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twcellist

European wood only???

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I recently met with a maker in Oregon about wanting to make a 5 string cello out of Oregon wood. He was thrilled that I wanted to use Oregon wood, but he said that there is this real snobbishness among musicians for European wood and that if the wood is from anywhere else then it's looked down upon. I just want to know if this is generally the true or not. Regardless, I'm still leaning toward using Oregon wood because there is this one finish where the back glows and the varnish changes color and texture depending on how you hold it in the light. I think it's really cool and would be unique.

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The short answer is yes—there is a strong bias in the market toward European wood. It’s not uncommon for a violin that is admired for its sound to immediately become horrible upon discovery that the wood is American, not from the Alps!

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pick an instrument with unusual or less popular wood. It means there’s a bit more risk if you’re trying to sell, but as long as you’re buying an instrument to play and don’t view it as primarily a financial investment, you can have success. Unusual wood may require an adjustment in parameters, but a good maker can sense what the wood requires.

I would also point out that price range has an impact on opinion. The more expensive the instrument, the more particular the buyer will be in selection of materials. 

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American wood works better for cello and viola, not always so well for violins. Ernst Luthi, a well-trained Swiss maker looked at a violin that a friend had made. He was a Sculptor, had made a beautiful violin, and Ernst said so, but that it was a pity that it was made from "that wood".

So yes, a stigma exists. Good wood can be had from the US, bad wood from Europe, but people will still poo poo it sometimes.

Of note: I have seen a R&M Milliant made from Bigleaf. Didn't seem to hurt the price of that instrument.

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I wonder if this stigma only exists in the mind of those far from Europe. I think the skill of the maker would overcome the properties of the material, assuming are skilled and experienced. In Europe, I doubt there is such focus on the origin of the materials, and I doubt many players could identify wood types or where they come from.

Trees are just trees, and good or bad wood can be obtained from anywhere, but if one type pleases customers more, maybe it is worth using it for commercial reasons if nothing else.

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There's usually a clearly identifiable difference between bigleaf and European maple, and different is frowned upon by traditionalists.  For spruce, there's not so obvious of a difference, so traditionalists won't frown if they can't tell.   Acoustic properties vary widely, so there's a lot of overlap between types.

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49 minutes ago, Michael Darnton said:

Is your problem with the ease of future resale? If so, then the extra string will do a lot more damage to that then the wood used.

What do you mean "extra string"?  

 

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42 minutes ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

What do you mean "extra string"?  

 

I'm thinking of having a 5 string cello made so that's what Michael is referring to ;)

As for resale yes that is somewhat part of the consideration, but at the same time like you said it's already going to be a unique instrument since it's 5 string so it probably already has a knock on resale right there. :unsure:

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2 hours ago, Don Noon said:

There's usually a clearly identifiable difference between bigleaf and European maple, and different is frowned upon by traditionalists.  For spruce, there's not so obvious of a difference, so traditionalists won't frown if they can't tell.   Acoustic properties vary widely, so there's a lot of overlap between types.

I believe the "glowing effect" I described is from big leaf. I attached pictures of the wood he's thinking of using. 

IMG_2277.JPG

IMG_0153.JPG

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1 hour ago, twcellist said:

I believe the "glowing effect" I described is from big leaf. I attached pictures of the wood he's thinking of using. 

That might make a nice coffee table, but slab-cut bigleaf with defects isn't what I'd want to spend my time carving into an instrument.  If it for a personal instrument, and you don't mind warping and splitting and near-zero resale value, have at it.

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I a from Europe, and I think it is true Europeans are not so picky when it Comes to non european Woods, as Long as acoustically and structurally they are in the ballpark of the Tradition. 

 

TW, that is a stunning piece of Wood, but I think Don is Right. Personally I associate such wildly figured Wood as you Show here with chinese Cello making of the better Student Level models.

 

Many old Instruments have rather plain Woods, sometimes alternative Woods like Poplar or Willow but also plain maple. Have you thought of something like that? I personally like those woods especially with light coulored, "unpretentious" varnish. I may be mistaken, but I believe those Woods are susally somewhat cheaper to get. There would be no structural or acoustic disadvantage and it would stand out, be more of an individual, between what it usually produced. With just a quick search I found the site of a maker who copies (including 5 string Cellos!) with such plain Wood Instruments regularly. He writes which Instruments they are inspired on and if you like the idea I would suggest you to try and find pictures of the originals instead of the copies (I'd do it for you but don't have the time right now) Baroque cello copies

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American maple is not a new thing, even with Italian makers. Eric Blot mentions in his book  "Un Secolo di Liuteria Italiana 1860 - 1960"  that Giuseppe Rocca was using American maple back in... 1850!!!

The Rocca violin used by Paolo Borciani, of the celebrated Quartetto Italiano was made with American maple and is pictured in Blot's book.

Francesco Bissolotti in Cremona used a lot of American maple on his violas too.

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According to the attached paper, wavy maple is better than straight grained maple for instrument backs.  

This suggests that really wavy could be better than slightly wavy wood.

 

Which was why wildly wavy wood works well.  

Wavy maple.pdf

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17 minutes ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

Which was why wildly wavy wood works well.  

 

Well, we wonder why...:lol:

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59 minutes ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

According to the attached paper, wavy maple is better than straight grained maple for instrument backs.  

"Better" is defined as having lower speed of sound and lower radiation ratio... with a reference to some other paper as a basis for that being better.  I don't have that other paper, but I can't imagine any serious objective proof that specific maple properties are acoustically better than others.

That's a lot of paper just to say that wavy maple isn't as stiff longitudinally as straight-grain maple.  Big whoop.

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23 minutes ago, Jim Bress said:

I couldn't find the citation on Google Scholar or Research Gate.

If you do a Google search with the authors' names  you should get lots of hits.

JOZEF KÚDELA, MAREK KUNŠTÁR

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12 hours ago, Don Noon said:

That might make a nice coffee table, but slab-cut bigleaf with defects isn't what I'd want to spend my time carving into an instrument.  If it for a personal instrument, and you don't mind warping and splitting and near-zero resale value, have at it.

Wow... thanks Don for your feedback because honestly I have no clue as to what is considered good or bad.  I just thought it was cool with the back to see the varnish (or I guess in the case the wood) change in the different lighting.

So what are there any other types of wood that are more traditional/accepted and have that similar effect?

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49 minutes ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

If you do a Google search with the authors' names  you should get lots of hits.

JOZEF KÚDELA, MAREK KUNŠTÁR

Sorry for not being specific.  I was actually referring to the citation used to define maple quality. 

RAJAN, E. 1998: Akustika I. Zvolen, TU vo Zvolene, pp. 20–23, 41–43.

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9 hours ago, baroquecello said:

I a from Europe, and I think it is true Europeans are not so picky when it Comes to non european Woods, as Long as acoustically and structurally they are in the ballpark of the Tradition. 

 

TW, that is a stunning piece of Wood, but I think Don is Right. Personally I associate such wildly figured Wood as you Show here with chinese Cello making of the better Student Level models.

 

Many old Instruments have rather plain Woods, sometimes alternative Woods like Poplar or Willow but also plain maple. Have you thought of something like that? I personally like those woods especially with light coulored, "unpretentious" varnish. I may be mistaken, but I believe those Woods are susally somewhat cheaper to get. There would be no structural or acoustic disadvantage and it would stand out, be more of an individual, between what it usually produced. With just a quick search I found the site of a maker who copies (including 5 string Cellos!) with such plain Wood Instruments regularly. He writes which Instruments they are inspired on and if you like the idea I would suggest you to try and find pictures of the originals instead of the copies (I'd do it for you but don't have the time right now) Baroque cello copies

Thanks for your feedback. I wonder if there is a good website that shows the backs of instruments to demonstrate what wood is what because I truly don't have any idea. I assume that depending on the varnish and finish too that it could potentially cover up the grain of the natural wood. 

Yes I did do some searching online for 5 string makers and did come across Nate Tabor. There is also another guy in Vermont named Warren Ellison and he makes instruments. I came across this guy in Oregon mainly because he says he can make a 5 string cello, BUT he actually has not made one yet so I'm slightly apprehensive. As I've been looking and researching I realize it's a very complicated thing/subject regarding the 5 string cello and even a distinguished maker has advised that I should not go with anybody who has not physically made one before. :unsure:

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2 hours ago, twcellist said:

Wow... thanks Don for your feedback because honestly I have no clue as to what is considered good or bad.  I just thought it was cool with the back to see the varnish (or I guess in the case the wood) change in the different lighting.

So what are there any other types of wood that are more traditional/accepted and have that similar effect?

Look at the auctions on Tarisio.com, and see what the higher-end instruments have.  Cello-size maple with good quality and figure can be very expensive.

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4 hours ago, Jim Bress said:
5 hours ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

If you do a Google search with the authors' names  you should get lots of hits.

JOZEF KÚDELA, MAREK KUNŠTÁR

Sorry for not being specific.  I was actually referring to the citation used to define maple quality. 

RAJAN, E. 1998: Akustika I. Zvolen, TU vo Zvolene, pp. 20–23, 41–43.

I wouldn't bother spending time reading their stuff. I may sound nasty but here are my few words...

Zvolen, Slovakia being my home town and I almost started my studies at the Technical University (they'd just started the "acoustic research" study program at the time, but I luckily went to study Math and Computer Science instead) I learned a thing or two about quality of that research, I know few of the folks who worked/studied there personally and helped some them with their Master Theses or even PhD's to get them at least in touch with rest of the world. Heck, I even borrowed them my airbrush and compressor to finish some of their experimental VSO's. Those were not even close to the cheap chinese student violins in quality of build.

They were (and probably still mosly are) just playing on their own playground producing worthless papers and presenting/ publishing them so they get money for next research and so on. Sad reality of research at some departments of universities...

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The problem with American Big leaf maple is not so much the acoustical properties, but the prominent annular rings that show with high contrast, compared to European maple, and the fact that it's a fast growing tree with wide ring spacing. The factors make it something less than desirable to many makers.  It does however, have some spectacular figure.

I have some American Red Maple that I bought years ago; it's something closer to Bosnian Maple characteristics than the Big Leaf. One of these days, I'll have to  make some shavings and see how it works out.

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