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David Burgess

Nice Engelmann Spruce?

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I've posted this before, but this might be the place to repeat it.

A 2006 VSA Newsletter article by Eric Chapman noted that Feng Jiang's 2004 VSA Gold Medal violin had a Canadian Engelmann spruce top and Chinese maple back. One of the tone judges liked the fiddle so much that he bought it.

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For some perverse reason I find that to be a delightful revelation. Feng does terriffic work, and gets good prices for it...so apparently Englemann and Chinese Maple is OK, in a master's hand? Ah, that makes my day...

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"a lot of builders use Sitka spruce also, but you don't even want

me to get started on what i think of Sitka spruce, sincerely

Lyndon"

I take that to be a negative........................I'd be

interested in getting you started on what you think of Sitka.

 We know it's denser than Engelmann which would support your

top thinning to possibly Strad specs by your reasoning, right?

 Have you not found a suitable piece?

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Hi David Burgess,

quote:


How quickly this happens depends on conditions. Activity is greatly reduced with lower moisture and/or temperatures. I don't find much biological activity in my freezer.

Fiddlecollectors link shows that a large proportion of the old wood was salvageable.

I could not copy a paragraph from fiddlecollectors link so I took a photo, the quality is poor:

Cheers Wolfjk

BTW, I don't think the climate of Western North America can be compared to the Europian continental climate as the Rockies and the moisture coming from the Pacific interact. Perhaps the climate and micro climates of the British Isles is more like The North Western American.

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I like Sitka spruce. I've found the quality of European spruce to be highly variable to say the least, the last top I carved from it was thrown away because the wood was for lack of a better word horrible. It was literally the worst piece of wood that I have used. I started a new sitka spruce top from scratch but that violin hasn't been completed yet. Of course any type of spruce will vary greatly in its properties but typically when I buy Sitka spruce I feel that I have a better idea of what I will be getting than with european spruce. I used red spruce for a period years ago and it was pretty nice but to date some, ok all, of my best sounding violins have been made with Sitka spruce from Southeastern Alaska. I suspect that I will like Englemann spruce for violas and plan to test that hunch soon.

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Wm:

I find Sitka, likewise, an excellent top wood if tightness of grain

and density are considered.  I was just wondering about Lyndon

and his comment as to what he was referring to and why.

I have some of Simon's wood which I've yet to use.  I will try

his low specific gravity Engelmann although my better nature tells

me that when you can easily press a finger nail into the wood, it

may be too soft.  Although, I may have a pleasant surprise and

I'll hold judgement.

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My preference is for the low density Sitka spruce with not more than 15 grain lines per inch. I still like and use the Sitka with finer grain but my best violins were made with the wide grain stuff. The piece of Engelmann that I got from Chambers was lightwieght but without being as soft as the other Engelmann spruce that I've tried in the past. I haven't had a chance to build a violin with it though because its back at the old Texas workshop so I won't be able to fetch it until around Christmas time.

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Sorry, Wolfjk, I'm failing to understand what you're getting at.

The paper describes 3.8 million board feet being killed over many years prior to 1952.

Simeon says the trees he's using died in the late 1940s. Where's the rub?

Also, I don't understand your mention of the climate of Western North America. Colorado is far inland, almost half way across the continent, and inland of some desert regions.

Again, I'm not sure what you're getting at.

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Hi folks

I just ordered some wood from Simeon and await its

arrival I must admit that I am quite impressed by his

whole approach. (As far as I am aware....) I have not used Engleman

before but for me certain things about Simeon's method are rather

compelling....(not just the age or split promise....buut aslo the

fact that these trees died standing)...He was also very generous to

deal with.

Simeon also kindly sent me pics of a dead Engleman being felled. I

will ask him if I might post these with his permission.....The pics

accord with Fiddlecollectors document. I truly suspect a lot

of skill and hard work goes into converting this wood Simeon

offers........I will report back once the wood arrives tho

obviously first communications will be to Simeon .

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Hi David Burgess,

quote:


Sorry, Wolfjk, I'm failing to understand what you're getting at.

The paper describes 3.8 million board feet being killed over many years prior to 1952.

Simeon says the trees he's using died in the late 1940s. Where's the rub?

Sorry David I can't be any clearer. The paper describes the trees in "various stages of deterioration" The wood is suitable for "particle boards", "pulp" and "houselogs" which I take to be firewood.

I have no doubt that Simeon Chamber sent you the best wood he had and that he provides a good service to his customers, but I took his claim of using trees that stood dead for more than 50 years as a joke.

Cheers Wolfjk

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Hi Wolfjk

Google Simeon's Ebay woodstore.......He describes the old trees as

standing like grey fence posts and also sells narrow cross sections

or a few bucks as block wood. On some of these you can see 3 or so

cm of degraded outer wood......

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Honestly as someone who has spent more than three days in the region where the wood in harvested your comments are kind of a joke. You show a picture of the stump of a tree that rotted in wet Scotland and then say that wood in Colorado must do the same thing at the same rate. Colorado is a desert with mountains down the middle of it. Things age differently. A few hours ago I posted practically the same thing but worded more politely but VPN cut me off the internet. I read the paper and the only bad thing the author had to say about the wood was that it had checks in it and these checks reduce the yield when sawing the wood into boards. Well where is the problem with that for the violinmaker? There is no problem, the checks travel in exactly the same dirrection as a top that is split from a log and isn't that the prefered method of producing a violin top from a log? The only other bad thing I read is that some of the wood has discolorations in it from exposure to weather. All violin wood is graded with discolorations taken into account so there is no problem there either. You sure seem intent on condeming wood that you have never used, that is cut from trees that you have never seen, obtained from a region that you have no familiarity with.

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But what is the desired quality factor for violin wood? How do you know that a piece of wood that is partially decomposed is the wrong piece of wood to use on a violin? Many people think that submerging logs in a river for a certain amount of time to expose in to microbe attack is why Strads sound good, I don't believe this. How do you quantify the properties of good wood, no one has that I know of. I'm a physics guy but I know better than to think that this question has already been answered, actually I think there is no ideal since this comes into the realm of opinions of what constitutes good tone which is also a question that has no clear answer.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Wolfjk

Sorry David I can't be any clearer. The paper describes the trees in "various stages of deterioration" The wood is suitable for "particle boards", "pulp" and "houselogs" which I take to be firewood.


You're right, in that the report describes the wood as being suitable for these purposes, but it doesn't exclude other purposes.

A larger part of the report describes "lumber grade yields". These are lower with the dead trees versus live, mostly due to checking, but still about 24%.

Edit:

I see that Wm. Johnston already responded in greater detail.

All I truly know is that the wood I received looks and feels nice, and the service was great.

Others with more experience using it have already posted, and I can't contribute in that area.

Lest I be perceived as having an agenda, I've also received nice Engelmann from Bruce Harvey, and Gordon Carson at "Mountain Voice Soundwoods", but this was before I started posting here. My only significant experience with its use so far is on cello tops and bass bars.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
violins88

I hope no one gets the idea that they could actually have someone like Martin Schleske measure the wood and tell you the quality factor (damping and stiffness).

Who knows, Schleskes definitions of quality may ultimately prevail.

In the meantime, based on limited listening tests, I'll give more focus to whether his sonic perceptions might be different from mine.

Not to take anything away from Martin. If you've met him, I'd be suspicious if you said anything less than "He's a fascinating guy!"

Soundwise, or from his sense of humor, I can learn from him.

But maybe not as much as from Melvin or Manfio or others (the list is long, and the jury is out).

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Houselogs, Mr. Wolfjk, are just that-- house logs-- logs from which people make log houses...for which there is a large market here. People pay a premium for big logs to make houses of them. And they have to be in pretty good shape.

The climate in Colorado is so completely removed from yours as to be incomparable. The fact is, you really don't know anything about the area, the climate, the economy or any of the other things you have been talking about. It has been good to hear people who DO know the area, the wood, etc. speak up.

I live in the Pacific Northwest, about 45 miles from the ocean, where it is wet much of the year, and green most of the year...and all the claims you have made would be accurate here-- but not in Colorado.

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Chet is right about Colorado's climate: It is very different from most people's experience. Having lived in Colorado where I explored the old gold mining towns and fished countless mountain streams, I have no doubt that Simeon's claims are correct.

In any case, the issue should be the quality of this wood, and not whether one understands correctly the history and environmental effects on dead trees. As I said before, this wood appears to be very nice.

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David,

I'm glad you did disclose this wood source. After reading this thread I called Simeon and order a few of his Pro grade tops. They came in on Saturday and They were the nicest tops I have ever bought. that includes some really nice alpine top I bought from a supplier in Switzerland.

Simeon is a super nice guy and I can recommend doing business with him.

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