Results 1 to 21 of 21

Thread: Torrified Red Spruce vs. Carpthian

  1. #1
    Registered User Eric Hanson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Bloomington, IN / USA
    Posts
    627

    Default Torrified Red Spruce vs. Carpthian

    Hello All,
    I am looking for input especially from builders who might have had some personal experience with, or know directly from the experience of others, some information about top woods. Specifically I am interested in knowing the differences between Torrefied Red Spruce and Carpathian Spruce as top woods.
    - How do they compare in sound production? Bright/Deep/Woody/Etc?
    - Do they give top end room for playing. When played hard do they keep on giving what you ask for in picking harder?
    - How do they typically age, in tone type?
    - How do they often sound initially? Harsh/Brash/Chimey/Woody?
    - What has been your experience of how they develop/open up?



    I have done some research here but have not found enough clear answers.
    I do know that each piece of wood responds differently, and that they respond differently with different tpes of back/side/neck woods.
    Just SUPER curious. I have also spoken with a builder lately about this. He has some experience with Carpatian, but not with the Torrefied Red Spruce. Thus the curiosity.

    Thank you for considering this request for input.

    Eric
    Last edited by Eric Hanson; Feb-27-2018 at 12:57am. Reason: Spelling “TORREFIED”
    Eric Hanson
    Click #016/ Born on 2/29/08 - Sold to the next Conservator of this great mandolin!
    The search has ceased! (At least for now)
    Collings A-Style

  2. #2
    Adrian Minarovic
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Banska Bystrica, Slovakia, Europe
    Posts
    2,214

    Default Re: Torrified Red Spruce vs. Carpthian

    It's impossible to answer as there can be huge difference between two trees from the same side of the hill. Comparing trees from other side of planes is impossible. Properties of European spruce (Carpathian spruce is just European from Carpathian mountains and can be no more than 2-300 miles from nearest Alpine spruce)
    Torrefied has not been around long enough (in musical instruments) to make any conclusions about its aging etc...
    The tone is 90% in the hands of the maker no matter which species of spruce he uses. Builder can select soft red spruce that will sound like Engelmann to many and he can select extra hard Engelmann that many will think is red.
    My friend had three similar mandolins from same maker and year with three different tops. When he showed them to me he told me he likes the sitka th most and that the carpathian is too mellow for his taste or something like that. I found out he had the tops mixed and the one he thought is carpathian was actually typical sitka. And the other one was carpathian. Later he came with mandolin that sounded so good because of walnut back that turned out to be alder, sounded just like one of the other mandolins of the maker...
    Adrian

  3. The Following 6 Users Say Thank You to HoGo For This Useful Post:


  4. #3
    Registered User Eric Hanson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Bloomington, IN / USA
    Posts
    627

    Default Re: Torrified Red Spruce vs. Carpthian

    Adrian,
    Thank you very much for the input. THis is exactly what I am intresting in receiving.
    I am also very interested in what has been the experience, in general, on the initial differences between the two species of wood. And, if anyone has had experience, even over a few years, on how the two woods mature in the way of tone.
    I look forward to any feedback.
    Eric Hanson
    Click #016/ Born on 2/29/08 - Sold to the next Conservator of this great mandolin!
    The search has ceased! (At least for now)
    Collings A-Style

  5. #4
    Teacher, luthier
    Join Date
    Oct 2017
    Location
    Southeast Tennessee
    Posts
    707

    Default Re: Torrified Red Spruce vs. Carpthian

    Several years ago, Lynn Dudenbostel told me that the best spruce that he had at that time was Carpathian, but he didn't use much of it because his customers all wanted red spruce.

    The last time I saw John Arnold, he said that he had just harvested a couple of red spruce trees. The trees had yielded 2 or 3 hundred tops.
    Me: Was any of it any good?
    John: Yeah, I got about 30 or 40 really good tops. I sold the rest to Martin.

    The obsession with spruce varieties borders on being ridiculous. Every piece of wood has its own individual character- it can be harder, softer, stiffer, etc. All of the varieties of spruce used in instrument making can yield very fine tops, medium grade tops, poor tops, and kindling. If I was to order an instrument and the maker wanted me to specify the top species, I would respond "give me the best piece of spruce you've got. I don't care what the variety is."

    I am not yet sold on so-called torrefied wood, which is a fancy kiln drying process. 300 years of string instrument building tradition has always recommended air-dried wood that has been seasoned for at least one year over kiln dried wood. It has been said that air-dried wood is more stable and less prone to cracking. Perhaps that's a fact, perhaps it's only a fable; but for the time being I prefer to look upon torrefied lumber as being one more fancy marketing tool that may or may not later prove to be stable enough for building instruments.

    It can often be difficult to separate fact from fiction when it comes to trends, marketing, and even tradition. Torrefied wood may turn out to be the best thing since sliced bread, but I'll wait another 10 years to give it a real chance to prove itself.

  6. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to rcc56 For This Useful Post:


  7. #5
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Farmington, MN
    Posts
    149

    Default Re: Torrified Red Spruce vs. Carpthian

    I'm not completely sold on torrified wood either. I built 2 guitars with torrified sitka. It's very brittle to work with and will crack if you look at it wrong. I had a customer that wanted to try it. The first guitar I did FP shellac on the top and it turned out great. It's about a year old now and has no problems. The second guitar, I did a sunburst with Transtint stain. I sprayed lacquer over it. During the winter, the lacquer started to crack. It pulled the stain apart with it leaving bare wood where the lacquer split. I now have to do some finish touch up and respray it. Another guitar with the same sunburst and lacquer on a regular spruce top sat right next to the torrified guitar this winter. It has no cracks.
    I recently read that lacquer doesn't want to stick to torrified wood. Not sure if that's the issue? Regardless, I'm done building with the stuff until it gets a time-tested track record.

  8. The following members say thank you to sliebers for this post:


  9. #6

    Default Re: Torrified Red Spruce vs. Carpthian

    I have the whole palette of Collings mandolins here right now. Torrified, varnish, italian , etc. you need to play them all to get a good assessment. Collings spent a lot of time developing all these variations and it shows. I wasn’t sold on the torrified models either until I played them and compared them to the others. I have a torrified top and an all torrified model. Same specs aside from the torrified back and sides. Is there a difference? Heck yeah. The tone and volume is even across all the registers on the all torrified model.

    It is all going to depend on the builder, but Collings has been able to continually push the envelope with these builds. Indeed the wood is harder to work with, but they seem to be working through this.
    Good Advice: Play before you pay, and know your product and your market.

  10. The Following 4 Users Say Thank You to Mandobar For This Useful Post:


  11. #7
    Teacher, luthier
    Join Date
    Oct 2017
    Location
    Southeast Tennessee
    Posts
    707

    Default Re: Torrified Red Spruce vs. Carpthian

    A couple of alternatives to torrefication:

    1. Buy an old instrument.
    2. [Not recommended] Work outdoor gigs all summer in the Southeast US.

  12. The following members say thank you to rcc56 for this post:


  13. #8
    Adrian Minarovic
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Banska Bystrica, Slovakia, Europe
    Posts
    2,214

    Default Re: Torrified Red Spruce vs. Carpthian

    There can be a lot of difference between two pieces of torrefied wood even if it came from the same log - there are many variables to the process higher/lower temperature, duration and shedule of processing etc... You can bake maple long at low temperatures or short at high temperatures and visually they will be similar but physical properties can be vastly different...
    For my current batch of two mandolins made from all the same woods (same board/log, everything including fingerboard) I decided to torrefy (is that a word?) one of the tops. I tested my process on samples and decided for a gentler procedure at lower temp setting and relatively short time. The result was that the wood is very slightly darker (only noticeable when you put the two next to each other) and some resin oozed to the surface. I didn't measure any sigmnificant loss of weigth... I didn't notice any brittleness.
    The mandolins are still not finished but I will certainly report back.
    Adrian

  14. The following members say thank you to HoGo for this post:


  15. #9
    Registered User fscotte's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Zanesville, Ohio
    Posts
    2,408

    Default Re: Torrified Red Spruce vs. Carpthian

    Why not bake the entire mandolin?

  16. #10

    Default Re: Torrified Red Spruce vs. Carpthian

    Quote Originally Posted by fscotte View Post
    Why not bake the entire mandolin?
    Didn’t Frank Wakefield’s daughter try this?
    Good Advice: Play before you pay, and know your product and your market.

  17. The following members say thank you to Mandobar for this post:

    Ken 

  18. #11
    Adrian Minarovic
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Banska Bystrica, Slovakia, Europe
    Posts
    2,214

    Default Re: Torrified Red Spruce vs. Carpthian

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobar View Post
    Didn’t Frank Wakefield’s daughter try this?
    That would be fatal... (to the mandolin) heating wood to 100C for some time dries the wood to 0% humidity, the mandolin would fall apart and crack/warp like crazy as the parts shrink at different rates and directions.
    Adrian

  19. #12

    Default Re: Torrified Red Spruce vs. Carpthian

    Quote Originally Posted by HoGo View Post
    That would be fatal... (to the mandolin) heating wood to 100C for some time dries the wood to 0% humidity, the mandolin would fall apart and crack/warp like crazy as the parts shrink at different rates and directions.
    Frank’s then toddler daughter poured milk in his Loar. Frank then tried drying it out in the oven. I believe he took it out pretty quickly, but his mandolin suffered some ill effects.
    Good Advice: Play before you pay, and know your product and your market.

  20. #13
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Farmington, MN
    Posts
    149

    Default Re: Torrified Red Spruce vs. Carpthian

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobar View Post
    Frank’s then toddler daughter poured milk in his Loar. Frank then tried drying it out in the oven. I believe he took it out pretty quickly, but his mandolin suffered some ill effects.
    That's a funny and sad story. I always thought he was trying to improve the tone by baking it at a low temp? At least that's what the Fretboard Journal interview of him said. He also carved his initials in the back.

  21. #14

    Default Re: Torrified Red Spruce vs. Carpthian

    I don't understand the obsession with woods or the notion of magical properties associated with specific trees or species, rather than mentioning the skill of a builder.

    If it sounds good, it is good. If it looks pretty, so much the better.

    ymmv, my $.02.
    Play it like you mean it.

  22. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to Bill McCall For This Useful Post:


  23. #15
    Registered User Eric Hanson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Bloomington, IN / USA
    Posts
    627

    Default Re: Torrified Red Spruce vs. Carpthian

    Adrian,
    Thank you for the feedback.
    I will look forward to the end result report.
    Last edited by Eric Hanson; Feb-28-2018 at 3:09pm. Reason: Spelling
    Eric Hanson
    Click #016/ Born on 2/29/08 - Sold to the next Conservator of this great mandolin!
    The search has ceased! (At least for now)
    Collings A-Style

  24. #16
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Redwood City, CA
    Posts
    1,862

    Default Re: Torrified Red Spruce vs. Carpthian

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill McCall View Post
    I don't understand the obsession with woods or the notion of magical properties associated with specific trees or species, rather than mentioning the skill of a builder.

    If it sounds good, it is good. If it looks pretty, so much the better.

    ymmv, my $.02.
    Well, the great builders tend to use great woods. These things are not mutually exclusive! A great builder needs to understand a lot about tonewoods and their acoustic properties -- and that is part of their skill. And this thread is in the "Builders and Repair" section of the forum, which is dedicated to construction. Nothing "magical" about it.

  25. The following members say thank you to sblock for this post:


  26. #17
    Registered User Eric Hanson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Bloomington, IN / USA
    Posts
    627

    Default Re: Torrified Red Spruce vs. Carpthian

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill McCall View Post
    I don't understand the obsession with woods or the notion of magical properties associated with specific trees or species, rather than mentioning the skill of a builder.

    If it sounds good, it is good. If it looks pretty, so much the better.

    ymmv, my $.02.
    Thank you also for your feedback.
    I have played three of Tyler Whites mandolins. Each has had a strong voice. I have confidence that he will do a great job aesthetically very pleasing to the eye, and the sound will be strong.
    My concern is more related to the overall tone and characteristics of the mandolin that can be (if possible) determined by top wood choice.
    In general, from what I have read is:
    Red spruce has a strong punch, with brighter tone. Often VERY good in a bluegrass setting.
    Engleman can tend to be a slightly less punchy with a lower more warm tone.
    Carpathian can tend be a decent mix of the two.
    Sitka- I haven’t done as much research.

    Entirely in general terms, is this the basic thought?
    Please, I welcome all input. I am a bit of an information hound. I welcome thoughtful input. Even if it shows my understanding isn’t entirely correct. It helps me greatly to better understand the process, and have a better knowledge in general, of these wonderful little wooden boxes with strings.
    Eric Hanson
    Click #016/ Born on 2/29/08 - Sold to the next Conservator of this great mandolin!
    The search has ceased! (At least for now)
    Collings A-Style

  27. #18
    Registered User fscotte's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Zanesville, Ohio
    Posts
    2,408

    Default Re: Torrified Red Spruce vs. Carpthian

    How about we do this:

    If the spruce is super stiff, and denser avg spruce, slightly heavier, then we'll call it red spruce.
    If the spruce is less stiff, less dense, slightly lighter, then we'll call it englemann.
    If it's somewhere in between all those, we'll call it sitka.

    That way we can all be on the same page. Even if a real red spruce piece is lighter and less stiff than others, we'll just call it englemann.

  28. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to fscotte For This Useful Post:


  29. #19
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Redwood City, CA
    Posts
    1,862

    Default Re: Torrified Red Spruce vs. Carpthian

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Hanson View Post
    ...
    In general, from what I have read is:
    Red spruce has a strong punch, with brighter tone. Often VERY good in a bluegrass setting.
    Engleman can tend to be a slightly less punchy with a lower more warm tone.
    Carpathian can tend be a decent mix of the two.
    Sitka- I haven’t done as much research.
    The problem here is that, within any given species of top wood (say, red spruce), there is considerable variation from log to log. Some boards will sound tighter than others. The range of tones you get can vary a lot, and that variation means that some boards of red spruce will sound "warmer" than Engelmann. And some will be the other way around. Generalizations such as "Englemann is warmer than red spruce" therefore tend to refer to average properties only. It's a bit like saying "man are taller than women." Yes they are, but only on average. It certainly does not follow all that all men are taller than all women.

    Due to the enormous overlap in material properties among the various species of spruce, a WHOLE LOT depends on the selection of the specific boards made by the luthier. A good luthier, in fact, can coax fabulous mandolin sounds out of virtually any of these species, given a large selection of boards, although he or she may have a decided preference for one or another type.

    So fscotte's take on this makes real sense to me!

  30. The following members say thank you to sblock for this post:


  31. #20
    Registered User Eric Hanson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Bloomington, IN / USA
    Posts
    627

    Default Re: Torrified Red Spruce vs. Carpthian

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    The problem here is that, within any given species of top wood (say, red spruce), there is considerable variation from log to log. Some boards will sound tighter than others. The range of tones you get can vary a lot, and that variation means that some boards of red spruce will sound "warmer" than Engelmann. And some will be the other way around. Generalizations such as "Englemann is warmer than red spruce" therefore tend to refer to average properties only. It's a bit like saying "man are taller than women." Yes they are, but only on average. It certainly does not follow all that all men are taller than all women.

    Due to the enormous overlap in material properties among the various species of spruce, a WHOLE LOT depends on the selection of the specific boards made by the luthier. A good luthier, in fact, can coax fabulous mandolin sounds out of virtually any of these species, given a large selection of boards, although he or she may have a decided preference for one or another type.

    So fscotte's take on this makes real sense to me!
    I really want to thank all of you for the help in further understanding this. I am newer to understanding the properties of the woods. When I had my fist mandolin built I bought the top wood from a supplier in Switzerland that had some really great Spruce sourced from high in the mountains. Super dry, and really tight grain. It wasn’t a split billit, but rather two pieces cut from a single quarter sawn board. The sound turned out to be really nice. The stain was a bit asymetrical, I suspect due to the way the wood was cut.
    I am now having another mandolin built by Tyler White. he seems to have a pretty good handle on things, but mine will be his 14th. I am confident he will do well. Just want a certain tone as an end result. His mandolins come in at the price point I can afford. (Though the Collings being given away might be a FINE option if it drops in my lap )
    I hope in the future to be able to possibly afford another mandolin, maybe one built by a Luthier with more extensive knowledge and understanding of how to coax a desired tone out of whatever woods. In the mean time I will look forward to how the tone develops on the one Tyler is building for me. He is planning on using Carpathian Spruce for the top. And Sugar Maple for the back/sides/neck. I am going to have a smaller neck, similar to an old Loar he has patterns for, but with the V rounded a bit more on the back side.
    I happily anticipate how it turns out, and will gladly sing te praises due once I have been able to give it a little bit of time to be played.
    Stay tuned all (pun intended)!
    Once again. Thank you very much, each of you, for your assistance, and great patience! It has been very helpful.
    Eric Hanson
    Click #016/ Born on 2/29/08 - Sold to the next Conservator of this great mandolin!
    The search has ceased! (At least for now)
    Collings A-Style

  32. #21

    Default Re: Torrified Red Spruce vs. Carpthian

    This whole conversation really pertains to people who mail order their wood. I just made a roadtrip this weekend to visit John Preston at Old World Tonewoods and went through about 4000 sets in person. I left the Lucci meter at home. Tapping and scratching and flexing and all the obsessive little things we do until I picked out my favorite dozen sets. I could care less what name we call it, what I want are specific characteristics and results. I've done the same thing at Spruce's place and a half dozen other suppliers. Bruce is 4000 miles away from me, so don't tell me you can't do that; it is worth every penny for the effort. I drove a car, got on a plane, took a taxi, then on a sailboat to get there.

    Stop yapping about spruce, turn of your computer, and get your hands on spruce; lots of it- as much as you can find. That is how you'll learn the differences.

    BTW, you can buy torrified Carpathian too....

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •