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Wood for back, sides, and inside blocks.

November 1, 2010


This is the wood I ordered.  I just got it in the mail.  Yay!  :)

The back piece is a wedge of quarter-sawn “well flamed” curly maple from 2000.  (The wide side of the wedge (resting on the table) was towards the outside of the tree, and the narrow side of the wedge (pointing up) was towards the inside of the tree.)

You can see where it has been sawn vertically down the middle most of the way, and then the sawing stops before the wedge was completely split in half.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe so you can be sure that the “two” pieces really come from the same log?  The point is to book-match the two pieces of wood (glue them along the thick edge of each wedge) to form the back so that the “flames” (or “figuring”) are symmetrical.

I read that you want your wood to be “aged” naturally for a while.  (not kiln dried like some other forms of lumber)  One website suggested 10 years minimum…  So I figured I’d attempt to find something like that.  (I think the aging is just so that it won’t crack later on as it continues to dry.  Supposedly it also affects the tone of the wood, but I’m not sure how…)  But I didn’t feel like it was very crucial, since this is only my first violin to make.  It’s not likely to sound very good anyways, so why waste too much money on really excellent wood?  On the other hand, if the wood makes a real difference in the sound of the instrument, then even if it is your first instrument, why work so hard on making it if it’s got bad wood?  It’s a tricky balance, and in the end I just didn’t care much, because I have no experience to confirm or deny the assertion that older wood is better.  I decided to “waste” a tad more money than I was expecting, just in case…  Afterall, a violin is made out of wood.  So that should probably be the focus.  You can tweak your carving to adjust the sound, later on, but you can’t switch the wood out without starting all over again on that particular element.

I ordered these particular pieces of wood from Lemuel Violins.  I like how they tell you the year that the wood was cut as well as the “grade” of wood it is.  I’m not really sure what causes a piece of wood to be one grade or another (according to that website), but I just went for something middle-of-the-road.  I suspect that it might have something to do with how straight the grain is, but I’m really just guessing about that.  The grain for the side pieces looks really straight.  The grain for the back is a little more erratic, but overall fairly straight.

I’m very happy that the flaming of the back and side pieces looks very similar.  Same “tightness”, AND same angle.  :)  (I was pretty worried about the angles not being the same…)  I took a risk by not ordering from a site that said they would be cut from the same piece of wood.  But the websites that I saw where the back and sides were from the same log didn’t mention anything about the age of the wood or the quality, and I thought that was probably more important.  But I made sure to get the back and sides from the same website, so that the phrase “well flamed” would most likely mean the same thing.

I haven’t seen an actual definition of “well flamed”, so I think it’s probably a somewhat subjective term.  Other websites said “flamed”, “better flame”, “higher flame”, “best flame” and other subjective or otherwise confusing adjectives to describe the flaming of the wood.  (And I couldn’t tell what order the subjective terms went in…  You can sort of guess based on the price differences, though.)

Anyways, when I buy my wood for the neck/scroll, I’ll probably highly consider Lemuel Violins again, simply to keep the meaning of “well flamed” the same so that it hopefully matches best…  I will still worry about the angle of the figuring, though…  Maybe I should have ordered it at the same time so that they could have tried to match it, but I didn’t want the expense, just yet.  (One thing at a time, right?  Who knows if I’ll even like doing this?!  :)  I’m trying to keep the motto of not spending money on something until I really need it.  –although I’ve already broken that by ordering the wood for the back.  But I wanted to be sure the sides would match, and needed to know if I’d have to order new sides (the cheaper of the two, by far!), if they didn’t.)

I wanted something with a tight curl/flame, because my own violin has a tight curl to it, and that’s what I’ve gotten used to and really love the look of.

As for the side pieces…  There’s three of them.  I’ll have to research more about what to do with them.  lol  I thought there would be five pieces.  (two for upper bout, two for lower bout, and one cut in half for the two c-bouts)  Clearly I’m wrong.  :)  If I sit and speculate a bit, I guess you use one piece from the bottom button to the lower corner, then the rest of that same piece for the c-bout.  then the second piece can be used for the two upper bout sides, and the third piece can be used like the first piece was.  But that’s just a guess.  I’d have to consider the direction of the figuring, as well…

They’re each about 2mm thick, and over 40 mm wide.  Since it sounds like the ribs only need to be about 31-33mm wide (or tall, once they’re on the violin), I wonder if I can slice off the excess and use it for the lining…  Unless the lining needs to be made of spruce or something (to keep the weight down?  maple is denser).

And as for the wood for the corner/end blocks: I bought spruce.  I figured it was a good light-weight wood, and I’ve seen it suggested for the corner/end blocks, so I figured why not?  My own violin is rather heavy, I think, so I’d like to keep the weight down, too, if I can.  I think violin makers aren’t as picky about the kind of wood they use for the blocks and lining, though, as they are about the back and top plates.  I’m not sure how the blocks affect the sound.

(I kind of wished I could have incorporated aromatic cedar into my violin somehow (maybe the blocks or the lining), just because it smells so lovely.  But (aside from the fact that I don’t know much about various woods) I worried about the oils affecting the rest of the violin.  Plus the smell dissipates after a while and you have to sand it to get the smell to come back –which wouldn’t really be an option inside of a violin.)

I also wonder if there might be left over material from the spruce that I could make the linings out of…  That would be nice, but I haven’t measured it, yet.

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