Burl wood from Slovakia


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I am considering buying a violin back from Stefan Poliacik  of Slovakia.  The piece is what he calls crazy maple .  I believe it’s burl maple.  It looks beautiful. But can a person make a good violin from burl maple?  Is it too hard? Have you ever tried this wood.?  Thank you.  Peter white 

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If it really is from a burr, then the wood will essentially be hundreds of tiny knots, with distorted and interlocked grain. For this reason, it looks really beautiful, but isn't stable in solid pieces. More commonly burrs are turned into veneers.

However since you did not include a picture, his crazy maple could be anything really, from simply an unusual figure, or cut near the roots, cut from a crotch, half slab cut...
Impossible to say what something is when you haven't seen it, unless one is a clairvoyant.

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If it is a true "burl" where the long grain goes in all kinds of radical directions, I would avoid it.

However, most tonewood maple with wild-looking grain is slab-cut, and the random squiggles don't disrupt the general direction of the long grain.  Like flames, but perpendicular and random.

612731437_quiltedmaple.jpg.86fb5991ea096f3551259ad7451ef24b.jpg

If it is the latter (and presumably it is), then I would also presume that the tonal results would be similar to what you'd get with a slab-cut back.  As for stability and crack-resistance, I'd think that would be similar to slab-cut as well (i.e. not great), and more deeply figured would likely be even less stable.

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1 hour ago, ChicagoDogs said:

Don - the outline of your plate in the lower block area looks... interesting... is that the result of using some compass arcs, tracing a single-sided template, or something else? 

I just copied the photo from a tonewood supplier's website.  It's not mine.

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I am sure you can find "crazy" wood locally.   The shipping costs would be considerable.  In any case you are allowed to make one violin out of "crazy" wood to get it out of your system.  I looked at the wood on his site and he has very nice standard violin maple wood.

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Ah, ok - thanks! Was just curious about the process that could lead to that outline. 

I do find it interesting that quilted slab-cut maple seems to be much more prevalent in mandolins than violin-family instruments.  I wonder if that's due to geographical differences in wood supply (North American maple vs. European?) or differences in structural requirements and aesthetic expectations of the different instruments.  Would be interested in any thoughts from Hogo or others with a foot in the Loar-style mandolin world. 

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1 hour ago, ChicagoDogs said:

Ah, ok - thanks! Was just curious about the process that could lead to that outline. 

I do find it interesting that quilted slab-cut maple seems to be much more prevalent in mandolins than violin-family instruments.  I wonder if that's due to geographical differences in wood supply (North American maple vs. European?) or differences in structural requirements and aesthetic expectations of the different instruments.  Would be interested in any thoughts from Hogo or others with a foot in the Loar-style mandolin world. 

Slab-cut wood has a higher expansion/contraction ratio from side-to-side, with variations in moisture content, than does quarter cut wood. In other words, it is much more susceptible to "spontaneous damage". I can't comment on whether mandolin or guitar makers care about stuff like that, but I do.

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2 hours ago, David Burgess said:

Slab-cut wood has a higher expansion/contraction ratio from side-to-side, with variations in moisture content, than does quarter cut wood. In other words, it is much more susceptible to "spontaneous damage". I can't comment on whether mandolin or guitar makers care about stuff like that, but I do.

Not only is the expansion/contraction higher, but the stiffness and strength are weaker as well.  I haven't seen all that many old violins with slab backs, but my limited (anecdotal) evidence is that the slab backed ones are much more likely to have cracks.

Mandolins and guitars don't have a soundpost putting high concentrated vertical forces in the middle of the plate, so maybe they are not as prone to this problem.

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1 hour ago, Peter White said:

Wood butcher.  If it’s not burl, what is the crazy wood on the site.?  I have added a photo of a typical piece.   If it is slab cut, is it advisable to use such wood on the site for violin backs?  Thank you. 

The piece in your photo is cut from the crotch of the tree.

Only you can decide if you'd like to use it. Unusual figure and cuts across the grain will always come at the expense of long term stability, the density could be quite different or uneven too.

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Thank you for your replies. I have decided to look elsewhere for more unusual wood.  I do love the regular quarter cut maple, highly flamed. But I’m 73 years old and just looking for something different and aesthetic, or striking,  than  our regularly used wood.  I’d appreciate any suggestions. Perhaps steer me to wood dealers you know and trust.   Thank you, Peter White 

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I don't think there is anything wrong with the wood dealer Peter, but if you are going to use something unusual, then you are always likely to have some issues as a result of it.

If you want something different to the usual quarter sawn flame pattern you could use slab cut, quilted, or birdseye as examples. Failing that, you could look at a different species to maple, but again, it might not live up to expectations tonally.

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5 hours ago, Peter White said:

Thank you for your replies. I have decided to look elsewhere for more unusual wood.  I do love the regular quarter cut maple, highly flamed. But I’m 73 years old and just looking for something different and aesthetic, or striking,  than  our regularly used wood.  I’d appreciate any suggestions. Perhaps steer me to wood dealers you know and trust.   Thank you, Peter White 

I’ve had good luck with Andreas Pahler. His website doesn’t show his current stock, but tell him what you’re looking for and he will send pics. 

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On 12/24/2020 at 8:55 AM, Peter White said:

Thank you for your replies. I should have posted a photo.  h1C11406A-A977-4C38-A932-3EA456B86285.jpeg

Not to belabor this discussion, but the pattern drawn on this piece, has the annular rings running laterally. I assume it is not large enough to orient the grain properly for a violin.   I agree it is likely from a crotch .  I have cut many similar pieces when cutting maple logs, but sold to  cutting board makers  cheap.  Very prone to movement, especially at thicknesses of a violin.  

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