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Posts posted by scordatura

  1. This thread on too-low density spruce rings true with me. (pun :P ) I am now realizing that there is some kind of sweet spot with density. I don't have numbers yet, but it seems the high end of Engelmann is best.

    Stay tuned.


    I like this line of thinking...I think!

  2. Let's set some margins for 'awesome sounding instruments'. Is there some inference it's not possible to craft a violin with superior clarity unless a certain grade or genus of wood is chosen? And IF it's not clarity which makes the difference between great sounding violins [and not-so-great] then what is it - a certain pattern of 'noise' one hears??

    As I recall, there're many not-so-great sounding Cremonese instruments all using the same genus of wood [as the great ones].



    I knew this would possibly evolve/devolve into what is good sound debate. I am lucky in that I am a professional player (mostly classical and some jazz) and also someone who delves into making from time to time. I have enough skill on the violin to extract the good qualities of an instrument and play around the inadequacies of an instrument. BTW I am not trying to “toot my own horn” or play my own violin if you will…laughing. What I can suggest is that I am a pretty good evaluator of violin sound (or noise) and most of those really great instruments have been Cremonese. I have played some modern instruments that might also fall into that category.

    I am not saying that a particular genus of wood is always going to be a complete winner over all others. The question in my mind is--how can we best have control over the things we can most control? Yes even wood varies from the same tree. But if as makers we can establish a range of density that we want to work from, that aids in our ability to gain SOME control in this impossible endeavor of instrument making.

    How do we know a piece of wood is great before it is done? It looks good? So many grain lines per cm or inch? Gradual or distinct winter and summer grain lines? Sounds a certain way when we run our hand across the grain? Tap it and hear the noise/sound that it produces? Cut into it with a plane or gouge to sense the qualities? All of the above? The wood supplier says so? Or just take any piece that strikes our fancy and work our magic and vary the arching/scoop and thicknesses and hope for the best. It seems to me that we need something quantifiable to assess the raw materials. For me that probably means sticking to a genus (if we can trust our wood supplier) with a target range of density and use some or all of the above tests to determine and then manipulate with arching and thickness.

    Or do we just subscribe to the “it’s all in how you use it” theory…LOL

    You have to love the black art of violin making. It makes for some interesting debates.

  3. I have been to Simeon's site. What I was wondering is how does his wood compare to others like Orcas Island (Bruce Harvey) or Mountain Voice (Carson)or others? My aim is to order a number of pieces so that I can season them. Perhaps I should order one from each to see what works best. Opinions welcome.

    A side note some years ago I was fairly close with a maker who knew well one of the major wood suppliers in Germany. He said that some (not all) of the wood that people thought was European was in fact from North America. I am not trying to start up anything by mentioning this other than back in the day there was a pretty significant bias against North American tonewood. The arguement being that the Cremonese did not have access to it therefore the NA wood could not be the answer to what we are all after--how to consistently make awesome sounding instruments. And yes, I personally played some Cremonese instruments that from a sound standpoint were not that great. But I have played some that were in a class of their own rarely touched by non Cremonese makers. I am not trying to sterotype and say that only Cremonese instruments are superior sounding to all others but there is a kernal of truth there.

  4. Speaking of the Cannone, a few days ago I watched a youtube vid with Eugene Fodor playing the instrument in CA. Very interesting from a number of standpoints. The fiddle sounded great as far as one can tell from the video. What a tragic figure Eugene ended up being. Got to know him a bit--one talented and crazy dude. He was really fun on a sailing boat.

  5. There are strong indications that the thick ones are original grads and the thinner ones are regraduated. I used to think that maybe the earlier ones were thin, and the later ones thick until I'd seen one from 1736 that had missed the whole regraduation frenzy (as did the Cannone) by being "under a bed" for 200+ years. It was just as thick as the late ones: a top approaching 3.4 in places and a back running generally from 3.0 or so to 6.0+mm. So now I tend to believe the story that most of them have been regraduated. Remember that even early on Paganini knew that they had been thinned, and was always looking for ones that had their original grads, but couldn't find many.

    Ahh the benefits from working in a shop like B&F or your newer venture with Stephan to see legendary fiddles come across the bench...lucky you are. How did the 1736 violin sound? Was it as responsive and sound as rich as thinned examples? Difficult to compare apples to oranges but you know what I mean.

  6. Forests full of trees do not produce just one exceptional piece of wood.

    Yes there is some variation, from piece to piece in the same tree, but not enough to make a huge difference.

    So if a 'one-off' is exceptional, then perhaps it is not some-one-thing but a combination of things that is responsible.

    How many makers has there been that reached the top of making, only to stay briefly, and then disappear due to a failure to continue to produce top quality work? By the top I mean top dollar for work.

    The consistency of the making is due to a lot of hard work, sweat/thought equity. Something Science can't measure, unlike density of wood, which is relatively easy to measure.

    Salve Håkedal, violin maker, Wood density calculator for rough peices

    "In comparison, a 1736 Stradivari

    violin top shows a spring–fall ratio

    of 1:1.153 and an overall density

    of -574 HU or 0.427g/cm3, which is

    relatively heavy." - Path Through The Woods Sept 2005 The Strad

    The real question for me is, how can a maker maximize what any given piece of wood has to offer.

    Reaching the full potential is not some easy math problem, or as simple as having the lowest density wood on the block.

    Nor is it as simple as following directions from a poster, otherwise we would all be Top makers.

    If it was so, then you would never see makers disclosing their wood sources. Something that happens quite regular here at Maestronet.

    Top makers are Hard workers and Top thinkers! .....i think??????? :blink: :blink: :unsure: :unsure: :huh: :huh: :lol:

    i hope I worked that one out right? :huh:

    I don't think I or anyone was implying that this is as simple as a species or give type of wood. Although if you do not start with good (whatever that means...) materials, you are finished before you begin. My aim is to have a discussion of what type of top wood people are using and where you purchase that wood.

    Back when I was into making, anyone who discussed (openly anyway) using anything other than European wood was a heretic. It seems that that line of thinking has gone out of favor to some extent--which I think is a good thing.

    This reminds me of Formula 1 racing. You could not just put a McLaren undertray/diffuser on a Ferrari chassis with a Red Bull front wing and hope it would work to make the fastest car. That being said when McLaren developed a trick thing called an "f duct" last season all of the teams scrambled to copy it AND integrate it into their vehicles. Sorry for the F1 reference...

  7. My measurements show a slight trend toward higher damping in low-density spruce, which I believe would weaken the overtones and give a plainer sound.


    Did you compare European or Sitka to the Englemann? It would be interesting to see the differences.

  8. Thanks for the responses. So low density = engelmann. It does make sense that a less dense wood would not have as much inherent dampening so the complexity of the sound might suffer.

    I find it interesting when people say that del Gesu's are thick. I am not sure that this is true. I was just looking at the Biddulph del Gesu books that have measurements taken from the exhibition in the 90s at the Metropolitain Museum and some of the Strad posters/plans that I have. From what I could see the tops were all in the 2.3-3+ range. Not like the really thick French violins that need to be regraduated. Before anyone gets worked up...I am aware that most of the Strads, Guarneri and other antique instruments are not in their original state (due to Vuillaume and other shops over the years). And yes tenths and even hundredths of a mm make a difference.

    Also how many wood samples from Stradivari and other great Cremonese makers have really been scientifically put to the test to quantify the properties of the wood. I am aware of Condax and a few others that had access to samples for mainly varnish and ground analysis. If there are any studies of such things anyone could point to I would appreciate it.

    To me the question is would you rather have a less dense wood and work around the problems of complexity of sound or modulate a dense wood that tends to not vibrate with the freedom that wood with a lower density does. As with many things the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Perhaps that is where things beyond the wood like ground and varnish figure in to the above...which is indeed another rich topic!

  9. After a long hiatus from violin making, i've got the bug back...

    Anyway, I am interested in opinions about so called "low density spruce". Is this garden variety engelmann? I realize that there is quite a bit of variation within a given species but I have noticed the term "low density spruce". Does this differ that much from others selling engelmann spruce or is it a different species?

    Thoughts, opinions?

    I have a stash of spruce that was purchased from a famous maker. When I asked him why he was selling this wood he said "we found something lighter".

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