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David Tseng

Red Spruce for Violin Top

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I would like to get some red spruce boards for violin tops. Other than Old Standard, who else supplies this wood. I would like to hear from the makers who use this type of wood. I think the excelsa is more close to the red spruce (and abies to our Engelmann).

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I've used it--a guy named Ted Davis, in the east (check some mandolin sites) sells it. It's OK, but sort of heavy. I decided I'd use mine (I bought 50 tops) for blocks and linings, since it doesn't look all that great under varnish, but seems to be very strong. It doesn't resemble European spruce in any way, visually, tonally, or physically.

[This message has been edited by Michael Darnton (edited 12-12-2001).]

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David;

It looks like you are trying different types of wood. You might look at California Red wood, because spec. for spec. it is the same as spruce. I have had very good results

using it for some time now.

Al:

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I've been using some Adirondack Red Spruce harvested from local (NC Blue Ridge)national forest land. They will let you take what is already fallen,some of it has been laying there up in the high elevations for decades.

It seems to be generally more dense than silver spruce, but has an interesting sounding ring when graduated and tapped;more like a 'dong' than a 'ping'.Seems to lean more towards a longer sustain when bowing the finished instrument.Maybe more suited for flat top guitars?

Bob

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Bob opens up an interesting point--that what's good for one instrument isn't necessarily good for another. Red spruce is the holy grail only in the sense that it's what Martin used in their pre-war steel-string guitars, however even for classical guitars preferences are different. Lots of guitar makers use cedar, which makes spectacularly consistent bad violin tops. If you want a modern steel-string Martin sound, then it's sitka, not the European spruce that violin makers want.

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Redwood is an interesting tonewood, but if your specs show it being 'the same' as spruce, that just shows how grossly general and in many ways useless such 'specs' are. Redwood is VERY different both tonally and in terms of surface hardness and stiffness range from spruce.

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I have 6 pieces of red spruce came from the place listed above by Jacob. They are probably cut from small trees. All of them have at least one knot. I just completed one violin with red spruce top. The tone is very similar to European picea excelsa. As a player, I don't like picea abies which is similar to Engelmann spruce.

A good parameter to characterize wood is the speed of sound which is related to (square root) elastic modulus to density ratio. Another parameter is the ratio of stiffness along and across the grain.

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In Italy there is the so called "abete rosso". The wood is white. It's name is due to the exterior of the tree trunk that has a red hue. It's the wood recomended by old books to make tops (Cozio di Salabue, for instance).

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I wonder what species of spruce abete rosso is. I also heard someone mentioned "red spruce" in Europe.

Many mechanical properties of wood are not species specific, for instance, density and stiffness. However, within one species certain characteristic is more prevalent. I found that picea excelsa and red spruce have higher cross-grain stiffness ( along/cross stiffness ratio is more common in the range 11-12, other spruce 14 or higher). If you are a plate tuner, you'll notice that mode 5 upper branch is V shape for weak cross grain spruce and goes out of the edge of upper bout, while the strong cross grain spruce, the upper branch curve down toward C bout. I think Michael is right, if you aim for certain kind of tone, you use certain type of spruce.

[This message has been edited by David Tseng (edited 12-20-2001).]

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I too am interested in obtaining any violin spruce that has a high cross grain stiffness. Would love to hear from tonewood suppliers who actually measure this parameter. High Lucchi meter readings in the cross-grain direction would be good as well. Example: speed of sound of 1800 m/sec in the cross grain direction would be excellent.

John

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Does anyone reading circa 2016 use red spruce for their builds? I'm interested in seeing photos of violins or cellos that use this wood. Which red spruce trees would be ideal for using on instruments? Young, old, etc. How bid would the diameter of the tree need to be in order to obtain suitable wood on a red spruce? How long, generally speaking, does a tree that has fallen maintain its integrity before it no longer functions as suitable tonewood?

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I've just finished a cello with a red spruce top, from wood I gathered myself.   I have perhaps 20-30 violin size sets, would be perhaps A or AA  and a few higher grade.  They were gathered 2009-10 and probably dead 5-10 years earlier.  Some pretty nice and clean.   I've made a couple tops for violins, and I'd say they were comparable to european spruce, but tougher to work with.  I find the hard red winter rings are tough, hard to make clean cuts around the edges and f holes, even with the sharpest of knives.  Sometimes they catch the scraper and you can pull up slivers of the winter ring.  

 

PM me if you want more info.  I'm in the mood to part with some of my stock.  

 

My nicest pieces came from a standing but dead tree I collected from in 2010, diameter about 39 or 40 inches diameter.  

 

Link to photos of Red Spruce AA piece and a top made of red spruce   http://s1374.photobucket.com/user/david_chandler2/library/Red%20Spruce

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To elaborate, a dead/fallen tree of 24-30 inches will have 8 inches of waste (4" around) due to worm/rot that has to be removed.  The center 2-3 inches have small twigs and very wide rings.  This leaves maybe 5-6 inches radius that is useable.  If you can get wood from a decent trunk of 30-36 inches (rare) you still have 2-3 inches deep wormy wood, plus the wood that carries moisture up into the tree, so its a redish color and soft/flaky wood.  When you get inside that area, you find very high ring count, like 10 per cm or more, but then it sort of evens out across the rest of the trunk somewhere around 5-10 per cm.  A lot of newer forests just coming of age from major cutback during the 1890-1920 timeframe is just 24 inches, nice wood, but low ring count.  To get something that qualifies as AA or AAA it pretty much has to come from a 150-200 year old tree and  35+ inches diameter.  

 

Here's photo of a red spruce top

 

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David, thank you very much for your posts and images. Very informative and your violin is very nice looking.

I am not a maker. I asked because I recently discovered that I have access to red spruce trees, many of which have fallen down. The trouble is that I would estimate that the maximum width of these trees are 18-20 inches and probably no older than 60-80 years.

If you are working with 5" wide pieces, how many did you attach to each other to produce your cello top? I'd be interested in seeing images of such a cello if you are comfortable sharing.

Cheers.

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I went to Battenkill Tonewoods in Arlington, Vermont about four years ago and told the owner I wanted to buy wood to make a violin top. He said around here all the makers use red spruce from the higher elevations and willow for the blocking. The harvest date was on each piece and varied from about five to twenty years old. These are the sizes for violin, pick out what you want. I bought three and he charged me twenty dollars each which I thought was a bargain. He then said this is a piece of willow on me, that I would use it for the end and corner blocks.

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I've also been buying some red spruce from Robert Crosby at Battenkill Tonewoods. I like the way it works and have been getting really good results. Also using some stock from John Griffin at Old Standard Wood.

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Bassclef:

 

Its mostly 2 piece cello top, with about 3" added to the lower bouts for full width.  In process of varnishing, will post a photo perhaps before Nov 10 The top on this cello is Red Spruce, but not great wood at all, in fact, it has run out in both directions, and a couple small knots about 1" diameter.  It will have lots of "character".

 

I think the trees you're looking at need to grow another 50 years to be viable for  violin wood.  8-12 growth rings per inch is beginning level of tonewood, so if the trees you have are (I'll take your best numbers) 20 inches, and 80 years old, they would average 8 rings per inch.    However, I think your 20 inch diameter tree likely includes an area in the center  occupied by the early sapling with twigs that the tree grew up from, so perhaps 4-6 inches are lost there.

 

You MIGHT be able to come up with a few nice slab cut one-piece tops, but again all depends, you need to cut one of the leaners/down trees and take a look and see just what it might yield.

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Hello do you know where I can find violin back routed 4/4 in Europe something like the photo who i send 

I want many pieces for my job 

Screenshot_20190423-233910_Chrome.jpg

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