European Spruce - the Sound of Wood.

The Wood

The spruce we sell is slow grown because of the short growing seasons at the altitudes and locations where our tonewood comes from, thus resuming in tight and even grain. All German, Swiss, Italian etc. spruce we have is picea abies and is harvest in the winter months, producing a relatively lighter weight wood compared to the volume and better stiffness. Most trees are harvested when they are frozen for approx. 2/3 of the diameter (only the heart wood is not frozen).

In addition we offer Caucasian spruce, a tonewood that has just started off. It is a slightly different species and is botanically called picea orientalis.
This wood - as long as it comes from us - is always very even grained, narrow and homogeneous on the whole top plate, the way you know from best red cedar. It´s appearance is - compared to German or Alpine spruce - more like a "vintage" looking from the beginning.

Don´t mix up our Caucasian spruce with Carpathian spruce, last surfaced recently at LMI and at other suppliers. Carpathian spruce is nothing else than our species picea abies coming from another place in Europe (here: Easteurope; the Carpathian mountains are located between Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Ukraine and Romania). Carpathian spruce is usually not as fine grained as the same species coming from Germany/ the Alps (including Italy, Swiss etc.) - and is by far wider grained than our fine Caucasian spruce!

All of our German spruce is “moonwood”, we call it "Moonspruce".
It is handled as described at the Moonspruce-section at the left side.
Moonspruce is not a secret to us, for learning more about it please refer to the "Moonspruce"-section at left.

All of our wood is prepared and handled by experts and is always air dried in the highest altitudes. The wood is treated the traditional way violin makers have used since centuries - we and our suppliers don’t have a kiln, knowledge rules.

We get most of our European spruce tonewood from a few (small) companies that are producing for the makers of the finest master-violins, violas, cellos or double basses all over the world. These guys are sometimes quite antiquated, but they know what tonewood is – traditioned for centuries.

Our Grading System

Our grading system is simple: three grades, AAA, AA and A, and a separate section for outstanding pieces (AAA++) on request. We don’t see any need for more grades because the rules for classifying vary widely from vendor to vendor and can be quite confusing. 

All sets are  individually  checked and selected for a taptone with the desired mixture of high ends and low bottom. 

For  most useful explanations regarding taptone, taptuning and voicing of tops learn from the 20+year experience of Dana Bourgeois. He has resumed his knowledge within his often refered lecture "Voicing the Steel String Guitar" at the 1990 Guild of American Lutherie Convention. We found out that a lot of folks have heared about this lecture and know the headline, but know the real content in person.
For learning more about this fascinating subject click
here to find the full reprint of this famous 1990 lecture from American Lutherie #24.
Even Dana has learned and went on and has published in the year 2000 an
update of his experiendce on voicing tops for American Lutherie #61.
For those about to read Dana Bourgeoise early article in Acoustic Guitar Magazine (March/April 1994) on evaluating and voicing tonewoods click here.

Tonally even just an "A grade" is not necessarily worse than an "AA" etc. set! See Bruce Sexauer comments at the "guitars" section at the left, comparing our A-grade with a true Master from other supplier.

We have put aside some "lower" grade sets with wider grainspacing and some colour that have a fantastic tap tone - they ring like a bell with lots of booming bottom!
The A-quality we sell here is much better than most well known factories take for their production when offering "German spruce" or "Alpine spruce". You won´t find lower quality here. Some hard lines may be present.

All top plates are bookmatched sets and at least steel-string/western size (most are jumbo size). AAA and AA are fully quartercut within the template area, the A grade may have some riff cut on the outer part of the plate by some degree.

No runouts (for learning more about runouts refer to Frank Ford´s according article with pics for best explanation at as far as nature makes this possible.

The main difference between our European spruce grade AAA and AA is that the AA-grade can have a little colour (what you won’t find on our AAA-grade). The distance between the grain lines is always top and (almost) the same around 16-20+ grain lines per inch at the joining seam. All sets are quarter cut and have a silky shine (mirror) all over the plate; lots of medullary rays.

Needless to say, Mastergrade sets are very rare sets with outstanding appeareance. Only a few meet this grade and supply is extremely limited.

We simply break it down to this system. Use the pics and find yourself your personal set, in the end it´s you who select an individual set.


History: The spruce that was used around the 17th century – long before CMF Martin & Co. etc. were established - by the finest violin makers like Amati, Stradivari, Guarneri etc. from Cremona (Italy) was cut in the European alps and rafted to Venice and then brought to Cremona. It is known that they insisted in getting moon-spruce when selecting tops. It all was picea abies, the same wood we are offering.

In the ancient days the wood was often selected and cut in a valley called “Forest of the Violins” in the Parco Naturale Peneveggio in the eastern part of Terentino (Italy). There is a path called Pale di San Martino where they started their search.
A more scientific discussion about this you can find here (in English).

That´s the way the story goes so far – considering the location of Cremona and the alps Stradivari et al. most possibly went the straightest possible way up to the high Alps. The map shows the way: on the Alps there were at these times only a few trails and the direct way from Cremona to the top leads you to the “Forest of Violins”, ca. 150 miles away north from Cremona and a good place to find the most desired conditions.

The spruce they used was from the species picea abies, the only tonewood-spruce species that grows in the alps, independend of if it comes from Gemany, Switzerland, Italy or Austria. These countries are located around on the Alps, so within the border of every named country there´s the possibility of finding a tonewood trunk on a leg of the Alps – it´s the same mountain and part of the border between the named countries. Countries and the borders changed several times since then. So much about the confusion about the names German spruce, Italian spruce, Swiss spruce,  Austrian spruce - or Alpine spruce. Botanically it´s all the same, like red spruce grows around Vermont, New York, Maine etc. etc.
Europe is quite small: where Americans put states, we place different countries. The population of New York City is much more than twice the population of whole Swiss; the US-state Maine is more than twice as large as the whole country Switzerland, just to give an idea about the small distances we have here in Europe.

In addition we offer Caucasian spruce (picea orientalis), a tonewood that has just started off and hits the roof among the guitar community. Our wood from this is always very evenly grained and homogenous on the whole top plate. It´s appearance is somewhat like an "aged" spruce set from the start.

We take care of every piece of wood and always take pictures of every single set. The measurements of each piece are given to make choosing for you as comfortable as possible.
That includes the moister content of most sets at the moment picturing. That´s a service nobody else offers – but it´s essential to know.

We don’t carry lower quality than shown. No store-cleanouts or seconds that didn’t make it. Our quality is always the best you can get. It’s simply the same stock we select for ourselves. Fairness rules: What you see is what you get. Period.

Our main stock is stored in a climate-controlled environment with 40% humidity at 20 degree Celsius/68 degree Fahrenheit.

Some words regarding other spruce species:

For guitarmaking several spruce species are used today. The common species from nothern USA and Canada are:

1. Sitka spruce  (picea sitchensis)
2. Engelman spruce (picea engelmanii)
3. Red spruce, aka. Adirondack spruce (picea rubens)
4. White Spruce (picea glauca) is seldom used (relatively small tree)

You won´t find our European spruce growing in USA or Canada and vice versa – it´s simply a different species from the same family. The European spruce from the Alps (Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland) or from the Bavarian high mountains (located in Germany) is always selected picea abiens. All stories about some monks that brought some seeds from Red spruce (picea rubens) from America to Europe in the middleage (you will find a lot of such stories when you start to research the spruce discussion on a serious level) are rubbish. Maybe an origin is really from monks - the origin of the story.

Some informations regarding “Lutz Spruce”

Recently a „new“ spruce has surfaced, named Lutz spruce. Some call it “picea lutzii” but this spruce is not a separate spruce species. Botanically correct it´s “picea x lutzii Little”, “x” indicating that this is a hybrid (sitka spruce naturally hybridizes with the white spruce to Lutz spruce). This doesn´t mean that this is minor wood, we have excellent sets from this stuff. It is most common in (southern) Alaska. "Kermodie Spruce" is a registered trademark of a vendor who sells this wood under this name - it´s nothing else than a regional known name for this Lutz Spruce and not another species.

Find it at other places around the world - here you find best European spruce.


Below you can find a chart with a "ranking" of most common wood species for tops, arranged from the most flexible to the stiffest species - you see that our picea abiens is as stiff as the famous red spruce - that´s a reason for beeing often compared to this sought after species.

Common Name

Botanical Name

Average Weight

weak -> stiff


thuja plicata

185.0 grams


Douglas Fir

pseudotsuga menziesii

215.5 grams



sequoia sempervirens

200.0 grams


Engelmann Spruce

picea engelmannii

195.0 grams


Caucasian Spruce

oicea orientalis

214.0 grams


New Sitka Spruce

picea sitchensis

215.0 grams


Lutz Spruce (Sitka & White hybrid)

picea X lutzi Little

219.5 grams


1959 Sitka Spruce

picea sitchensis

226.5 grams


Red (Appalachian) Spruce

picea rubens

238.5 grams


European Spruce

picea abies

233.5 grams


Chart by Tim McKnight from McKnight Guitars, who makes wonderful instruments.

"German or Bavarian Spruce (picea abies), has one of the highest stiffness-to-weight ratios of all the spruces. This stiffness contributes to the generally outstanding high-end response of tops constructed from this wood. The stiffness is also why it seems to take a little more energy to put it into motion - all the new instruments I've played with German Spruce tops seem to be more sensitive to differences ...  It's also a very pretty wood - can be almost white in color.
Adirondack Spruce ... is supposedly quite similar to German Spruce as far as its stiffness-to-weight ratio, and ... similar acoustical properties."

                            Professor Stephen M. Sano, Dept. of Music, Stanford University