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Wood used by Stradivari and Guarneri

The material used by the old masters to make exquisite violins may have been chemically manipulated.


Whether or not the great Italian violin-makers used wood that had been chemically processed in order to preserve it and enhance the instrument's sound quality has long been a contentious issue1,2. Here we use nuclear magnetic resonance and infrared spectroscopy to analyse organic matter in wood taken from antique instruments made by Stradivari and Guarneri del Gesu. Our results indicate that the wood used by the masters could indeed have been chemically treated, a technique that may inspire an approach to violin making that is more chemistry-based.

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Correspondence to Joseph Nagyvary.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Methods

This file describes the method of sample preparation and the conditions of the NMR and FTIR spectroscopies. It also includes the method of statistical analysis of the IR spectra. (PDF 18 kb)

Supplementary Figure Legends

This file identifies the curves in the four SI figures. (PDF 6 kb)

Supplementary Discussion

A summary of the SI materials and conclusions. (PDF 8 kb)

Supplementary Figure 1

Solid state NMR spectra of 5 maple wood samples. Assignments are provided in the figure as Stradivarius cello, Bosnian K-silicate treated, the Jay viola, the Gand-Bernardel violin, and boiled-baked Bosnian maple. (PDF 66 kb)

Supplementary Figure 2

FTIR spectra of 3 maple wood samples. Assignments are provided in the figure as the Stradivarius cello, the boiled-baked Bosnian maple and the Ksilicate treated maple. (PDF 93 kb)

Supplementary Figure 3

FTIR spectra of samples from the Jay viola and the Gand-Bernardel violin. Assignments given in the figure. (PDF 78 kb)

Supplementary Figure 4

FTIR spectra of maple heartwood and sapwood samples. The source was a 30-year old European tone wood. Assignments provided in the figure. (PDF 78 kb)

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Figure 1: Spectroscopy of maple wood samples from antique violins.


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