carbon fiber violins

April 25, 2007 at 04:59 PM · ok, theyre making carbon fiber violins?! are they any good? how much do they cost? what strings work best on them? anything else that you can think of?

Replies (55)

April 25, 2007 at 05:36 PM · It seems that the only CF violin that is widely available is the Luis and Clark It is not cheap. There are samples on the site. Judging from the recorded samples, I must say I like the CF Cello a lot more than the CF violin.

April 25, 2007 at 05:56 PM · certainly is an interesting thought. I can only imagine they are a whole lot harder to damage as well. I tend to be fairly accident prone...

April 25, 2007 at 05:56 PM · I heard a Luis and Clark played at a wedding recently. It was a wonderful full sound. Wished I could have given it a try!

April 25, 2007 at 06:54 PM · It's the modern, smart way to go. Would you drive a car made of wood? Would you do your taxes on a wooden computer? I think not.

April 25, 2007 at 08:19 PM · not really a good analogy Jim.

Would you drive a car with 4 wheels and no engine? .........or, would you have your taxes done by someone who is not a CPA but they did stay at a Holiday Inn though :)

BTW, CF instruments are not so new. The fiddles have yet to be perfected.

It may be a good idea if one is going to Grand Canyon, or other outdoor events. It can also be good for little ones (early beginners).

Last I heard, Lewis & Clarke fiddles were just shy of 5K.

April 25, 2007 at 09:30 PM · Apparently they have glowing testamonials by some big name players... i wish i could try one

April 25, 2007 at 10:46 PM · I have played on one of their violas.

I loved it. It was very full and rich and very responsive.

To me, it seemed to have a wonderful chocolaty viola sound, but then again, I am mostly a violinist.

April 26, 2007 at 02:24 AM · With the invasion of the Japanese spruce bark beetle on the Kenai peninsula, we are switching to carbon fiber forests in order to eliminate beetle kill and reduce fire hazards.

April 26, 2007 at 04:58 AM · Brilliant analogy, Jim.

I have a sort of uncle who fancies himself a pirate (he has diabetes, actually) who replaced his wooden leg with a carbon fiber leg and his wooden eye with a carbon fiber eye as well.

Anyway, he went to a social with a lot of his VA friends at the local Moose Lodge and there he asked a pretty girl if she'd like to dance with him. She replied, "Would I, would I!" He responded, "It's carbon fiber actually."

She laughed a lot, even when he took it out to knock some beer bottles off the table like it was a hard little bowling ball. Then they danced really hard too and his leg didn't splinter at all (unlike how the wooden one used to). Later that evening he gave her a ride home. Anyhow, they parked and kind of got into it when suddenly they were rear-ended by an SUV.

The doctor at the emergency room later said that if my uncle had been wearing his wooden leg it would have been driven like a stake into the girl's brain but because it was carbon fiber she only bruised her forehead.

I don't know if they'll get married, because the docs say that in a few years he'll be probably be a vegetable (although they disagree about what kind), but if they do get hitched it'll be because of that leg. So don't "knock" carbon fiber, 'kay? (Get it?)

Sorry I have to go but they're calling me and water can't stay in those paper cups all night.

April 26, 2007 at 05:03 AM · In the local orchestra (won't tell you where, don't want to insult anyone) someone has a carbon fiber cello. To me it sounds a little like there is a motor (haven't heard them this year though this is last year) in the orchestra . There's this extra edge to the sound. I'm sure Hollywood (or rather Holly-carbon-fiber )would love it (Start your engines and here we to, guarenteed to give you an adrenaline rush). It just made me laugh, but I don't really like it. The whole cello section has this whole edge to it especially where they are carrying a phrase above them with the bass line. I suppose you can hardly hear it but to me it changes the sound of the whole orchestra. It sounds techno oriented and a bit threatening like the rate of increase with computers technology (which are still used mostly for rather strange reasons like secretarial work and games). I hope the cello doesn't turn into a chainsaw and take revenge on the rest of the string instruments, it sounds a bit like it is already.

I already heard one of these wonderful prize winners play Beethoven's Hammer Klavier Sonata and when he lit into the fugue it really sounded like a chainsaw massacre.

I wonder whether Carbon-Fibery Allen is going to make any new movies. He actually writes his own scripts.

excuse me, I have to go check the mirror and see if my carbon fiber nose has gotten any bigger. Gapetto said, this time I would have more of a poker face.

April 26, 2007 at 05:38 PM · Haha, Alan, that's a wonderful story. *Wipes tears from eyes* what a tragic ending.

Carbon fiber violins...ugh, they just sound so soulless to me. For me it'd be like dating an artifically created human...sure they may talk and move, but I just couldn't come to think of them as an actual person.

April 26, 2007 at 05:58 PM · You can't tell the difference in the dark.

April 26, 2007 at 06:21 PM · Yes you can

April 26, 2007 at 06:33 PM · Violins do NOT have souls. They are inanimate objects. Whether they're made of wood or carbon fibre or boron or silk doesn't change this fact. The variability in the sound of a violin when subjected to changes in the environment is just that, variability. It may be fun to pick up a violin that sounds different depending on the time of day and weather patterns. But there are definitely times when I would prefer a violin that is predictable and consistent in sound no matter where I am for mission-critical session work. I don't think I want to have a bad playing day as well as a bad violin day at the same time.

April 26, 2007 at 07:44 PM · "You can't tell the difference in the dark."

I don't play in the dark.

I don't know about anyone else, but I didn't sign on to a 500-year-old tradition just to get something made in some factory somewhere. I want a violin and a bow that were painstakingly crafted by an expert whose labour is just as much of a sacrifice as mine is as a player. The more suffering by all parties involved, the better.

Do violins have souls? Yes, good ones do.

April 26, 2007 at 07:53 PM · Sure, all looks the same in the dark.

So do women, but doesn't mean I am going to marry the ugliest girl I can find. Because, hey, sometimes I am going to see them in the light. Same with a violin.

You know you need to put down the violin when you start comparing it to a wife. Or a mistress.

'Tis not predictability I speak of.

It's that carbon fiber instruments just sound so plain and simple in their tone. Not enough complexity and depth of sound.

Plus there's the whole romantic atmosphere lacking.

April 26, 2007 at 08:09 PM · At the VSA a few years ago (after some liquid refreshments I have to mention), the discussion of "does a violin have a soul" was debated. After a long discussion, the final decision: Only if the Violinist does.

April 26, 2007 at 08:49 PM · "The more suffering by all parties involved, the better."

My sentiments exactly!

April 26, 2007 at 10:28 PM · good comments, keep them coming. i personally think that no synthetic material could possibly match the natural resonance of wood so i would assume that wooden violins will always have the upper hand. However, i want to be proven wrong because carbon fiber violins look really cool.

April 27, 2007 at 01:00 AM · My student's $200 wooden violin has no complexity or depth in the sound whatsoever. I would rather play the L&C CF violin.

Using alternative materials for making violins is still in the experimental stage. It is unreasonable to expect such violins to be superior to all the wooden violins in existence. People who buy CF violins are therefore early adopters who have either a real need for such an instrument or a desire to be different.

I'm sure when synthetic metal wound strings first came out, there must have been a public outcry complaining how these strings sounded cold, metallic, dry, shrill, chain-saw like etc. Yet, if you look around, virtually everybody who plays modern repertoire is using synthetic strings. The same is probably going to be true for violins made with alternative materials. Once the process matures, they will become a viable alternative and may, in some cases, be preferable.

April 27, 2007 at 02:13 AM · "I personally think that no synthetic material could possibly match the natural resonance of wood so i would assume that wooden violins will always have the upper hand."

i have to completely disagree with this statement. wood is full of imperfections, many of which we cant control with the best of our abilities. we are in such a day of age that we could make a perfectly resonant material that resonates in the exact way that we want it to. the synthetic material will enable us to make instruments that can have any sound that we would like, and it will be very controlable because we will be making it, not nature, over which we have no control.

i do agree that these instruments are extremely experimental. who knows what material will be best? why chose carbon fiber? what about fiberglass, metal, PVC? honestly, WHO KNOWS?? its up for experimentation :) im open to new ideas...

April 27, 2007 at 02:54 AM · There has been ongoing research into using alternative materials. Here

is an interview with violin maker Joseph Curtin. Interesting stuff.

April 27, 2007 at 02:57 AM · Ian,

I have to wonder though--maybe it is those very imperfections that give a violin's sound its "personality"?

April 27, 2007 at 03:38 AM · I haven't finished reading all the posts on this thread, but since I recently bought a Luis and Clark violin myself, I thought I'd chip in. Overall, I've been very happy with it. I bought it primarily for teaching my young students (the 3 and 4 year old ones) so that I wouldn't have to feel nervous about my expensive "real" violin around them. Especially the ones that need reminders from me not to touch my violin and bow. I also use it for teaching the group classes. (I'm a Suzuki teacher so we have regular group classes as well as the private lessons.) While the sound is somewhat mechanical and certainly doesn't have that warm, living sound of wood, it's a clear and decent sound and speaks VERY easily. It's very easy to play. I enjoy playing some fiddle just for fun and it's wonderful for that because double stops just pop right out. I think for the price I paid it's quite good. I still use my regular violin for older students and for performing and practicing, but I've been really happy with the carbon fibre instrument.


April 27, 2007 at 04:54 AM · Talking about alternative materials. This is not a new subject.

I had commissioned bowmaker Keith Peck in 1996 to make me an Amber Frog bow, which he did. Since then, people have tried using all sorts of materials. Nevertheless, makers keep making the way they have been making.

Amber Frog Bow by Keith Peck

Innovation is a great thing, but somethings like French Wine, Italian Cars & fashions as well as the Italian Violin Making traditions (since Stradivarius and Guarnerius) and French Bowmaking traditions (since the the days of Francois Tourte and Dominique Peccatte) will always remain symbols & standards of quality.

And it is the reason why we honor tradition and achievement.

Anyone see the Gilles Nehr discussion about his bow of the 21st century?

Gilles Nehr discussion

April 27, 2007 at 07:26 AM · Violins may not have souls, but each fine one is unique since it was made from wood that used to be a unique living thing. Even if the carbon fibre instrument sounds just as good, carbon fibre is something that's manufactured, and so for me it will never have as much character as the wooden one. Just like Mr. Filimonov mentioned Italian cars, I guess this is like comparing an older Ferrari to a new Corvette. The Corvette is faster and handles/brakes better, but many people would still rather take the Ferrari.

April 27, 2007 at 09:28 AM · Thanks Laura for telling us something that some of us really wanted to know. BTW, what strings do you put on your Luis and Clark?

Regarding Ferrari and violins:

According to the FAQ, the Luis and Clark CF violin is hand-made, not manufactured.

As for the Ferrari analogy, how many violins are actually in that league? I guess one can paint with one broad stroke and say that workshop violins and "exact" copies of great violins are automatically inferior by virtue of how they were made.

Also, the comparison with Ferrari is unfair in the context of the current thread because the L&C CF violin is clearly not in competition with the great wooden instruments. It's currently listed at $4900 US. So it should be compared with violins in the same price range. $5000 for a violin is not that much. Probably something that is like a Camry for cars?

I want to ask a few questions to those who are CF-violin averse.

1. Do you ever use synthetic strings or aluminum wound gut?

2. How are the parts of a Ferrari made? All handmade?

3. If a top violin maker makes a stunning violin (both in appearance and in sound) using hybrid materials, would you automatically consider it to be inferior to comparable violins made entirely of wood?

April 27, 2007 at 11:51 AM · I listened to the violin clips and I'm a little disappointed. It sounds like a beginner quality violin to me. I assume it's a problem with the violin, because they have control over the presentation. But to me it sounds bad in an encouraging way. It does sound like a violin. And it has basically a focused and balanced sound. If it was my project I might start by trying to keep those qualities while trying to add a typical smooth rumble to the lower strings, then re-examine the upper ones. Somehow intuitively I think it could be done. If they had something that was comparable to that new English violin in the violin comparison thread, they'd really have something. At that point, you would actually want it to be "manufactured," not hand made. The purpose of technology really is to minimize what you have to spend, so this would be a shining example if they could pull it off. It also might be a good vehicle for testing the results they're getting from measuring vibrations these days. Software could be written to translate readings to instructions for a CNC machine to cut out parts. You could also do that with wood. But you'd need to characterize the material well and have it be consistent and my guess would be that would be easier with a synthetic. My gut feeling is that it will be done. I do think that if they came into common use violin sound would slowly drift away from violin sound as we know it today, as the original reference sounds became less familiar. But something comparable might happen anyway. How you react to that depends on whether you think the violin is at the end of its evolution or not. I think there are serious people still trying to improve it, but the interviews that gave me that impression I didn't read carefully enough to know for sure.

April 27, 2007 at 11:54 AM · Jim, don't be disappointed so quickly. If you listen to the clips on the web page for the viola and cello, they don't sound that great either (though better than the violin). If you ask for a promotional DVD, you'll find the same sound clips sounding a lot better. Based on the testimonials I read here and in other violin boards, I am willing to bet that the web sound clips for the violin don't do it any justice. Probably they were recorded using a consumer video camera and encoded using suboptimal settings.

April 27, 2007 at 02:23 PM · Gennady, that amber frog is gorgeous. Cool idea!

April 27, 2007 at 03:11 PM · kevin,

In case you missed my point:

"Innovation is a great thing, but somethings like French Wine, Italian Cars & fashions as well as the Italian Violin Making traditions (since Stradivarius and Guarnerius) and French Bowmaking traditions (since the the days of Francois Tourte and Dominique Peccatte) will always remain symbols & standards of quality.

And it is the reason why we honor tradition and achievement."

April 27, 2007 at 03:54 PM · I'm intrigued by the CF violins, but--like others, I've noticed that CF bows lack something in terms of sound (compared to good pernambuco bows). Also, I haven't yet heard a CF guitar that I liked. I, too, found that the L&C cello sounded best, viola next, and violin last on the DVD demo. Still, I'm intrigued and tempted as I doubt I'll ever have an expensive wood violin.

April 27, 2007 at 04:03 PM · I didn't miss your point. But it seems to me that some people think that nothing can be good outside that tradition. Having one honorable tradition of violin-making doesn't exclude the possibility of another one coming into existence.

April 27, 2007 at 05:39 PM · I think CF instruments would be a godsend for young students, and I have no doubt they will take over, just like CF has become the de facto "it" material in cycling, overtaking aluminum and even titanium as the most-desired frame material.

I'm not a materials engineer, but I do know that CF has damping properties, and I wonder if a violin can be made that has the edginess of wood. I've found that CF bows can handle really well, but lack a certain high-frequency bite.

Unfortunately, it's getting very difficult to find a decent instrument without spending a fortune. This will help drive the market in decent-sounding CF instruments.

April 28, 2007 at 06:20 AM · I have to say that, from what I've heard. the CF stuff is just at a beginning. It would take a whole new brand of acoustics to be able to get out of carbon fiber what it's capable of doing. carbon fiber is going to need a completely different acoustical setup than wood would.

November 24, 2010 at 09:33 PM ·

Mahalo modern violins lovers,
well I am completely new here, doing my own research on the web,
find out there this forum discussion on carbon fiber instruments!

Well it is an old topic, but who care, here it goes for the future!
So small world with so close projects so take a look on
my way to go with well designed and properly constructed instrument!

From here
to here

touch and go
Primoz aka dr.Lojz


November 24, 2010 at 11:22 PM ·

This topic has me interested and makes me think of how to make a violin without using wood. I used to make skateboards by laminating different kinds of fiberglass and surfboard foam I used to buy from Clark Foam that was in Melbourne Florida. I understand they are no longer in business but someone is probably making it, since people are still using foam cored surfboards. I used my experience to make a cored skinned kayak that was not so great by my own design but not from how it was made. That part worked fine, the structural integrity of it.

I think a person could shape foam pieces with the right density ( that would take some experimentation) then fiberglass the pieces and attach them to each other using whatever type of resin you are using for the laminating. I tried a lot of different resins and ended up with epoxy, which you kind of need to keep out of the sun because it becomes more flexible as it warms.

There is a place in Tampa called Plastic Coatings where they have a huge variety of types of fiberglass fabric that I could test. Pretty tough testing as these were slalom skateboards with a built in camber which reversed when you applied pressure while pumping through the coarse between the cones. I ended up using a unidirectional S-glass as the core laminate that went over the foam. That would simulate, I think, the grain of the wood on the top plate.The trick is to make a nice edge and how I did it was to shape the edge so the top sloped down. I would allow the glass to just hang down below the foam until it started to get a little hard, then trim it off, before it was completely cured, with a die grinder with a carbide tip with some rough file like grooves that would tear through it. I would get it close to the foam, then after it is well cured, sand it down flush with the flat bottom. This gives a wide end of the glass because it is at an angle, giving a nice amount of surface area to when you turn it over, you can lay the underside down, overlapping the top laminate and making a tight bond which like I said could withstand a huge amount of flexing under a lot of weight and at a rapid rate of around six times a second, going through a complete cycle.

You could end up with a violin edge like this, or maybe reverse it. I'm just saying this is the neat way to join the top and bottom fiberglass and it does hold up and it is tested to the extreme.

 Warning: epoxy is several times more toxic than the ordinary polyester resin commonly used in fiberglass layups, so take proper precautions if you try this at home.

on second thought: don't even use epoxy and use a nice surfboard (this is a type) resin. I don't think a violin would ever flex as much as these skateboards do.

November 25, 2010 at 12:07 AM ·

I should add a couple pictures of one of these skateboards because it may be a little difficult to visualise. This looks bad because I had electrical tape on it to protect the edges from my street skater students who had a habit of flipping boards onto their edge, and from loose boards running into curbs.

This shows the sloping edges and how thin it is. My long boards were made with quarter inch sheet foam, the short ones like this used one eighth inch foam. There are actually eight layers of glass including the top and bottom.

The top was smooth because of how I layered the glass and the bottom, shown here, I allowed the grain from the unidirectional glass to show through.

November 28, 2010 at 02:45 PM ·


There are several of us out there trying different things with carbon fiber.  I have gotten the best results with unidirectional carbon fiber and just enough cross fiber to keep it from splitting.  I have used shaped pieces to simulate the graduations of a wood violin.  5 strings seem to like a uniform thickness while the 4 strings like the graduation.  I have made 9 so far and have 2 more nearing completion.  Still experimenting different things but I can now make a decent scroll and am playing with the bass bar to push projection way out there.  

You can see the latest finished full size here.

I have also made a 3/4 size violin for my son and the violin teacher has been against the project since I started but she has reluctantly admitted that it is the best in the school now.

November 28, 2010 at 04:05 PM ·

Thanks for the link to the youtube video. I checked out  some of your photos. I picked up some thoughts for my skateboards from a windsurfer maker who would put some carbon fiber in certain spots. The board in my post above has unidirectional carbon fiber in the layup schedule. I really don't know if it is even an appropriate use of the material but it seemed to give the board a quicker snap back which is the purpose for my boards to start with. The carbon I used (this is 10 years ago, now) had no cross threads to hold it together and as soon as it got wet, it would unravel so the first couple attempts made me upset, to say the least. I admire your tolerance to the aggravation that comes with this kind of work. Nothing like carbon fibers all stuck on your finger tips in the middle of doing a layer.It looks like you are going in the right direction, refining the look and I have to agree with keeping it looking like a traditional violin in its shape. I should probably stop talking and start making. I would like to see how one would be using my method I developed for skateboards. I think it would be a lot quieter, to start with, and maybe a good alternative for when you don't want to wake the neighbors. I get the feeling that playing your violin would be similar to being a highland bagpipe player to where the middle of a stadium would be a good venue.


November 28, 2010 at 04:53 PM ·


The uni I use has glue strips across the back or woven like cross thread so it is no so hard to work with.  The stuff with the glue across the back I use for the parts on the outside.  The weave glue I use for internal layers.

The woven glue stuff: and look down to the 4.5 Oz. Unidirectional Carbon Fiber      4.5 Oz/Sq Yd., 12" Wide, Unidirectional"Tacky Thread" binder

glue on the back:

November 28, 2010 at 05:08 PM ·

I have also been trying this material to make a 100% carbon traditional shape violin, there are videos here.  

and some pics here

November 28, 2010 at 05:49 PM ·


 What I have is the stuff right above that with the fibers "held in position by a fine spider web of polymer fibrils lying on the surface." which apparently melts when the resin gets on it. To work it, I would place a layer of thin normal fiberglass fabric on top, then I could use a squeegee to smooth it out without having it split and spread out or start overlapping. Where you are using a negative mold, I was using the shaped foam as a positive mold, so a very different way of doing it. Also they had different forces to contend with like a 200 pound dude jumping on it. If I remember correctly, I put a layer of kind of heavy bias-weave, the carbon fiber, then heavy unidirectional S glass, then the lighter tweed weave. All with epoxy resin, laid one right after the other, without any curing. Just as fast as I could, with the same mixed up batch of resin. 



November 28, 2010 at 11:07 PM ·

 I do use a negative mold.  I use the stuff you are talking about for the fingerboard and the tailpiece.  I have used it for the outside of the plates too.  I have to wet it gently and with a heavy layer of resin then put it in the mold and add the next layer of material and use that to smooth it out.  Just keep rubbing until all the rice crispy sounds stop and the second layer is wet from the first.  

I try to do it on one batch of resin but I usually find I run out and have to mix another batch really quick.  Walmart has these chemical syringes that are great for 2 part epoxy.  

If you want to contact me I can give you the name of my resin supplier.  This stuff is good to 300 degrees F before it starts to get soft and at 200lbs myself I can stand on one of my violins.  Both on the edge and on the plates with it assembled and strung.  Sound post will shift but that is all.  The latest generation of plate stopped 3 shots from a shotgun at 15 ft.  4 pellets got through on the 3d shot. :-)

November 28, 2010 at 11:11 PM ·

That's useful to know if you're practicing next door to a difficult neighbor ;-) 

Come to think of it, that shotgun test might run into problems with the Law in the UK!

November 28, 2010 at 11:14 PM ·

I am a guitarist, not a violinist, my son is the violinist.  So my perspective is skewed in that direction, fwiw.  Some of the very finest sounding acoustic guitars were invented about 40yrs ago by Charlie Kaman, who was in the helicopter manufacturing business.  Long story short, he was an accomplished amateur musician who applied his professional knowledge to musical instruments.  After creating Ovation guitars he went on to invent the carbon fiber guitar.  Ovation and Adamas use a composite body with a top attached to it.  Charlie invented a carbon fiber top that still today blows away the competition.

The carbon fiber top is named the 'Fibronic' top.  It is a 3 layer sandwich: the center is a very thin layer of birch veneer, the outer layers are carbon fiber with some kind of resin hardener.  The carbon fibers run at different orientations in the top layer vs the underside layer.  I have played a good number of guitars, including many very nice Ovation and Adamas.  The Adamas has clearer note separation, for example when strumming a chord you hear each note in the chord not just the amalgamation of notes.  The Adamas is also very touch sensitive, meaning that right hand technique is expressed very well.  In a violin this would translate to hearing differences in bow technique.  The tone and balance is exceptional.  I had the joy of playing one of the original production instruments, and it has aged into a really unique instrument.  It is hard to describe other than very open and easy sounding.

Current competitors make solid carbon fiber guitars that just cannot compare.  I think that there are some good reasons.  First, the 'Fibronic' top is not a single layer carbon fiber, it is the 3 layer sandwich.  Second, the body is not carbon fiber.  Current production Ovation/Adamas body is a high tech plastic, original production was hand laid fiberglass.  This bowl reflects sound back through the top, rather than letting it all pass through the back the way that wood does.  The shape is important in eliminating sharp corners in the back of the body.  Third, the top is attached to the body, not molded with the body.  Fourth, perhaps, the traditional wooden neck transmits vibrations differently to the body than a carbon fiber neck.  Fifth, the texture of the top surface is critical.  Adamas has made several different textures, with the shiny being the least rich, clear, or crisp.  Finally, the top is designed to be very thin and flexible, requiring some wood bracing just like a wooden top.  The difference is that the top is so thin that it vibrates more freely, allowing better sound projection.

I don't know if any of this would transfer over to the violin world.  The vision of an Adamas violin is very intriguing but far beyond my ability to produce.

November 29, 2010 at 05:02 PM ·


That's probably fair. I needed to take a hard look at this myself to see how I could justify committing myself to a project that could turn out as an exercise in futility. (my skateboard project was easy to justify since I had a similar board in '75-'77 but the maker had long since gone  out of business, so I knew the concept was right, but no one had ever bothered picking it back up)

I was looking for a source to get the right material, which I think would be a medium density urethane foam. There is such a thing, called a tooling board, which is used for making prototypes. While going down every link, I eventually ran across another type of tooling board, not urethane, called; Sitka Spruce, and Maple. WOW! what an idea!

November 29, 2010 at 05:33 PM ·


You need to read up more on engineering and on composites. You don't need to go hunting around for "tooling board" or any such nonsense. There is a full range of structural foams on the market and have been for nearly 40 years.

If you really want to make composites useful, you need to learn engineering. The cut and try method is sooooo obsolete at this point and you will be disappointed with the results.

If you use spruce, or even worse maple, as cores, you are really wasting effort. They have excellent strength and stiffness properties themselves. Topping them with fiberglass or carbon turns them into nothing more than needlessly heavy cores. And they absorb moisture and crack the laminate.


November 29, 2010 at 06:39 PM ·

Although I personally do not have the answer to this question, I absolutely know how one gets the answer.  What one needs to do is construct a few artificial-material instruments until one is happy with one's product, and then ask (read: pay) a few professional violinists to judge them against wood instruments blindfolded.  As I recall, there was a blind judging of instruments made in the "golden age" (by legendary luthiers) against top-quality instruments made within the last 20 years -- and the outcome was generally in favor of the newer instruments, in spite of a price ratio of close to 100.  The judges were flummoxed.  Of course the sound is only one side of the coin ... the other is responsiveness, but it seems to me that professional orchestral musicians can be payed enough to evaluate this quality blindfolded as well.  And I think the sound and responsiveness are sufficiently closely related, especially for amateur violinists, that sound alone will be a sufficient test of anything made from carbon fiber for years to come.  There is a great deal of mystique surrounding the sound of the violin, but under the harsh glare of a blind sound test, arcane technicalities like the relative speed of vibrations in the orthogonal directions of the woodgrain quickly fall away.  Whether or not carbon fiber or any other substitute material will be accepted might come down to the pegs functioning properly, or the feel of the neck after playing for half an hour on a warm day.  But those problems can be solved by creating a hybrid violin -- maple neck/scroll and carbon fiber body.  I agree with Bill that a thorough study of viscoelastic response in composite materials is probably the surest path to the prize.  But I don't agree that technology will obviate the empirical approach entirely.  One further comment:  The goal should not be to match the sound of a Strad.  The goal should be to make the best violin possible -- which I assert will be demonstrably better than a Strad.

November 29, 2010 at 07:47 PM ·

Some people already know the sound of carbon blindfolded. Some hate it, others actually like it. I think the epoxy fiddles will of necessity be a different instrument--as electrics are. Suitable for some, but never equivalent to wood.

It is fundamentally impossible to make a carbon fiber reinforced fiddle have the same sound characteristics as a wooden one. Wood is nearly nanoscale in morphology; FRP is microscale. Bending stiffness of epoxy-carbon is over one order of magnitude greater. The material density is 4 to 7 times greater. The viscoelastic loss occurs in different bands. There is no way to make a carbon one sound like wood. Sound like a violin, sure. Ovation guitars sound like guitars--not like wood--but like guitars. Aluminum stand-up basses sound like basses--but not like wood basses. Trussart Steelcasters sound like electric guitars--not like wood but like steel----etc.

Some people already "love" the sound of carbon reinforced epoxy fiddles and cellos. But they ain't the same thing and they can, by definition, never replace in kind, a wooden fiddle.

November 29, 2010 at 07:57 PM ·

 I have to agree that CF will never replace wood.  Those that are interested in mine so far are those that travel a lot and want something that will stand up to the bumps and bruises of the road or they play in conditions that are less than ideal.  

My intention is to make fractional instruments for rental.  Imagine a rental instrument that sounds really good and will last for decades under the abuse of rental life.  I have made one 3/4 size for my son so far and 9 full size.  Most of the full size are hanging on my wall because they were VSOs. ;-)

I do think that the sound can come so close to wood that a blind test would fool any listener.  I am really close to that sound now.

November 29, 2010 at 08:57 PM ·

 I think the bottom line here is that a carbon fiber instrument only has to replace a wooden instrument in its price range. CF  bows have already done that and there was the same outcry that you could never replace wooden bows. 

Why does the CF violin always have to be held up to the finest instruments? If somebody was discussing a $1000 wooden violin would you say, "It will never replace a Stradivarius".

However, I do notice people are a bit more open these days to a CF instrument than they have been in the past.

November 29, 2010 at 09:02 PM ·

CF bows have not replaced wood in their price range as equivalent. You hear so many people say such nonsense as "a $500 CF bow is as good as a $xxx thousand dollar wood bow" which is totally WRONG. Even against a $500 wooden bow, the CF is Different. Not the Same. I've tried this a lot. They are Never the equivalent of wood. Just many people have been fooled/tricked/convinced/pressured/misled/ (depending on attitude) into believing that you can get CF as a replacement for all that wood can be in a bow. Not Possible. Can you play with CF? Of course! Can you sound good? Of course! Can you make music with a tin can? Of course! But it sounds different.

November 29, 2010 at 10:26 PM ·

My point was that if I was to go through the trouble of carving a foam core to make a violin, I could have probably made a regular violin.  To be practical, I would need to make molds to make all the parts, not make so many one-offs, like I was doing with my skateboards, because the shapes are too complex to do that so easily for a violin. That was my "wow" moment, coming to that realization. I was not considering using wood for mold making.

December 1, 2010 at 02:29 AM ·

 I had a HORRIBLE wolf on the open E (of all things) on #6  Fixed it with 2 extra strips of CF to the outside to stiffen the plate.  Made it sound better but the neck was still awful and was/is not pleasing to the eye.  I use it for radical experiments now.  Like baking it at 170 Degrees F for an hour to soften it so I could change the neck angle.  It worked!  So I was able to change the neck angle on a better one without worry.

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