Les Paul

All guitarists like to believe their favorite instrument is a heady mix of great wood, wire, pickups, design, craftsmanship and that indefinable thing we call “mojo.” But what if that “mojo” is being controlled by the moon? No kidding. Thanks to a blog in Premier Guitar, it is time to talk about “werewood.” What’s “werewood”? It’s wood made better, apparently, by the moon.

Premier Guitar correspondent Ervin Somogyi wrote a fascinating blog recently about this fabled subject. As a luthier who has been building for 40-plus years, Somogyi knows his timber. And he believes that some woods seem different – not because of their different species, but because of when the trees were harvested.

“I’ve handled planks so heavy that they seemed fresh-felled and still full of water,” he says. “And they’d be next to planks that were so light, you could sneeze and they’d practically blow off the pile. But these are woods of comparable size that had been kiln-dried together, so the moisture content would have been the same.

“I assumed this disparity was all normal and natural, until I learned about a European tradition of forestry based on the practice of cutting down woods at specific phases of the moon. This practice of wood felling is built on many centuries of empirical experience and observation, and it yields woods of consistently different density, durability, and working properties.”

Bark… at the Moon

Is this crazy? Perhaps not. Somogyi says, “wood that is felled in accordance with lunar cycles is referred to as ‘full-moon wood,’ though somehow, I’m always tempted to think of it as ‘werewood’.” Yep, as in werewolf.

Somogyi researched the subject and concluded that tree-fellers have noted this since the first millennium. “Woods of any one species cut during the new moon, the full moon, or the waning moon, have consistently and predictably produced different results,” he writes. “Therefore, a number of especially advantageous uses for timber – including guitar tops – have been correlated with specific felling dates. These woods for soundboards are available to luthiers and can be found through a simple search by using the keywords “full moon wood.”

Does that sound even more crazy?  But there are other believers. Swiss company www.tonewood.ch in the heart of Europe, love their “full moon wood.” “We specialize in a type of European spruce known as picea abies,” they say. “Experience has shown us that the internal resonances of spruce greatly influence the tone of an instrument.”

Ancient “Science”

Interested? You can read the academic study Lunar Rhythms in Forestry Traditions – Lunar-Correlated Phenomena in Tree Biology and Wood Properties, by Swiss forestry expert Ernst Zürcher. There are some reports that legendary violin maker Antonio Stradivari used only “moon wood” for Stradivarius instruments, those violins being the most collectible in the world.

It’s not just instruments, either. South African company ecodesignarchitects.co.za believe harvesting wood “the closer you are to the solstice [is] the better … so while the time just after the Autumn equinox is still suitable, it is better still to fell as close to the solstice as possible.” Furniture builders Unique-rustic-creations.com insist, “By cutting wood on the growing moon, you are ensuring that the moisture content is high since the sap is being drawn up into the trunk of the tree, which makes it easier to steam and bend.” But it’s different for guitar manufacturers, of course.

This all sounds rather unbelievable, right? Until you remember our oceans’ tides are controlled by the interaction of the moon and Earth. And some people’s sleep is disturbed by the phazes of the moon. So why not timber? It’s probably all something we will never understand. After all, we are merely guitarists.

But remember, when you have to sell your beloved 1959 Gibson Les Paul Sunburst, someone somewhere may be haggling, asking: “but at what exact point of the lunar cycle was that maple top harvested?” You may not have an answer for that.

In the meantime, here’s a suggested moon guitar set list to suit “lunatics” of all tastes.

1. “Harvest Moon” – Neil Young
2. “Marquee Moon” – Television
3. “New Moon Rising” – Wolfmother (hey, it’s got “wolf” in it too. Watch below.)
4. “The Killing Moon” – Echo and the Bunnymen
5. “How High the Moon?” – Les Paul and Mary Ford