Conor Russell

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About Conor Russell

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  • Birthday 01/23/1965

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    Old Irish violins, and life in general

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  1. Funny no-one has mentioned ordinary gut, by far my favourite.
  2. I thought that too. Turns out it's a pushrod. I use a polished triangular file.
  3. In the trade, I have never heard the violin neck joint described as a dovetail. Of course it's splayed a bit, and that helps seat it when it's been glued, so technically maybe, but that's about it. If I were given an instrument to work on by a colleague, and told that the neck had been dovetailed in, I'd take it as a warning that it wasn't a normal joint, and treat it differently. Sort of like saying 'be careful there's a hidden screw in that'. So please let's call a dovetail a dovetail, and a neck mortice a neck mortice, and stop slinging mud across the Atlantic. We have enough here already.
  4. My memory was telling me 'crickle', so you're probably right. Here's a bunch of them.
  5. I worked with a maker whose father had come from Germany in about 1900. If we were measuring it we called it the upstand, but otherwise just the neck step. We had gauge sticks the length of the string with little 27mm arms joined to give the bridge height. All of the neck and fingerboard measurements were marked in with notches. Really useful for setting necks, but especially useful when you're looking at violins to buy. I wish I could remember what the gauge was called in German. Jacob?
  6. I chose to make an arched bass back for several reasons. Big flat slabs of wood expand and shrink with the weather, and as a bass back is locked to the ribs, and to the cross bracing, eventually something has to give. Loose joints and back cracks are all too common. Round arches, on the other hand, can breathe with the weather, and I think survive much better . Flat backs tend to be planed out to an even thickness, and have a wide brace glued in to support the post. I feel that the acoustic function of the back, so important in the violin, is really curtailed, though lots of good bass players say that's not so important. I know one flat backed violin, that sounds more or less like a variety of normal. The maker had to glue a big chunk of wood in to the middle to make it work at all. Last time I saw it the post was gently forming an arching of it's own.
  7. I've never seen hide glue, good or bad, separate into blobs, mold and water. That can't be ordinary glue! I really like the glue LMI sell, but I bought 3lb recently, and it cost a fortune in FedEx charges. I paid for the carriage, which was dear enough, but a month later got a bill for €37. There had been €3 import duty and €34 to pay for paying it! Ill ask them to post it in future.
  8. So is it the already dry coat of varnish that's dissolving, or is it the the new coat that's simply beading up on the surface? I varnished a cello some years ago, where the second coat brushed out ok, but ten minutes later had gathered itself up into lines and islands, leaving perfectly bare patches several inches across. I've no idea what was wrong, but I concluded the ingredients, or the thinners, must have been adulterated with something like a non drying oil. I cleaned off the cello, washed it with acetone, dumped the varnish, and started again. If you rub down between coats you run the risk of contaminating the surface. And be careful with ingredients. Acetone sold as nail polish remover often has a moisturiser mixed in for example, and if you wiped off the surface, or rinced a brush with it, you could be in trouble. Likewise, isopropal alcohol can have castor oil added, I think to stop people from drinking it.
  9. I think Roger's varnish is a very simple oil varnish. I'm not sure that he or Koen would claim to have developed it, other than tweaking the details to their own liking. When I was in school, we had the good fortune to have the chemist from the local paint factory teach us. He brought us on a tour of the plant. In the main factory was a kettle two stories high, in which they cooked huge batches for making oil paint. The process was very much the same but huge! And they used synthetic resins. Outside in the yard were six or eight smaller kettles, each set into a pit fitted with gas jets, and covered with a tent. They used these for small 1000L batches, for varnish. The process was exactly the same as ours, and they made varnish to order, including copal varnish for example, and yacht varnish. The varnishes were thinned just to make them brushable. For years I varnished in one heavy coat, but now I use three. Oil varnish is very easy to spread, with a long open time. But one heavy coat will tend to dry on the surface and remain soft underneath for a long time, and you must get the balance right or it will slump or run or craze or wrinkle. I've found three coats better. I use no solvent other than a little that I add to the pigment to help me mix it in. Several coats allow you to put more colour close to the wood and then make slight adjustments in the upper coats. And if you apply each coat as soon as the last is just set enough to paint over, the varnish will become a homogenous layer. For me, spirit varnish is so much more difficult to use, as the solvent always wants to dissolve the previous coat, and the whole thing goes to pot, so I gave up on it altogether years ago.
  10. For my last few instruments, I've taken to grounding the spruce and maple differently. For the maple, I grind the plaster into the varnish and rub it in as a paste. It's hard work. I apply the plaster as a watery slurry to the spruce, dust it off the surface with a stiff brush and rag, and then burnish in varnish. I found that it was sometimes hard to get the stiff varnish deep enough to wet all the plaster in the maple pores and fissures. For some reason I'm convinced that applying the ground to the front with water is important for the sound, but not so much for the back.
  11. I have a little English viola whose neck was just glued too, and it was fine for a couple of hundred years. When I put in the screw I use it to pull the joint tight too, which is handy.
  12. I've used a screw instead of a nail in several baroque instruments. They work very well, and you can take them out without later if you want, without breaking anything. I don't think a nail or a screw makes a blind bit of difference to the sound. The only reason to use either is to make a more secure joint, when the neck is simply glued on to the surface of the rib, and a bit of the button.
  13. I'd have it repaired. There must be wear in the eyelet and the stick. As the frog tips forward it puts pressure on the thumb extension. The ebony can bend and often crack on either side. It should be a simple matter to reseat the silver. I straigten the lining with a burnisher on a little sharp sided anvil, fit it to the stick, and reglue it.
  14. I often rehair bows while the customer waits. But occasionally they have to wait a bit longer than expected, if I mess the thing up and have to start again. That'll happen to any rehairer - from time to time, you'll misjudge things and make the hair too short or too sloppy. So some people prefer to have a bit more time, rather than work under pressure. And I wouldn't expect anyone to have a walk in service with having an appointment.
  15. For anyone on this side of the pond - there's one for sale in Lidl this week for €29. I'll be buying one for building work on my house.