Introducing ASW’s NEW Ultra Light Soundboard Sort.

ASW’s New Ultra Light sort


Several years ago, one of our many Very Appreciated Customers – Greg Maxwell – Dogwood Guitars, called to order Master Grade sitka spruce tops for his guitars.

In the discussion I asked what his expectations where for Master Grade. His answer was pretty much what one would expect. You know perfectly quartered stiff as glass board with even color and even fine grain texture, no apparent run out. strong medularies.

Since Greg had just finished attending a tonal evaluation and rating class, the conversation turned from aesthetic attributes to more physical attributes.

We spoke of density and stiffness.

I told Greg that I had exactly what he was looking for, For his desired TONE and response, But that it didn’t meet the “normal” grade criteria of Master Grade looks. In fact by looks, the boards would have been graded an AA.

An order was placed for both. the normal Master Grade [Though no Master Grade is normal, as they are so rarely produced from the thousands of total guitar tops.], And a couple of the light density tops from a particular log.  to be continued….


Let me tell you the story about this particular log.

In ASW’s earlier years, we produced wholesale block to supply another soundboard producer. We were paid on cuttout/recovery and what they would/could sell.

The target Criteria was a certain range of growth ring count and little or no color variation. White is always preferred., no bearclaw, straight grain without irregular ring spacing.


Well in 1989 we purchased a plie of 80 foot long bridge stringers about 12 logs from Sealaska Timber Corporation. It was a log bridge was built crossing a creek new new constructed logging road in 1983/84. Large SitkaTrees from the vicinity were used. An 80 foot  butt cut from each tree used make the bridge. The bridge was pulled and replaced with a steel modular bridge in 1987/8.

We cut all but this one log into block and exported it to the soundboard producer.



Ok back to our special log, this one log had wider grain than what was spec, and it had color and “bearflaw”[the occasional scattered bearclaw jiggle.]

Also It was too large diameter to load or even pick with the loader, so we bucked into log lengths, ripped the big end in quarters and the top end in half.

We started producing bass fronts from this log. And from the off cuts that were under 4′ long and under 16” wide, we produced some guitar tops.

I noticed how light weight they were compared to most sitka.


Story continues….

The story continues with Greg and his order. He received the box of boards and happily stated, those “not as pretty” light weight tops from the Black Bear Ck bridge stringer.

I had sent him where exactly what he was looking for in a soundboard for his instruments.

Greg purchased more of the same, and we gave them a name Black Bear Ultra lights. And the tops were consistent of their tonal and physical properties. but not looks in color or texture, as those criteria varied by quadrant and in the length of the log.

The Ultra Light sort was created from that one log.


Fast forward to 2015

We purchased a log float from a guy at Port Protection, at the north end of Prince Of Wales Island. The float had a couple mobile homes on it from logging camp days. The trailer frames had “APC” brands welded on the frames. Obviously, it was one of Alaska Pulp Corporation Camp floats.

It had been purchased by private party after APC closed it’s doors.

The float had been in Port Protection for about 30 years. several families lived on the float during the years there.

But by the time 2015 comes in, the float was delinquent and trespass on State tideland waters.

The float was a big one 70 feet wide x 110 feet long and made with 16 logs in the water and 3 head sticks, going across the top of the float logs with 1.1/4” galvanized cable lashing.



In 2017, The ASW crew burnt all the trash, dismantled the trailers. Cut the float in half lengthways, into two 35′ wide floats. We hired a friend with tug to tow the float [now floats plural] from Port Protection, out and around Labachure Bay, through dry pass, The narrow spot that required the float to be cut in two. In dry pass at high tide there was less than 15′ clearance on each side of the floats. After 60 hours of non-stop tow. the float was tied up at Viking Lumbers sort yard booming grounds, where we pulled and bucked logs to haulable lengths 26′ – to 40′ logs.

It was then, while dismantling the float we noticed similar texture and density of the log fiber as the black bear ck bridge stringer log. we ended up with some off cuts and short logs that we blocked out and processed into soundboard products.



Now its 2020. during the past couple years we have been producing thousands of guitar tops and other products from some of these logs and others. Tops from a couple of these floatlogs are of the same type density as those Black Bear ck stringer ultra light tops. As I sort and grade, I glean those that are especially light weight out. we dimensionalize them all to near the same,  and weigh them to know if they make our target sort or not.

This sort is rare. There are not many stands of old growth sitka left in areas that would produce this type of fiber. All those stands in protected, low elevation, south facing slopes bays and valleys have been clearcut logged over the past 80 years.

And now this newly created sort is even better than the original. In that there is much more “Pretty” and Aesthetic criteria that is used by all other producers and instrument manufacturers/builders.


To bring this sort  to market, We are creating another variation to already established grade sorts. We will call the variation “Ultra Light.

The other variation from natural is Torified. We can torrify anything but this Ultra light stuff is rare.

Products we produce from this material can be found in our online store by keyword search for tag “Ultra Light”

There will be carved top products and other various size flat top products. And if market requests, we will segregate the ultra light bracewood for fee.


Talking about density

Most old growth sitka has a density of

Torrified Sitka will have an average density of 10% less

This ultra Light sort material is at least another 10% less than the torrified. and 20% less than the common. normal weight sitka.


Regarding looks and texture. Most is quite white for sitka, but there are some with the very prominent sitka color hue. And the texture is a bit loose compared to most slow growing old growth sitka.

Some has the texture of the 200+ year old Norway spruce from many places around Europe where that species grows. And some has a more open texture with growth lines in the extremities of the lower bout area near 1/4″ wide, like much of the red spruce these days. But it’s Sitka, Fine SouthEast Alaska Rainforest Old Growth Sitka Spruce.


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