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David Beard

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Posts posted by David Beard

  1. My favorite is:


    'Hurry Slowly'              --an English version of the ancient 'Festina Lente'.


    Others the that serve me as I work:


    'If you can't draw it, you can't make it.'           --This is a paraphrase of something I read from Hargrave.

    'Measure twice, cut once.'

    'Sometimes less is more.'

    'Take things by the smooth handle.'             --From Jefferson.

    'Learn to do by doing.  Start by starting.  Do by doing."

    'Perfect is a mistake.'



    One last phrase. It's not so much a workshop idea, but...


    'Life is fatal.'

  2. I like David's analogy to clothing’s role in experiencing temperature.


    Yes.  It seems obvious that the 'physics of the stick' has some impact.   But it seems false to attribute too much to the stick's role.


    At most it might be fair to talk about a stick's contribution to sound and playability.   But a good player who's made friends with a particular bow will be able to override the stick's contribution and push the sound in any direction at will.  


    Consider that actual playing sound depends on the player, the instrument and the strings, and lastly the stick and the hair.  Of these, the stick is probably the least determining factor in the final sound.


    The quality of a bow much more directly impacts the playing experience.  Only very secondarily and indirectly does it impact the listening experience.


    Another analogy might be made to the role the body of a plane has on the final appearance of a bit of woodworking.  The body of the plane matters greatly to the worker's experience in making something, but its independent and discernable contribution to the final appearance is probably going to range from subtle to non-existent.


    The blade and the tension adjustment of the blade in the plane body will have much more direct impacts than the actual body of the plane.   And these will pale by comparison to the woodworker's contribution.  The workman's sharpening of the blade, his adjustment and use of the tool are all going to be much more directly visible in the final result than the nature or quality of the tool body itself.   But just as with bows, the good workman will have strong opinions and prefrences about the tools he uses.







  3. Rosins are made by hardening a conifer balsam (tree sap) by driving off its volatile solvent components.  So a wide range of conifer saps can be made into rosins by using heat to cook off the volatiles.  Depending on how completely the volatile solvent components are removed, the conifer sap material can range from a heavy a syrup consistency, to a gummy mass, to a glassy friable solid – rosin.


    So you can take a syrupy ‘Venice Turp’ and cook it into a rosin.  You can see then that ‘Venice Turp’ and ‘Rosin’ are ultimately somewhat interchangeable.   


    However, if you use the syrupy ‘Venice Turp’ in a varnish, much of its volatile components will survive through a short cooking time.   The drying time and plasticity of the resulting varnish will be much effected by the remaining Venice Turp volatiles.  In contrast, if your varnish is given a very long slow cooking, then many of the Venice Turp volatiles will be driven off.  In this case, the result will be very much as if you had cooked with a rosin.


    Rosins then are just the dried solid material from conifer saps, and natural resins the dried solids from saps of other kinds of trees.  Some of the popular natural varnish resins like Mastic and Sandarac are tougher and less brittle and crumbly than conifer rosins.  


    The basic oil varnish recipe is:


    Drying Oil(s)  +  Rosin(s) and/or Resins(s)  -- cooked to bond and thinned with solvent.


    The basic cheap version:


    Commercial Linseed Oil + Commercial Rosin  -- cooked, thinned with suitably cheap spirits.



    A basic Mastic recipe for violin varnish:


    Linseed Oil  +  Mastic  +  Rosin   --- cooked and thinned.



    Similarly to the many interchangeable possibilities of Resins and Rosins, we need to consider the choice of oils.   The old recipes assume you’re using a drying oil like linseed, poppy, or a nut oil, but not something like Olive oil that won’t polymerize.  It’s also generally assumed that your oil isn’t raw, but has been prepared for use in a drying application.  This preparation might entail any or all of ‘sun thickening’, additive dryers, or precooking or ‘boiling’.



    Besides all the choices in material, the varnish preparer also has to decide on the overall balance between oil and rosins/resins in the varnish, how and how much to thin the varnish, and if you want to cook a short time with lowish temp to get a very clean clear varnish, or using longer and higher temp to get a darker more colored varnish.


    My current favorite varnish for myself:


    Minimal oil  -- mix of ‘Sun Thickened Linseed with a bit of ‘Black Oil’ (linseed cooked with a dryer)


    Cooking lightly for a very clear clean result


    Minimal solvent for an extremely thick varnish in the bottle


    Oil + Mastic + Venice Turp Rosin





    Cooking varnish and reducing Balsams to Rosin are DANGEROUS!!!!!!!

  4. Over the last few days, I've looked at all the images I could find along these lines.


    The most consistent thing appearing is a textural difference between the main arching and the channel, especially near the edge.  The difference is more often visibly evident in the maple backs, but can also be noticed at times on the tops.   The texture in the channel out to the edge is evidently smoother.  I'm guessing the main arching shows their standard scrapper finishing, but that some different or additional process was used in the channel resulting in the smoother visual appearance.


    The smoother texture sometimes appears to drift wide, wandering beyond the channel a bit into the main arching.   This leaves the impression that the smoothing probably was done at a later time after the scraping of the main arching.  Some of the marks look like they could be tool marks that weren't quite cleaned off by either process, in the transition between the two textures.






  5. OK.    Clearly some of these marks are from clamps.  But there seem to be other marks and roughness in these regions also.   


    The interesting marks mostly occur in the transition between main rise of the arching and the channel/ledge area.  This transition often seems to mark a change in surface texture also. 


    The clearest picture I can find is of a Maggini, not in the cBout, but still at the transition from the ledge/channel are into the main arching.




  6. For some reason, factory made junk seems to often have numbering on the labels.   Even when holding a better hand made instrument, numbers on the label always call this mass of bad work to mind.  At least that's my experience.


    I guess in a mass producton culture, numbering work somewhat implies 'limited edition', and therefore cream.   But for me, the numbers just imply 'mass production culture'.

  7. The bow is by nature a spring.  Assuming you're not talking about grossly mishappen bows, then we're talking about the balance between the springness of the bow versus dampening from the player's hold. 


    You can try things that make the bow itself less springy, like less tension in the hair or a heavier wrapping.  But these things have other consequences.  A fair degree of springiness is desirable.  The bow shouldn't be unnaturally adjusted for this or any other reason.  So mostly attention should focus on how bow in hand wants to be played, and if the player would be happier with a different bow. 


    The damping the player needs to provide on one bow might be considerable less than another bow requires.  In some degree, players need to adapt to the bow in hand.

  8. Grandpa Amati didn't leave the modern world a slew of soloist concert instruments, but he deserves top honors for founding the whole Cremona school of making, and the violin family as we know it.   But to be the most popularly famous you must be in wide circulation.  Celebrity and significance aren't the same.    

  9. I would guess many of us play on something we made?   My main violin is the first violin I made. 


    It sounds sweet, and is very responsive.  It can pull a big sound, but with a bit too much effort.  This violin is very very non-standard however.  I allowed myself rather extreme room to experiment with the limits of the build process and various features. Also, I wanted to explore how well the build process could absorb asymmetry and still give an overall balanced look.  The end result is in fact very asymmetric, but reasonably balanced in appearance. 


    Given the extremes of the instrument, I decided while building it that I would never part with this first effort.  When it turned out to be a good sounding playable instrument, I was delighted.  In the design phase, I named her 'Argo', as her mission is to carry me on a journey into the unknown. 


    This is the first violin I've possessed which I've truly fallen in love with.  I had a Vuillaume lent me at Berkeley, and later had an interesting violin labeled Seraphin (nothing actually to do with Seraphin!)   Both of these gave some very fine moments, but had erratic and frustrating sides.  The Vuillaume had huge wolf issues.  The 'labeled Seraphin' has had a rough history.  It was in some ways the best instrument I've had until now, at times sweet and full.  But it had been over thinned in the past, leading to health issues and erratic aspects to its sound.  


    All in all, I was surprised to be so lucky in my first violin.  Violins #2, #3, and #4 continued in an experimental vein, but with results I would neither play nor sell.  However, these experiments and the two years working on the first four violins taught me the basic things I sought.   #5 pulls all these things together and has ended up a lovable, basically standard, and playable instrument.  #5 also gave me my first sale, at 10k.  I'm now working on #6. 


    I hope to eventually keep another more standard violin from my future work.   At that point, I will give Argo gut stringing and continuing playing it for period music. 

  10. I believe that Roger cited at least some instances of tracing pricks remaining around DG sound holes. 


    This supports the notion of a template, at least by some makers at some times.  Though I think the template idea just delays the problem. Then how do you draw the template? 


    Considering the great degree of variation and asymmetry in soundholes, I lean to the idea of earlier makers often or usually constructed them as you suggest.  I assume the constructions begin from prelocated and predrilled holes.



  11. My first reaction to the dates and names is to think it is N Amati's form.  And that the other names and dates represent a chain of possession.    1697 is when H2 left Cremona.  Perhaps the artifact passed to Strad at that time?  1737 is the year of Strad's death, so that reinforces the chain of possession idea.   It doesn't seem crazy to imagine Strad notating who and when he got it from, with the next person doing the same when it passed out of Strad's hands????

  12. Interestingly, the Bridge Line falls 4/9ths from the bottom, and the circles center on a point 5/12ths from the bottom.  These lines correspond to the construction in the recent 'Segretti' book.   The circles then appear to be simply thirds from the center to the cBout, though not totally accurate thirds.


    As you say, there are many things written on it.    There appear to be lines marked maximal, medial, and minimum thickness.   On inspection, these seem to be located in relation to the Bridge line and the largest circle.   The 'Maximal' line falls midway from the Bridge Line to the upper bound of the largest circle.   The 'Medial' line falls midway from the Bridge line to the bottom.  The 'Minimal' line falls midway from the lower bound of the large circle to the bottom.


    I tried comparing the placement of the soundhole eyes to various existing instruments.   The placement seems to fit N Amati best.   The upper eyes particularly seem to disagree with most later work.


    Fascinating artifact!

  13. Words are tricky things indeed!


    I guess for me, I have a reverence both for the notion of art/artist and craft/craftsman.   Partly, this is because a reserve both terms to represent a high level of individual human investiture into a product.  


    The more you take the humanity out of something, the less I'm able to see it as either art or craft.   I don't see the extruded products of factories and similar as either art or craft – even when such products reflect a high level of design and planning.  Still you feel the inhumanity of their actual making. If I don't see a high degree of humanity poured in and coming off the product, I don't see art or craft.


    Perhaps the reason I prefer to focus on the term craft is that I want to honor the aspect of hard work and highly developed skill in violinmaking. 


    I feel that in modern times the term Art has been much abused by attempts to separate it from these things.  Instead, we conflate 'art' with 'unique', 'individual', 'original', and 'inventive'.  I don't see these things as central to the humanity and expressive communication that I feel are the essence of art.   When a renaissance master painted his fifth 'Madonna and child', using methods and themes that were traditional and established for generations, was he being 'inventive' or 'individual' – certainly not in the gross way required by many modern discussions of art.


    For me, art is a flower blooming on a stem support by a plant which is craft.  To me, attempts to separate and abstract art away from its foundation in craft are misguided, and mostly destructive.  


    Who among us believes that the playing of a Heiftz or a Kreisler is simply inspiration and originality divorced from labor and craft?   Even Mozart, the ultimate archetype of the supposedly effortless prodigy, proves the point with his own words.   At various spots in his letters, he says things along the lines of 'people are mistaken thinking my art is easy and effortless'.  I'm only paraphrasing, but there are places where he specifically expresses this sentiment along with an example of his great labors.  For example, in one spot he says this and then talks about how endlessly he worked to perfect his execution of thirds at the keyboard.  And in another, he talks about the aspect of labor in his composition work, and how he has studied the works of virtually every past master.  Etc.


    So for me, I apply the word craft to violin making not to belittle it, but to honor the humanity and high skill of the work, and to get away from modern abused notions of art requiring originally and anti-tradition.  Let us rather tread paths worn in by ages of artists and craftsmen, the same millennium old things: beauty, grace, insight, purity, expression, complexity, simplicity, etc.



  14. Opinions...




    Making bookshelves is a craft....



    Some book cases are glorious and beautiful.  


    For me, genres and categories of work don't make something art, or stop it from being art.  I've seen lots of paintings that fall flat and really aren't art, etc.   


    Working within an 'art' category does not insure that the product will be art.  And working outside and 'art' category does not prevent the product from rising into the realm of art.   Hence, I see art as a rare a special possible outcome of any craft.  And the basis of any art media is a craft.  (IMHO)


    So for me, 'art' is that occasional transcendent or sublime outcome of climbing a high mountain of craftwork.  And you generally can't get the summit views without a sweaty climb.



    I understand that we want to see our violinmaking as something significant and artistic.  But to me, the value in underplaying this aspect is that a focus on the craft of the work encourages efforts which support a good outcome, while focus on 'ART' encourages flights of fancy and ego that tend to actually undermine the outcome. 

  15. For me simple is best, small G clamp at one end holding the rib down, and plane away from it with the plane skewed. Never really had a problem with tear out, usually I can finish them straight off the plane. Haven't scraped any for years.

    For cello ribs I do exactly the same, but use a mitre plane, rather than a block plane (same thing, just bigger).

    Most of my ribstock is still in block form, so I like to plane one face before slicing it off on the bandsaw. I repeat this process until I have cut enough ribs, it only takes a few minutes to thickness the other side.

    Once thicknessed I use a marking gauge to cut them to the height I want, couple of score marks on each side and you can cleanly snap off the waste.


    I think there is a lot more fuss made about this, and planes in general than need be.


    post-30802-0-82019000-1380673865_thumb.jpg        post-30802-0-45965700-1380673892_thumb.jpg




    Nice planes!

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