Robin Shackleton from Errington and Joe Young from Qualicum Beach are part of a movement.
The local instrument makers are two of 46 artists from Vancouver Island and beyond who are out to create a wide range of artwork out of a giant hollow Western big leaf maple.
“(It’s about) making the most out of the trees we cut,” said Shackleton of the motive behind the so-called oneTree Project. “A lot of wood — a lot of trees — aren’t appreciated.”
“Everything gets used,” said Christine Fagan, marketing and sales manager for Live Edge Design, the custom furniture company in Duncan that started the project. Since the purposed artworks range in size from small carvings to tables, she said the artists were able to make use of pieces that would normally be considered cut-offs.
The oneTree maple, which needed to come down for health and safety reasons in Nov. 2014, was originally located on the Wikkerink homestead in Cobble Hill. The tree, which was approximately 110 years old, was around 100 ft. tall by 100 ft. wide, and produced 2,000 board feet of wood.
“We had first rejected it because Bill Clark, our wood manager, put his tape measure inside the hollow and it just kept going beyond the 6-ft. mark,” Fagan said. “Luckily for us, it has proved wonderful inside.”
Western big leaf maple is a medium density hardwood commonly found in this area, Shackleton said.
“It’s really stable,” he added. “It’s hard enough for a lot of things.”
What is more unique about this type of tree, however, is the fact it naturally grows into a multitude of patterns, including birds eyes, quilting and flame.
“You can get so much feature in the wood,” said Shackleton, who admits that his piece of wood is “pretty chill.”
Shackleton was given a piece approximately 18 in. by 12 in., which he will carve into a Celtic drum called the bodhran. Unlike the traditionally shallow bent frame, though, Shackleton said his instrument will have a deep solid body. This produces a deeper tone and offers the player more control over sound.
“It’s kind of a classy drum,” he said.
To finish the piece, Shackleton said he will use a local goat skin and a decorative inlay. In all, his project will take about 12 hours to complete and will be worth $600.
Shackleton said he originally wanted to make two drums but he wasn’t able to because there was a crack running through the wood.
Similarly, the slabs Young received were also less than perfect as they included some soft sections.
Still, Young is certain he’ll have enough to work with. He plans to use his allotment of wood to build a hollow body electric guitar with an internal sound board, a design he’s developed over the past 15 years.
“Maple, especially for electric guitars, is really common,” he said.
For the non-wood pieces of the guitar, Young said he is trying to make the guitar as local as possible. The pick ups will be made by Arlen Pelletier from the Summit School of Guitar Building and Repair in Qualicum Beach, the decorative bronze inlay will be from an undetermined First Nations artist on the Island and the tuning heads will come from a company in Vancouver.
The only truly exotic piece of the puzzle with be an EverTune Bridge from New York.
A guitar like this usually takes around 40-50 hours to complete, though Young said he’ll take a little longer on this one. In all, he estimates the guitar to be worth $3,500-$4,000.
He also hopes to have enough leftover big leaf maple to build a guitar stand and an amp, which he would build using electronics from Mark Stephenson of Stephenson Amplification in Errington.
All of the pieces created in the oneTree project will be auctioned off or sold at the end of the exhibition, which is set to run first at the Robert Bateman Centre in Victoria from November 2015 to January 2016 before touring other galleries in the province. Live Edge Designs partnered with the Robert Bateman Centre for oneTree at the beginning of the project.