Genetically Modifed Woods

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by PaulMacCnj, Oct 9, 2013.


  1. PaulMacCnj

    PaulMacCnj

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2004
    Any thoughts here on genetically modified woods for making instruments? Will we soon see "super woods" for increased strength and stability?

    It looks like the push for GMO woods for now is from the paper industry that wants quick growing trees. This also leads to easier re-foresting of the tree farms.
  2. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member

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    Nov 17, 2010
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    Houston Tx
    Genetically modified trees are modified to grow faster. The problem is, the faster a tree grows the softer it is, which means its less stable, and less stiff which means it not so great for building.
  3. PaulMacCnj

    PaulMacCnj

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2004
    Yes, the "buy in" for GMO trees today is faster growth. I was talking about beyond that. Instead of faster growth rates, using genetic modifications to custom tailor the wood. Maybe combine the strength of Maple with the coloring of Cherry or whatever. Just thinking out loud here.
  4. joseplluissans

    joseplluissans

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    Location:
    Tampere, Finland
    I don't see that coming. It takes decades for a tree to grow big enough for instrument building and it would be bad business for short-sighted investors.
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  6. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member

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    Not to mention a very small market
  7. joseplluissans

    joseplluissans

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    Location:
    Tampere, Finland
    Yes, even if the instrument could be sold for 5000$, you'd have to sell them by the thousands. And there isn't a big market for instruments of that price (unfortunately).
  8. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

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    It gets worse.
    What makes fine-grained woods is short growing seasons.
    What makes short growing seasons is long winters.
    "Global warming" / Climate Change makes short (or at least warmer...) winters...

    There are lots of (niche) markets for fine-grained woods: e.g. general aviation aircraft, furniture... These - along with high-end musical instruments - are markets with big price tags...

    There are still lots of old-growth forests in previously inaccessible areas - I am thinking north Europe and Asia. As prices and temperatures rise, more of these areas may become accessible at commercially interesting costs for selective harvesting.

    However, I'd guess the future of high-end musical instruments is engineered materials. We already have carbon-fibre necks and bodies and molded acoustic-instrument bowls (a la Ovation). With engineered materials like carbon nanotube and graphene, we may not be far from not needing as many dead trees in our instruments...
  9. joseplluissans

    joseplluissans

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    Unfortunately North Europe is just pine and birch :( Well, alder and a few others too, but nothing too exciting...
  10. Smilodon

    Smilodon Supporting Member

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    Norway
    True. About the most exciting wood that grow around here is oak.
  11. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

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    Interesting - I have a Norway Spruce in Pennsylvania, but you don't have any in Norway?
    I figured northern formerly USSR like Siberia to have spruce and fir. I know Alaska is famous for its Sitka spruce that has been used in acoustic guitars.

    But this is why I am an engineer, and not a forrester...
    Thanks for the insight.
  12. joseplluissans

    joseplluissans

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    Well, here in Finland even oak isn't a natural tree. There's only a small patch in the southwest...
    I wouldn't mind trying sorbus though.
  13. Smilodon

    Smilodon Supporting Member

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    Norway
    We have spruce, but I'm not sure what the exact name is. Maybe we have Pennsylvanian spruce.. :smug:

    We do have a few kinds of woods, but most of those are softwoods or trees that are pretty small.


    Maybe oak isn't a natural tree here either. I don't think we have any oak forests.

    I don't really know much about the local forests, though.
  14. joseplluissans

    joseplluissans

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    Location:
    Tampere, Finland
    Well, I'd go with spruce and pine, as your country is really mountainious and in the north trees don't grow that big.

    Natural forests here have just pine, spruce, birch, alders (the majority too small for instrument building), poplar and beech. Now, the majority of forests are coniferous so that makes it even more boring. Not much to choose from here.
    Planted woods include maple, ash, horse chestnut (buckeye), elm, oak and tilia (basswood). apart from burls, not much of commercial use in those. I have asked what the city's department of parks do with old tilias as they have really nice burls and they say that those trees rot from the inside as they get old and they just "throw them away". I got a promise that they would notify me the next time some get cut down.
    [​IMG]
    I would love to get my hands on a nice burl :)
  15. thebassbuilder

    thebassbuilder

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    Mar 7, 2012
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    Spartanburg SC
    Disclosures:
    guitar builder, Meyers Guitars
    We do have woods that have been altered. Stabalized woods seem to be the some what knew thing. These seem like a great idea, because you can take softer woods and stabalize them to be used for different areas of guitar building. Gallery Hardwood does this and I have seen woods that would not be used for fingerboards now being used because of this process.
  16. P Town

    P Town Guest

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2011
    What you need to do, is to develop a GM tree whose branches grow in the shape of a bass guitar. You would just saw the limbs off, and add hardware.
  17. SidMau

    SidMau

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    Sep 3, 2012
    So... Carbon fibre anyone?
  18. Big B.

    Big B.

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    Dec 31, 2007
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    No thanks. Terribly nasty stuff to work with and I like the beauty of wood.

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