Sign in to follow this  
Three13

Storioni's Wood

Recommended Posts

I was recently looking though images of a number of Storioni violins and violas and noticed that the wood on a fair number of them looked a lot like the wood that I've noticed on French tops from the same era - the most obvious similarity being the rather wavy looking annular rings. I've read here that the regular wood source used by the classical Cremonese makers had dried up by then, but does anyone know whether some of the same stuff that was being used in France ended up in Italy in the late 18th century?

 Here are three examples of what I'm talking about:

ST01.jpg

ST02.jpg

ST03.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It looks like mild bearclaw to me. (Also called hasel fichte by our German friends.)

Bearclaw is a somewhat common grain aberration that can appear in spruce from any area so it’s not really a signature of a particular place or specific log.

When it’s distinct and regular, I like how it looks for guitar tops. Violins, being smaller and having a carved surface, don’t normally show the pattern as well so it just looks random.

A while back, some guitar builders were claiming it increases lateral stiffness and therefore improves the sound. That idea seems to have fallen out of favor. 
H

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
29 minutes ago, H_Axel said:

A while back, some guitar builders were claiming it increases lateral stiffness and therefore improves the sound.

You could also increase lateral stiffness by turning the wood 90 degrees... which is what bearclaw probably does, to a mild degree.  You don't get extra lateral stiffness without giving up longitudinal stiffness.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

OT : a few years ago I found a Taylor Big Baby guitar with an absolutely wild bearclaw Sitka top.

At the time my wife had an almost new Big Baby with a plain top so I bought the Bearclaw to A/B the sound. These entry-level Taylors have mahogany veneer plywood back and sides so there’s probably very little difference except for the top.

They sounded exactly the same to me. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had a friend that owned a Storioni. It had one of the best E strings I have ever played. Everything was there--power, flexibility, color. Peter Prier (or someone in the shop) had to do a major restoration on the top as one of his children sat on it! Really cool violin.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, H_Axel said:

OT : a few years ago I found a Taylor Big Baby guitar with an absolutely wild bearclaw Sitka top.

At the time my wife had an almost new Big Baby with a plain top so I bought the Bearclaw to A/B the sound. These entry-level Taylors have mahogany veneer plywood back and sides so there’s probably very little difference except for the top.

They sounded exactly the same to me. 

I've never really been able to get excited about a Taylor - they're very consistent, but not my cup of tea.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Storioni and French wood in OP might result just from harvesting less select (and perhaps less cultivated) stands of wood.  I think the features pointed to are simply more common.  You don't get the highly even highly regular grain without careful selection.  But you do get wavy and irregular just naturally.  Or such would be my guess.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The wood shown on the pictures is a bearclaw = Haselfichte.

There are instrument makers that love the wood.

Generally in my experience (from measuring about 30000 pieces of violin wood, among that around 2000 bearclaw pieces) the speed of sound / longitudinal stiffness has a weaker stiffness / weight ratio. The average density is also around 5% higher than non-bearclaw alpine spruce.

So longitudinal stiffness/weight is what you’re after, bearclaw is probably not the first choice.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 hours ago, Three13 said:

I was recently looking though images of a number of Storioni violins and violas and noticed that the wood on a fair number of them looked a lot like the wood that I've noticed on French tops from the same era - the most obvious similarity being the rather wavy looking annular rings. I've read here that the regular wood source used by the classical Cremonese makers had dried up by then, but does anyone know whether some of the same stuff that was being used in France ended up in Italy in the late 18th century?

 

No evidence from dendrochronological cross-matching tests that the same source of wood was exploited by Storioni and late 18th century French makers.
Also important to know that the provenance of the wood that pre-Revolution French makers used is only valid until then, with a drastic shift after the abolition of the Corporations.


I think the similarities you see are coincidental.  The wood used by the Classical Cremonese until about 1750 is indeed quite specific, and there are re-occurrences of wood from similar sources to the previous one on the occasional late Cremonese, including some, but by no means all Storioni, GB Ceruti (but not later Ceruti) and Nicola Bergonzi.

Where Italian makers sourced after Napoleon invaded is unknown but we see the occasional use of fir from the Apennines. As far as I am concerned, this period between about 1790 and about 1820/30 is the most problematic insofar as dating the wood, both in France and Italy, and never really see any connections between Storioni wood and contemporary French wood. 

Share this post


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

No evidence from dendrochronological cross-matching tests that the same source of wood was exploited by Storioni and late 18th century French makers.
Also important to know that the provenance of the wood that pre-Revolution French makers used is only valid until then, with a drastic shift after the abolition of the Corporations.


I think the similarities you see are coincidental.  The wood used by the Classical Cremonese until about 1750 is indeed quite specific, and there are re-occurrences of wood from similar sources to the previous one on the occasional late Cremonese, including some, but by no means all Storioni, GB Ceruti (but not later Ceruti) and Nicola Bergonzi.

Where Italian makers sourced after Napoleon invaded is unknown but we see the occasional use of fir from the Apennines. As far as I am concerned, this period between about 1790 and about 1820/30 is the most problematic insofar as dating the wood, both in France and Italy, and never really see any connections between Storioni wood and contemporary French wood. 

Peter - thanks for sharing your knowledge. Am I right in my recollection that the wood used in 18th century France was a completely different species than the Norwegian Spruce used elsewhere?

Share this post


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

The spruce used by makers in the 18th century was from Northern Italy, perhaps from the Val di Fiemme.

Although this story is often told, is there any evidence that it was really harvested from Val di Fiemme?

Share this post


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

Although this story is often told, is there any evidence that it was really harvested from Val di Fiemme?

Since this story is often told, it has to be true ;) 

AFAIK the “Secret Strad forest” was the Paneveggio, which actually does not belong to the Val di Fiemme, am i wrong?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
34 minutes ago, Michael Szyper said:

Since this story is often told, it has to be true ;) 

AFAIK the “Secret Strad forest” was the Paneveggio, which actually does not belong to the Val di Fiemme, am i wrong?

The administrators of the Val di Fiemme are very good with marketing, but in reality I do not think that there is certain evidence that the wood comes from that specific valley;)

Paneveggio forest is located in Val Travignolo which is a lateral valley of the Val di Fiemme. But it is part of the municipality of Predazzo, which is in Val di Fiemme and is practically the same area.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
54 minutes ago, Davide Sora said:

The administrators of the Val di Fiemme are very good with marketing, but in reality I do not think that there is certain evidence that the wood comes from that specific valley;)

Paneveggio forest is located in Val Travignolo which is a lateral valley of the Val di Fiemme. But it is part of the municipality of Predazzo, which is in Val di Fiemme and is practically the same area.

Yes, but anyway, the spruce was from Northern Italy.

Share this post


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

Yes, but anyway, the spruce was from Northern Italy.

Yes, of course, and most likely from the area of the Dolomites, which however restricted is not only the Val di Fiemme ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

2 minutes ago, Davide Sora said:

Yes, of course, and most likely from the area of the Dolomites, which however restricted is not only the Val di Fiemme ;)

Yes, it would be nice knowing better about wood commerce of those times... Was the wood cut specially for violin makers? Cozio di Salabue mentions that maple came to Italy through Venice.

Share this post


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

 

Yes, it would be nice knowing better about wood commerce of those times... Was the wood cut specially for violin makers? Cozio di Salabue mentions that maple came to Italy through Venice.

Regarding wood for buildings and other uses not related to violin making, at the time of Stradivari there was a lot of trade with Brescia which is close to Cremona and there are many spruce forests in the alps north of that city, so maybe it's a other possible source.
But Brescia was part of the Serenissima (Venice) at that time, so maybe the wood could come from Venice in any case, there would be a need to investigate further but conducting this research is not a joke and requires human and monetary resources, I think the interest in these things is not high enough to find them and I don't know if extensive studies have been done in this regard.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, but was there an specific trade of "tonewood" at that time?

Count Cozio di Salabue, wrote, about 1810, that is, NOT during the Cremonese golden age:

"Good timber can usually be bought in Venice out of Istria but be sure to get it before it has been carried to the Arsenal and been immersed in sea water to fortify it and stop the worm. You can tell from the stains if it has been steeped...".  So, if the wood could be taken to the Arsenal, it was not "tonewood", but ony "wood".

Count Cozio di Salabue was one of the first person to be interested in violin making, he also worked closely with G. B. Guadagnini and the Mantegazza brothers.

An opposed opinion is given by Euro Pelusi. He cites the immersion of the wood in a water stream  soon after the wood is split for a period of 15 to 20 days, to take off the rest of the sap. (TECNICA COSTRUTIVA DEGLI ANTICHI LIUTAI ITALIANI, pg. 247 - text only in Italian).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Unless some sort of archival research stumbles on positive evidence of a tonewood dealer, I don't think we're going to get to know if such a dedicated trade existed.

Just conjecturing though, I would guess no.  If we look more generally and materia trade, we see the norm was to focus on distinct materials with dedicated special sourcing and prep for market, but with very generalized end uses.    So, saffron, for example, maybe with a special grade of prep/quality, perhaps sourced in a special way, but then sold to a wide range of users.  So the safron would go to the apothecary, dyer, painter, guilder, cook, and perhaps instrument makers.

Certainly the figured maple coming through Venice found more uses than only instruments or violins.  Such gun or crossbow stocks can be seen in paintings for example.   There would be workers dedicated to the material and source likely, but dealers dedicated to one niche of end use?

Likewise with spruce.  Perhaps the sourcing needs for instrument making spruce were different enough to spawn special dealers and sourcing.  But if such material gave advantage in more than one end use, it would seem normal in the times to put that all together.

It seems more plausible to me to consider that instrument making in Brescia and along the Po all developed because it was down river of high quality spruce sources.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting.... Never heard about the Banchetti family as wood dealers....

1 hour ago, Blank face said:

I think this topic was discussed several times before, most extensively here

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/25/2020 at 12:09 AM, MANFIO said:

The spruce used by makers in the 18th century was from Northern Italy, perhaps from the Val di Fiemme.

I really don't think so, Manfio, absolutely no evidence for that apart from modern tales. If you or anybody knows about ANY archival or other evidence, before the 1960s, linking Val di Fiemme and classical Italian wood, then I would like to know! In terms of dendrochronological cross-matching, there is nothing to see at the moment.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
22 minutes ago, Ratcliffiddles said:

I really don't think so, Manfio, absolutely no evidence for that apart from modern tales. If you or anybody knows about ANY archival or other evidence, before the 1960s, linking Val di Fiemme and classical Italian wood, then I would like to know! In terms of dendrochronological cross-matching, there is nothing to see at the moment.

Ok, thanks! Do you think there were specialized wood dealers for luthiers?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I visited Venice some years ago, Mr Pio took me on a long private tour of Venice on his personal boat. Amongst much else, he showed me where Venice's wood yard was. Now it is a large place to park your yacht, so I think one may presume that any wood used in Venice, weather for violins or window frames or whatever spent a good deal of time bobbling around on the water, whatever old wives tales get told. If you think about it, there is a dearth of dry ground there, so wy waste it storing heaps of wood.

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.