How to choose woodpublished Mar 17, 2021 by Edgar E. Russ
Ciao a tutti!
Today we will talk about choosing the right wood for your instrument!
I am full of pieces in my workshop, but most of them are actually stored outside Cremona, at my house. If I need some pieces I bring them in town in the workshop and in case I need more room in the workshop I bring it back home.. the wood is constantly moved back and forth.
If you enter the workshop you will see different kinds of wood for different instrument. For example I am creating a special violin and I ordered some special wood especially for that instrument! I have some spruce from Bachman, where you can order the same kind of wood from the same tree if you like it, thanks to the particular numbering system.
A lot of people take interest into the wood and I also think it is very important as the main material that makes an instrument. On the other side, a good maker should be able to make a good instrument from every kind of wood. Maybe the character is different but the response, the balance and the projection all come from how the instrument is made, while the character is made by the wood itself.
Now, we don’t want a top out of maple and a back of spruce, we leave everything as it should be: the top is actually moving a lot, so we make it out of spruce. Personally, I choose to take it from the same places the Great Masters took it from: Val di Fiemme. You can also get it with a simple click from your house, because now they ship it worldwide!
I always try to get a lot of the same kind of wood from the same tree, so that I can get used to it. Sometimes there are some instrument that require some specific kind of wood that I don’t have in my collection of wood pieces, so I contact everyone who is selling that kind.
Sometimes people come to me with a specific kind of wood and they want me to make something for them. I have in my workshop a little bit of wood remaining from one of these projects: this wood is 48.000 years old, it was in New Zeland and I made out of it two violins, one of them for charity. It was a very nice project, but the trick here is to apply my knowledge to make something great sounding out of this kind of wood.
This means that theoretically, out of every piece of wood you should be able to make a good instrument.
When I am choosing a wood I am always looking that it is similar to the original instrument I am trying to replicate. For example, I look at the direction of the flames.
When it comes to the top, I am looking for well splitted wood: I always look that you can see the grain and when I join the two pieces in the middle I always make sure that it is perfectly balanced, so that I doesn’t influence the sound. I try to keep the grain very long, but if I can’t, then I try to respect the wood and make a good violin even with some difficulties.
This is the sparkling part of violinmaking, where you try to work with what you have and solve problems in a creative way!
If you look at the Great Masters of the past, and you look at what wood they were using, it is interesting to notice a couple of things: Stradivari for example used very simple wood for the neck and scroll, and ribs and back were very nice flamed. Also, the great masters used fresh wood, now we search for seasoned wood.
So, don’t over exaggerate with seasoning! Of course, the 48.000 years old wood was very well seasoned, I can tell you.
I always try to keep myself open.
If you have a piece of wood that you think “I would like to make a violin out of this”, then send me pictures and we can work on something special together.
Then it becomes really your violin, your instrument.
Every piece of wood has a story to tell and every violin as well.
Check out the video to know more about wood selection:
Greetings form Cremona,