West Coast Guitar Series
All guitars in the West Coast Series only use locally harvested woods from the west coast of BC. From Vancouver Island to the Skeena River, BC has the largest biomass per square meter in the world. The BC Raincoast is responsible for some of the most important tone woods used today in musical instruments. I would personally LOVE to get more experience playing instruments restricted to local Raincoast and Boreal forest woods. The few I have played have been SPECTACULAR!! I look forward to showcasing the power of the Raincoast and its incredible history here at Symphontree Music: in word, wood, and song.
Western Red Cedar: Thuja plicata
- Specific Gravity: .31 – .37
- Avg. Weight Per Board Foot:3.00 lb/bf
- Color Range: white-gold-crimson-red
- Typical Width: 3″ to 9″
- Typical Length: 6′ to 12′ feet feet
How do you begin to explain the importance western red cedar on the Raincoast? It was the most important resource known to Pacific Northwestern First Peoples. Cedar was used for almost everything: clothing, baskets, tools, utensils, paddles, canoes, fishing line, shelter, food and as an antiseptic. The easily worked, rot-resistant wood is highly valued as a material for construction and carving.
Young cedar branches, or withes, were twisted or plaited together as a strong rope to tie the house planks together, particularly at the front and back of the house. They were also used to to bind canoes together and fasten goods.
Red Cedar bark has a multitude of uses. Large sheets of the whole bark were used for covering temporary shelters as well as for roofing for permanent structures.
To harvest the cedar bark for roofing First Peoples would go to the cedar tree, cut around the base of the tree with a chisel. Then they cut down a young cedar tree and using the branches as a ladder, they climbed up about 7 – 10 feet above the first cut. Then a cut was made from the top to the bottom straight down and the bark peeled off in a large sheet. These bark sheets were bundled together and carried with salmon berry sticks threaded through the inner bark to make them flat.
The inner bark was used for weaving hats, cloaks, baskets, rope, fishing line, fishing nets and ceremonial neck rings for dancers.
To harvest the bark for food and medicinal use an entirely different method was used. In May and June, when the sap runs, several peoples would come together early in the morning to harvest cedar bark. They would select young cedar trees about 12″ in diameter, with few lower branches. A knife was used to cut the bark lengthwise at breast height. The bark was then pulled outwards and up the tree. The strip is pulled up as high as it can go, sometimes 20 – 30 feet. The dry outer bark is removed from the inner bark and discarded or used for firewood. The inner bark is bundled up and returned back to the village by mid day. This bark was split into strips and left to dry in the sun.
Long dried strips of the bark were then cured over a fire, and then chopped against the grain with a bone. This method divided the bark into strands which were individually weaved. Red Alder bark was used to dye the cedar bark and add color to clothing and baskets.
Shredded cedar bark was used for toweling, bandages, infant bedding, and diapers. It was also pulverized and ignited to cauterize swellings. Special cedar bark cloaks were worn by girls in puberty. Cedar bark is said to to be every woman’s elder sister.
Cedar wood oil is an essential oil derived from the foliage, and sometimes the wood and roots. Cedar oil has been shown to possess insecticidal and antifungal properties and to have some potential for control of fungal deterioration of spices during storage.
- photo courtesey of festoolownersgroup.com
First Peoples would make bent wood boxes and store a large variety of foods as well as human remains. The boxes would be filled with foods, like berries layered in Skunk cabbage and Oolichan Grease (made from the Native mainland Eulachon fish) and topped off with water, and sealed to make it through the coastal winter.
- photo courtesey ofnisgaamuseum.ca
Cedar tends to be a warmer, darker, and fuller sounding tonewood. It is a commonly used tonewood on a variety of instruments today.