UBC Botanical Garden Forums  

» UBC Botanical Garden


Go Back   UBC Botanical Garden Forums > Maples

Maples Acer - Growing, Propagation, Identification, Appreciation and more!

Post New ThreadReply
 
Thread Tools
  #1  
Old December 10th, 2006, 01:20 PM
emery's Avatar
emery emery is offline
Maple Society
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Normandie, France
Posts: 1,286
formation of flame or tiger maple

At a recent visit to my luthier to pick up a violin, I remarked on a tiger maple back he was working on. Gorgeous markings. Naturally I asked about the source, he selects Romanian pseudoplatanus for grain and tonal quality. There followed a discussion about the causes of the flame or tiger stripe patterns in the wood. The luthier was pretty much as ignorant as I, he said he has heard tell of magnetic explanations but is skeptical (as I would be also). He did say that he knew it was impossible to select trees for the markings prior to felling.

Does anyone have any ideas on the cause of these markings in the wood? I didn't find much of anything with google. I have heard that rubrum at least also exhibits them, although I don't think it's commonly used in luthery. But clearly there must be some physical/environmental element that causes the wood to behave in a particular way.

I don't personally select violins for the beauty of their backs, but it's pleasurable none the less, especially for a maple fanatic. My second instrument, made in 1906, has a very lovely and highly marked one piece back.

-E
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old December 10th, 2006, 04:27 PM
Michael F Michael F is offline
Plant Enthusiast (1000+ posts)
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Britain zone 8/9
Posts: 9,760
Re: formation of flame or tiger maple

I'd suspect wavy wood grain is genetically controlled, though I don't know for certain.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old December 11th, 2006, 03:08 AM
emery's Avatar
emery emery is offline
Maple Society
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Normandie, France
Posts: 1,286
Re: formation of flame or tiger maple

Hello Michael,

The flame pattern is actually perpendicular to the grain of the wood.

Certainly there may be a genetic component, but apparently it has proved impossible to select for the trait either by grafting or rooting cuttings. As you may suspect there is a substantial financial incentive to be able to propagate specimens with the trait.

Apparently campestre also sometimes exhibits the trait. The wikipedia article on "tonewood" claims that (fine) violins are made from campestre, but I believe this is an error. In fact during the discussion the luthier explicitly mentioned that campestre is not used.

-E
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old December 11th, 2006, 09:36 AM
Michael F Michael F is offline
Plant Enthusiast (1000+ posts)
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Britain zone 8/9
Posts: 9,760
Re: formation of flame or tiger maple

Quote:
The flame pattern is actually perpendicular to the grain of the wood
Is it not like this?:

\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
////////////////////////////
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
////////////////////////////
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
////////////////////////////
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
////////////////////////////

Quote:
In fact during the discussion the luthier explicitly mentioned that campestre is not used


Presumably because they are usually too small? I certainly haven't seen many (if any) Field Maples with a stout enough trunk to cut a violin back from.

Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old December 11th, 2006, 10:43 AM
emery's Avatar
emery emery is offline
Maple Society
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Normandie, France
Posts: 1,286
Re: formation of flame or tiger maple

Not sure I understand your drawing. Here's a link to a Sgarabotto which has an unusually wide and visible grain, which you can see is perpendicular to the not particularly conspicuous flaming. The amount of flaming apparently has no effect on the sound; my second instrument has a much more spectacular back than my primary, though it is clearly not as good.

http://www.theviolincollector.com/sgarabotto.jpg

It would seem that cheap instruments are sometimes made from field maple, although I agree it would be much harder to find large enough wood. But certainly the tonal properties are more important than the relative rarity, given what violins cost these days. Also most violin backs are 2 pieces, so you'd need only around 4 inches wide.

-E
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old December 16th, 2006, 05:28 AM
Michael F Michael F is offline
Plant Enthusiast (1000+ posts)
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Britain zone 8/9
Posts: 9,760
Re: formation of flame or tiger maple

Thanks for the pic - it is as I thought and tried (not very successfully with the limitations of a keyboard!) to illustrate. The flame pattern being at right angles to the grain is an optical illusion, caused by the differing reflectivity in the grain as it 'zigs' and zags'. I'll try and do a better drawing to illustrate what I mean.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old December 19th, 2006, 08:55 AM
dawgie dawgie is offline
Contributor (100-499 posts)
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Raleigh, NC
Posts: 104
Re: formation of flame or tiger maple

The maple shown in the photo also is sometimes called "fiddleback" maple, for obvious reasons. Cherry wood also sometimes has similar markings. Wood with such patterns is sometimes called curly, tiger, or fiddleback. Birds-eye maple is another variation.

One theory for such markings is that they are caused by stresses in the environment, such as trees exposed to lots of wind. However, you generally can't tell if wood will have markings until you cut and plane it. I once made a clock out of cherry, and chose the particular board I used because it was just the right size. When it jointed and planed it, lo and behold, it was curly cherry. It made a beautiful clock.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old December 20th, 2006, 04:24 AM
emery's Avatar
emery emery is offline
Maple Society
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Normandie, France
Posts: 1,286
Re: formation of flame or tiger maple

Quote:
Originally Posted by dawgie View Post
The maple shown in the photo also is sometimes called "fiddleback" maple, for obvious reasons. Cherry wood also sometimes has similar markings. Wood with such patterns is sometimes called curly, tiger, or fiddleback. Birds-eye maple is another variation.
I remember seeing a study somewhere that suggested that birds-eye was caused by borer damage, which caused a small dimple in the grain -- invisible from the outside -- causing the characteristic pattern. However this appears to be a different mechanism, and birds-eye is very rarely used for violins (I venture to say never for high quality). I also think curly maple has a more convoluted pattern than flame- or tiger-maple, but perhaps this is a function of the cutting angle.

I examined the back of one of my violins in some detail; the grain per se seems pretty straight throughout, or at least there are tiny black lines running through the wood which are vertical (lined with the strings). The flame pattern really does resemble Michael's drawing (now that I understand it) but doesn't seem to be the primary grain. This was especially apparent on the unvarnished back at the luthiers, but I'll try to post a close up photo of it soon.

I have heard it suggested that wind is a potential factor, but that doesn't explain why two maples side by side in the wild, of presumably similar parentage, don't display the pattern, nor why a tree in a sheltered location may have it.

-E
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old December 20th, 2006, 09:33 AM
dawgie dawgie is offline
Contributor (100-499 posts)
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Raleigh, NC
Posts: 104
Re: formation of flame or tiger maple

Another issue with making items -- be it violins, clocks or furniture -- out of figured wood is how the boards are cut. Typically a woodworker would want to saw a board in half widthwise so they end up with two matching boards that could be book-matched. For instance, you would resaw a board that is 3' x 6"x 1" into two boards that are each 3' x 6" x 1/2". I think that's how most violins are made with fiddleback boards, because the grain patterns on either side are mirror images.

Regarding birds-eye maple, another theory is that it results from trees that have a lot of small branches coming out of their trunks.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old December 20th, 2006, 10:33 AM
emery's Avatar
emery emery is offline
Maple Society
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Normandie, France
Posts: 1,286
Re: formation of flame or tiger maple

Violins are made with quarter cut boards. You can find a discussion of this here:

http://maestronet.com/forums/message...&enterthread=y

In fact the luthier has a great deal of difficulty matching the sides, and a true mirror image is virtually unheard of. There is a good attachment in the thread with a high res jpeg of unvarnished tonewood. For me it looks as if the grain is pretty straight, but perhaps one might say that there are different aspects to grain, one of which is responsible for the flaming.

Also

http://maestronet.com/forums/message...%20AND%20maple

has a description of various theories as to how the flaming happens. I don't know why I forgot about maestronet, it has proved a useful site to me in the past.

I guess the long and short of it is that the subject remains mysterious for now!
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old December 20th, 2006, 11:57 AM
Michael F Michael F is offline
Plant Enthusiast (1000+ posts)
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Britain zone 8/9
Posts: 9,760
Re: formation of flame or tiger maple

Hi Emery,

Thanks for the link, that helps a lot looking at the hi-res photo. What I hadn't realised is that the violin back was quarter-sawn (I probably would have realised, if I'd thought about it more carefully!). So the wave in the grain is 'up-out-of-and-down-into' the wood surface (thus appearing straight); readily visible in the alternating rough-and-smooth of the wood (the rough being where the grain slopes most steeply to the cut surface). My diagram above is showing the wave as it would appear slab-cut, not quarter-cut.

I can help a bit with the tree sizes queried in the Maestronet thread: Norway Spruce is similar in size to Engelmann Spruce; both are capable of reaching 30-55m tall and 50-130cm trunk diameter, though the best quality wood for violins, slow-grown at high altitude (for Norway Spruce, 1600m+ altitude in the Alps), is smaller, more like 20-25m tall and 30-50cm diameter. Lifespan, up to about 300-400 years for high altitude trees (low altitude trees don't live so long, rarely over 200-250).

Sitka Spruce is as stated the giant of the genus, up to 60-75m or more (one in the Carmanah Valley on Vancouver Island, Canada is 96m tall) and 2-3m diameter (5m, exceptionally), but high quality wood is only obtainable from the outer part of very old trees (300-600 years old) which are again, growing slowly (young Sitkas grow very fast, with very coarse, soft, low density wood only useful for pallet boxes and paper-making, so the wood in the middle of the trunk is less good).

White Spruce and Red Spruce are both smaller, rarely over 20m tall and 40-50cm diameter even in good conditions.

If you're on that board, feel free to copy this across.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old December 21st, 2006, 08:47 AM
dawgie dawgie is offline
Contributor (100-499 posts)
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Raleigh, NC
Posts: 104
Re: formation of flame or tiger maple

My experience is with making furniture, not violins, so I defer to your expertise. I'm sure that it is virtually impossible to obtain book-matched boards that are exact mirror images, but the boards are "close enough" for most woodworkers. My clock with book-matched boards might not be perfect, but that's part of the charm with handmade furniture in my view.
Reply With Quote
Post New ThreadReply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are Off
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Acer palmatum 'Tiger Rose' yweride Acer palmatum cultivars (photos) 17 October 30th, 2011 07:45 PM
Japanese maple swamp maple hybrid? Ryan Harris Maples 5 July 10th, 2008 04:17 PM
Tiger Lilies annie HortForum 2 July 17th, 2006 08:20 AM
tiger lilly vs crocus? nanners Plants: Identification 2 May 27th, 2006 09:42 PM
Burgundy Lace vs Sherwood Flame PoorOwner Maples 8 May 23rd, 2006 03:02 AM


All times are GMT -7. The time now is 10:20 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Copyright 2001-2011, University of British Columbia Botanical Garden & Centre for Plant Research