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Sturgill on Wood

Sturgill on Wood

by David Sturgill

Originally published in Guild of American Luthiers Data Sheet #2, #6, #9, 1974, 1975 and Guild of American Luthiers Newsletter Vol. 2 #2, 1974

See also,
The David Sturgill Story by David Sturgill

Wood for Instrument Making

I consider myself to be extremely fortunate to have had an opportunity to become intimately acquainted with one of the greatest of the American luthiers, Herman Weaver of Baltimore, MD and Washington, D.C. Our friendship grew from the time I first met him in 1940 until his death twenty-five years later. Aside from our warm personal relationship, he took a great interest in my own work and taught me many things from his own background of fifty years experience as a luthier. Many of these things I would have been years discovering for myself or may never have learned.

Herman Weaver, like most luthiers I have known, was also a philosopher, and even this was reflected in his work. He was often unorthodox in his approach to many problems which confront the would-be luthier. While he was a strong supporter of proven traditions, he did not hesitate to experiment and to discard tradition if it was not supported by his own discoveries.

Early in our friendship I started asking him about woods for musical instruments, especially violins. He answered my questions as I asked them, but one day he summed it all up in one paragraph when he said, “wood is something you can learn about, but it is almost impossible to teach anyone else except in generalities. The luthier must have an instinct about woods, he must be able to hold it in his hands and hear in his mind the tones it will produce in an instrument. He must sense the texture and the grain and the character of a piece of wood and I do not know how to teach anyone these things.”

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