The woods in violin making – a brief overview

The woods in violin making – a brief overview

The mountain spruce, Picea excelsa

Spruce for violin making comes preferably from the high alpine regions of Italy, Austria, Switzerland or Germany, because the harsh climate there, just below the tree line, is a real blessing for the sound of the bowed instruments: The lean soil and the resulting slow growth give the wood great strength. In the dark mountain forests, the spruces shed their lower branches early on because they are no longer reached by the light. As a result, the spruces grow with elongated, branchless trunks, which is exactly what we need as luthiers.
We use the mountain spruce for the belly, the bass bar, the soundpost, the blocks and the linings.

The sycamore maple, Acer pseudoplatanus

The best comes from the mountains of Southeastern Europe, especially from Bosnia and other Balkan countries.
In violin making we use the sycamore maple, which is often beautifully flamed due to its undulating growth.
It is used for the back, ribs and neck including scroll or head. Other hardwoods such as poplar, sycamore or beech are also used.

How is the wood for the top and bottom sawn out of the log?

The floor and ceiling are sawed out of the log in a radial cut. This goes through the marrow of the trunk.

The selection of the tonewood

Good tonewood is as light as possible and stiff at the same time. By tapping it and running your fingers over it, you get a good idea of its potential. The highest possible knocking tone (with the same dimensions) is more suitable. A long resonance is also a sign of quality. Some use tools such as a lucchimeter to measure certain acoustic properties already when buying wood.


The wood should be stored in an airy and dry place and should be shifted regularly. Before processing, it should lie in the workshop for some time to get used to the humidity and temperature of the environment.
With the natural drying process, you can expect about 10 years for maple and about 7 years for spruce before you can work it into a violin, viola or cello.

The ebony, Diospyros

Under the name of ebony, many different woods of the genus Diospyros are sold. The trees grow in tropical and subtropical forests. The heartwood (without visible annual rings) is very hard, heavy and belongs to the most valuable wood species. Sri Lanka ebony is the best quality, unfortunately hardly available today. Cameroon ebony is the most common species on the world market today. It is often of a deep black color, but usually also streaked with gray veins. Only about 10% of the logs have a uniform blackness. Ebony is used for the fingerboard, upper and lower saddles. Often also for the pegs, the tailpiece and chinrest.

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