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I am a guitar player and luthier and am new to the world of violins although I have a little experience doing simple work on the violin and bass. Guitar necks traditionally use mahogany or maple for the backs and ebony, rosewood or maple for the fretboards. Recently manufacturers have started using "roasted" maple for these. I have installed a neck on one of my guitars that is entirely made of roasted maple.
From what I understand roasted maple is maple that is subjected to heat and pressure until the oils caramelize. This makes the wood harder, more dense, and closes the pores of the wood. Normally maple requires a finish to protect it from moisture causing it to warp. Roasted maple does not require this. Also my guitar neck is VERY slick after it was fine sanded. Roasting darkens the wood somewhat and it enhances the flame in the woodgrain. I think my neck is gorgeous, even without the traditional lacquer normally used on guitars. The wood has a satin sheen.
I am interested in whether this could be used to make violin back plates and sides. Has anyone attempted this? It is slightly more prone to splitting. You must drill pilot holes for screws slightly larger. Of course screws aren't an issue for violins but it would need to be allowed for when cutting and carving back plates.
I have observed that the violin making world is very traditional when it comes to both materials and techniques. It took quite a while for carbon fiber bows to gain a foothold. I would just like to hear how this would sound. Maybe it would be best to start with making a bridge with roasted maple. The process makes the wood harder and more dense. It doesn't just effect the surface. I understand that is a good property in bridges.
OK. That's enough. I was just thinking.
I'd say it's certainly worth an experiment. It could be challenging to find someone to do the carving, since it would be as much work or more to carve out a back from the roasted maple, and if it were a dud, that's several days worth of work down the drain. I don't imagine that roasting the maple is something people can do in their kitchen, either, which means most violin makers won't have the wherewithal to do it.
Carving the back from an already-roasted piece of maple sounds doable (although if it's harder, definitely more work).
The sides, though, would be tricky. Unless it's just as supple after roasting, it's going to be difficult to bend the wood to make the sides out of already roasted stuff, and roasting it after bending might change the dimensions in unwelcome ways. Perhaps a transition form (roasted maple for the back, unroasted for the sides) might be the best way to start.
The one big potential gotcha is that if it is more rigid than untreated would, it might have to be shaved thinner to resonate as well, which, in turn, might create structural integrity issues. It would probably just have to be tried to find that out, though.
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