About Rudolf Fuchs

... the passion to working with wood

Air seasoned spruce

Best German Spruce tonewood

In the year 2003 when my good friend, the world-renowned luthier Matthias Dammann and me, developed the idea of producing finest grade as well as master-grade tops for acoustic guitars out of German Spruce. In my opinion, giving luthiers holding the same high standards with their products as I do, the opportunity of being supplied with the best material available is gaining great importance in our times of mass production.

Tonewood splitting

From my childhood on, I am surrounded by music instruments I am a glowing and enthusiastic guitar player over decades now. My special relation to music and my passion of working with wood is great motivation and incitement for me. With both my great-grandfather and my grandfather having been wainwrights, my family has a long tradition of wood-working. In the same workshop where my ancestors built their coaches at the turn of the century, I make by hand my guitar tops today.

Guitar top classification in different grades My workshop is located in a small, idyllic village near the Lower Bavaria - Upper Austria border in the region of Rottal to Innviertel and is a one-man-company. From carefully choosing the best spruce trees and logs to the careful hand-selection of the finished guitar tops, every production step makes clear that the focus lies on doing a first-rate job, i.e. conscientiously crafting high quality tonewood for guitar.

On this occasion, I'd like to thank Matthias Dammann for always remaining steadfastly at my side, equipping me with his whole store of knowledge concerning lutherie and showing me everything that matters when manufacturing a master-grade guitar top.

About German Spruce

... in history and in the present of guitar building

The usage of German Spruce for guitar tops (soundboards) is very old and is based on its mechanical-acoustic characteristics which makes it an excellent conductor for soundwaves.

RESONANCE-WOOD or TONE-WOOD, is the wood of which the guitar tops are made of, "PICEA", (German: "FICHTE", Italian: "ABETE", Spanish: "ABETO", French "SAPIN" and English: "SPRUCE"). When the wood is more whitish the scientific name is "PICEA ABIES" or "PINUS ABIES", "ABIES PECTINATA" or "SILVER FIR". If it is more reddish the name is "PICEA EXCELSA" or "SPRUCE FIR".

The best trees come from the Bavarian, Austrian and Italian Alps, where they can be found today in some areas above 1100m altitude. Earlier guitar makers preferred the wood from these areas more than wood from other countries along the Alps or the Carpathians.

These days practically nobody has the chance to buy a whole log. The guitar makers have to be satisfied with cut guitar tops delivered by the tonewood-dealers. In past times spruce logs were bought as a whole and they were often selected at the forests were they are grown. It was of course a big advantage, if you had a whole log available. Like this the guitar makers could deepen their knowledge of the mechanical and acoustic characteristics of the wood of their log in an empirical way, and thus improve the construction instrument by instrument.

The beautiful straight and tight grained spruce, should theoretically be the most appropriate for the guitar construction. There are however many exceptions. One wonderful and beauty spruce top does unfortunately not always have the hoped for sound quality!

There are magnificent old guitars with wood though which does absolutely not show a regular grain not to mention a symmetrical optic like certain famous guitars which have knots and structural deviations which a modern guitar maker would hardly or rather not tolerate.

Purely intuitive, with much mastery they used a material that is so variable as wood is. They know about the difference between the flexibility of a cut board in lengthways direction and in crossways direction. The master builders knew all the properties of the woods they used, all their nuances and they did not disclaim taking guitar tops from the best parts of the log, even if these from the optical aspect were not perfect. For the guitar tops they used spruce wood with wide grain structure just as successful as harder wood with tighter grain structure. The material was so close to them that they chose it how it appeared them technically the most beneficial to create a best sound out of an instrument.

Nowadays, the skepticism for things out of norm and standards from uniform optics is higher than ever before. A big part of this popular-half-wisdom can be assigned to the trivial world-wide-web-knowledge. Maybe it leads many guitar makers on the wrong track.

I already do my work with passion and science a very long time, and I try to sell my wood honestly. The customers trust, is very important for me to maintain long business relationships.

I have dissected hundreds of logs and each one has told me his own story of hundred years of life. So it can be that a lower grade top has a much better tap-tone as a master-grade top which is so beautiful and free from all errors. This ambivalence are mostly is misunderstood by my customers!

Less and less customers ask me about the individual physic properties of my tonewood. From beginner to professional, mostly the guitar players need a "uniform, white evenly colored guitar top with very tight and straight grain! But how many knowledge has the guitar player about the woods physic? Is this the right way, that our customers tell us the "truth" about good tonewood? I think, no! It even goes so far that customers persuade me from attached photos of my offered guitar tops, which tops are sounds or not. If you like to order tops from me, should be clear for everybody, that I know about my wood and I find best sounding tops for you, if requested.

The kind of luthiers they tell me "Yes, I know but the customers are so picky and they don't like the guitar, therefore I need the best of the best!", are mostly builders with less experience in the physics of wood. The more advanced a luthier is, the more the visual characteristics of a guitar top recede into the background. The luthiers from the glory days possessed the self-confidence and pride to define their guitars by the sound. That's why we should open more our ears instead of our eyes, today.

This is a trend that worries me as a tonewood producer. If everyone builds the same beautiful stringed box, we're all carpenters, and not luthiers, and the art of sound and wood is lost someday.

The operation word is and was "TONE-WOOD"!