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Information related to the wood used to build stringed instruments

Mineral preservatives in the wood of Stradivari and Guarneri

Here is an article that is hot off the press. One of the authors is Joseph Nagyvary, a scientist/violinmaker from Texas that has written a lot on the theory that the Cremonese masters used a special wood treatment on their violins. In the past he has put forward several theories, including soaking the wood in water, urine, borax, shrimp shells, etc etc. All these theories and some sensationalist coverage by the press have not done his reputation in the violinmaking community much good. Nevertheless, he is an experienced scientist and his work and results are some of the best available. This paper contains some very interesting stuff. It seems more and more likely that there was a 'silver bullet' wood treatment that makes the Cremonese instruments different. The article was published in a scientific journal and it is not light reading, but well worth the effort.

The article is also available to registered users in PDF format here

Joseph Nagyvary1*, Renald N. Guillemette2, Clifford H. Spiegelman3


The truth about spruce

I came across this article on the internet years ago. I don't know who wrote it and neither do I know if 'the truth' is actually true. But nevertheless, it is an interesting read...


Here is more than you perhaps ever cared to know about European spruce ... or what to think when someone proclaims they have a top of German (or Italian, or Swiss, or French, or Jugoslavian or Italian) spruce.

My little search for 'The truth about spruce' has been ongoing for many years, but recently took a turn when someone insisted that Picea abies and Picea excelsa were two names for the same species. I had always understood they were separate, as the woods associated with the two names were certainly (I thought) quite different. I got busy with the web, some books and spoke at length with a couple of experts. I have a better idea of what's what now, and here's what I found out.

First of all, the guy who lumped them together was right and I was out of date.

These are the three ranges of Picea abies, a tree commonly known in the US as Norway spruce.

Spruce tree distribution
The three ranges of Picea abies


Ageing instruments with sound


Violinists and guitarists have long known that the tools of their trade improve with age, or more specifically with actual playing time. The vibrations from playing cause subtle changes in the pliability of the wood and lacquer that cover it. That's why vintage instruments are so highly prized.

However, quantifying exactly how these changes effect the sound of the instrument has proven difficult.


Why do Stradivari's violins sound sublime?

29 November 2006 by Paul Marks

A wood preservation technique was probably responsible for the exquisite sound produced by violins of the 17th-century Italian instrument makers Antonio Stradivari and Giuseppe Guarneri.

Chemical analysis of wood shavings scavenged from two instruments while under repair has given fresh clues as to their exquisite acoustics.


A Comparison of Wood Density between Classical Cremonese and Modern Violins

This article is available for download in PDF format for registerd users here.

The densities of five classical and eight modern violins were compared, using computed tomography and specially developed image-processing software.

Berend C. Stoel1, Terry M. Borman2

1 Department of Radiology, Division of Image Processing, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands, 2 Borman Violins, Fayetteville, Arkansas, United States of America

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