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EXCHANGE: Old oak turned into guitar auctioned for charity

November 25, 2018
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In this 2016 photo, crews take down a large oak tree near Woodridge, Ill. It lived for 250 years as part of a stately oak in Woodridge, Ill.. Now it has been auctioned, as a guitar, not some sorry slab of wood. The instrument is the DeMont Verb, a handmade guitar fashioned by Nate DeMont and his employees at DeMont Guitars in Oswego, using wood from the historic Hobson Oak tree. (Bev Horne/Daily Herald, via AP)

NAPERVILLE, Ill. (AP) — It lived for 250 years as part of a stately oak in the Chicago suburb of Woodridge. Then it survived a fire in Oswego.

Now it’s been auctioned, as a guitar, not some sorry slab of wood, in Naperville.

The piece in question is the DeMont Verb, a handmade guitar fashioned by Nate DeMont and his employees at DeMont Guitars in Oswego, using wood from the historic Hobson Oak tree.

The material to form the Verb came to be when the Hobson Oak was cut down in November 2016. That’s when DuPage County arborists determined the craggy bur oak was drooping dangerously close to a bike path just north of Hobson Road near Greene Valley Forest Preserve and Seven Bridges Golf Club, according to the Daily Herald in Arlington Heights.

As soon as it came down, the Naperville Parks Foundation launched a project to preserve the oak through art and charity that continues with the gala this week.

At least 25 artists, including woodworkers, furniture makers and brewers, got pieces of the tree with which to work by making a promise to donate their pieces to charity. As each piece is auctioned proceeds are split between the host organization and the Naperville Parks Foundation.

At its Champions for Youth gala, the youth services group auctioned 14 pieces that somehow incorporate the Hobson Oak, including the guitar, a “river table” made by Naperville neighbors and woodworking enthusiasts Dave Horton and Perry Martin, six seedlings from the original tree nurtured by the Morton Arboretum, two wooden ornaments, and several night stands or small coffee tables.

“It’s so great that we can continue to incorporate the stories of what the Hobson Oak means to our community,” said Jason Altenbern development director for 360 Youth Services. “It’s a storyline within a storyline.”

The guitar’s creation took a year and a half from when DeMont received the wood to when he and six others at his shop finished crafting it into the final product. Even the instrument’s neck is made from Hobson Oak wood. But after the body was largely shaped, the studio suffered a fire late last year.

“It was just terrible,” DeMont said about the blaze, which began about 20 feet from where the partially completed guitar was sitting on a cast-iron table.

The fire caused visible scars. But for an artisan who enjoys the history of local lumber, it became another line woven into the tale of the tree.

“The burn and rust actually embedded itself into the grain of the Hobson Oak guitar,” DeMont said. “We sanded it down and refinished it. But in the grain, there’s dark patterns where that happened. I just consider it part of the story of the guitar.”

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Source: (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald, https://bit.ly/2SLNRzs

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Information from: Daily Herald, http://www.dailyherald.com

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