StringWorks Blog

Notes from the founder of StringWorks, Todd French. Please feel free to email me with your questions or comments, or even suggestions on blog topics I might tackle.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Graphite plus Spruce = ?

Many of you likely read the recent article in the New York Times about new technologies in instrument construction (guitars and violins) marrying graphite and spruce for the instrument tops, as well as other innovations that explore the marriage of technology with natural materials and/or traditional design.

I'm intrigued by the possibilities of the graphite and spruce laminate for instrument tops, yet admittedly I do not have much knowledge in this area. I have already contacted a friend of mine (also in the industry) who has expertise in composites, and perhaps one day we can sit down and compare notes, putting the two heads together and try to come up with an idea. Unfortunately, when we get together, it's not often about productivity, but we could perhaps make a very concerted effort for the good of all.

The concept makes sense to me, as spruce is so inconsistent even in the high quality blanks. I can imagine a very thin piece of spruce used for the top that is reinforced in all the key areas by a variable sheet of graphite - sort of a swiss cheese or honeycomb design but with irregular hole shapes and spacing, as the impact of tone on the top of an instrument varies, hence the irregular graduation of every violin top. Since graphite/composites can be so highly tuned to do exactly what you need them to do, and then so easily replicated as exact models of one another, you could introduce a level of consistency and constance to a rather irregular and highly varied construction task.

While graphite/composite creates a very consistent and tunable part of the equation, it cannot - in my opinion - recreate the intricacies of what a natural substance can in a stringed musical instrument. This is where the spruce will shine. The inherent tonal qualities of spruce will keep this instrument sounding natural and will allow it to improve with age, just as an all wooden instrument would. The absence of the natural products and magic that comes in tonal development of an instrument performed on for many years could still exist, yet the advantages of the composite reinforcements mean that the instrument could start out at a higher level of tonal development.

It's an interesting concept, as I said earlier, and definitely one I'd like to pursue when the time allows it. I certainly invite anyone else to share their thoughts with me.


Blogger CelloBuyer said...

I just received the Costco Cello that I bought for my son. It is Chinese made. It has a brazilwood bow with m.o.p. birds eyes. It is straight and very well made. The cello has a solid maple back and sides, not laminated or fiberglass like the ones for 5 times the price at the local music store. The bridge is well made and fits perfectly. The finger board and pegs are ebony and fit perfectly. There are no burs on the nut or bridge that shred strings like on the cello that we just got rid of that was 5 times the price from the local music store. The sound post is in the proper position and fits well, unlike the one that was set up by some high school kid with a pocket knife at the local music store. The Costco cello is by far a better value than anything that I have found up to $2000. I guess the local music stores wish they could keep selling poor quality junk with no service or competition. Not any more. Thanks Costco!

6:58 AM  

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