Torrified wood for flutes?

Torrified wood for flutes?

Are any flutemakers out there willing to discuss using torrified wood in the making of their flutes? Have you tried it? Are you thinking of trying it? Would this process be beneficial to the stability of the wood in the case of a flute? How about the sound properties? Guitar makers have started embracing this technology to create "vintage" sounding instruments that are less likely to warp and crack.

Re: Torrified wood for flutes?

The process is simply artificial aging via heat, as well as atmosphere exposure. Or rather, a combination of both heat and certain gases. Does not cause rotten wood, AFAIK. As stated, stringed instrument makers have been experimenting with it. From what I’ve read, the wood becomes more brittle and the natural resonance changes a bit.

I’ve only heard of the technique being used on spruce. I have no idea of its viability regarding dense tropical woods, nor of the moisture considerations present with flutes.

FWIW, the dense bodies of flutes aren’t soundboards like fiddle or guitar. The material preference is for very dense materials. Dense materials do not resonate like the lighter woods, so any "gains" would seem to be much less than with stringed instruments.

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Re: Torrified wood for flutes?

I would ask over at Chiff and Fipple. Perhaps Casey Burns will chime in. I’m sure he posted about microwaving boxwood in the past. Geoffrey Ellis has posted about using resin impregnated wood and I think Maurice Reviol uses a resin ‘cast bore’ on woods that might otherwise not be ideal for flute making. Most flute and pipe makers I’ve spoken too have stores of wood left to dry with waxed ends. They then rough out the wood and leave to settle in stages.
Not sure if this is useful?

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Re: Torrified wood for flutes?

Martin introduced torrefication of soundboards for one reason and one reason only - it speeds up the process and means that freshly felled timber can be used for making instruments in a matter of weeks, rather than having to season in expensive, temperature and humidity controlled warehouses for a couple of years.

But in order to sell it to the public they had to pitch it as being of some sort of benefit to the customer, so they made some vague claims about it being ‘more like the wood of vintage instruments.’

Since then tonewood dealers have jumped on the band wagon, for the same reason as Martin - it speeds up the process and saves money. They’ve made it available to the smaller makers, who are now making all sorts of wild claims about magical acoustic properties for which there is absolutely no evidence.

It has long been established amongst violin, classical guitar and top end steel string makers that air dried timber is superior to kiln dried - the rapid moisture loss in kilning causes micro-cracks in the structure of the wood. Torrefied wood is kiln dried before it is torrefied, so the damage is already done and while it might be better than un-torrefied kiln dried wood in some respects, it’s never going to be great.

However, all that applies to soundboards, which are made of softwood. When it comes to the dense tropical hardwoods that flutes are made of, these timbers really have to be kiln dried as air drying would take decades, and in this case torrefiction might be beneficial in making the timber more stable and less likely to crack. But I’m not convinced that anyone has done any research on the subject, I think they have just set up the process for soundboards and then chucked some hardwoods in. Martins did a lot of research to tailor the process to the particular soundboard timbers they work with.

Re: Torrified wood for flutes?

Microwaving boxwood seems to be the thing these days, it does seem to stabilise box which is renowned for warping .
Like mark says air dried timber is superior to kiln dried and the quality we find in older instruments reflects the fact that these woods did indeed dry and season for decades. It’s a reflection of modern life that The stock air dried timber that sat around for a few decades is fairly rare these days .
I’d say the long term makers who’ve been active 30-50 yrs will have stocks but for the standard commercial maker they want to knock instruments out as quickly as possible , it’s about mass production and money.
Fair enough, there is obviously a call for these instruments and I’m all for experimentation. It seems that the microwaving of box does indeed produce a stable timber for turning and excellent high end pipes are being made.
My google search of torrification just focused on the black stuff for burning. Would microwaving be considered torrification then?

Re: Torrified wood for flutes?

Excellent points Mark M and Will, I hadn’t thought about the dollar and cents reasons why this process is used. I don’t think that micro-waving would be the same as torrification though. The question remains open, how does this wood sound in comparison to traditional hardwoods?

Re: Torrified wood for flutes?

Only one way to find out! And then the result is subjective IMO ok it’s objective in a way, but subjective in that everyone perceives things differently even if it’s exactly the same thing …
Old growth hardwood is where it’s at for high grade woodwind instruments IMO
I know that delrin and stuff is used but it’s very heaven they say it will last forever but I really wonder how exactly they discovered this? Seeing as it’s a new phenomena? They told us CD s would last forever too…..

https://www.reddit.com/r/architecture/comments/8eul9d/practice_comparison_of_new_growth_and_old_growth/

Re: Torrified wood for flutes?

Those woods in the picture are not the same species and they are softwoods. It would be like me comparing a cherry board from a hardwood dealer to poplar from a big box store (nothing against poplar, I love the stuff). the old growth, new growth argument is a little overblown. The old growth stuff is only better because it grew in competitive, crowded forests for long periods of time and better is subjective, there is no reason old growth wood would be better for instruments than new. However, timber selection becomes more important.