A Day In The Woods With Luthiers Vasile And Cristian GLIGA

Article Author: Elena Mihaela Gliga
Written by Elena Mihaela Gliga on 02/06/2021.

The Romanian violin maker VASILE GLIGA is letting us in on an ancient secret:
- the way the old luthiers themselves were searching for the best wood to make violins

A day in the woods with luthiers Vasile and Cristian GLIGA

Gliga A Day In The Woods

...because only true violinmakers would know when and how to listen to the wood before giving birth to a new baby-violin

The Romanian violin makers VASILE GLIGA and his son, CRISTIAN are revealing to us the secret of finding the best violin wood in the European Carpathians Forests – The "Green Gold" of Romania.

Vasile Gliga in the European Carpathian forests

The story begins a long time ago, deep in the Gurghiului Mountains, where the award-winning Romanian luthier Vasile Gliga spent his childhood in full harmony with nature. This is where he learned how to truly love, respect, and appreciate the trees, the wood. Day by day, season-by-season, and year-by-year our little boy watched how nature changes, and he felt a curious attraction over the tree species. In fact, our special boy has also an innate sense of woodcarving and a big dream: to create something unique and brilliant, resonant, which will be remembered forever and for everyone. At his 19th Vasile Gliga already knows to make violins, and because he learned that the wood has its own special voice, he started to deeply explore the "Green Gold" (how forests are denominated in Romania) and to study its resonance.

Vasile Gliga exploring the Romanian forests

And today, the Romanian violin maker VASILE GLIGA is letting us in on an ancient secret - the way the old luthiers themselves were searching for the best wood to make violins.

Luthier Gliga Vasile, violin maker at Valea Italianului

Here we are, in the center of Transylvania – Dracula’s Land, following the ancestral footsteps of the masters from Cremona, Stradivari, Amati. The master is taking us in the Gurghiului Valley, very close to Italian Creek, at an altitude of almost 1000 meters, which means over 3,000 feet of elevation. It is believed that 400 years ago, renowned Italian luthiers would travel all the way here, in the heart of the Carpathian Mountains, to get the best quality wood for their violin making.

Long and cold, and with abundant snow winter season reigns for about four months over this mountain, every year. At places, the snow can reach up to 80 centimeters in-depth (that is, more than 30 inches). However, this doesn’t stop the luthier Vasile Gliga and his son, Cristian from going out, in search of the best violin wood.

Luthiers checking and selecting the trees

But how do they choose the coveted “curly sycamore” – the European Flamed Maple, used on the back, sides, neck, and scroll of the violin?

There are no special tools used to peel the bark - just a small hammer. Very carefully, the bark of the maple is removed, but only on a small area. The curlier the wood fiber, the more flamed the maple and thus the more aesthetic the violin and the more enhanced its acoustic properties.

Vasile GLIGA:
"This is enough to check if the maple is flamed. (*the area of the removed bark) 2:27- 2:34 - By using just a small hammer you minimize the damage to the wood since trees have the ability to compartmentalize their wounds and therefore the rest of the wood remains unaffected.

It seems like here the bark has been scraped and peeled by other people, that's why the area became darker. You can see it... The correct technique is to peel only a small piece of bark - for instance, the size of an egg is more than enough to check the quality of the maple wood."

Vasile GLIGA to Cristian:
"You can hit it from both sides. You have to hit harder because the bark is thick. There are 5 mm and you peeled only the barren bark. Hit it from bottom to top, too, please.

Be careful not to damage the tree. Just like that (it’s ok). OK. Now you can see some faint white lines. They are smooth and straight, if they were curved you would notice it."

"The ideal trees are between 150 and 200 years old and can be found above a thousand meters in elevation, on the Northern slopes as these are both sunny and with high humidity. The wood from these special trees is dense and homogeneous. This is the type of wood the finest instruments are made of..." Cristian said.

The back, sides, and neck of the violin are made of flamed maple, while the top is made of resonance spruce.

And how to identify the finest grained Carpathian Resonance Spruce Solid Wood with the best sound velocity, wood density, and dynamic modulus of elasticity only by seeing the tree?

Vasile and Cristian listening to the sound of the trees

STOP and LISTEN the wood!
The Italian Masters did it, too!
A virtuoso luthier has besides skills, fine hearing...

Vasile GLIGA to Cristian:
"In this case, the technique of searching for the resonance spruce is different. You need to hit it with the hammer to check if there's any sound. If you hit harder, it should make a loud sound. Listen carefully whether you can also hear an echo."

"Listen! Get closer if you want to hear it better."

"Now hit the tree with this hammer."

And now, dear musicians, you know that the secret of finding the resonance spruce lies in the projection of the echo. The more resonant the sound of the hammer blow, the higher the quality of the wood.

Gliga in peace and harmony during winter in Lapusna, Romania

Nature taught the award-winning violin maker Vasile Gliga and his family how-to live-in peace and harmony, and how to respect every form of life around. Whenever he reminisces about the little village where he grew up, his childhood paradise of Lapusna, he is extremely grateful for having had the chance to live in this beautiful landscape.

Because Gliga means eternity...

And the story goes on and on... because Gliga means eternity.