Don Noon

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About Don Noon

  • Rank
    Using tools without supervision
  • Birthday 03/20/1952

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  • Gender
  • Location
    Carlsbad, CA
  • Interests
    Violin construction
    Old-time fiddling

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  1. Stradivari's secret was a concept?

    "The Secret of Stradivarius" can never die, because it is impossible to disprove that he had a secret. Similarly, "Strads are the best violins" can never be disproven either, but for slightly different reasons. You COULD prove Strad had a secret if you found a verifiable notebook with the details. You CAN'T prove Strads are the best, since that's all opinion.
  2. Stradivari's secret was a concept?

    Coming from a background of science, and plenty of familiarity with acoustics, modal analysis, damping, etc., I naturally am interested in those aspects, and it is not too much effort for me to make measurements and analysis. However, to be perfectly honest, if I had a set of wood and only Strad's tools, I am convinced that my result would be no different than if I used all the technology available. And all the technology doesn't decide if the result is good or not... playing and listening does that (also likely no different from Strad's day). When it comes to wood properties, I think the technology might help in both understanding what you have, what you'd like to have, and how it might be "improved". Boiling I agree... disaster. However "torrefaction" involves exposure to steam, and generally stiffness is increased and density is reduced, depending on the details. "Strength" is a different issue. This brings out how difficult it is to make "improvements" to wood, and I am more than a little skeptical that the Cremonese or Strad came up with some secret process that actually did something beneficial.
  3. Top center joint gluing suction gap...

    ... or the wood is too cold. With a rub joint, you can tell immediately if it's not working right by the feel. With clamps, you lose that (unless you rub it, then clamp it... but that seems unnecessary to me).
  4. Top center joint gluing suction gap...

    Is there some reason for not using a simple rub joint? Everyone seems so clampy.
  5. Stradivari's secret was a concept?

    I get information out of the wood by measuring a few properties... primarily to decide on what wood to buy, and what wood might be appropriate for different desired outcomes. Lighter, higher stiffness/mass wood for larger bodied violins and violas, and perhaps more power and responsiveness. My "recipe" for construction is mostly what I think Strad did: decide on an arching height depending on whether I want sweet and nice vs powerful and maybe a little more crude. Then just use the arching known to work well, and graduation pattern known to work well... going a bit thinner if it's dense wood. I measure all kinds of taptones, weights, and stiffness... without seeing much in the measurements to make any real difference yet. Maybe Strad flexed the plates by hand to decide what's thin enough, but to me, I haven't seen anything in Strad's instruments that conflicts with this simple, pragmatic workshop method that needs a more exotic explanation. If you want to go by sound, then you have to filter out the effects of age, which is impossible to do (in addition to the impossible task of defining what the sound is).
  6. Stradivari's secret was a concept?

    I am not claiming that the "good log" theory is fact, but I have a hard time looking at this plot and not seeing something that looks like a pattern: There are a lot of parameters that define the physical/acoustic properties of wood. Infinite, in fact, when you consider that some vary with frequency. In the end, the only things that define how a structure behaves are the geometry and these properties. That's infinity squared variables, so sorting out what effects are derived from what variable is not going to be easy. Density is only one variable. You can have a recipe or a process for something, but if that is some externally-derived recipe that is fixed, I think it is a recipe for consistently poor results unless the recipe is magically mystically perfect as it has arrived from the gods. For improvement, there has to be some allowance for variation or experimentation, and evaluation of what works and what doesn't, so the baseline recipe can be changed. In other words, the simple old "trial and error". It works.
  7. Stradivari's secret was a concept?

    The last several years apparently weren't as good as those golden years, when he used up the good log. My theory, anyway... and I think there's some evidence for it.
  8. Top center joint gluing suction gap...

    Lota complicated clampiness going on. Here's my rubjoint fixture. The two fingers on the back part extend just a little above the lower plate half, so it keeps the plates in line without having one side of the glue joint open up, like I found when forcing both plates down to a flat surface. Quick and easy, and works perfectly.
  9. Stradivari's secret was a concept?

    My concept of Strad's shop is that of very skilled and experienced folks working quickly and efficiently to produce instruments that work well. Efficiently means not doing anything extra for no reason, and frankly I don't see anything about alchemy that looks like it would give an advantage over just plain old trial/error and experience. And thus far, I am not convinced that any secret treatment was used on the wood that could give an acoustic benefit, other than a few centuries of age after they finished them. Some preservatives may have been applied to the wood, but only for the mundane purpose of preventing loss to worms, mold, or fungus.
  10. Top center joint gluing suction gap...

    I don't size spruce, but if the maple is porous or if it is not perfectly quartered at the joint, it can really suck glue, so I'll size that. For touch-up, I chalk-fit the surface to a granite surface plate, using a scraper. I wouldn't even try planing a glued surface. BTW, I don't do the gap thing, just a dead-flat, unclamped rub joint. With the sizing of porous wood, I haven't found any problem of expanding when the glue is applied.
  11. Self-taught violin makers

    Although I don't have that extensive involvement of 47 years, I would expect there is a caveat with this statement: an established maker of orchestra and soloist quality instruments isn't going to train just anyone who walks in the door. Some evidence of tool skills, attention to detail, and perhaps some prior experience as a player or woodworker might be a prerequisite. I think of this similar to tennis... just wanting to be a professional player isn't enough; something else needs to be there. And top coaches are selective about who they'll coach.
  12. Fitting Bass Bar Over Cleats

    Print-thru can come from a bad glue job (so I'm told) that distorts the top. However, I'm talking about the vertical force from the bridge. Above the F-holes, the tight crossgrain arch should prevent the crossgrain wiggle of "print thru". I also leave the top a little thicker just above the F's. Below the F's , the cross arching is much flatter, the top is thinner, and therefore the chance of crossgrain bending and distortion is higher. It is also where I have seen some print-thru effects most strongly. So that is where I put my cleat, as in the photo above, to spread out the stresses.
  13. Andreas Preuss Super-Light-Violin Project

    If it was my choice, I'd make the ribs thicker and leave out the paper/glue reinforcements. Should be stiffer that way. I worry that the ribs would be too wimpy, and give an excessively low resistance to the bow. Unfortunately, I don't know how critical rib thickness is to overall body stiffness. I should do an experiment on that some day.
  14. Fitting Bass Bar Over Cleats

    I use a single cleat (somewhat similar to what Jeffrey shows) in new making, just to avoid print-thru of the bar on the top, and perhaps resist bass bar cracks. I fit the bar first (not glued), then make a cutout in the bar for the square cross-section cleat, using small chisels and a file. I make the cutout just slightly deeper than the cleat, which I find easiest to do when nothing is glued yet. Then the cleat gets glued to the top (using the bar and cutout for precise location), and then I'll trim the cleat to a tapered shape... except for the center area where it fits to the bar. Finally, the bar is glued. I might do something a little different if I had multiple cleats. Structurally and acoustically, I see no need for the bar/cleat to be a close fit or for them to be glued together, although I do make it close and glue them together (doesn't hurt).
  15. Self-taught violin makers

    A lot depends on your definition of "successful" and "self-taught". I am mostly self-taught, in that I didn't attend any full-time school or latch onto a professional maker for intensive training. However, that doesn't mean totally self-taught. Getting information from elsewhere is needed... books, VSA, local violinmaking groups like VMAAI, etc., Maestronet, attending workshops, competitions, conventions, and seeking out advice from respected makers. I would suggest diving in and making one or two instruments (which you can't expect to be great) so that you will be able to absorb the finer points of making from those who know, and so you will have the foundation to know what questions to ask. As for "successful", I have met my definition of that. At this point, I could probably make a modest living at it, although it has taken 10+ years and some lucky contacts to get here. Your experience may be different. Individual skills, capabilities, and determination are also critical, in my opinion.