Turning Archive 2005
Mike Schwing from Md.
>Copied from the main messages board - this would be a nightmare for turning wood collectors...
Article appeared in today's (5/31) Seattle Post Intelligencer.
Poachers target maple trees for their 'figured' wood Law seeks to halt theft of timber used in fiddles, guitars
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
BREMERTON -- The thieves typically come at night, sometimes illuminating their work with headlamps or muffling the sound of chain saw exhaust by attaching a hose that runs into a bucket of water.
When they are done, the scene is similar to one Greg Peterson found recently on his 31 acres near Port Gamble Bay -- discarded branches sticking up from the ground and two missing maple trees.
"I had heard about the high demand for certain types of maple, but I never thought it would happen to us," Peterson said.
The theft on Peterson's property is one in a string of crimes that have drawn the attention of Kitsap County authorities in recent months.
The targets often are big-leaf maples between 60 and 100 years old, which offer a chance at valuable wood prized by craftsmen.
Such timber -- known as "figured" wood -- displays a special three-dimensional grain that is coveted by guitar and fiddle makers around the globe.
Officials say craftsmen may pay hundreds of dollars for a couple of maple boards that end up as particularly beautiful instruments.
"These trees are not high value for lumber. They are often the opposite of what a timber company would want for saw logs -- gnarly, twisted, old, sometimes rotten," said Mike Cronin of the state Department of Natural Resources.
Another recent incident involved thieves cutting down several maples along state Route 104, removing chunks a few feet long in their search for the special grain. In other cases, contract loggers have removed more trees than their clients authorized, sometimes returning after the legitimate job was completed.
In eastern Jefferson County, maple poachers cut a half-mile of vehicle trails through a fragile state wetland and stole up to 50 maple trees, Cronin said.
"The damage was pretty dramatic," he said.
Despite the illegal side of figured wood supplies, specialty wood dealers are finding a ripe market for such products.
The domestic demand for electric guitars grew 43.5 percent last year, while the acoustic guitar market climbed 38.6 percent, according to the International Music Products Association.
Whale Bay Wood Products near Quilcene is among the area's leading buyers of figured maple.
The company ships several types of wood from around the world and operates seven full-time drying kilns. When it comes to figured maple, Whale Bay patronizes large timber companies along with people who simply walk in the door.
Officials hope a new law taking effect July 1 will help curtail illegal tree harvesters.
The measure requires a permit for transporting "specialty wood," which includes logs of less than 8 feet, free of knots, which can be turned into musical instruments or ornamental boxes.
The permit must be signed by the owner and identify the person's property. It also must be endorsed by the sheriff's office and kept with the wood during transport. When the law goes into effect, any person transporting specialty wood without a permit would be in immediate violation of the law. Officers may seize the wood along with the vehicle and tools.
Apparently this is in Washington state. If this were put into law, this would mean that many typical woodturners, self included, would have to follow all of these rules and regs every time you score a fallen tree, or a neighbor gives me permission to take part of their tree, or when you go to the local log dump and scour the grounds for figured turning lumber. So before you could make the trip to the local brush pile or when you hear a chainsaw running in the neighborhood, you'd need to have all the paperwork signed, and then endorsed by the sherrif's office, or my haul could be confiscated.
Some of you Washington state folks might take note of this.