Sponsored by Santa Cruz Guitar Company:
Building guitars for exceptional sound begins with honoring those practices evolved from millenia of experimentation yielding the noble modern violin. This isn’t about the wonderfully practical folk instruments made from whatever was at hand. These trade secrets were born from a lineage of makers determined to provide a tool of superior fidelity to allow a player to express their deepest emotions through music. The prized tone of a 200 year old violin merits praise for the skills of the maker, though those can be matched, or even exceeded, by contemporary luthiers today.
From an acoustic physics perspective, the biggest contributor to the vintage violin’s impressive voice comes from the time enhanced resonance of the wood itself. The legendary builders of the 1700’s knew to use woods acquired from preceding masters and they, in turn, acquired aging wood to be passed on to their future protogés.
As the wood ages through the generations, this sticky lifeblood of the living tree isn’t hardened by drying the wood. The scientific term for this phenomenon is the process of polymerization. Polymerization of the tree’s resins is a progressive process that transforms sound-deadening tree sap into a uber-resonant crystal-like form. Given a few hundred years from the living tree, the violin’s Spruce top gains a greatly enhanced ability to amplify the energy of its strings.
It wouldn’t pay to build instruments and wait two centuries for them to become fully resonant before selling them, though Santa Cruz Guitar Company gains that advantage by beginning with really old wood. This aligns beautifully with the company’s decades long dedication to using reclaimed materials for both superior tone and environmental responsibility.
Our sourcing from responsibly harvested timbers was inspired by seeing firsthand the heartbreak of commercial lumber practices obliterating virgin ecosystems while erasing the livelihoods and traditions that were their native culture’s birthright.
Even at our modest production acquiring a dependable supply of woods from naturally downed trees, dead standing timber, reclamation from historic structures or inventories required forging relationships with local families and developing trust with those who shared our values.
Decades ago, one went to the source or worked with those who had direct connections within India, South America, Alaska, British Columbia and rural regions of the U.S. In Europe it may be necessary to convince a proprietor of a 500 year old family Spruce business that we wouldn’t be wasting their precious sustainably harvested violin wood on American folk guitars.
After 47 years of practice we are working with the second and third generations of our original family connections. We’ve helped introduce them to the ever growing numbers of exceptional American luthiers to gain confidence in selling online to individuals six thousand miles away.
One of my joys is still the hunt and the thrill of acquiring new tone woods and new friends.
This year brought us 100 year old Brazilian Rosewood and Mahogany left over from the 1910 creation of an historic Pennsylvania Cathedral and beautiful virgin Redwood from the restoration of an 1820’s Northern California Orthodox chapel in a fort built by Russians competing with Spain and America to exploit the resources of a new continent. Santa Cruz Guitar’s open source philosophy of sharing technique and supply resources has always brought us more than we give. In that spirit we gladly share these hard earned connections to the right stuff in the hope that our success will influence others in responsible and sustainable practices for a more musical world.