QUILTED MAHOGANY "THE TREE." GOING....Going...?

Peter Lay

Member
Messages
13
Quilted mahogany, commonly called “THE TREE” has become legendary since 1965 when it was felled in the Chiquibul jungle. Fine Woodworking featured an article in 1985 relating the astonishing story of “the tree’s” journey and obstacles to be overcome transporting it to the USA.

I have updated the history from 1985 to the present time. If anyone wants a copy please e-mail me – rupert36@gmail.com

The end of “The Tree” supply line is perilously close at hand, so much so, I have been reduced to crafting pieces out of offcuts. Picture one shows an octagonal coffee/end table top using eight 3/8” thick quilted mahogany with contrasting figuring surrounded by Maplewood and inlaid by purchased marquetry. Sanding was to 1000 grit. A one coat shellac finish was applied followed by 12 coats of Mcclusky’s varnish with wet and dry 220 grit sanding between coats.
The final finish copied the old furniture maker’s technique used by Sheraton and Chippendale - light oil combined with very fine rottenstone then hand burnished.

The last hurrah! The initial yield of “The Tree” was 11,000 BF. The finest figuring was either a tortoise shell or attractive waves of golden hue contrasted with browns and reds. To see a finished piece of furniture or a guitar is a dream any lover of wood should desire. The second picture shows part of a panel in an English bar.

My research indicates, after almost a half century, approximately 0.018% of the original tree is left available. Unlike gold and platinum there will likely be no more supply available in our lifetimes. I found one hoarder of wood with a very large board which would market for a modest $135,000. Another source has a beautiful board valued at approximately $110,000. After Mark Berry had his 1986 article published in Fine Woodworking prices raised dramatically to $130.00 BF – now a steel but impossible to buy. Between 2005 and 2008 this rare quilted mahogany changed hands at over $600.00 BF some being traded by a Family Woodworking member. The latest actual sales price for a piece of quilted mahogany suitable for guitar or furniture making was over $1000.00 BF. There is one (the last) board available which would make 4/5 guitars or small items of furniture (Picture 3).
In my estimation with, such a small inventory, current eco concerns and no future supply, prices will double within the next two years.

Anyone owning small pieces of this precious commodity – please let me know?
 

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Peter Lay

Member
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13
Alex sold/part traded his qulited mahogany to, as stated, a guitar guy. However, it is still in tact because he didn't have the heart to cut it up! It is one of the boards I mentioned in my post.

Peter
 

ed sautter

Member
Messages
238
Location
Cortland NY
Peter, I think I have had some of this tree. I worked for Martin Guitar back in 85-86 and they did a run of guitars from this tree. I scavanged some of their "seconds" and some time ago I had some in hand. Something they considered second was not a second in my opinion. I'll have to check to see if I have any left. I haven't looked at my guitar sets in some time. They have been stored and I haven't done guitar work in some time. I had no idea that the wood was priced that high. If I don't have any now I may be a sorry camper.
 

Paul Downes

Member
Messages
959
Location
Westphalia, Michigan
There is a similar trend going on with the best birdseye maple. However it is obviously not to quite the scale nor price range. When I was a lad and not into wood at all I had an opportunity to buy some outstanding birdseye from a longtime generational landowner/logging family. I sure wish I was better than ignorant at that time. :( The sources of the best birdseye is dwindling because of modern forestry management practices. Birdseye occurs when sugar maple trees grow up under stress on North facing slopes. There are some other conditions that cause it to occur and these other conditions are being eliminated by modern forestry management to "increase the overall value of a timber stand". Some of the trees harvested in remote locations were so large in diameter that they were called "nickle eye", the eyes were the size of nickles. (the larger the diameter the bigger the "eyes")

I used to be able to pick up premium "seconds" for a very reasonable price. The sources are drying up.

With figured mahogany I have noticed the similarity with the supply. I have a grand piano that I will be refinishing some time this year (hopefully) This piano is in curly ribbon mahogany and I had hoped to find enough wood with similar figure to make a matching piano bench. Looks like I should get busy scouring the net to find some descent wood.
 

Peter Lay

Member
Messages
13
QM_WidthCloseUP.jpgThanks Ed Sautter. I have attached two pictures left and below the first being the favored figuring and the second although from the same tree I would say (but this is personal opinion) is a secondary figuring.
I hope you find some of this precious commodity – if so please post a picture.

Also thanks Paul Downes. Very interesting points. Whilst most of us support the green movement it is disturbing to see the exotic woods we love are diminishing. In Mark Berry’s 1985 FineWoodWorking article he finished by hoping another magnificent mutant would be discovered – a reward was offered by a Honduras mill owner but nothing was discovered.
Peter
 

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Jay Howlett

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1
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Yes the Table is still uncut!:D It really is a hard thing to take another man's art and cut it up. It's also hard to cut up a board the likes of which I will never see again. Alex still has the base...if I had the cash I buy that and try to keep it as is as long as I could.
 
Messages
22
Location
Chatham Ontario Canada
Peter, I think I have had some of this tree. I worked for Martin Guitar back in 85-86 and they did a run of guitars from this tree. I scavanged some of their "seconds" and some time ago I had some in hand. Something they considered second was not a second in my opinion. I'll have to check to see if I have any left. I haven't looked at my guitar sets in some time. They have been stored and I haven't done guitar work in some time. I had no idea that the wood was priced that high. If I don't have any now I may be a sorry camper.
Hi Ed,
If you still have some of the Tree Mahogany, I would be interested.:)
 

Randy Byrd

Member
Messages
5
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I don't know if it is from the tree or not, but here is the pic of the guitar I am having made of a quilted mahogony, that looks real close to this.
 

ed sautter

Member
Messages
238
Location
Cortland NY
Randy, I've see sets from Martin Guitar that they built years ago. What you have is if not from "the Tree" is darn close. This tree has spectacular figure and even the seconds that Martin refused were still in many eyes just as spectacular. If you have found some of this tree that's a fantastic find. It must have been a hefty purchase$$$ for the back an side set. I like the fact you are using the tortoise shell binding. That will clearly look the best in my opinion. Post more pictures if you have any of the back as well. We all love to drool over things like this. Like to see it when it's finished.
 

Peter Lay

Member
Messages
13
The Tree - Quilted Mahogany

Hi Ed and Randy

I would say 99% that the side on the guitar is from "The Tree." True authentication would come from seeing the real article but that is not necessary unless the guitar was for sale. Who made it?

Peter
 

Peter Lay

Member
Messages
13
Hello Lucinda

My knowledge of Ukuleles is very limited. I know there are different sizes! I do have two small pieces of quilted mahogany genuinely from "the Tree" (see my start to this thread) one piece is very close to the finest figuring and another a step down. There may have to be a combination one for backs one for sides

Please educate me a little.
What do you make the neck of? What do you make the front of? I believe backs are butterflied/ book ended has anyone used three pieces in a back? What size of ukulele are you making?

You no doubt know the price per SF for guitars, even allowing for a small piece and a step down from the best it would have to be a very special instrument to warrant the price of materials. On the plus side it would be one of the worlds most unique ukuleles because of the scarcity, history and rarity of "the Tree."

Happy Thanksgiving.

Peter
 

Randy Byrd

Member
Messages
5
here are more pics...one of the top also,100 year old red spruce!!...the same on scaloped braces...black ebony fret board & bridge...Waverly open tuners...no markers on fret board...and of course turtle binding...he gave me every thing I ask for and more...I have 2 Martins, a d-18,and a hd-28 both awesome, but wanted something special...for what I requested Martin quoted high 5 digits...Gary Cotton is the builder( Grayson,Kentucky ) well respected in the bluegrass guitar world!!...I havent picked it up yet...waiting on finish to cure little longer...but he did send me a sound track of it,my buddy Adam Mcintosh playing...OMG do I need to even say what sound came out that box of mahogany...very,very pleased with whole project
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Peter Lay

Member
Messages
13
Randy
Pics didn't show up too well but I managed to move them to my editor and improve the exposure (Probably an internet problem and not the photography). The wood is, without doubt, Quilted mahogany from "the Tree."
It is seriously gorgeous. The grain is what I personally prefer over the tortoise shell. It is very similar to the board I have left.

You are blessed to have a piece of the historic tree.

Thanks for sharing.

Peter
 

Bob Levengood

Member
Messages
4
Location
New Hampshire
I have a couple boards about 20bd.ft. that I bought from Berea Hardwoods probably 30 years ago. At the time I was given to understand that this was from the lot under discussion. Given my age, health, and pending projects it is unlikely I will use this.:)
 
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