September 2020 Torrefied Wood

I’m currently building an instrument for John Ryan in Dublin. John is a real gent and a great player and has had a number of my instruments over the years. About a year ago he bought the prototype Black Edition SBB I built as part of a development project. This new bouzouki is full specification Black Edition LBB but will be built with a Torrefied Sitka spruce top.

I’m getting asked more and more these days about Torrefied wood. What the heck does that mean I hear you ask! Well, up until a 4 or 5 years ago I’d never heard of it either. In a nutshell, it’s supposed to be a fast track way of getting a vintage sounding instrument, bypassing the time it takes for a spruce top to fully mature. I talked a wee bit about Torrefaction in the post further down the page about the bouzouki I recently built for Manus Lunny, but to repeat myself, Torrefaction is a process in which the wood is heated in a controlled environment, cooking off the volatiles—the oils, sugars, and resins that naturally vacate the wood but only after many years of drying. Basically it speeds up the process of maturing and the resulting instrument sounds more mature and aged. Another advantage of Torrefaction is that the resulting wood is dimensionally stable, so it won’t shrink or expand and is unaffected by changes in humidity.

It’s quite different to work with, it doesn’t plane easliy. The cell structure changes during the baking process producing a wood that feels more brittle but is actually quite stiff and strong. The instrument is all built now and just about ready for spraying and all being well should be strung up and playing in two or three weeks. I’ll keep you posted on how it sounds.