Admitted - we violin makers are obsessed with wood!
But that needs to be like this, since high-quality wood provides us with the basis for beautiful sonority.
Wood quality can be objectively ascertained thanks to definite parameters such as low density and high sound transmission. But after years of experience we learned to take further aspects into consideration. How hard does the surface feel? What is the grain direction of the piece of wood in hand – longitudinally and radially? How long does the piece of wood resonate after it is struck?
For the spruce tops, our experience has shown the very best results can be achieved if we log entire trees in the Alps in order to control when the tree is cut down, how the wood is split and sawn, and how it is allowed to age.
In the meantime, in the ever-growing supply in our wood storeroom, we now have logs from several valleys of Bavaria, Voralberg (Austria) and South Tyrol. Our best spruce trunk is the one in the photo* - it is from the Dolomites.
We and our customers are thrilled with its light weight, exceptional firmness, uniform growth and outstanding sounding properties. Over the past ten years, we have used this log for all the tops of our instruments without exception.
Cutting wood at waning moon? Yes, but…
Old forestry books from the 1600s and 1700s prescribe that tonewood should only be cut down in the waning moon phase right before the winter solstice. Although no scientific double-blind study has yet been conducted on the question, we respect that tradition.
* In December 1989 we travelled to cut trees in Northern Italy with my friend and colleague Felix Schleiermacher, who shot these three photos of the logging in the Alps.