The Story of the Ancient Sitka Spruce

Three thousand years ago, around 1000 B.C., the world’s human population was roughly 50,000,000. In North America, hunter-gatherers still stalked mammoths and giant bison grazing in the lush and untouched nature across North America. In Southeast Alaska, the great coastal forests were largely untouched by the hand of man. It was here, on the steep slopes miles from what is today Craig, Alaska, that an iconic tree underwent an incredible chain of events that would link it to modern guitar centuries later.

While no one was around to know exactly what transpired, we can only dream that one night during this era, a violent storm hit the steep slopes and pummeled the forest towering within view of the coast. Heavy rains saturated the soil, loosening the roots of one towering old-growth Sitka spruce. As the winds raged through the treetops, a soon-to-be-famous tree fell, only to be buried in a landslide as the slope gave way. For millennia, this Sitka remained buried in the mud, rocks, and debris, until Brent and Annette Cole, the owners of Alaska Specialty Woods, began excavating their property to build a new workshop – at the exact final resting place of this soon to be famous tree.

While it’s probably not uncommon for people excavating in this region to unearth buried and ancient parts of the forest while digging for construction purposes, what’s particularly fascinating about this find is the Cole’s trajectory in life and business are intricately tied to Sitka Spruce – along with other local species – which they have carved a niche selectively and sustainably harvesting in the region. It’s ironic to think a family who’ve been devoted to seeking out rare and iconic old-growth trees happened to find The Holy Grail buried on their very property—buried for centuries, just waiting for them to unearth the magnificent tree and bring it to the world of high-end guitars.

As they were digging and flattening the area where they planned to build, the Coles at first found a Hemlock root wad. In an effort to move it, they cut the roots off—but were shocked at what happened next.

“I saw it turn blue and that it was sound as a nut. At that point, I took an 18-inch round off of it, took it to the saw, and sliced it into ukulele and mandolin tops. [I thought] ‘Wow, these are cool!’ They got snapped up on our website right away,” said Brent Cole. “Then we were [excavating] more, and we found the Sitka spruce.”

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This special tonewood is found on the new Bedell Fireside Parlor Ancient Sitka Spruce – Puerta De Iglesia Brazilian. Check out the full instrument profile here.