Dave Mather Englemann Spruce

    Last March we attended a wood show in N.Y. State and I was talking to a good friend who was a judge in the woodworking competition there. I remarked on how beautiful the straight grained spruce was in the guitars. An accomplished "picker" himself, he told me the preferred wood for guitars and other soundboards is Engelman Spruce. I asked where exactly it grew and he wasn't sure.
     Englemann Spruce (Picea Engelmannii Parry) is found in nine Western States and two Canadian Provinces: its range extends from British Columbia and Alberta south to New Mexico and Arizona. It likes a cold and humid climate and although it grows at all elevations, it is a major component of the high elevation forest of the Rocky Mountain Region.
     It is extremely long lived, maturing at 300 years and a 500 year old tree is not uncommon. Unlike many trees it still grows well at an advanced age. Usually 18" - 30" in diameter when mature, large "dominants" can be 40" in diameter and 150' high. The largest on record is 19'11" in circumference at DBH and 104' tall.
     The woods of White, Red, Black, and Engelmann Spruce are very difficult to differentiate. Engelmann is the lightest (sp. Gravity .35 ovendry) and slightly weaker than the others. Its wood is nearly white to pale yellow, the heartwood is not distinct; it is even and straight grained, and has distinct growth rings.
     Aside from musical instruments, it is used in general building purposes, boatbuilding, and a myriad of other applications. It is preferred over the other spruces for sliced veneer and railroad ties.


© 2001 by David Mather. All rights reserved. No parts of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the written permission of the author.