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Charles Hansen

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I'm not fighting you at all on this subject as I totally agree with you and botanical science guide lines since we no longer rely on the simple observations used up until 20 years ago BUT I will say this. I much rather have gene based systematics than observation based branching ANY day.  Tonewood dealers and luthiers have absolutely no basis to state "this is this" or "this is not this" when talking about species and I stand fast with that assumption. Maybe I didn't convey my point properly and went off steamrolling the odd balls in the botanical field instead of directing my posts to the general luthier/tonewood oriented field.

 

Of course we agree.  But that does not change the fact that most classifications are old (morphologically based), and although they should change, they haven’t.

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Of course we agree.  But that does not change the fact that most classifications are old (morphologically based), and although they should change, they haven’t.

 

I'm guessing you understand why the old school botany department folk run and hide when I'm on campus LOL Things have changed and are changing very quickly with the adoption of genetic testing, it also doesn't help that the new crowd are all seriously similar and share my points of view. Long story short, tonewood dealers and luthier's/instrument dealers need to get off their high horses and actually hand over classification to the qualified professionals who can actually tell the difference between an animal and a plant. Yes because most of the so called denominations for "spruce" and "European maple" mean jack and only serves to jack people's pockets.

 

If people actually did a TINY bit of research, this none sense wouldn't stick, I'm more than willing to bet my diploma MANY luthiers who profess working only with X Y Z wood and go on about how only X Y Z wood work better than all the "inferior" alternatives are actually working with the same inferior wood they rambled on about all their working lives -_- Does no one grasp the seriousness of the situation? Bosnia does NOT produce even half the wood on the market marketed as such and the "term" Bosnian or wt/e (insert nationality) isn't actually a species at all...

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Are you saying that all wood from the same species has the same DNA?

 

I am not a botanist, but I can tell you that your testicles and your eyeballs have cells that contain the same DNA.

 

One rarely does one see a testicle in an eye socket, and vice verse, so it means that cells have pretty clever ways of 'differentiating'.

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I am not a botanist, but I can tell you that your testicles and your eyeballs have cells that contain the same DNA.

 

One rarely sees a testicle in an eye socket, and vice verse, so it means that cells have pretty clever ways of 'differentiating'.

 

So true :)

Every cell in your body has the instruction manuals needed to build every single part of you (except gametic cells which have half your DNA) but since no cell reads through the entire manual, only the the chapter's of the manual that are read is built, totipotente cells become eye ball cells, or sexual organ cells (not to be confused with gamatic cells) and every other kind of cell .

 

Now back on topic hopefully, even though this particular ebayer's offerings are not Stradivari/DG/Amati of the finest quality, I find them to be very acceptable at first flace and a cut above what it normally available on ebay. I'm all for correct descriptions of instruments on sales with as little murky details as possible BUT, I don't consider the "all American" nearly as horrible as "Old Italian" or "European wood"...

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I'm guessing you understand why the old school botany department folk run and hide when I'm on campus LOL 

 

I am happy to tell you that all of my botany profs were cutting-edge types.  In fact, I think old-school types are quite rare in the U.S., excepting those with emeritus status.   :)

 

Soil science, on the other hand, is split down the middle.  

 

“European wood” is simply wood harvested in Europe.  No problem except when it is Russian, since Russia is mainly in Asia.   :P  

It’s only when Chinese violins are being advertised as having European wood that we should take notice.  First, how can we tell? and secondly, and more importantly, is it quality tonewood?

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I'm grateful for Lusitano's clarification. We aren't looking for "total difference", just genuine small differences perceptible to people who study these things closely. Whether these differences are genetic or environmental is kind of irrelevant when it comes to trying to identify particular instruments.

 

It seems to me that when discussing an item for sale, and when ridiculing any "presumptions" we think the seller might have made, facts are what's required, not counter-assumptions.

I would repeat my general point - tonewood is often identifiable by its geographical origin, although this may have nothing to do with botanical differences. Dendrochronology is a form of data analysis based entirely on this straightforward observation. The idea that it's not possible to locate wood geographically is absurd. Kew Gardens may need to cut up your fiddle and keep it for 6 months, Peter Ratcliff needs one sharp photo and half an hour.

 

As someone who lurks around the world's primary tonewood market (in Transylvania) I can confirm that much of the world's Bosnian maple and Italian spruce comes from Maramures (very little maple comes from Bosnia but quite a lot comes from Montenegro, "Bosnian" being used as a legitimate catch-all term for Balkan wood). I never heard anyone claim that these woods were unique species or even sub-species. I can also confirm that Chinese makers buy container loads of the stuff each year - none of it is first grade but it is undeniably European!

 

However, I have been sounding off quite a bit, which proves apparently that I know nothing, so I will remove my testicle from my eye socket and go and do something else ....

 

I wish the seller luck with his violin, it looks very nice.

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I am happy to tell you that all of my botany profs were cutting-edge types.  In fact, I think old-school types are quite rare in the U.S., excepting those with emeritus status.   :)

 

Soil science, on the other hand, is split down the middle.  

 

“European wood” is simply wood harvested in Europe.  No problem except when it is Russian, since Russia is mainly in Asia.   :P  

It’s only when Chinese violins are being advertised as having European wood that we should take notice.  First, how can we tell? and secondly, and more importantly, is it quality tonewood?

 

The fact the general marketing (and this applies to every violin regardless of the maker's nationality) that "European" wood is supreme is what drives prices up. The INSANE part about this is, the whole thing is a mass contradiction!!! It makes absolutely no sense if you look at it with unbiased eyes!

 

Many luthiers state naturally air dryed wood is the only way to go, wood decomposes when not treated properly extremely easily and the tonewood providers have wood stocked up which is exposed to elements which naturally would oxydize the billetes in no time yet I have yet to hear or see tonewood dealers complaining about fungus and mould infestations!? Surface area exposure in billete's means that unlike a log, it actually is in contact with ALOT more air than is "healthy" which naturally would aggravate the rotting problem which is natural yet does not occur?! Why on earth is no one calling foul with the gimmic "air dry naturally" bluff?

 

The so called European wood can't all be coming from Europe as there aren't enough trees in the areas these tree's are cut from to actually justify the quantity sold on the market. Why is no one wondering where the surplus comes from? We aren't talking about a few extra trees, we're talking about mega tons of the stuff....

 

Spruce supposedly is only decent when it's grown at a certain altitude from certain regions which force slow growth with resulting tight and even arrow straight grain. The himilayan mountain range is one of the purest places on earth with extreme weather conditions which allow the so called "himilayan" spruce to grown towards the exact specifications luthier's look for. Should I mention the fact "himilayan spruce" actually is a variation of picea abies (I'm being nice by saying variation because picea Abies is readily found in pure forms in the himilayas)?

 

Lastly, how on earth can anyone state "European" spruce/maple (whatever various species that might be) is tonally better than American/Chinese trees if.

 

1- They have never worked with the material.

2- The "European" wood they use is actually the same as "Chinese" wood in terms of species?

3-they might have been working with Canadian spruce and European sugar maple without knowing it for all their lives? LOL

 

Since the basis for facts in the luthier/ wood dealer world are all based on romantic concepts why on earth is no one marketing the stuff with the following....

 

Wood from Transylvania is nothing short of alluring. Gypsy caravans, countless dark myths around count Vlad and countess Elizabeth, dark forests veiled in mystery... It's all so poetic, soo mystic and mysterious...

 

Wood from China and Japan, two countries with amazing imperial histories and cultures, both full of the last remaining old growth forests untouched by human progression. It sounds soo exotic to have a violin/viola/cello/doube bass made from wood cut with Asian steel by men wearing traditional clothing in the autumn and winter.

 

Wood from the US, Patriotism!!! Need I say more?! Grand canyon, rocky mountains, Native people, rolling waves of grain! Red wood forests, forests that lived through and recorded American history in it's fibers. Your violins would have been made from trees that lived through and silently "witnessed" the revolutions, the wars, the expansions, the rise of the nation to what it is today.

 

Himilayan wood, Buddhist monks, zen, such beautiful forests untouched literally by humans. Again one of the purest places on earth where the history of the planet is recorded and preserved in miles of ice.

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I’m confused here.  Why are “visual data” not “cold hard facts?”  Isn’t morphology (i.e. “visual data”) what taxonomy is based upon?

Look up something called the "Crataegus problem" for a choice example.  Hawthorn taxonomy in the southern U. S. has long owed more to ego than science IMHO.  Having, decades ago, wandered the forests with a dichotomous key in one hand and a loupe in the other for a required class, I'm not amused by this kind of thing, though I'll note it's even worse in ichthyology, and the smells are far less balsamic.  One must, however, persist in such pastimes until they skin the final sheep in your honor.

 

I'll also note that species that reproduce primarily by cloning, such as Populus, will show you how much variation may be found in genetically identical trees.

 

Paleobotany, yum!  One species for the leaf, one for the trunk, one for the seeds........... :lol:

 

 

so I will remove my testicle from my eye socket and go and do something else ....

 

 

And avoid Russians in trench coats in the future, I'll bet.

 

Guys, forgive me, but I feel that the bottom line here is............all about the bottom line.  As long as the largest part of a violin's price is based on intangibles, people are going to gas on about wood origin to puff their product.

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Lusitano, I think you're exaggerating on a few points!

Engelmann spruce is pretty popular - we've used it for a few violins and found it broadly equivalent, if a little more chippy in the working.

Many American makers like to use American woods.

I don't know of any source for Chinese wood ...!

Transylvania has INCREDIBLE amounts of wood. Most of Croatia is forest, Slovenia and Montenegro isto!

All the tonewood production I have seen has been in the context of peasant agriculture - kilning just isn't viable economically, since it uses electricity where air-drying is free. Kilning also brings with it the danger of case-hardening. Rot is easily prevented by good air circulation, and maple billets are stacked in particular ways in open barns. there's no scam ...

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If the species are the same, and the the environmental conditions are the same, they may still be different ecotypes.  I’m not qualified to say if one ecotype is better than another as tonewood.  I also suspect that bulk tonewood dealers don’t care.  

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Bulk tonewood dealers rely on the customers to come and select the bits which have the properties they require.

For some this is to do with density, for others the absence of "flaws", for others the visual aspect of the flame.

All from the same forest .... all fundamentally different but with essential visual similarities.

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Lusitano, I think you're exaggerating on a few points!

Engelmann spruce is pretty popular - we've used it for a few violins and found it broadly equivalent, if a little more chippy in the working.

Many American makers like to use American woods.

I don't know of any source for Chinese wood ...!

Transylvania has INCREDIBLE amounts of wood. Most of Croatia is forest, Slovenia and Montenegro isto!

All the tonewood production I have seen has been in the context of peasant agriculture - kilning just isn't viable economically, since it uses electricity where air-drying is free. Kilning also brings with it the danger of case-hardening. Rot is easily prevented by good air circulation, and maple billets are stacked in particular ways in open barns. there's no scam ...

Wet wood, and have it exposed to untreated air a few times to see if it does not warp and darken with mould...

Wood is only stable in a stable atmosphere, it can be submerged and hold it's own as long as it's ALWAYS submerged. The differences in humidity and temperature lead to natural oxidization of lignum fibers and the cellular structure decomposes. It's a natural occurrence governed by the laws of enthalpy be it aided by organic catalysts or physical ones. To stop a natural reaction, unnatural agents or processes must be used.

 

I wasn't referencing kilns as those are extremely expensive, what I'm getting at is that most of the wood is "fresh" and not as old as they say it is. I'm also hinting at the use of chemicals such as Borax.

 

Croatian spruce falls in the Siberian spruce threshold... So besides not being "Bosnian", it's also not the picea "abies" they soo defend...

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What I'm disappointed to see is the blunt rudeness and aggressive manner in which certain people have made sharp comments, but moreso the blatantly intentional insults hurled in my direction by others, which seems to be completely acceptable here as they have gone unaddressed.  What happens is that it becomes a bandwagon, and you get newbies like Carl Stross tagging along to Jacob, but instead of an honest interest in the truth (regardless of how Jacob presents it), they follow up with degrading attacks.

I never comment on the way instruments are built because I am not competent - not even a "newbie". My comment was directed at your lack of ability in playing violin. To support you "prose" with that sort of abysmal "tone sample" shows, at least to me either a crass disrespect for you potential clients or utter incompetency on your side, in other words you haven't got a clue about violin tone. Once you've placed your wares, prose and "sample" on eBay, you're subject to criticism and welcome to defend it if you can. For the time being it seems to me you are the one hurling insults.

What some people who sell on eBay fail to grasp when criticised here is that ANY of us could be a potential bidder and fully entitled to question and criticise the product, the prose and the sample. It's not that we need your permission. Read this one more than once.

And what did you try to prove ? That the violin can play Tchaikovsky ?????????? Why not Twinkle-Twinke which is more in keeping with your abilities ?

There was some discussion on other thread about a violin which was re-listed because of faulty "atribution". Nobody though took the trouble to feel sorry for the eventual bidder who in absence of MN, would've been unware of the situation.

There is some purpose in all this, you know...

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Wet wood, and have it exposed to untreated air a few times to see if it does not warp and darken with mould...

Wood is only stable in a stable atmosphere, it can be submerged and hold it's own as long as it's ALWAYS submerged. The differences in humidity and temperature lead to natural oxidization of lignum fibers and the cellular structure decomposes. It's a natural occurrence governed by the laws of enthalpy be it aided by organic catalysts or physical ones. To stop a natural reaction, unnatural agents or processes must be used.

 

I wasn't referencing kilns as those are extremely expensive, what I'm getting at is that most of the wood is "fresh" and not as old as they say it is. I'm also hinting at the use of chemicals such as Borax.

 

Croatian spruce falls in the Siberian spruce threshold... So besides not being "Bosnian", it's also not the picea "abies" they soo defend...

Why would you repeatedly wet the wood? Recipe for disaster ...! Cut it in cold weather and get it under cover sharpish.

As for age, well you have a point - how can we ever know? The solution is to buy it fresh or assume that it's fresh and then keep it for a few years in a stable environment.

I'd actually never heard of Croatian spruce - I was just trying to make the point that unless you've travelled in the Balkans it's hard to imagine just how much of it is forest.

A lot of earlier English instruments were made with pine, very nice too. Everyone's got very conservative these days, what with violin-making competitions and all :)

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Why would you repeatedly wet the wood? Recipe for disaster ...! Cut it in cold weather and get it under cover sharpish.

As for age, well you have a point - how can we ever know? The solution is to buy it fresh or assume that it's fresh and then keep it for a few years in a stable environment.

I'd actually never heard of Croatian spruce - I was just trying to make the point that unless you've travelled in the Balkans it's hard to imagine just how much of it is forest.

A lot of earlier English instruments were made with pine, very nice too. Everyone's got very conservative these days, what with violin-making competitions and all :)

 

This conservatory incidence and cut throat guide book standard drive me up a wall because they *the judges* give more importance to their personal ideals of "good" than actual function and physical properties or even the creativity of the maker. If DG was alive and unknown, the "Cannon" wouldn't be allowed into any competitions seeing as it violates what the so called "experts" believe is acceptable in terms of well, everything... They discard violins made with non traditional wood (hilarious really as they themselves cant distinguish between what is traditional and what is supposedly traditional" without even actually looking at the instrument and *shocking* playing them -_- It's this uptight ridiculous hypocritical stance that boils my blood, people FAIL to understand that Stradivari himself is famous as a creator because he broke away from the amati school and dared to build his own designs to his own tune! The amati's were found of yellow, Stradivari went bright red, they had their f holes, he went and made his, they had their ideal porportions, he went and made his. How absolutely ridiculous is this and how absolutely insulting is it that these same "experts" deem themselves important enough to dictate what is proper and how construction should be done? I've been told N times that "acceptable" violins are those made after old masters and that the "new stuff" pales in comparison and shouldn't be looked at, and ofc this is backed up by the "demand" players have for such "refined" models. Truth be told, if all you see are strads and DGs and you have to pick between them, the choices are kind of limited to the offerings...Does that mean they're supreme and can't be surpassed (YES I said it), hell no. We, the players, have NO choice but to buy what is available -_-

 

What I meant by wetting the wood is an extreme example, humidity levels changes as well as precipitation and temperature changes will induce the exact same reaction as dunking wood into a bucket of water albeit at a slower rate. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with treating wood with borax or other natural chemical compounds to help preserve the fibers from catalytic elements. WHY do they lie about it and propagate this ridiculous notion of wood purity?! It's this cult worship of virginity that makes me want to throw billets at certain people!

 

Having said all that, if anyone happens to have a strad "Roger Hargrave" and wants to make me a happy camper, I can provide my mailing addresses and Ill happily accept :) Having having said that, if anyone has a nice old/new violin most likely from an unknown maker (sans label and can be from ANY nation on earth) that sounds wonderful, has no wood pedigree and is a joy to play I would ALSO happily accept. Can I promise I would like the Stradivari more? Not until I play both!

 

I sometimes think I'm the only person on here able to look at instruments in an unbiased fashion -_- I cringe when I see folks exude on and on about "Stradivari" and "Amati" or "DG" without actually having ANY experience with the instruments.... I also cringe when people go and advise others about not going with this wood or that wood and they use generic terms that hold no value (Bosnian maple, European spruce...). I get nauseated when folks speak down about makers or instruments that aren't made in "proper" workshops by 1 maker only... I can't stand when self taught people are looked upon because some folks think (without giving them ANY chance) that they are second rate to schooled luthiers (there goes Guadagini!) and above all, I do not tolerate the use of maker nationality to imply quality or lack of when speaking about ANY instruments.

 

I've seen Chinese violins made with Chinese wood, in Chinese workshops sound and look better than modern Italian pedigree wood violins. Is it fair to call out the Chinese as inferior in anyway just because they're Chinese?! How about English makers? Why are American makers looked down upon when considering their Italian or French counterparts?

 

Moral of the story, work with wood you like. Research what it is your buying into and be sure to understand that there are many misconceptions and false mysticism when dealing with the fundamentals of luthier craft. Allow yourselves to work with what you like and not what is "acceptable". I for one believe I would actually potentially get more costumers exalting my wood choices with honesty than following the bandwagoners. Hell I might even end up ONLY working with European species of wood but if I do it's because I researched and experienced the alternatives and made the decision for myself and didn't go and do what was expected and acceptable for some.

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Why on earth is no one speaking about Portuguese traditional violins being HORRIBLE!?

Even this forum has to have some standards :lol:

 

You beat dead horses and preach to the choir with consummate skill, BTW.  At one time or another we've all unleashed a rant like that.

 

For those in search of something more than vaguely playable, they'll have an excellent chance in NYC next week, as i was just made aware:

 

http://www.reedyeboahviolins.com/

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I see no-one else is queueing up to take Addie's challenge .... (post 69).

 

This has got horribly confused!

Acer rubrum is a species, not a sub-species. As Lusitano has stated, wood from different species of maple is normally quite easily distinguishable. Although it might look identical to Acer pseudoplatanus under the microscope, Acer rubrum looks different on a violin back. Kew Gardens might well be a bit lost where any moderately experienced identifier of violins would be pretty sure. Same thing with field maple/"oppio".

Is the back of the OP's violin Acer rubrum? It looks that way to me (and to Jeffrey and various other members of the forum), but maybe I'm being swayed by all the other very specifically American points of style. 

Is the front an American spruce species? We could easily establish that with a dendro. Until we do, calling the seller a liar seems premature!

For what it's worth the rather diffuse and swirly bearclaw figure seems characteristically American, as does the rather subtle latewood, but once again maybe I'm swayed by the varnish.

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