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Thread: italian spruce

  1. #1
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    Default italian spruce

    have a friend who is a fiddle maker.,who has a lot of curly maple for me to look at, but also asked if I would like to try a piece of Italian spruce for a mando, that he was going to use fr a viola but offered it to me. anybody use it?,I have always used sitka, and like the results, abut have a piece of torrefied red spruce coming for my current project , but am interested it this piece, thanks
    Mike Marrs

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: italian spruce

    It's European spruce (Picea abies). On average, it tends to be less dense than either sitka or red spruce. I've used it a couple of times, but I apparently don't quite know how to get the best out of it and I prefer spruce that is more dense. YMMV

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    Default Re: italian spruce

    Hans Brentrup used Italian Spruce, I have one of his A models and it is a wonderful sound.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  4. #4

    Default Re: italian spruce

    When I lived in the Pacific northwest and was surrounded by beautiful sitka and cedars, my building buddies lusted after red spruce form the other side of the country. My building buddies here in North Carolina always ask me if I can get them sitka or redwood. Another friend swears by engleman. I know of a Colorado engleman supplier who sold it to Europe in mass whom then relabeled it in the catalog as "German spruce" who then sold it to LMI who resold it to me a few years later labeled as 'European spruce", but it still had the original Colorado stamp on the backside. I know of an old West Virginia man who sold local red spruce to the Germans before WW2 ('think John met him too back in the day). Lots of people would get excited by curly maple from a guy in Michigan.

    If the board is alive and excites and inspires you, use it. Spruce varies tremendously even within the same tree; don't worry about the name.
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    Default Re: italian spruce

    okay , just was curious if it was something anyone used, if it was problematic, desirable undesirable,I had a friend here who liked Carpathian spruce, . It is such a long process to do a build to get to the end and go ," yuck" lol. I personally cannot listen to different mandos and guess the top

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    Registered User tonydxn's Avatar
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    Default Re: italian spruce

    I don't think spruce grows in Italy very much. Traditionally, European spruce comes from the Carpathian mountains, well to the east and north of Italy. As I'm in Europe I use it all the time, though I only make flatback, not carved instruments. Any wood takes getting used to. I agree with post #4 - if it inspires you, use it. Be guided by the sound and feel as you work it rather than working to a set of figures.
    Mandolins: Bandolim by Antonio Pereira Cabral
    German flatback by unknown maker converted from a descant Waldzither

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    Default Re: italian spruce

    Collings using it on some of the MT2s. Can’t speak for them, but they may (or may not) be willing to discuss their experience...
    Chuck

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    Default Re: italian spruce

    1. Common names are trouble because there are so many for a given species (Norway spruce is the one I recognize for Picea abies). The scientific name Picea abies is most helpful because it tells you the species exactly, no confusion, cannot be mistaken for anything else (thanks John).

    2. "If the board is alive and excites and inspires you, use it. Spruce varies tremendously even within the same tree; don't worry about the name." +1
    Clark Beavans

  9. #9

    Default Re: italian spruce

    Hi Mike—With all the right caveats about conflicting common names, generalizing across a species, and the all-important qualities of the individual piece of wood at hand, a number of experienced builders have found Italian spruce to have many of the best qualities—exceptional clarity with headroom similar to good Adirondack while being noticeably lighter. This is certainly the case with many top builders of flattop guitars, but it may be noteworthy here that Steve Gilchrist’s builder’s log now specifies IT for Italian spruce where it had formerly not distinguished between the different European spruces. Again, the caveats apply. —R.

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    Default Re: italian spruce

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    Hans Brentrup used Italian Spruce, I have one of his A models and it is a wonderful sound.
    I bought what Hans had left after he quit building. Built one F5 with it so far. I would categorize it as somewhere between engelmann and red spruce for density. Mandolin had nice headroom and chop, but a little more sustain than red spruce.

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    Default Re: italian spruce

    I own a Collings MT2 with Italian Spruce top. It has wonderful clarity, sustain and just plain sounds wonderful. I can't speak to appearance, as my MT2 is a cream top.

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    Mandolin tragic Graham McDonald's Avatar
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    Default Re: italian spruce

    There is lots of spruce growing in Northern Italy and several suppliers who cut and sell it. As far as I know all spruce in Europe is the same species, but growing in different climatic conditions across Europe and so will will differ in tonal quality from soundboard to soundboard in the same way as any other spruce. Italian violin makers have, of course, been using it for centuries.

    Cheers

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    Registered User Aaron Bohnen's Avatar
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    Default Re: italian spruce

    Like many here I have a few good mandolins and guitars. I hadn't thought of this before, but both my favorite mandolin and guitar have Italian spruce tops:

    a Baird F5 that's very refined and elegant at low volume but really gutsy with tons of headroom. It has remarkable dynamic range with huge power and retains all the articulation and subtlety even at full volume. An awesome mandolin that's a little intimidating sometimes!

    a custom shop Martin HD-35. Like most D-35s it's a powerhouse, but this one has more sparkle in the high end - so maybe a bit better balanced overall than the typical D-35? A great guitar for sure.

    So if these two are good examples then really great instruments can be made from Italian spruce. As Graham noted before, Italian violin makers (and presumably European luthiers of all kinds) have been building world-class instruments with it for centuries. I seem to remember an article a few years back explaining that the highly uniform density of the spruce soundboards was a big factor.

    Enjoy!
    Last edited by Aaron Bohnen; Dec-31-2019 at 9:43pm.
    Gavin Baird F4 & F5
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    Default Re: italian spruce

    What if a spruce tree is a meter from the border between Italy and Switzerland.. what should we call it. ? Alpine Moon Spruce, or Splutz, or Tuscan Cypress, Luna Linden or in the case of the common firewood wood from Idaho and Colorado sent to German hustlers which came back to the US (and to Euro luthiers) as German SILVER Spruce?

    Full disclosure: Hustler of ""instrument grade rare and exotic timbers specializing in pernambuco" (from my brochure) during the early to mid-late 1980's.

    As an aside.. Is England considered Europe? Just asking.
    Last edited by Jeff Hildreth; Dec-31-2019 at 11:35pm.

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    Default Re: italian spruce

    I will be getting this , friday. I have heard a term in this thread that I don't believe i have heard before ,, " headroom"

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    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: italian spruce

    Quote Originally Posted by Martian View Post
    I have heard a term in this thread that I don't believe i have heard before ,, " headroom"
    As in 'Max'?

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    Purr more, hiss less.

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    Default Re: italian spruce

    Quote Originally Posted by Martian View Post
    I will be getting this , friday. I have heard a term in this thread that I don't believe i have heard before ,, " headroom"
    Headroom is usually associated with amplifiers. More headroom for the signal, louder cleaner sound. Same principal for mandolins. Play harder without distorting your sound. My Brentrup with Italian spruce top is that way too.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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