Bearclaw Sitka Spruce Tonewoods
Bearclaw Siika spruce has a shallow, cross-grain curl that seems to increase cross-grain stiffness in acoustic guitars. Many luthiers feel that it enhances the tone and sustain of spruce. Strong, focused tone with strong fundamental — perfect for flatpicking styles. Usually takes a slightly longer period of playing time to open up. Not so cleanly defined as European spruce but, instead, as warmer, more fundamental, and largely free of overtones. It’s a good, solid sound and bluegrass flatpickers and folk-musicians tend to like it a lot. Looks like a bear has clawed across the grain of the wood. Highly appreciated for its unique patterns, resulting in an eye-catching shimmer. The figure in bearclaw is not actually caused by a bear clawing the tree. While the true cause of the figure is unknown, it is widely assumed to be caused by either genetic mutation or climactic stress.
Sitka Spruce – A Remarkable Tonewood for Guitar Building
Spruce is one of the most widely used building materials in the world - because people don’t just use it to craft homes or make furniture - people have also used wood for making musical instruments for many, many years. This custom has been a part of various civilizations for several centuries. In fact, the first known usage of wood for making musical instruments goes back to harps. Sitka Spruce has a very long and important history as a tonewood species and is highly utilized in many acoustic instruments.
About the Wood
The scientific name of Sitka Spruce is Picea sitchensis. It is a coniferous evergreen tree, which grows to a height of 100m and the truck widens to 5m at the breast area. This species is the largest spruce species and known as the fifth largest conifer, following giant trees like western red cedar, coast redwood, sequoia, and kauri. It is also the third after coast Douglas fir and coast redwood. The name “Sitka” comes from Alaska.
The color of the wood varies from cream, yellow, to white and it sometimes exhibits a pinkish red tint. The sapwood is not a clear demarcation but sometimes, the wood exhibits unique and appealing grain patterns. The term used to describe the patterns is “Bearclaw” because it resembles the claw of bears.
It has a fine and smooth texture with a straight grain.
Why It’s Good for Guitar Building
Sitka spruce is a great tonewood species for guitar building because of it's tonal characteristics and when it offers great aesthetic appeal, such as the "bearclaw" patterning found in select boards. It is not too resistant to decay but with the right processing and careful use, it can last for decades. It does have attractive luster, which makes guitars look very attractive after the finishing process. In the finish process, it stains easily as compared to other wood types used for guitars, and it works well with some toners and other desirable finishing processes. It doesn’t have a characteristic odor, and allergies with this wood are uncommon. Moreover, it is a easily accessible and can be harvested sustainably.