Our Process Begins with Superior Tonewoods

Read about our rigorous selection and processing methods and how we produce the highest quality Sitka Spruce wood.

Why Sitka Spruce?

Sitka Spruce from Southeast Alaska is the finest in the world, which is why many wood processors look for their supply of Sitka Spruce from Southern Southeast Alaska. Prince of Wales Island, the place we call home, has the highest concentration of the best grade Sitka Spruce. The climate here is maritime, cool but moderate. Without weather extremes, the wood grows at a very even, slow rate.

The Tongass

Alaska Specialty Woods has one primary source for all material acquisitions. Whether the wood comes from old log floats, old log bridges or from a wind-fell tree in the forest, all of it is from the beautiful and ancient Tongass National Forest (TNF). The Tongass is often referred to as the “crown jewel of the National Forest System”. Located in the Southeastern panhandle of Alaska, or the Alexander archipelago — made up of over one thousand islands — it covers over 17 million acres and is the largest national forest in the United States. The Tongass, a temperate rainforest, thrives in maritime climate of Southeast Alaska because of the high humidity throughout the year and sufficient sunlight during the spring and summer.

Due to the remote location and inaccessibility of the Tongass, many areas of the forest remain pristine, limiting the amount of viable resource options. Within the last few decades, Alaska’s TNF has seen a significant decline in the available old-growth resources due to the timber industry as well as regulatory legislation, such as Land Use Designation (LUD). We do not discourage the management of our natural resources — rather we encourage it — but there is always room for improvement. One way is through acknowledgement of local information. That process has begun and Brent Cole Sr. is one of many individuals involved with helping to create a conscientious and thorough land management plan for the Prince of Wales area. We believe it is our duty to promote sustainable management practices for the improvement and longevity of our old-growth resource.

Although, by and large the clear-cut operations that have taken place in the recent years have been on private land through private companies, the National Forest Service is still facilitating clear-cut old-growth timber sales, both of which contribute to the unsustainability of old-growth timber in the area. While ASW does not condone old-growth clear cutting, we do understand the necessity of maintaining a competitive market through responsible timber management. Those who are not directly affected by the consequences of the declining timber industry and the resource it encompasses, may be more inclined to purchase material from clear-cut logging.

Alaska Specialty Woods is the largest soundboard manufacturer in the world that can claim 100 percent of production material is salvage-sourced old-growth. Any and all products that make up our variety of inventory is acquired through sustainable and environmentally sound methods. The primary means for collecting raw material is through the USFS facilitated Mircosale program. This program allows only a limited quantity of less than 50mbf (50,000 board feet) per sale, eliminating any notion of clear-cut logging. Any tree in the sale must meet all criteria within the parameters of the program (i.e. all trees must be dead and/or down, must not fall within any buffer of a specified fish stream or tributary thereof, may not be in wetland areas or wildlife habitat, etc.) and cannot be acquired from any wilderness protection area. Within these guidelines the available old-growth becomes very limited. Hence, we only have the option to take what nature provides.

Other Woods

Western Red Cedar

Western red Cedar is fairly abundant in Southeast Alaska, though it is the northern boundaries of it’s range. It is a traditional wood for nylon string guitars. Finding good colored Red Cedar in abundance is very difficult here. A lot of it has an oil stain, which gives it a streaked appearance. We find a fair amount that has a good color and even texture. Red Cedar, I have been told by Luthiers, when used as a sound board, yields a very mellow tone. I usually have supply on hand.

Alaska Yellow Cedar

Though Alaska Yellow Cedar is not a traditional wood, it is gaining popularity. There are a few custom builders using Alaska Yellow Cedar for guitar tops. It is being used more for backs and sides of Flamenco Guitars. It is a denser wood than Red Cedar with a specific gravity very close to Sitka Spruce. It has a very pleasing light yellow color and a peculiar smell. The grain is usually very fine and consistent. We have a very adequate supply on hand.

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