Sign in to follow this  
Dwight Brown

Alternate Wood Species

Recommended Posts

On 2/26/2015 at 12:52 AM, Renée said:

If my violin making attempts turn into something more than just attempts, I really want to explore the Australian native woods for violins.

 

I've seen King Billly pine (not actually a pine) used extensively for soundboards on other instruments, so that's an easy first choice.

I'm considering Tasmanian blackwood (also called sassafras) as a maple equivalent, but there are aso several other, well patterned/flamed woods to choose from (the oaks, myrtles, & blackwoods).

and the Cooktown Ironwood for the ebony parts.  It's of similar hardness/density to ebony, and ages to a beautiful deep red.

i'd probably look to using one of the pines for the blocks and linings.  Huon and celery top pine are both nicely light.

 

Has anyone tried pawlonia?  Just off the top of my head, it might be too soft, or even too loose in the grain to work well.

 

 

I discovered just tonight that there is a business in Adelaide making bass bows out of jarrah and cooktown ironwood!

Renee,

I would like to experiment with exactly the same thing. 

When I was a young kid learning the violin I got some repairs done by a really eccentric maker in Evandale, Tasmania. I remember walking into his workshop in his old victorian house and wondering how he got away with having a foot of wood shavings on the floor in the house! I wish I could remember his name as I'd like to do a little more research. He was making high end violins ($8k and up at the time) out of tasmanian blackwood and king billy pine. I didn't realize at the time how much I was intrigued by his workshop and I distinctively remember at the time how I thought it must be the most boring job because you don't get to use power tools haha!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/5/2015 at 1:05 PM, Michael_Molnar said:

Black walnut splinters produce some kind of allergy reaction for me. I tried using it for great looking forms and jigs, but stay away from it for that reason. I had made one fiddle with black walnut. I thought it looked great, but customers never did.

Dear Mr. Molnar,

May I call you Mike? Please call me Randy.

I just joined after having read The Pegbox exchanges for the last three years.  I find your entries especially erudite and succint. I talks real goodly for a Canadian, Eh?

Your "allergy reaction" was an expected response to a toxic chemical in Walnut wood called juglone (hence juglans nigra, et al). Juglone has beneficial pharmaceutical applications. Almost anyone would have a bad reaction to a splinter or inhaling/ingesting the dust.  For the same reasons, walnut shavings must not be used for animal bedding. Also, many plants will die or fail to thrive in close proximity to walnut trees. (I have lived for 50 years next to large old specimen and only grass grows under it.)

As a Respiratory Therapist and Asthma Educator, amateur dendrologist, and amateur luthier, I have studied and applied my knowledge of the allergic and toxic effects of trees,wood and wood products in hospitals and woodshops.

It recently occurred to me that one GOOD reason spruce and maple and beech have been used for stringed instruments for centuries is that they are three of the least allergenic/toxic species on Earth. Willow (salix) used for blocks and backs is NOT inert - Basswood (aka Linden or Lime) is safer and tonally similar.

To close my entry, if you take the right precautions, you can craft musical instruments with alternate timbers like Walnut, Koa, Cedar, Cypress, Rosewood, Tuliptree. And please do. (I have lots of the aforementioned woods to share).

The (music) world needs variety and innovation. If some snooty dealer or prospective buyer sniffs at you that your instruments aren't "Cremonese" ignore them. Market your creations to vision-impaired players who don't care about looks.  Tone and playability are what really counts, right?  Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, and Jeff Healey never complained about the colour or grain pattern on their instruments.  

Thanks for reading.

Sincerely,

Randall (Randy) O'Malley

Mississauga, Ontario, CANADA

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, Randall The Restorer said:

Dear Mr. Molnar,

May I call you Mike? Please call me Randy.

I just joined after having read The Pegbox exchanges for the last three years.  I find your entries especially erudite and succint. I talks real goodly for a Canadian, Eh?

Your "allergy reaction" was an expected response to a toxic chemical in Walnut wood called juglone (hence juglans nigra, et al). Juglone has beneficial pharmaceutical applications. Almost anyone would have a bad reaction to a splinter or inhaling/ingesting the dust.  For the same reasons, walnut shavings must not be used for animal bedding. Also, many plants will die or fail to thrive in close proximity to walnut trees. (I have lived for 50 years next to large old specimen and only grass grows under it.)

As a Respiratory Therapist and Asthma Educator, amateur dendrologist, and amateur luthier, I have studied and applied my knowledge of the allergic and toxic effects of trees,wood and wood products in hospitals and woodshops.

It recently occurred to me that one GOOD reason spruce and maple and beech have been used for stringed instruments for centuries is that they are three of the least allergenic/toxic species on Earth. Willow (salix) used for blocks and backs is NOT inert - Basswood (aka Linden or Lime) is safer and tonally similar.

To close my entry, if you take the right precautions, you can craft musical instruments with alternate timbers like Walnut, Koa, Cedar, Cypress, Rosewood, Tuliptree. And please do. (I have lots of the aforementioned woods to share).

The (music) world needs variety and innovation. If some snooty dealer or prospective buyer sniffs at you that your instruments aren't "Cremonese" ignore them. Market your creations to vision-impaired players who don't care about looks.  Tone and playability are what really counts, right?  Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, and Jeff Healey never complained about the colour or grain pattern on their instruments.  

Thanks for reading.

Sincerely,

Randall (Randy) O'Malley

Mississauga, Ontario, CANADA

Yes, please call me Mike.

I never had success with walnut, but a better maker just might have luck. I love the looks of koa, but it is horribly expen$ive. 

Thanks for the information.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a beautiful piece of curly Paradox Walnut roughed out. Really high arch, because hey, the wood was there!  It goes with a low arched Alaska Yellow Cedar top that looks almost like plastic.  I have no problem with Walnut. Port Orford Cedar is like Ash, the smell can get to you.  Makes your nose run.  I like the smell of rosewoods too, but they can make your nose run too.  At least I'm not carving backs from it.

I measured a couple pieces of wood yesterday to find the SG.  I only have one piece of maple.  It's a wild set of quartered Big Leaf; at .61sg.  A slab of Curly Cherry was .67sg, and a long board of quarter sawn Padauk that is STRIPED is .67 too, so that is even fair game to me.  The curly PO Cedar is .49sg for a viola.  I did get a few hunks of Koa scraps from a bin at Woodcraft over a year ago. Not spectacular, but it feels light and stiff.  I think I paid maybe $10 for it.  They were selling it by the pound!  We'll see if I can get anything out of nothing.

I like Cherry even more than Sycamore, but both are variable in feel.  You have to check each piece out.

I've looked for quartered yellow poplar for cellos.  I can never find it.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
51 minutes ago, Ken_N said:

I have a beautiful piece of curly Paradox Walnut roughed out. Really high arch, because hey, the wood was there!  It goes with a low arched Alaska Yellow Cedar top that looks almost like plastic.  I have no problem with Walnut. Port Orford Cedar is like Ash, the smell can get to you.  Makes your nose run.  I like the smell of rosewoods too, but they can make your nose run too.  At least I'm not carving backs from it.

I measured a couple pieces of wood yesterday to find the SG.  I only have one piece of maple.  It's a wild set of quartered Big Leaf; at .61sg.  A slab of Curly Cherry was .67sg, and a long board of quarter sawn Padauk that is STRIPED is .67 too, so that is even fair game to me.  The curly PO Cedar is .49sg for a viola.  I did get a few hunks of Koa scraps from a bin at Woodcraft over a year ago. Not spectacular, but it feels light and stiff.  I think I paid maybe $10 for it.  They were selling it by the pound!  We'll see if I can get anything out of nothing.

I like Cherry even more than Sycamore, but both are variable in feel.  You have to check each piece out.

I've looked for quartered yellow poplar for cellos.  I can never find it.  

Goodrich, Michigan Eh?

 I spent some of my childhood in your area Ken. In the late 70's my Uncle Jack lived in Flint and my Uncle Bill lived in Algonac; our friend Lorne lived in Romeo. When my Dad and I would visit we'd all get together and go driving the back roads looking for flea markets and second hand stores in the small towns. We met some great people and made some great finds.

I still have cousins in Algonac that I need to visit this Spring (if we get one). I'll you bring a well seasoned slab of Yellow Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) for a one-piece high-arched cello back plus ribs of quartered, slightly curly Yellow Poplar. It will cost you a generous donation to your local food bank.  We'll meet in a little town at a bakery that bakes great cherry pie. We'll eat to the accompaniment of Cherry Blossom Special played on a cherry wood viola.

Randy, out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 hours ago, Randall The Restorer said:

Dear Mr. Molnar,

May I call you Mike? Please call me Randy.

I just joined after having read The Pegbox exchanges for the last three years.  I find your entries especially erudite and succint. I talks real goodly for a Canadian, Eh?

Your "allergy reaction" was an expected response to a toxic chemical in Walnut wood called juglone (hence juglans nigra, et al). Juglone has beneficial pharmaceutical applications. Almost anyone would have a bad reaction to a splinter or inhaling/ingesting the dust.  For the same reasons, walnut shavings must not be used for animal bedding. Also, many plants will die or fail to thrive in close proximity to walnut trees. (I have lived for 50 years next to large old specimen and only grass grows under it.)

As a Respiratory Therapist and Asthma Educator, amateur dendrologist, and amateur luthier, I have studied and applied my knowledge of the allergic and toxic effects of trees,wood and wood products in hospitals and woodshops.

It recently occurred to me that one GOOD reason spruce and maple and beech have been used for stringed instruments for centuries is that they are three of the least allergenic/toxic species on Earth. Willow (salix) used for blocks and backs is NOT inert - Basswood (aka Linden or Lime) is safer and tonally similar.

To close my entry, if you take the right precautions, you can craft musical instruments with alternate timbers like Walnut, Koa, Cedar, Cypress, Rosewood, Tuliptree. And please do. (I have lots of the aforementioned woods to share).

The (music) world needs variety and innovation. If some snooty dealer or prospective buyer sniffs at you that your instruments aren't "Cremonese" ignore them. Market your creations to vision-impaired players who don't care about looks.  Tone and playability are what really counts, right?  Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, and Jeff Healey never complained about the colour or grain pattern on their instruments.  

Thanks for reading.

Sincerely,

Randall (Randy) O'Malley

Mississauga, Ontario, CANADA

"The (music) world needs variety and innovation. If some snooty dealer or prospective buyer sniffs at you that your instruments aren't "Cremonese" ignore them."

been there, done that...there is a catch however, if you avoid them, they tend to avoid you.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
24 minutes ago, jezzupe said:

"The (music) world needs variety and innovation. If some snooty dealer or prospective buyer sniffs at you that your instruments aren't "Cremonese" ignore them."

been there, done that...there is a catch however, if you avoid them, they tend to avoid you.

 

 

I didn't write avoid; I wrote ignore. As in don't let their attitudes discourage your innovation. That is why the rest of my entry suggested marketing to players to whom cosmetic appearance is irrelevant or unimportant.  

Furthermore, I've noticed reading this exchange an almost exclusionary - even snobbish - focus on tradition, on classical symphonic players, and on antique instrument collectors.

There are many genres of music which include or feature the violin family. Those genres are not inferior to Western Classical Music - they are just different. 

There are many soloists and groups of performers (professional and amateur) that are not overseen by a close-minded, traditionalist concert master. 

There are many  players and collectors who want violins* and guitars that DON'T look like a Strad or an Amati or a Martin or a Fender. I'm one of those people and I meet more of them every week (in Toronto and the GTA). I believe that all these people deserve well-made instruments, designed and crafted by open-minded artisans charging reasonable prices.  I believe it is time for some luthiers, and lutherie schools, to change their business models and even their core beliefs about the profession**.  They may be healthier and wealthier in the long run.

Thanks for reading.

I shall vacate the soap box for the next man or woman.

* "Violins" includes the entire family. My favourite is the cello.

** I've seen it happen in healthcare.

Sincerely,

Randy 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, jezzupe said:

"The (music) world needs variety and innovation. If some snooty dealer or prospective buyer sniffs at you that your instruments aren't "Cremonese" ignore them."

been there, done that...there is a catch however, if you avoid them, they tend to avoid you.

 

 

:)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/1/2020 at 12:30 AM, Randall The Restorer said:

Market your creations to vision-impaired players who don't care about looks.  Tone and playability are what really counts, right?  Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, and Jeff Healey never complained about the colour or grain pattern on their instruments.  

Advert: violins so ugly you'll be glad you're born blind...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sounds like the violin world has become quite materialist, excessively favoring 'lily white' woods like spruce and maple

over other equally deserving 'woods of color'.

We can anticipate the social justice warrior brigade soon promoting an affirmative action program with mandatory quotas in both sales and manufacturing for instruments made of underused 'woods of color' like cedar and walnut.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, donbarzino said:

Sounds like the violin world has become quite materialist, excessively favoring 'lily white' woods like spruce and maple

over other equally deserving 'woods of color'.

We can anticipate the social justice warrior brigade soon promoting an affirmative action program with mandatory quotas in both sales and manufacturing for instruments made of underused 'woods of color' like cedar and walnut.

Well the violin on the front of my website is walnut with some maple that is transitioning. I suppose someone here is going to try to tell me that maple can't be walnut if it wants to be :rolleyes: :lol:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, donbarzino said:

Sounds like the violin world has become quite materialist, excessively favoring 'lily white' woods like spruce and maple

over other equally deserving 'woods of color'.

We can anticipate the social justice warrior brigade soon promoting an affirmative action program with mandatory quotas in both sales and manufacturing for instruments made of underused 'woods of color' like cedar and walnut.

Red Cedar or Yellow Cedar? Black Walnut or White Walnut? Don't forget Purpleheart and Pink Ivory.  We'd best keep quiet or they'll make us paint all of our instruments in electric blue or fire engine red.

Whatever you do, don't bring up asexual and sexual reproduction of trees. Then we'll need three separate storerooms for our lumber.

Golly, I started talking about marketing stringed instruments, but I seemed to have opened a whole other kettle of fish.

Oh no, I mentioned fish. That's going to cause a big stink over glue (hide vs fish).

Maybe I should resign from this club before I'm ejected as an agitator.

Goodnight all,

Randy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, jezzupe said:

Well the violin on the front of my website is walnut with some maple that is transitioning. I suppose someone here is going to try to tell me that maple can't be walnut if it wants to be :rolleyes: :lol:

Yes, it's up to the maple to decide its own genus identity. It is 2020 after all.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/1/2020 at 5:12 PM, Randall The Restorer said:

I didn't write avoid; I wrote ignore. As in don't let their attitudes discourage your innovation. That is why the rest of my entry suggested marketing to players to whom cosmetic appearance is irrelevant or unimportant.  

Furthermore, I've noticed reading this exchange an almost exclusionary - even snobbish - focus on tradition, on classical symphonic players, and on antique instrument collectors.

There are many genres of music which include or feature the violin family. Those genres are not inferior to Western Classical Music - they are just different. 

There are many soloists and groups of performers (professional and amateur) that are not overseen by a close-minded, traditionalist concert master. 

There are many  players and collectors who want violins* and guitars that DON'T look like a Strad or an Amati or a Martin or a Fender. I'm one of those people and I meet more of them every week (in Toronto and the GTA). I believe that all these people deserve well-made instruments, designed and crafted by open-minded artisans charging reasonable prices.  I believe it is time for some luthiers, and lutherie schools, to change their business models and even their core beliefs about the profession**.  They may be healthier and wealthier in the long run.

Thanks for reading.

I shall vacate the soap box for the next man or woman.

* "Violins" includes the entire family. My favourite is the cello.

** I've seen it happen in healthcare.

Sincerely,

Randy 

"Furthermore, I've noticed reading this exchange an almost exclusionary - even snobbish - focus on tradition, on classical symphonic players, and on antique instrument collectors."

"You've noticed this? " :lol: I've built my life around it, take a look at my site and see "violins, guitars, cellos, other projects"

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 hours ago, jezzupe said:

"Furthermore, I've noticed reading this exchange an almost exclusionary - even snobbish - focus on tradition, on classical symphonic players, and on antique instrument collectors."

"You've noticed this? " :lol: I've built my life around it, take a look at my site and see "violins, guitars, cellos, other projects"

 

Thank you for the reply, jezzupe.

Much of my working life has been in health care, pastoral care, and life insurance - my clientele has a simpler, universal set of priorities. If you makers and players want to feel that your work makes a difference then put your instruments to work in a cancer hospice or a children's hospital or a nursing home.

Lately, I've been working with non-human animals that are very easy to please and most appreciative; they would love to hear your cellos. Except the deer and caribou won't tolerate even a single wolf note.

Musically yours,

Randy O'Malley

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I suppose I could post this on my bench, or the thread about block planes (as it is my first real use of my new Veritas plane), but this seems like the most appropriate spot.

Preparing a torrefied cherry bass bar to put into my ancient (9 years old) #4 violin.  Reason:  the top is very light, and I want to get a heavy bass bar without getting too bulky or stiff.  Maybe also the high tangential strength of cherry will help prevent the slight depression that usually happens around the bridge foot... but in this case, the bar is going to be set with the radial grain vertical, and that's even stronger.

Check out the rays!

1867275297_200215cherrybassbar.jpg.79bdb6375509ab2a3628e24171213c68.jpg

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/15/2020 at 8:37 PM, Don Noon said:

I suppose I could post this on my bench, or the thread about block planes (as it is my first real use of my new Veritas plane), but this seems like the most appropriate spot.

Preparing a torrefied cherry bass bar to put into my ancient (9 years old) #4 violin.  Reason:  the top is very light, and I want to get a heavy bass bar without getting too bulky or stiff.  Maybe also the high tangential strength of cherry will help prevent the slight depression that usually happens around the bridge foot... but in this case, the bar is going to be set with the radial grain vertical, and that's even stronger.

Check out the rays!

1867275297_200215cherrybassbar.jpg.79bdb6375509ab2a3628e24171213c68.jpg

 

Nice figure, someday that'll be a surprise for someone.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, jezzupe said:

Nice figure, someday that'll be a surprise for someone.

I wrote some notes on the inside of the plate in case the future "someone" wonders about it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Don Noon said:

I wrote some notes on the inside of the plate in case the future "someone" wonders about it.

I think that's a good idea, I like to scribble varnish type/schedule somewhere on a rib's or somewhere and anything else that might be important. I'm sure there will be a "someone" Don, there will be people who care about and for the things you have built long after you are gone, of this I am quite sure.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have plans to make a mahogany back/ribs fiddle from our guitar project's left overs. 

That's probably going to take awhile, as I haven't continued my ongoing projects for quite some time.

The sawn off pieces have bent quite a bit, strangely the thicker pieces, from which the guitar was made, haven't bent at all.

Mahogany_1.thumb.jpg.6eaf1b750080da27e744ea930eb2f376.jpg

Mahogany_2.thumb.jpg.b45ca4eeab3ac1516108defef94f6471.jpg

Mahogany_3.thumb.jpg.d476160d298a3ab77cd8a383c7e9dfe9.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I made a Mahogany bass recently. I think it's a great tonewood, but I don't know how well a violin made with it would sound. It presents some varnish difficulties because of the texture and color, but it looks great when handled well.

MahoganyBack.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.