- About the Wood -

Old World Tonewood specializes in European Carpathian Spruce and "Sycamore" Maple tonewood.  Our wood is harvested from the Carpathian Mountains of Eastern Europe.  We also occasionally have other species including indigenous North American species.  Generally, the wood is offered for sale as soon as the it reaches equilibrium moisture content.  For pieces listed individually (You Select! categories), the last two digits of the item number indicate the winter the wood was cut (e.g. Piece  "V1P003-06" was cut Winter 2005-2006); for pieces not individually listed please inquire as to age. Current prices are listed below for inventory stock, however many pieces are individually listed and priced - see You Select! categories in the Catalog.  We always welcome questions about the wood and prefer to work directly with you in selection of your tonewood. We are happy to send photographs and descriptions, too.

Carpathian Spruce

This native spruce of Europe is known in various languages as Sapin blanc du Nord, Epicea de Suede or Epicea de commun, épinette de Norvège, Abete rosso, Abeto rojo, gemeinefichte, jel europeiskaya, and in the USA as Norway spruce. The scientific name is Picea abies  (formerly  classified as Picea excelsa). Even though Picea abies is widely distributed throughout Europe, there are subtle differences in its characteristics from region to region - possibly because spruces readily hybridize. Our spruce is harvested exclusively from the Carpathian Mountains.  This spruce generally has a low specific gravity, a very desirable strength to weight ratio, and is creamy white in color.  It is a joy to carve and has a beautiful ring-tone.  Carpathian spruce has a unique character, and one I think you will find very desirable.

Pieces supplied for violin measure approximately 17 inches (43 cm) long, 5+ inches (13+ cm) wide, and about 1-3/4 inches (45 mm) on the thick end of the wedge, so these pieces are normally of sufficient size for most viola or mandolin patterns.  For viola, the piece will be approximately 17 (43cm) inches long - please let us know if your pattern is long ( more than 16.5") and/or more than 10-inches wide at the lower bout. 

Spruce Tonewood Grading...

Unlike the lumber industry, there is no standard for grading of tonewood.   Our spruce is graded as "AAA", "AA", "A", and "B".  Some suppliers have expanded the number of grades to include 4A, 5A, even 7A, and so on!  Because there is no standard, you must understand how each individual supplier grades.  Otherwise, grading is of little objective use to you in selecting wood sight unseen.  We prefer to stick with the four-tiered grading nomenclature.

Our Grade AAA has very uniform progression of grain width or uniform grain width, no color variation, no discernable runout, excellent cut ("quartered"), and will exhibit a clear sustained ringtone (taptone).  Grade B, the least expensive grade of spruce and may have wide and/or uneven grain, wide latewood, other blemsishes. However, many builders find Grade B wood tonally excellent and compare its appearance to much of the Adirondack spruce used in guitars today.  Of course, Grades A, and AA are have qualities between "AAA" and "B".  We are happy to work with you to select wood you will find both visually and tonally desirable. 

Bearclaw is not abnormal in Carpathian spruce.  If you find this characteristic is desirable, please let us know when ordering.


The maple we offer is Acer pseudoplatanus, which translated from the Latin means “false-sycamore” maple. And as such, it is sometimes referred to as "sycamore" maple.  Acer pseudoplatanus is a relatively low density maple, light in color, carves very well, and is the maple of the violinmaking tradition.  The maple is graded primarily on the quality of the flame and overall beauty of the wood, but also with some deference given to grain quality and density.  Although it is usually impossible to detect minor imperfections beneath the surface of the wood,  visible imperfections (i.e. color, knots, staining, etc) result in a lower the grade, as does a skew cut.  One-piece maple backs are offered radially cut ("quartersawn") and slab cut (plain sawn).  Wood for 2-piece violin backs measure approximately 16-17+ inches (40 - 43+ cm) long, 5+ inches (13+ cm) wide, and about 1.5 - 2 inches (3.8 - 5 cm) on the thick end of the wedge, and are therefore of sufficient size for most viola or mandolin.  For pieces listed for viola, the size will be approximately 17 (43cm) inches long - please let us know if your pattern is long ( more than 16.5") and/or more than 10-inches wide at the lower bout.  To help you with your selected of maple backs, we have listed some of our maple backs in our on-line Catalog.  For these listings, please go to the You Select! category for the instrument of your interest to see descriptions and photos of selected maple backs.