Living and working on Vancouver Island in Canada's Province of British Columbia is a blessing for a fiddle maker. The mountains and woods are a balm to the maker's spirit and the source of some of the world's finest tone woods. Local Big Leaf Maple Acer macrophyllum is a wonderful wood for necks and backs. It's closest relatives are the maples of Europe which are the traditional woods for violins. Big Leaf has a gorgeous figure and carves beautifully. (see the picture of a chunk from my firewood pile!)
Spruce is also available in abundance. Both Sitka Picea sitchensis and Engelmann Picea engelmannii are common. Interestingly, hybrids are also common in areas where the two species overlap. These spruces have been used for lumber for generations. As these are very big trees, 3 metres diameter and over for Sitka, large timbers were milled from them in generations past for construction. Occasionally, an old timber becomes available from a demolition. A top carved from 70 year old spruce from such a timber has a sound which must be heard to be appreciated.
In order to get the best from these wonderful woods the tops and backs are tuned using the acoustic plate tuning methods of Carleen Hutchins, founder of the Catgut Acoustical Society. While there is some discussion about the specific frequencies to which the plates are tuned there is no doubt that measurement and resonance matching guided by experience provides a powerful method for consistently producing good instruments.
Construction follows the Cremonese tradition. All parts are carved and fitted by hand. Tops are generally made from aged spruce, either Sitka or Engelmann. Backs, necks and sides are generally made from Vancouver Island Big Leaf maple. Blocks and linings are made from spruce. The whole lot is glued up with hot hide glue in the traditional manner.
Finishing is done with fine oil varnish and carefully rubbed out to a fine sheen. Fittings and set up are at the discretion of the client. Set up for traditional fiddlers is a special interest.