Claire Curtis

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Everything posted by Claire Curtis

  1. Glad you got this image! I tried to get a picture that showed that those were not just lumps, but didn't manage.
  2. Let me give a different perspective. A few years ago, I was making an instrument. I work alone, and I kept being distracted by all the little business details Matt mentioned. For me, being easily distracted is a sign that I'm not focused. I also had a moderately tricky repair on the bench, and I wasn't sure how I was going to approach it. Then one morning, I woke early with a brainstorm on how to tackle the repair, and I rushed down to the workshop. Later in the day, I realized I had missed lunch. I had not been so excited to go to work in a long time. Why? Because of the challenge of figuring it out. Every repair, and especially every restoration, is different. It's always a juggling act. I like puzzles. To me, new making seems like doing the same thing over and over. Yes, each time I learn something (and I certainly know I have a lot of room for improvement). And yes, it's satisfying to see a finished instrument and think "I made that"-- though I almost always seem to see the flaws more than the achievement. Maybe that's part of it, but somehow, I just don't get the satisfaction from new making as I get from figuring out a tricky repair problem and resurrecting an instrument. When I realized that, I decided to specialize in repairs and restoration. And the funny thing is, that decision also freed my making. Now that it's a secondary activity, it's more fun, and I feel more free to experiment. I may never be particularly well-known (an interesting thing about restoration is that, if you do it well, nobody sees what you've done), but that's okay. Your milage may vary. I suspect it's more a matter of one's personality than anything else. I like puzzles, I dislike routine. Of course, I detest paperwork, so I'd probably do better working for someone than trying to run my own business, but that's a different topic.
  3. A year later -- these things get easier and easier. There are some nice online image editors that make resizing a photo quite easy. Search for "online image resize tool"; there are plenty. For instance, you can use http://rsizr.com/ With all of these tools, there is a basic distinction you should keep in mind. The display size is one thing; that was referred to already. That's how big the image looks on the screen, and if it's too big, you have to scroll and it's very annoying to the readers who *don't* use a browser or plugin that automatically adjusts the display. If you make your image, oh, 3"x5", you are setting a display size. The other thing is file size. If it's too big, it makes the server slow and uses up a lot of memory, and is a pain to the administrators and IT folks at the forum, as well as to anyone with a slower internet connection. If you make you image 400x600 pixels, it will be nice and small. So, on rsizr: you go there, it asks you to upload an image. click on the request, navigate to your picture, upload. Easy. Then go to the tab on top that says rescale (the buttons look like tabs). Hold down your shift key, and click-drag the corner of the picture until it says it is somewhere around 400x600. It may look like it is getting too small. That's OK; that's just the display size. Then click on the "retarget" tab. It will adjust the display size to 100%. Then click on the "save image" tab. The dialog box will give you the option jpg or png. On a jpg, there is a slider for changing quality. The default is 70%, but 50% is fine for most uses. Save to your computer. Now follow Marc's directions to upload to Maestronet. My test image went from 1.5 MB to 38 KB. A HUGE file size reduction. Most of the online tools also allow you to crop and do other simple edits.
  4. I agree completely, Thorbjorn. The FWS officials who were at Mondomusica said that they have no desire to confiscate bows or instruments from musicians, but they have been given a set of rules and have to enforce them. It sounded as if they were willing to be reasonable - for instance, they suggested that country of origin and approximate date of entry into the US may be acceptable instead of requiring a copy of export and import permits (a requirement which would be nearly impossible to satisfy). I have great hopes for the instrument passport, and hope they get the paperwork straightened out soon. A Sartory bow is the poster child for this. He lived and, so far as I know, worked until 1946, so some of his bows will not qualify under the 'antique' exception until 2046. Yet any original ivory headplate is definitely pre-ban ivory, and it would be a desecration to replace the head (and risk damaging the head) for something that isn't even going to help save any elephants.
  5. There are a couple of issues here. First is that ANY wildlife product needs to be declared at the border. This is not a new rule, but they are enforcing it more than ever before. Wildlife includes any animal products that are not from a domestic animal. All ivory, regardless of age or provenance, is wildlife, as is all mother of pearl. So is a lizard-skin grip. But bone (from a cow) and goatskin are fine; they are from domesticated animals. Fossil ivory does not require a permit. Elephant ivory requires a permit, and whether you can even get a permit or not depends on your having a lot of paperwork that you may not be able to get. Without that paperwork, and a permit, the item that incorporates the ivory is contraband. And you MUST get the permit before attempting to go through customs. They have not yet finalized the "instrument passport" paperwork process. In the meantime, I would not remove the ivory tip from a Sartory. I would instead try as much as possible to document the provenance of that bow so that you have as much information as possible when you DO apply for a permit. And I would not take it across a border without a permit. Bone is permitted. Fossil ivory is permitted. Ivory on antiques over 100 years old need a permit. Pre-ban elephant ivory needs a permit. Post-ban elephant ivory is simply illegal. Neither bone nor fossil ivory require a permit, but you can't count on a border inspection agent to be able to tell the difference. They are free to assume to worst if you do not have paperwork. And that's the moral. Get paperwork. If you are buying a bow with a bone or fossil ivory tip, make sure the bill of sale specifies that, and gives the species name. Same for a goatskin grip. If you already own such a bow, that really doesn't need a permit, contact the seller (if possible) or get an appraiser to issue a letter identifying the materials. That will not guarantee it will go across the border without difficulty, but at least you are giving the customs official something in writing to substantiate your claim that no permit is needed. I wrote a couple of blog posts on this, and plan to update this as things develop: http://bowed-instruments.blogspot.com/2014/04/violin-materials-and-law.html and http://bowed-instruments.blogspot.com/2014/04/borders-and-permits-part-2.html
  6. I have a booth at "Punkinfiddle" every year, in Wells, Maine. It's an all-day affair of fielding these questions over and over again. It could be tedious, but I love that people are really intrigued. Most have never even thought about how something like a fiddle is made. So I try to answer each person seriously. Yes, the number one question is: "What's the difference between a violin and a fiddle?" Number two: "What woods do you use?" or "How long does it take you?" After that, it's usually something about the latest "secret of Strad" that somebody has "discovered", or else they ask about some "really old" instrument they have squirreled away somewhere (which usually gets me talking about the "Tiffany" lamps available at Home Depot). Or they might ask about the Red Violin. Yeah, the questions may be dumb, and the repetition gets old, but that's from my point of view. From their point of view, a whole unusual world has opened up, and they want to know more. I imagine, if I met an astronaut, I'd probably ask something stupid like "could you really see the whole planet from up in space?" or even the absurd "how can you tell which way is up when you're weightless?" Even when asking questions like this I'd know they were dumb questions, but I wouldn't have the knowledge base to ask anything more relevant, and besides, the real motive behind asking is to express interest, to communicate and touch this intriguing new world. So no, I don't mind the stupid questions. They're sort of fun.
  7. The first stringed instrument I built was a harp. And I find making an occasional vielle (or other non-standard fiddle) helps, as Christopher said, to clear the stiffness out. Building something a little less hemmed in by rules and standards becomes both relaxing and invigorating.
  8. If you take them out, they leave rather large holes that would probably need to be bushed, so if you can leave them in place, that would probably be best.
  9. Iron gall ink is acidic. Not recommended for ephemera. It's responsible for browning and even holes in medieval manuscripts.
  10. On resizing photos: There are now a number of very easy tools that let you resize photos. No Photoshop expertise needed. Google's free program Picasa will find and catalog all the photos on your computer. Choose a picture, and click on the "Export" button. A dialog box comes up with a sizing slider. The default is to make the photo 800 pixels wide, which is a good size for a monitor. However, the forum might appreciate something a bit smaller and laptop-friendlier; perhaps 600 pixels wide. Make sure to note where the new photo is being saved. You can change this path if you like, perhaps to desktop. (Picasa also has an online hosting feature, and you can easily send any photos there, and post a link.) Now that the photo is resized, upload it according to Marc's tutorial. Online services (Flickr, Imageshack, Photobucket, etc.) also usually have a resizing feature.
  11. Most of the contractors and such I deal with do NOT provide a firm estimate. Instead, they say that if it looks like the bill will be more than a certain percentage over the estimate -- usually 10% -- they will call to get the additional amount approved. Of course, you're usually over sort of a barrel by that time. When my car mechanic has done exactly this, there HAVE been times I have said "I can't afford to fix that now. I know it will cost more to do it later, but I'll just have to do it at another time". But most of the time, it's something that has to be done right then, and calling for approval is really just calling to notify me. I don't think this is a matter of the repairers sticking to an estimate - it's more a matter of making sure the customer understands the difference between an estimate and a quote. In my experience, most tradesmen make it clear. It may be different where you are. BTW, I also find it very helpful to refer to local car repair shops; when you can show customers that you are not charging any more than the local auto shop does, they tend to be a bit more accepting.
  12. The 'before' picture, at least what comes up on my computer, has a very odd lighting/texture. It looks like it's had photoshop effects applied, which makes the varnish look very shiny and bright, almost cartoony. So I can't really compare varnish before and after, just see the reduced damage on the edges and corners. The rest -- I can't tell what's cleaning, what's retouch, and what's just photographic effect.
  13. I'll be collecting items for the auction -- see me! I'll also be looking for volunteers for various things... Looking forward to seeing everyone! --Claire
  14. I wrote the previous reply to something that was said several pages ago; I didn't realize the reply would not appear under the post I was replying to. My apologies if the point I was making is not really all that relevant to the conversation as it continued to develop. -Claire
  15. I have a hobby of doing some (non-violin) historical research, and this is beginning to look like what I've found to be a common problem in historical research. A says X, and is quoted by B and C; D quotes B and E quotes C. F writes a compilation of opinion that quotes E (who got information from C) and D (who quoted B. ) Finally, G writes a thesis that concludes that since A, B, C, D, E, and F have all mentioned X, it is therefore supported by the experts and must be true. It can be illuminating (and a bit fun) to seek out the primary sources, and see where a particular theory arose and how it was disseminated to become the accepted version of events. I'm not saying that such speculations are wrong; just that one has to be very careful when using the prevalence of a speculation as evidence of its veracity. :-) -Claire
  16. Bill Ferguson does live in Florida, but is retired and isn't doing much making anymore. He also gave up internet discussions; said it was getting too hard to wade through all the emails. He was a student of Karl Roy's, once upon a time.
  17. I once made the mistake of jumping on the potassium silicate/mineral ground bandwagon. I used a fairly red varnish and in a few months it began to pop off little bits, and looked a lot like picture #2. So it could also be a varnish adherance problem. I used a fairly strong stripper and, with some advice from Joe Robson, was able to get a different varnish to adhere. Of course, that was my own instrument, so the ethics of stripping the varnish didn't apply. Chewed up edges and corners are another topic altogether. Not that difficult a repair, but definitely a pain.
  18. People said very uncomplimentary things at first about Doug Martin's balsa wood fiddles; then they became the basis of various acoustical studies and even led (partly) to Joe Curtin's Macarther grant. So you never know... I really like something that Doug said when he was told that his balsa fiddle sounded nothing like a Strad -- he said that he was an amateur maker, and even if he used maple and spruce instead of balsa, he doubted it would sound like a Strad. Keep experimenting!
  19. Someone has just come out with shoulder rests for kids held on with something like post-it-note glue. I got a flyer pushing them for Christmas... now if I can remember who sent it... I'd rather go with a manufactured item like this, than to use rubber cement, because I assume they did SOME sort of testing. Still, they are probably meant for impervious laquer-finish kid's violins, and I would be wary of using them on a good instrument.
  20. I saw the sample photos at Oberlin -- truly awesome! The poster size pictures were magnificent. Personally, I want to put a poster of my instrument up alongside the posters from the Strad in my shop. They'd be nice to have on CD, as a compilation. Zooming would be nice. But you wouldn't be able to print a poster in high enough quality to do the picture justice, unless you have a commercial megapress in your basement. -Claire
  21. I recently repaired a viola that had a crack between the centerline and the bass bar. When I removed the top, I saw that the lower block was proud and had a grain swirl making a lump right where the crack was; I assume that was the cause of the crack. The instrument was less than ten years old, and maker-made. I don't think the blocks had originally been proud. Because of some previous experience I had, I think there may have been a humidity problem; either using not-quite seasoned wood or possibly (since there had been a previous repair) the use of too much water when gluing. Previous experience: The second instrtument I made had willow blocks I had cut from a tree in my backyard, and leveling the blocks was a real pain. It seemed that every time I came back to them, the blocks were proud. Since I was moistening the endgrain to make the blocks easier to plane, and since I had only cut the willow the previous year, I finally decided that willow simply seasoned/dried at a different rate than spruce and was reacting differently to the moisture - maybe a delayed swelling, rather than an immediate one. (That's the only thing I can think of that would explain the apparent growth of the blocks). I haven't had that problem with willow I've obtained elsewhere, so my problem with this instrument might have been a lack of proper seasoning, and it might be the local species of willow I used. But I've kept that in mind when using willow since then, and tried (more than usual) to avoid humidity changes during making. Since I would not normally have expected carelessness from the maker of the cracked viola, it was a relief to find another possible explanation.
  22. Happy Christmas, Merry New Year (or if you prefer, the PC "Happy Holidays"). Thanks, Jeffrey, for all that you do! -Claire
  23. Yes, a very nice post, Marilyn. It may help if we can agree that there are two groups of instruments based on origin -- Old Italian (or Cremonese) and Modern. This listening test suggests that these two groups _tend_ to statistically correlate with two acoustic groups. Call the acoustic groups A and B, to avoid confusing them with the origin groups. This is important. Being Cremonese does not necessarily mean it "sounds like an Old Italian" and being modern doesn't necessarily mean it doesn't; those are just two origin groups and two acoustic groups, with a statistical correlation. So then the task is to a) define the characteristics of acoustic group A determine what physical parameters create those characteristics, and then c) create modern instruments which statistically correlate to group A rather than to group B. Piece o'cake, right? Claire Curtis
  24. quote: Originally posted by: Mike_Danielson If money is no object, purchase one of those new, high-end planes from L-N or Veritas--I am assuming that at that high price, they are stress relieving their castings before machining them flat. I don't know about Veritas, but Lie-Nielson planes come with a lifetime guarantee and truing service. When I bought my #7, I told them what I was using it for, and that it was essential to have the 90 degree side and flat sole. So they took it upstairs and double-checked it (it was fine). A friend, who does house carpentry, has had his 4-1/2 fine-tuned several times (he's hard on his tools; they rattle about in a pickup truck). So if you take a vacation in Maine, remember to bring your L-N planes and stop by Warren for a tune-up. Claire (not connected to L-N in any way except as a customer)