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German Spruce is a common term for Spruce coming from Europe, but it is not really accurate. Guitar grade Spruce has not come out of Germany for many years now. The best material comes from the former Yugoslavia region. When you order German Spruce from LMI, you can expect the excellent, slightly golden-colored tonewood that, for years now, has been the staple of the bowed instrument world, and a favorite among high-end steel string and classical guitar builders. We carry the finest European Spruce available, including sets with bearclaw figure. See a sample of a German Spruce top with Bearclaw, highest figure and our article "About Bearclaw".
We carry two other Spruces from Europe which have subtle differences from the German/European Spruce, they are:
Alpine/Italian Spruce is the exact same species of wood as our German Spruce, but it comes from a different region and so has slightly different attributes. It is just a bit warmer in color and the winter grain, when visible, is a bit pinker. Tonally, it is said be more focused with a slightly stronger fundamental than regular German Spruce. For this reason it has a loyal group of devotees. We typically have a good number of higher grade tops with very tight grain and even color.
Alpine/Italian Spruce is similar to what is known as Italian Spruce, which is found in a lower elevation of the Alps. We do not carry this wood as the supply and quality is erratic.
Carpathian Spruce, from Central/Eastern Europe, has a very creamy white appearance but with slightly wider grain than other European Spruces. We were the first supplier to offer this wood in the United States and it is now in use by several well known steel string guitar builders. These tops are quite stiff and offer a slightly brighter, glassier tap tone than the other European Spruces. Many have compared it to Adirondack Spruce and some even call it ‘Carpathian Red Spruce’. See photo of AAAA grade.
PLEASE NOTE: It is not uncommon to find some small, isolated bits of bearclaw figure in all grades except Master grade. If it is essential that your soundboard be free of this, please let us know when you place your order.
Famed Canadian luthier Marc Beneteau reports: “I knew when I bought the Carpathian that it had good potential. Nice stiffness, not too heavy and an excellent tap tone. This was confirmed on the finished guitar with wonderful resonance yet sensitivity to a light touch. An excellent topwood choice! I will definitely be using it again in the future.”