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Nick Allen

What to do with spongy American spruce?

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So I've got this too that's made from American spruce from Simeon's supply that I bought cheap a few years back. My last violin was made with the same stuff and the sound suffered a little bit because the spruce is a little soft, I think. It has a nice sound, definitely a professional level sound, as I've had numerous symphony members play it, but they all had a generally agreeable comment that it would make a fabulous chamber or baroque violin, due to the subdued sound. 

To put it as best I can, it ended up lacking a little spank. Very warm, but without that nice round punchy bite. 

I gave it a pretty standard arch, rather Strad-like, and normal grads, 2.8 in the center and 2.6-7 in the bouts. 

So with this spongier spruce, should I lower the arch, and leave the grads slightly thicker? Perhaps like a 14mm arch and 3mm in the center and 2.8-9 in the bouts? 

Or am I stuck with a spongy wood and a spongy sound?

 

IMG_20191114_234054.jpg

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I think that about 16mm and a full arch can give you the sparkle that you want from this particular wood,

just about what I see in your pics, if this kind of wood gets a low arch it gets a softer sound easily.

A taller arch will keep the stiffness higher all things considered and won't go soft as easily.

I have cut and used a lot of this and it can be brilliant if it's not too heavy.

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Spongy Engelmann from Chambers is probably very low density, possibly low stiffness. So I agree with Evan - arch a little higher, keep it fuller, and grad it thicker. Try about 4 and change in the center, thinner in the flanks, but don't do the Amati Smile in the channel- keep it flank thickness at the edges. 

Shame about the ridiculous comments from your symphony members about 'oh it'd make a lovely baroque violin'. Let's not forget all great classic cremonese violins, the ones that cost millions and are played by the best soloists, were born as baroque violins. The notion that a baroque violin must be warm and mellow with a lack of power is ignorant. 

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Some of my Chambers wood is great, and is on the violin played by Annelle Gregory.  But, trees being trees, I have also gotten a couple of Simeon sets that were extremely low density (close to .30), and low speed of sound as well, far below the performance I'd like, and a big concern about denting and durability.  I cut some of these up for corner blocks, and it's really nice when digging out the mortise for the linings.  

Spruce is readily available and not terribly expensive, so if I wouldn't use questionable spruce just because I had it.

If anyone wants a set of .29 density torrefied engelmann with RR ~18, which would probably make a high-performing viola, I'd entertain selling it.  But don't blame me if it dents if you stare at it intensely.

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I hate to suggest it, but an inlaid post patch would probably help. I would also go with a higher arch rather than a lower arch and thicker.

I liked Simeon's wood for blocks and linings-excepting neck blocks-and bars, but I always found the tops just too light and soft for my taste.

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43 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

If anyone wants a set of .29 density torrefied engelmann with RR ~18, which would probably make a high-performing viola, I'd entertain selling it.  But don't blame me if it dents if you stare at it intensely.

Was thinking why would anyone torrify .29 ,,,,

Oh! Don,,, That's right Don!

Sorry just wasn't thinking,

Think I'll go squeeze my chicken!

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3 hours ago, Evan Smith said:

Was thinking why would anyone torrify .29 ,,,,

Oh! Don,,, That's right Don!

Sorry just wasn't thinking,

Think I'll go squeeze my chicken!

Why,?  To get it from a spongy .31 g/cc and 4900 m/s up to a crunchy .29 and 5200 m/s, of course.

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9 hours ago, The Violin Beautiful said:

I think 2.8 in the middle is too thin for soft spruce. I’d probably aim for something like 3.5. 

Too right you are. I think I'll start really paying attention to my modes and weights right before that threshold. 

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11 hours ago, JacksonMaberry said:

Spongy Engelmann from Chambers is probably very low density, possibly low stiffness. So I agree with Evan - arch a little higher, keep it fuller, and grad it thicker. Try about 4 and change in the center, thinner in the flanks, but don't do the Amati Smile in the channel- keep it flank thickness at the edges. 

Shame about the ridiculous comments from your symphony members about 'oh it'd make a lovely baroque violin'. Let's not forget all great classic cremonese violins, the ones that cost millions and are played by the best soloists, were born as baroque violins. The notion that a baroque violin must be warm and mellow with a lack of power is ignorant. 

Good ideas. I think they were trying to say that it would excel in chamber music. 

What do you mean by the "Amati Smile"?

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23 hours ago, Evan Smith said:

I think that about 16mm and a full arch can give you the sparkle that you want from this particular wood,

just about what I see in your pics, if this kind of wood gets a low arch it gets a softer sound easily.

A taller arch will keep the stiffness higher all things considered and won't go soft as easily.

I have cut and used a lot of this and it can be brilliant if it's not too heavy.

Now when you say full, do you mean like a more German arch? 

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29 minutes ago, Nick Allen said:

Now when you say full, do you mean like a more German arch? 

I don't wanna speak out of turn, but to me, "full" means that the cross arch inflection point occurs closer to the edge than "not full". 

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4 hours ago, sospiri said:

I think he means, the deep channel, the Amati recurve?

Sort of. You can do a deep channel without excessively thinning the channel area from within when graduating. Some Bergonzis have this feature of deep channeling while maintaining thicknesses over 2mm in that area. 

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I've made a couple of fiddles using Chambers low-density spruce, and they seemed to work out OK with the only adjustment leaving them 10 to 20% thicker. That said,  the working properties were so different from what I am accustomed to, that I probably won't use it again. Anyone want to purchase my stock of maybe 20 tops, from dead-standing Colorado trees? :)

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2 hours ago, David Burgess said:

I've made a couple of fiddles using Chambers low-density spruce, and they seemed to work out OK with the only adjustment leaving them 10 to 20% thicker. That said,  the working properties were so different from what I am accustomed to, that I probably won't use it again. Anyone want to purchase my stock of maybe 20 tops, from dead-standing Colorado trees? :)

If you seriously would like to sell those low-density tops then list them on the Luthiers Exchange. I'm sure they would sell in a NY minute. I'm with you and prefer medium density spruce in the .38 -.42 density range.

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4 hours ago, JacksonMaberry said:

Sort of. You can do a deep channel without excessively thinning the channel area from within when graduating. Some Bergonzis have this feature of deep channeling while maintaining thicknesses over 2mm in that area. 

I've always liked that. When the graduations are done, you get a nice seamless transition into the edge platform on the inside. 

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4 hours ago, David Burgess said:

I've made a couple of fiddles using Chambers low-density spruce, and they seemed to work out OK with the only adjustment leaving them 10 to 20% thicker. That said,  the working properties were so different from what I am accustomed to, that I probably won't use it again. Anyone want to purchase my stock of maybe 20 tops, from dead-standing Colorado trees? :)

The mode 5 was pretty low at a more standard graduation. About 10% off, funnily enough. 

The working properties are rather strange too. Like it wants to chip out around the endgrain of the edgework very easily, regardless of how sharp the tool is or the angle of attack. 

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