View Full Version : The Cherry wood quill

Alex Timmerman
Apr-25-2004, 5:43pm
Hello Eugene and others who are interested,

Last week Sebastian Nuņez visited me and took with him some fresh cherry wood and his kitchen nife. This made taking pictures a lot easier.

Cherry wood is excellent material for quills because of itīs flexibility and durability. The sound - if the tip of the quill is not filed too thin - is surprisingly thick and warm. #

I hope the images speak for themselves.

Many greatings, also from Sebastian

Alex Đ

Jim Garber
Apr-25-2004, 6:08pm
Last week Sebastian Nuņez visited me and took with him some fresh cherry wood and his kitchen nife. This made taking pictures a lot easier.
When you say fresh cherry wood do you mean what we would term "green" wood, that is, right off the tree? or should you use seasoned wood?


Alex Timmerman
Apr-26-2004, 1:50pm
Hi Jim,

By īfreshī cherry wood I meant fresh (for me), in the sense of a new old and dried piece of cherry wood. So, not "green" coming right off the tree. It should be dead dry first.

When finishing filing the quill it is good to rub some olive oil on the surface of it. Not that it makes the wood suppler so much, but more because it will prevent itīs point from becoming too rough or from breaking.

The subject of suppleness or flexibility at the end of long quills - like those under discussion here (wood- and feather quills and the Embergher/Ranieri plectrum) - isnīt really that big an issue, because the down- and upwards movements that these plectra give to themselves (when they are held - loosely[!] between the finger tips of the thumb and fore finger) create so to speak a kind of imitation flexibility.

Suppleness or flexibility in the sense of being īfloppyī is often seen as needed, while playing with that kind of (plastic) plectra makes "handling" a plectrum easy (beginners plectrum). After all one can than grab a plectrum as firm as possible without having to take care of anything else... . The point does the work: after touching the string with a down stroke it starts bending and - after releasing the string - it immediately falls back in itīs straight shape. The same happens when an up-stroke is made.

Of course to a certain extent suppleness is a characteristic of good plectra.
But too thin or supple plectra produce unverifiable and floppy noises together with the notes played. Also the dynamic difference between p and f cannot be made that well (and not to speak of pp and fff).

With harder plectra and when held in the right way, all the dynamics are possible to make. Together with the utmost brilliance of sound.#

This was and is a reason why the great performers of the past (and some of today) prefer a thick or hard and therefore less flexible plectrum to play with.



Apr-26-2004, 2:48pm
Rather than olive oil, what about very fine oils more traditionally used to protect unfinished wood and keep it pliable, like lemon oil?

Alex Timmerman
Apr-26-2004, 3:32pm
I think that would be fine also. Olive oil is used because of the Mandolin - Olive - all Italian connection.



PS. Here is an image of a thick and a thin cherry quill.

Apr-30-2004, 9:40pm
Hello Alex,

Thank you again for a very nice description. My own attempts were taken from a "green" twig and were considerably thinner. It always amazes me how easy it is to get different meanings from language. Of course, now my twigs are dry so I can try again! Plus, I'm going to Ohio this summer where the cherry trees grow.

Can you give us some rough dimensions of the plectra that you picture? I would guess about 1mm thick? 3cm long? .75cm at the widest point? Am I close?



Alex Timmerman
May-02-2004, 3:52pm
Hello Eric,

Yes and no...

Iīll describe the measurements of the right one at the last photo shown above. That is I think as thin as one can go still having a nice sound with it (the left quill is thicker with a point of 1mm. thickness).

The thickness of the right one at the point is 0.75mm; the total length of this new made one is 6cm. Itīs widest point measures 1cm. The thickness there is 1.5mm and from there it tappers down to the quillīs point where it measures only 2mm wide, just before the tip is rounded.

The right one is a really nice cherry wooden quill, if I may say so myself.



John Bertotti
May-03-2004, 7:16am
Am I right is guessing these are for other than metal strings? John

Alex Timmerman
May-03-2004, 7:47am
Hello John,

Yes, the wooden quill is used for playing the instruments of the Mandolin family that are strung with gut-strings, as there are the double strung Mandolino (6x2) and the single strung Mandolino Milanese (6x1) and Mandolino Cremonese (4x1). There is also the Mandolino Lombardo (6x1) but since that was developed much later - in the second half of the 19th century - it was probably (like the metal strung modern Mandolins of the time) also[!] played with a tortoise shell plectrum.



John Bertotti
May-05-2004, 6:11am
Thanks Alex, John

Jul-13-2010, 11:22am
This is a thread of more than 6 years ago and for me it is of quite present value. I succeeded to make a plectrum out of a small piece of cherrywood this afternoon. The advises given on this thread were very helpful.
Fortunately I knew to find this by looking at Alex' started threads, where also advises are to make a quill out of a birds' feather or to make a Ranieri plectrum.
Good that there is a kind of archive, a history.......for people - like me - that are rather new on cafe.
Thanks Alex,