Larry Stamm, Luthier

Stringed Instruments and Tonewoods

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Robson Valley

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Open Source Software

Personal Information

Luthiery Background

While many luthiers began their craft as players wanting a better instrument than they could afford to buy, I came to lutherie from the wood supply side of the craft. I have spent my entire adult life involved in some aspect of the forestry and wood processing industries, working at various times as a timber cruiser and surveyor, logger, sawmill operator, and now as a luthier and tonewood dealer.

In the early 1990's, I was involved in a small sawmill operation that was processing the large high quality spruce logs found in the Robson Valley for the Japanese and German millwork markets. We had also had a steady stream of log buyers from the USA and Europe visiting the mill yard looking for those special tonewood quality logs to ship out of the area for processing into soundboards. I believed there was no reason to ship those logs and the resulting income from processing them out of the local area, so I started processing spruce and red cedar logs for tonewood in 1993. A steep learning curve followed, but I have been testing and recording data on tonewood for over a decade now and have a wealth of knowledge about what does and does not contribute to the acoustical qualities of soundboards.

I have played the guitar since I was a teenager, and it seemed only natural to build one someday since I had all that high quality soundboard wood around. In the winter of 1995, I had the opportunity to attend David Freeman's guitar building course at Timeless Instruments in Saskatchewan, Canada. I built my first instrument there under David's excellent tutelage, and have been building instruments since. I began building mostly classical guitars but have branched out into building other instruments such as mandolins and bouzoukis, violin family, and wooden flutes.

Other Interests

The resources surrounding me, both natural and human, provide me with a living and a home. I am deeply committed to my local region and believe in "thinking globally while acting locally". Here are some of the ways I try to implement that slogan.

Community Activities

The Robson Valley is an isolated area with a small population base, so the need for volunteers to help keep essential community services operating is great. I have had the opportunity to serve on the local public library Board of Trustees for many years, and have benefited greatly from this service. I am a strong believer in free public libraries, and encourage everybody to support their local libraries in whatever way possible.

The local economy has been dependent mainly on the forest industries, which is highly unstable. Recent changes in world trade markets, along with actions by the provincial government, have affected the community severely. I have been involved in several organizations seeking ways to diversify and expand the local economy, and have researched and written a couple of reports recently documenting the current socio-economic trends and opinions in the region. These reports are available here (PDF, 1.6Mb) and here. (PDF, 690 Kb).

I live in an area of spectacular natural beauty, and one of my joys in life is to spend time wandering in the wilderness surrounding me. I am involved in the local alpine club, and have spent many strenuous but enjoyable hours constructing and maintaining local hiking trails.

Environmental Conservation

The increasing rate of logging in the old growth inland rain-forest in this region, along with the concurrent negative effects on wildlife habitat and the human community, have led me to become involved with a local environmental organization, the Fraser Headwaters Alliance. This group seeks ways to create a sustainable local economy that includes forestry, while at the same time providing for the needs of the abundant wildlife in the area and preserving some of the unique antique rainforests for future generations.

The group is involved in economic transition projects, including plans to construct a tree canopy walkway in red cedar - hemlock rainforest, and is constructing a section of the National Hiking Trail from the Bowron Lakes on the western slopes of the Cariboo Mountains to the BC/Alberta border along the summit of the Rockies.

My duties with FHA include being a member of the economic transition project, as well as representing the organization in the Forest Stewardship Council.

Technology and Open Source Software

I was something of a Luddite when use of the internet became widespread, but I ended up with a computer in trade for a guitar. It came complete with Windows 3.1 and software installed, but I never really figured out how to make it do what I want. Somewhere I had heard of the Linux operating system, so I installed an old version of RedHat (5.x) on the old computer and was happy to see complete documentation came with the installation disks. Comprehension of using a computer followed, and I became a strong advocate of Open Source Software because it seeks to freely share the knowledge and power that computers can unlock.

Part of my duties at the McBride Library is the maintenance of the library's computer network, and the library's servers are now running reliably and securely with GNU/Linux and OpenBSD. Specialized Open Source applications the library is running include the Linux Terminal Server Project and the Koha online public access catalog. The Open Source philosophy fits very closely with the philosophy behind free public libraries.

Come to think of it, there is a great deal of similarity between the ideas of the Open Source world and the philosophy of sharing that is found so commonly among the luthiery world, especially among the Guild of American Luthiers.

And yes, this website comes to you courtesy of Open Source applications, specifically Slackware Linux, the Xemacs editor, PHP, and the Apache web server.

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