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David Beard

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Posts posted by David Beard

  1. Did you know Leonardo's drawing the "Vitruvian Man" proportions don't work?

    I this during the Renaissance math and geometry were an integral part of visual art development. Several generations of Italian artists worked on perspective problems and they all used known ratios like golden section to hep them work out how to deal with space, but it's good to not to think of it as a absolute. They used many other pictorial devices as well. And by the time the Baroque happens..well it's big mess of pictorial theory and practice.



    Yes!  Various Leonardo drawings show some proportional guides marked in, but he's not going to let the guides override his judgement and eye.  Still, lots of evidence that he liked to find and use the simple proportions when possible.   In Leonardo's written 'lessons' for artists, he even recommends that young art aprentices should make their games such things as seeing which student could best judge a numeric proportion by eye.


    I'm not so convinced the 'golden section' used much in Old Italian work. Wasn't that much more popular in later eras?  Mostly just simple ratios and geometry constructions you see used all through the old Italian art practices.  


    My impression is that craftsman of that era likely used ratio guides that were traditional to their craft, and the workshop they came from.  I suspect that when they wanted to vary a detail in the work, they would sooner create a variation on the traditional guide rather than abandon it.  Want to make some feature slightly smaller or larger?  Let's see.  We could measure that ratio including the camfer, or we could leave the camfer out! 

  2. Perhaps this is simplistic, but I feel that building by simple integer proportions contributes both to the visual aesthetic integration of the parts of a violin, and also to the functional interconnection of the parts. 


    All the better, it is reasonably historically consistent.  Palladio, Vitruvius, Pythagoras, music theorists and architects of the Italian Renaissance; all put focus on integer proportions as a general principle for building and design, and particularly where sound was involved.


    I doubt it is coincidental that the C bout and Lower bout tend to a ratio of 1 to 2, or that the Upper bout and Lower bout tend to a ratio of 4 to 5, or that further ratios abound in the classical violins.   Such relationships certainly contribute to visual connection and balance between the parts, and a suspect they also contribute to harmonious response among the parts when responding to driving vibration.

  3. ANY craft. 


    Really, what else is there?



    Yeah, I'll stick with that.   I think almost any human product can become a craft, or must become a craft, once intent and care are brought to the task.    And I think almost any such product has at least the potential to be harnessed as a medium for art.

  4. Interesting subjective topic.


    To me, the business of successfully manipulating a medium is all craft.   So making a sandwich, a painting, a violin, or a play all comes down to craft within a medium.  


    However, when there is potent effective high level emotinal impact communicated through a medium, that's the teritory of art.   It can sometimes happen in a sandwich or a violin.  It can also fail to happen in an otherwise well crafted and successful composition or painting.


    IMHO:  Violin making is a craft, as all arts are.  And there is value in accepting it's nature as a craft and appropriately channelling ones efforts into mastering the craft.  But like any craft, it can sometimes rise to the level of art.

  5. Chris. That s fine with me you crafty guy you.


    David, shall we just strike words like genius and artist from the english language then ? They have been rightly and wrongly applied in regards to their meanings and no doubt this will continue to happen to these words along with most other words in most languages for eternity. 


    Semantics says it all for me here.


    Over and out.




    If it was just semantics, I don't think I'd care much.  For me, the difference hinges on how much you see the outcome as depending uniquely on the individual maker versus how much you see it depending on the methods he's learned to use.


    If we believe in the artist maker, then we are likely to look to inspiration to decide the shape of a corner or a scroll. And we might tend to look suspiciously on process and conformity to process as fettering and limiting.   In contrast, if we see making as 90% craft, then we are more likely to seek out and favor processes that assure results within a certain limited range of outcome.  And we are more likely to look suspiciously at idiosyncratic flourishes.


    These things lead to really differences.

  6. Yes. I agree the pretense of the 'Artiste Genius' is absurd.  Violin making is a high craft that ventures no further than the low foothills of art proper.


    But beyond that, I suggest the notion of the heroic individualist artist genius is a rather modern concept, beginning more or less with the romantic era.  Today, we sometimes see art which rests almost entirely on the life force of a creative individual.   But in the time of the old violin makers, even the high arts rested firmly on craft. 


    A Mozart, Da Vinci, or Shakespeare is completely thoroughly a master of his craft.  There is indeed an extra essential element of the transcendent, but never for a moment is it divorced from its supporting foundation in consummate craftsmanship. 


    The old saw '90% sweat, 10% inspiration' could well be rephrased '90% sweaty craft, 10% inspiration'.

  7. Not my cup of tea!   But I don't doubt she's capable of dancing and playing at the same time.  Whole crops of girls are raised to play and step dance at the sametime.  It's been something of a fashiion for a long while.   Unfortunately, this fosters a culture that requires appealing bodies, long flowing hair, and dancing to make fiddling interesting.

  8. Hi Roger,


    While I agree mostly with your statement, I'll venture a small knock.


    Consider the decorated instruments: Strad, Andrea Amati, Peter of Mantua, etc.   These absolute introduce an extra purely artistic element.


    Also, just as today 'Science/Engineering' horn in on everything, in that era even 'Art' was 'craft' as you describe, but all the crafts were significantly arts.  'Art' was not so divorced and separated from everything else.   Nor was art/craft quite so 'individualistic' or ruleless as our modern concept.


    Nevertheless, I certainly agree with your main point.

  9. Sharp edged scrapers, burred scrapers, loose grit abbrasives, Horsetail, abrasives in an eroding strata (like pumicestone), files, rasps, sandpaper glued to a support, and yes sandpaper all behave differently and leave different results.  I use whichever seems most desirable in a given situation.  I don't consider them interchangable.   


    At least for now, I use sandpaper in finishing the neck.  It leaves that stone smooth kind of surface that I don't want under my varnish, but that I do like on the neck.

  10. Yes.  I'm inclined to believe there was a well established workshop method for controling the central portion of the arch, given any particulart fall/rise across any particular distance from the centerline.  I don't believe templates were the way.  And while a catenary is very close, I don't believe it is dead on to what they did.


    From what one can read in relatively early texts about woodwork and cabinet making, you see lots of workshop design and layout methods based on simple geometry using straight edges, edges fixed at set angles, compasses, dividers, etc.    The had many methods for controling curves using such simple means.   I've been looking at such simple straightedge and proportion means to find a workshop control for the Italian arching.


    As Curious1 points out, I've not examined enough arches to defend such a broad claim as I made.   However, I have access to a complete set of the Strad posters, images of all the Ashmolean posters, and a good number of laser, xRay, and Scans of arching that have appeared on the web.   This is certainly not an entirely reliable set of reference data, but it's far from worthless.  What I've been to examine so far gives good support to the idea I suggested.

  11. I'm not sure the historical examples support the notion of letting the materials govern the shaping of the arching.  Of course, if you're aiming to engineer a superior result without first understanding what worked for the old masters, then I guess the historical practices don't matter?


    It seems that virtually all the variation in the old Italian examples lies in the approach to edges and channel, rather than the central section of the arch.   The central arch sections seem to be extremely consistent in shape, across different regions and centuries of Italian making, and even looking at other arched bowed instruments.   Through the central section of classical Italian arches, you find pretty much the same shape on any instrument for a given distance from the center line and a given fall/rise from the level at the centerline. 


    This suggests that some fixed method of making did indeed set the shape for any given amount of fall fo a given distance from the center line.  The apparent differences in various old Italian arches lay not in the central curve of the arches, but in the shape and height of the edge, the level at the centerline, the channel, and in the transition from the channel into the central section of arching.


    This shape in the central section of the arches is very very similar to a catenery curve, but I don't the evidence supports an actual match.

  12. Personally, I much prefer historical observation to an engineering approach to violin making.  But I do agree that the role of curvature in stiffness deserves greater consideration.


    Effective stiffness is not just a matter of material stiffness and thickness, but also of geometric stiffness.  


    Perhaps people focus on the material stiffness and thickness because the geometry aspect seems harder to grasp?  But it's probably sufficient to be familiar with the principles that are and were well known in architecture, rather than bogging down in complicated math equations. 


    If we basically understand why a thin flat metal yardstick is stiff in one direction but floppy in the other, why a T bar in contrast is stiff in each direction, that a cupped dome is geometrically stiff in all directions, that the crest of an arch only moves up and down if the ends of the arch can move in and out, that a curved channel shape is geometrically stiff along the channel but floppy across it, etc; then we are well positioned to consider geometric stiffness as we carve a plate.  No math required.


    But even so, we still have the problem of understanding where and when stiffness and flexibility are desired in a good instrument.  This is where historical observation seems much more fruitful to me than an engineering approach.


    (Also, thank goodness for the various animations showing the actual motion of classical instruments!)






  13. I hope that what follows is not too off topic but for quite a long time I have been aware that I have in my workshop the spitting image of a tool in the Strad museum catalog. I inherited this tool from my English Great Grandfather who was a humble working class joiner/cabinet maker...That is all I know but the similarity is quite something!


    What a fine thing to inherit!

  14. I believe the traditional answer is a lime pit.   


    You maintain an ongoing pit of slacked lime covered in water.   Most of the lime settles to the bottom, so lime pits require periodic stirring up. You don't want pockets of unstirred less slacked lime developing at the bottom.  Use enough water to have at least several inches of water standing above the settled lime.


    This traditional solution gives you both 'lime putty' (smooth well slacked lime at the bottom) and 'lime milk' (fine lime particles suspended in the water above).  


    For the past several years, I've maintained two lime pits.   The larger one is a covered plastic tub about 2 feet by 3 feet and 8 inches deep.   I also keep a very small pit in a covered tub about 8 inches by 12 inches and 6 deep in my workshop for convenience.


    Old art texts recommend slacking lime for a minimum of months, and preferably years.  This greatly mattered for mural work were small bits of hotter lime could cause defects in the work.  But even for violin work, thoroughly and evenly slacked lime is desirable.


    I stir the pits about daily during the first two weeks, but after a while I slow down to stirring once or twice a month.   The lime putty is beautifully smooth and well slacked.





  15. Since when do modern violins sell for 300,000?  That writer is full of....   


    But as was said earlier, maybe we shouldn't take the article too seriously.   It is after all just a popular entertainment piece, one more stone building up the giant edifice of romanticized violin mythology.


    Many ingenious and talented people from all walks of life have built fiddles from whatever materials were at hand, or struck their fancy.  No one is going to trade in their Amati or Poggi for one of these inventive bits of workmanship, but they still can be musical treasures.


    I think the valid gist of the article is that violin valuation is different in nature than many other kinds of evaluations.   Pianos (and many other valuables) are massively more complex.  Also, the difference in good and bad pianos is comparatively more straightforward.


    Violins are different.   The difference between non-standard and standard is sometimes grossly evident.  But the differences between O.K., good, and great, are not so straight forward.   These differences can be elusive, artful, and even cultural.



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