How many backs can be made from one tree ( average).

December 30, 2018, 1:39 PM · I have a Chez factory violin I have had since the early 60's. I was told it was built around 1920 - 1930. About ten years ago, I got back into the Violin. I took it to be serviced. The label had fallen out many years ago. The Luither had a violin there for repair with the same back. It had the right label and we studied them together for a long time. They were a match. The Luither did not think it was a big deal. Am I right in thinking they likely came from the same tree?

Replies (7)

December 30, 2018, 3:22 PM · Small chance, I would guess.

I have a Strad copy made in Baltimore, MD in 1951. The maker had made 5 violins of nearly identical appearance. I was struck by the visible similarity of its back to that of the 1715 "Emperor" Stradivarius when i saw a large photo of it 15 years ago. I think of it as "My Emperor Strad." It is really gorgeous and has drawn favorable comments since I got it 66 years ago.

My violin's back was made of American maple, Stradivari's was not.

What more can I say?

Edited: December 31, 2018, 2:00 PM · Shamelessly guessing with little foundation I imagine it's possible to get anywhere from 30 to well past 100 backs from a tree. Violin experts sometimes say that violins from the same maker (or city) appear to be from the same log. A pair of violins from the same factory could be from the same log, although how likely it really is would depend on how they sourced and processed their wood. I think a knowledgeable luthier with a good eye can reasonably say whether it's likely two pieces of wood are from the same tree, but you'd have to get into scientific analysis to max out the available level of certainty, and even then Andrew's skepticism retains a seat in the discussion.
Edited: December 31, 2018, 3:34 PM · a wild guess that it depends on
1. the size (age) of the tree (radius & length)
2. whether the back is 2 piece or 1 piece
3. quality of wood (if the whole trunk is without branches and knots)
4. funds allocated for wood purchase

In other words there is a possibility to have a few instrument's backs made of one tree. Unless a maker can confirm it, Dendrochronology is the closest shot.

Edited: December 31, 2018, 3:43 PM · How many? That would depend on the size of the trunk, the health of the internal wood, and the skills of the luthier. I remember a young string quartet interviewed on the radio many years ago, describing how wealthy donor who liked their playing, but not their instruments, commissioned a luthier to build a quartet from the wood of the same trees (remembering that not all the wood is maple). Two violins, a viola and a cello all from the same trees. I guess quite a few.

How easy it would be to find a mate from the same shop/tree many years later would be, in my opinion, difficult to impossible.

Do I remember the name of the quartet? No. Perhaps someone else does.

January 1, 2019, 3:10 PM · I heard somewhere--that most of the top plates of the Guarneri del Gesu violins were made from the same (magic?) tree.
Edited: January 1, 2019, 3:28 PM · When we visited the maker of one of my violins in Madrid in 1990 (Fernando Solar Gonzales) he told us he had bought an abbey (nunnery) years before to acquire the building's central vertical support in the cellar, made from the spruce main mast of a galleon and that he had used that for the tops of all his violins. Mine, made in 1970 was his violin number 157.

So the same might be possible for backs from a large maple log.

However, as I've written here before, violin makers have lots of colorful stories. Some of them may be true!

January 1, 2019, 3:38 PM · Nunnery wood is good, but not as good as wood from the stairway to heaven. ;-)

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