David Beard

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    Santa Barbara, California

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  1. Secrets in the wood (Stradivari's maple)

    As I've passed through these first years experimenting and researching, I've been open to trying almost anything that I thought might potentially have been used in old making. I 'tawed' one violin. This is normally a treatment to prepare leather, but I thought I'd try it. Tawing is meant to meant both to stabilize a skin, but also to leave it very soft and supple. I figured that if any of that translated to the wood, it might be a positive. Anyway, my 'tawing' process consisted of treating the wood with a brine of vinegar, salt, and alum -- mixed with egg yoke. This was applied and allowed to sit on the instrument for hours, then was thoroughly cleaned away and the process repeated several times. While certainly a long shot to be something they actually did regularly, I can at least imagine that some drunken old Italian maker might have tried it at least once. Did it have an effect??? I don't think or anyone else could look at this violin and say 'that wood was tawed'. On the other hand, this was one of my early experimental instruments, and it's ended up as principal violin, which I play daily. And I absolutely love playing it. The tawing certainly didn't hurt. I'm finally coming out of my years long research project. I'm back in the workshop beginning to build a pair of twin violins embodying my research on the geometry seen in classical making. I'm thinking I might make just a very differences in the twins. Perhaps I'll taw on of these.
  2. Secrets in the wood (Stradivari's maple)

    Thank you Bruce for cracking into this otherwise opaque aspect of classical making!!! From my own more reading, I was left with the impression that washes with alum, common salt, and lime milk were each widespread practices in old Italian crafts with many uses. And that lye found many uses. Also, ZInc Oxide had a place in the materia.
  3. Basic Acoustics Resource

    You all are making me feel stodgy and primitive. For violins I stick with spruce and maple, and don't have any thoughts of wandering off to other materials. On multiple threads across the board right now, people seem to be just itching to replace materials and methods that have work wonderfully for very long stretches of time with whatever newness pops into their thoughts momentarily. That's the part that makes me feel stodgy. My initial and persisting reaction to all these proposed new fangled materials -- from Gorilla Glue, to Acetone cleaner, to balsa wood tops, to adjustable metal posts etc --- is just 'ugh!!!', and 'why???'. But the part that makes me feel primitive is all the tech talk. I just don't have the impulse to measure the wood density, or speed of sound, or try to measure the elasticity. I just don't feel the urge. Even if I did, I have no way of seeing that information as meaningfully useful. I don't know how such numbers help me build. So then, in comparison to these fancy approaches, me own methods seem naive and primitive. I first of all pick traditional types of wood, from traditional sources, with a traditional 'look' to it. Not a hint of innovation. Then, within that, I like to find wood that I think 'speaks'. That's the test I actually use. And, I don't like wood that feels either heavy or rigid to me as I handle it. Again, naive. But I trust my instincts. By 'speaks', all I mean is that if a rap a knuckle or scratch a fingernail on the wood, the wood readily converts the stimulus to sound. And I much prefer a sense of 'liveliness' and 'clarity' in this. That's it. No fancy tools or measurements. Eye and ear. Primitive. (and stodgy)
  4. Low quality wood?

    I wouldn't reject or accept wood based on that grain. The very plain figure of the wood is more off putting for me, but still not a big negative -- just a lack of visual positive. Visually, I can enjoy those wide and wandering grain lines in some maple.
  5. Basic Acoustics Resource

    I have the Benade book also. It takes a very interesting path through the topic. I found it helped develop my intuition for more complicated real situations. Certainly goes beyond most standard presentations.
  6. How would you make a violin suitable for surfing with?

    Now that I'd like to see! Carbon fiber bass for a boat, carbon fiber fiddles as paddles.
  7. How would you make a violin suitable for surfing with?

    Well... Taking advise from other Pegbox threads, you could clean the fiddle real good with acetone, then revarnish it inside and out with urethane. Then you could use a Sawzall for a bow.
  8. Tailpiece string spacing

    It's Melvin's response I don't understand.
  9. Tailpiece string spacing

    Not sure I understand. Description?
  10. Only the good survive

    ?? During the first years of his career, at least Andrea Guarneri and Ruggieri were active. And up to 17 teens, you still see instruments by GII Amati and various Guarneri family members. Sure his shop was dominant, but still he wasn't the only figure on the scene. Good storytelling urges us to paint cleaner simpler pictures, but that doesn't mean things actually were all that cleanly simple.
  11. del Gesu graduations

    Seems like three valid points are being made here: 1) An expert's evaluation of his own work is easily distorted. 2) An expert's evaluation of any work can be distorted by fatigue. 3) Without expertise, the notion of evaluation is misguided at best, and more likely simply foolish.
  12. del Gesu graduations

    posted in wrong thread. oops.
  13. del Gesu graduations

    I can agree with that. For the best best results, wood selection probably will matter. But in the larger sketch of things, a functional relationship between all the features of a violin is more significant than the specific choice of wood.
  14. Only the good survive

    I not so sure about this line of argument. It's certainly not new. Mostly, it seems like one more attempt to say that 'old violins are really not that good', and 'new violins will end up that good with time'. For me, neither assertion is true. Pretty much the same families of makers we revere today were valued and sought after from day one. Time and selection don't explain that. Also, since they were valued and even faked from quite early on, it seems more likely that 'even the bad' would have been clung to and over valued in the market. The opposite of 'only the good survive'. Also, a very remarkable thing about classical making is that some of the makers in that tradition were 'very bad' in certain objective ways, sloppy careless workmanship etc. Yet their instruments are successful and value. And then with some other makers outside the Italian traditions, their workmanship might be very fine, but the instruments aren't near as successful as musical tools than most any Italian, sloppy or not. Consider some of the highly valued instruments from Testore, or 'filius' or Andrea Guarneri, or even some aspects of Montagnana work, and many lessor but still valuable 'middle' or 'lower' in the pack classical Italian makers. A lot of people focus on only the best of the best classical work, the choicest Strads and DG for example. But, for me, it's probably more amazing that the larger body of middling and lower quality output from classical Italian making are so successful as musical instruments, and as sought after as they are by expert players. It seems there is something about making within the old Italian tradition that very durably and reliably leads to high functioning results, even when the methods are loosely or carelessly carried out. No other tradition of making has fared as well historically. Of course the success of classical Italian instruments has a momentum in the market that has the potential to give value to an undeserving instrument. But still, that success and momentum comes from how consistently good players find that the best tool for their music making that they can acquire turns out to be an instrument from the Italian classical tradition. Anyway, this is a perpetual argument. It's all been said many times before on MN. So I'll leave off here.
  15. del Gesu graduations

    I totally agree on the importance of arching, but not so convinced about the need for highly specific wood selection. That said, I'm very picky that the wood I use is an appropriate type of wood, and a decent attractive piece, and from a supplier I trust. But also it seems that quite a range of wood can serve well, and has historically. Wood choice is certainly a marketable conversation. A maker can talk about the great lengths they went to get and prepare 'special' wood. However, it seems that violins of wide ranging quality have been made using almost any wood choice criteria you can imagine. So how significant really is the criteria for selecting? I lean more toward the idea that paying attention to the wood in hand, and its character, and adjusting thinks like thicknessing and arching to suit.