Sadly, this iPhone app for instantly discovering the age of a violin by visual analysis of the wood was an April Fool, but the principle of Dendrochronology is sound. Specialists use dendrochronology to find out the when the wood used in an instrument was grown. The history of a tree can be read in its rings, as year by year they reflect the climatic conditions. In a good year the tree will grow healthily and there will be a wide ring, in a colder or unusually dry year the ring will be narrower. Trees of the same species growing in similar areas all have the exact same pattern. Precise measurements and computer analysis mean that the patterns in the spruce on the table of a violin of unknown age can now be compared with data from a wide range of other instruments.
Analysis can’t tell you who made a violin, but it can often determine when the tree grew – which gives a ‘no-older-than’ date for the instrument. The data-set is continually expanding and already over 70% of violins can be dated. So much data has already been collected about European tonewoods that for some types of violin a positive result can be obtained 95% of cases.
If you want a dendrochronological analysis to find out how old your violin is, contact Peter Ratcliff.