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Questions: Douglas Fir Stradivari

Questions: Douglas Fir Stradivari

by R.E. Bruné

Originally published in American Lutherie #102, 2010


James Condino of Ashville, North Carolina asks:

I used to have an article from a guitar magazine in the ’80s about one of the Stradivari guitars. The article claimed that the top was made of Douglas fir. How likely is that?

R.E. Bruné of Evanston, Illinois

In reference to Stradivari using Douglas fir, this is a virtual impossibility. The wood is not native to Europe, and was not in commercial circulation in Europe in Stradivari’s day. Perhaps the confusion arises from the nomenclature of wood in which Americans tend to call most conifer soundboards of European origin “spruce” and the British use “pine” to refer to the same materials. In actuality, most are of the genus Abies or true fir, of which there are many varieties native to Europe such as Abies pectinata and Abies alba. (Google these and other species for more information.) Douglas fir is not a true fir, being of the genus Pseudotsuga. Picea is the Latin name for true spruces which are also used for instrument soundboards, of which there are also many varieties. All of these are difficult to positively identify once they are on a completed instrument, especially one that has aged for several centuries. ◆