Spring 2015 preview.

Can’t resist–all of these will get posts as I catch up, but I’m so tickled I want to share them now.

photo 1

Woohoo! “Volcano” palisander on the left, with it’s bearclaw Swiss spruce top above. 2nd is the wild tiger myrtle of Richard Parker, my 2015 Pi Day instrument. It has another bearclaw Swiss spruce top (above), with a pattern that echoes the myrtle figure. 3rd is beautiful old perfectly quartersawn East Indian Rosewood with an Engelmann top (later changed to Swiss, discussed below), and finally Reynard, an amazing bit of curly mahogany, and one more Swiss top. It’s all Swiss spruce in this round, mostly moonspruce (moon-what? I need to post on that if I haven’t already).

One more (shown in a previous post, before joining the halves), African blackwood with an “orc-paint” bearclaw top:

photo 2

This blackwood works about as easily as steel, but what a tap tone.

Stretching the preview past the spring builds are these fine pieces of “firewood”:


This is more Engelmann spruce from the early 90’s forest fire area above McCall Idaho that violin maker Kevin Prestwich is gradually harvesting and testing. I used an earlier piece on the oakulele and it was quivery good!

These trees have been standing on mountain sides drying for over 20 years. With the bark gone and the outer layers cracked from drying shrinkage, Kevin can see at a glance which trees have the straight fiber line that is ideal for an instrument top. He doesn’t stop there though; the wood is measured for responsiveness, sound transmission speed, and so forth, compared with known excellent samples, and sorted for various applications…including some actual firewood. I often like wood that some say is imperfect–“perfect” wood is not highly correlated with great tone and performance–but it’s a false economy to build instruments with every piece of wood. And it’s an old saying among woodworkers that nothing burns like nice dry furniture (or instrument) wood!


I sawed these billets into tops back in January, and they are currently relaxing with their cousins from the southern Oregon coast, British Columbia, Switzerland, Romania, and elsewhere. It was hard to resist building one into the spring instruments, but I ultimately decided to go all Swiss in the current group to highlight the differences among the back and side woods. Maybe fall.