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Working with willow

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Here is a different alternative wood. I've made a couple of cellos from cherry wood. I've been very pleased with the results.

Oded

Hi Oded,

There is a G.B. Rogeri cello in Florence with a cherry wood back and sides and it is a wood that has been used by some of the earlier Brescian makers.

Bruce

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The English maker Job Ardern used lime (bass) in place of spruce for many of his violin fronts.

I don't think that willow gives a sluggish response, or a dark sound. I have found it to be bright and vibrant, and have used it in Montagnana style cellos.

I'll be building a cello from a Grancino in the new year. It has a poplar back, and measures over 10mm in the centre (more than my gauge) and 5-6 in the lungs.

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The English maker Job Ardern used lime (bass) in place of spruce for many of his violin fronts.

I don't think that willow gives a sluggish response, or a dark sound. I have found it to be bright and vibrant, and have used it in Montagnana style cellos.

I'll be building a cello from a Grancino in the new year. It has a poplar back, and measures over 10mm in the centre (more than my gauge) and 5-6 in the lungs.

What kind of willow are you using. Their properties can vary quite a bit.

Oded

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The willow I have used has all been from Italy, soft redish wood, the same stuff I use for blocks and linings.

I'll make the Grancino model from poplar, also from Italy, and a fair match to the original. It's pretty hard.

One thing about the very soft willow is that it bruises very easily, and I think that it looses varnish quite differently to maple as a result.

I'm looking forward to trying harder English willow - has anyone here used it?

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What kind of willow are you using. Their properties can vary quite a bit.

Oded

No, the response is better with willow than maple, but I've found it to be generally darker and less focused than maple. Have you made the same model with both woods for comparison?

I wonder if others agree or disagree that wilowl produces a darker sounding instrument?

Oded

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I am still interested in whether others agree or disagree that a cello with a willow back generally has a better response but a less focued, darker sound or is this just a figment of my imagination?

I hope I don't have to argue with myself again, I always seem to lose that argument.

;-)

Oded

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I'll agree with you Oded, with the caveat that my experience with willow is limited to experiencing a small sampling of willow 'celli. They seem to satisfy players who are looking for a "warm" sound. And yes, they do seem easier to play.

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Oded, I'd also agree that while willow instruments can have a big and vibrant sound it lacks the sharpness or focus of maple. I'd also say that this is more true of the softer willow and less of the harder willows and poplars . For that matter I think it's true of maple as well so I guess it is more that softer wood tends to have a more difuse sound than harder regardless of the species.

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So could the "old" maple which is reported to be softer be a contributing factor to that elusive sound present in the old instruments? If so wouldn't it make sense to look for woods other than modern maple with a similar character?

And how does that softer maple work with the apparent higher spruce density of the day due to "the little ice age"? I've also read where you don't want spruce with too high a grain density.

Very confusing if you ask me. :blink:

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Oded, I'd also agree that while willow instruments can have a big and vibrant sound it lacks the sharpness or focus of maple. I'd also say that this is more true of the softer willow and less of the harder willows and poplars . For that matter I think it's true of maple as well so I guess it is more that softer wood tends to have a more difuse sound than harder regardless of the species.

Hi Nathan, I guess that density as well as texture plays a part in these types of wood? Love the pic of your cello in post 4 of this thread!

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So could the "old" maple which is reported to be softer be a contributing factor to that elusive sound present in the old instruments? If so wouldn't it make sense to look for woods other than modern maple with a similar character?

And how does that softer maple work with the apparent higher spruce density of the day due to "the little ice age"? I've also read where you don't want spruce with too high a grain density.

Very confusing if you ask me. :blink:

Hi Joseph,

The 'old maple' was not softer nor was the spruce density higher due to the mini ice age which is a debunked theory....I empathize with your confusion ...there is a lot of viable looking info' out there :)

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So could the "old" maple which is reported to be softer be a contributing factor to that elusive sound present in the old instruments?

Curious to know where old maple is reported to be soft?

Isn't the wood of older instruments supposed to be brittle due to its age, which apparently contributes to tonal qualities of the instrument? Not saying that it makes any older instrument or wood better, just that it is one of the factors.

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Curious to know where old maple is reported to be soft?

Isn't the wood of older instruments supposed to be brittle due to its age, which apparently contributes to tonal qualities of the instrument? Not saying that it makes any older instrument or wood better, just that it is one of the factors.

Seems as though it was a discusion in this forum. I will see if I can find the reference.

Hi Joseph,

The 'old maple' was not softer nor was the spruce density higher due to the mini ice age which is a debunked theory....I empathize with your confusion ...there is a lot of viable looking info' out there :)

It was all in reference to wood "quality" relating to the old Cremona sound. Also debates regarding the old spruce wood's history - logs floated down river, soaked in salt water. Along with the accompanying microbial damage leaving microscopic holes in the cell walls, making the wood lighter but without reduced strength. You know all that good stuff trying to explain the fame Stradivarius achieved with his instruments while he was alive - nothing to do with the 300 year old versions of his instruments.

Do any of you all "treat" the wood in any way before carving your tops? Or do you buy your wood from dealers who themselves attempt to replicate any of the old logging and aging techniques?

I am a sponge trying to soak up as much of the collective wisdom as can be made available. Yes I do tend to over think things. I think its much better approach than under thinking and making incorrect assumptions.

;)

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Another "alternative" wood....I am about to start work on a cello with a flamed birch back. I am looking forward to finding out how it takes the varnish. More eventually.

on we go,

Joe

post-6284-0-24658400-1356012938_thumb.jpg

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Another "alternative" wood....I am about to start work on a cello with a flamed birch back. I am looking forward to finding out how it takes the varnish. More eventually.

on we go,

Joe

I would love to see pictures of that wood!

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Another "alternative" wood....I am about to start work on a cello with a flamed birch back. I am looking forward to finding out how it takes the varnish. More eventually.

on we go,

Joe

Is this a commercial instrument?

OK

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Thanks, Joe. Beautiful markings, looking forward to seeing the varnished instrument. I am always amazed to see the effects of varnish on wood, particularly so on "alternative wood".

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post-38413-0-71334100-1355843487_thumb.jpg

Hello Maestronetters,

I've recently been experimenting with willow for the back and ribs of my violas. I obtained a tall wedge of Italian red willow while visiting Rivolta in Milan. It is the same wood I use for blocks and linings. It is a pleasure to work with. I keep the ribs a healthy 1.3 or so. The back is about 8mm in the center and never goes under 2.5. The viola is noticeable lighter in weight than the same model in more thinly graduated maple. The sound is less bright but still plenty of focus. The wood was a salmon pink color before varnishing but took on a golden hue almost immediately after a few coats of cooked venetian turpentine/linseed oil varnish. The main advantages I enjoy are in the working of the wood and players enjoy the lighter weight of the instrument.

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