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Identifying paper purfling


KeiranC

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Hi all,

I have an unnamed composite cello, said to be made in southern Italy in the mid 1700s.  Everything belongs together except for the top, which is an early 19th century replacement.  

The purfling on the back is quite dark, and the black strips are impossibly thin.  I wondered if there’s a way to tell if these are paper strips, and if anyone has a guess at what the center wood is.  I know the Gagliano family used “paper,” and of course this cello isn’t that, but I’m curious if other makers used paper in their purfling.

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I have always been jealous of people who can tell what wood purfling is made of, just by looking at the instrument. The occasional Beech or Maple might be obvious, but otherwise telling wood sorts apart from such a minute sample, and from only one direction seems a little ridiculous. My ex-Boss always used to flippantly answer the question ”what is the purfling made of”, with Erdbeerbaum (Strawberry wood), and we all tried to suppress giggling at how few people didn’t realise that strawberries don’t grow on trees. That all stopped though when someone, having had the piss taken out of him, came with a photo of an Erdbeerbaum, which it seems actually exists, from the botanical gardens in Stuttgart

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4 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

I have always been jealous of people who can tell what wood purfling is made of, just by looking at the instrument. The occasional Beech or Maple might be obvious, but otherwise telling wood sorts apart from such a minute sample, and from only one direction seems a little ridiculous. My ex-Boss always used to flippantly answer the question ”what is the purfling made of”, with Erdbeerbaum (Strawberry wood), and we all tried to suppress giggling at how few people didn’t realise that strawberries don’t grow on trees. That all stopped though when someone, having had the piss taken out of him, came with a photo of an Erdbeerbaum, which it seems actually exists, from the botanical gardens in Stuttgart

I love that!  And, I realize it’s probably impossible for anyone to ID the wood from my terrible photos- the area around the channel is so dark that it’s hard to get a good picture.

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The ‘impossibly thin’ black strips don’t tell much. You can make impossibly thin wood shavings and use them as purfling. 
 

My personal take on the material used  for the blacks on a typical Gagliano purfling is parchment and not paper. I found all my tests with paper to imitate the Gagliano purfling unsatisfying. And I really tested a lot of options from handmade paper, wax paper, even Japan paper and nothing of that sort would bring convincing results. 

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On 12/9/2022 at 12:41 PM, jacobsaunders said:

I have always been jealous of people who can tell what wood purfling is made of, just by looking at the instrument. The occasional Beech or Maple might be obvious, but otherwise telling wood sorts apart from such a minute sample, and from only one direction seems a little ridiculous. My ex-Boss always used to flippantly answer the question ”what is the purfling made of”, with Erdbeerbaum (Strawberry wood), and we all tried to suppress giggling at how few people didn’t realise that strawberries don’t grow on trees. That all stopped though when someone, having had the piss taken out of him, came with a photo of an Erdbeerbaum, which it seems actually exists, from the botanical gardens in Stuttgart

I agree that it is nonsense trying to find out a specific wood type for the purfling material. But you can group different materials to characterize them. Porous woods, dense woods, woods with pronounced medular rays, darker colored woods and lighter colored woods and ‘unusual’ materials like whalebone or boxwood. 
i found it also always interesting to find out if the blacks and whites were eventually made from the same wood. For the blacks, if ebony wasn’t used, the intensity of staining can be interesting too.
 

For doing this I have a very simple looking magnifying 30x glass which was sold long ago at Kremer pigments. 


 

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