imported wood. Most of the woods I have used in the past aren't subject to these laws, but that could change in a heartbeat.

For this reason, I have elected to go with woods that are responsibly grown and cultivated for our use. To be more specific, I will be using Swamp Ash for the body and Birdseye Maple for the neck. These woods are grown specifically for harvest and their use has little impact on the environment. Some species of imported wood, on the other hand, are clear cut from the world's rain forests, which is illegal. A guitar made from such wood can be seized, not only by the US government, but by others as well. It just goes to show that you have to do your homework before firing up the band saw.

A note about Swamp Ash: There really isn't a species known as Swamp Ash. In truth, there are many species of Ash in the Fraxinus family. Most of them produce a wood which is hard and heavy. Occasionally, Ash trees will yield boards that are substantially lighter than the norm. Why this happens is subject to debate, but it seems to happen more often with trees that grow in a wet environment, hence the name Swamp Ash. Many people claim that Swamp Ash comes from the Louisiana Bayou, but in reality, it can come from any Ash tree found growing in a wetland. Ash has a wonderful tone and resonance, however, if you try to build a solid body guitar from just any slab, the weight might break your back. The other day, I picked up a Telecaster made from ordinary Ash and it had to weigh at least 12 pounds!

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