Urban Luthier

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Posts posted by Urban Luthier

  1. ...The only concern I had (and essentially the only thing that makes it much different from the Fulton/Hill recipe) is the addition of mastic. There was mention in past threads (ie - "its been rather quite around here") that with the addition of mastic, there is a possibility for the varnish to fail because it is essentially a megilp concoction. That is a serious threat to varnish, because it may not fail for 50 years, or more.

    Is there really a problem with Mastic? Mastic shows up in a number of varnish recipes used experienced makers -- Darton's cold varnish, Marciana used by many here and I believe even one of Joe's varnishes has mastic in the mix. Can someone who knows about varnishes set the record straight?

    Thanks Chris

  2. Can I just check whether the Tarisio & Roger Hargrave measurements include the edge or not? Not sure what the conventions are - pardon my doltishness.

    We're making a form to do a copy of the Molitor and it's looking hell of a small ....

    Hi Martin

    Measurements usually include the edge, but they can be taking a couple of different ways. Either over the arch or with a caliper. Over the arch measurements are taken a tape measure laid over the arch so they are a little longer. A caliper will give you a more accurate measurement as it is taken point to point.

    if you want to copy the Molitor, you may have to do a bit of detective work:

    • You may want to consult Pollen's Stradivari forms book which includes life-sized photos of Strad's forms housed in the Cremona museum. You could trace the outline of the smaller B form (MS NO38 I think).
    • For the archings you could consult the luthier's library -- there are several 'long Strads' in their database -- each with highly accurate arching templates in PDF format. Although the Molitor is likely made on the smaller B form, the cross arching are likely similar to the Molitor
    • Roger Hargrave's Strad poster of the `Maria Ex Muir Mackenzie' has an F hole tracing that could be used as a reference
    • The Tarisio photos of the Molitor as so good that you could print some of them life size to study the edgework


  3. Strad made two violin forms labeled B that have the same aprox upper, middle and lower bout dimensions. The main difference being one is longer than the other (Cremona MS NO. 33 and NO 38). Based on the Tarisio dimensions, it is conceivable that the Molitor is built around the smaller of the two B forms. For more info on the long pattern Strads, check out the article by Roger Hargrave on the 'Muir Mackenzie' and Pollens book on the forms of Stradivarius


  4. Definitely don't attempt to boil the oil. Not only is this dangerous, you will end up converting your oil into polymerised black goo. You don't need to go any higher in temperature than 200C at any stage of the process.

    Thank you John. This is exactly what I was looking for.


  5. Best way to avoid problems with things catching fire during varnish making, oil preparing and all the jazz.


    Not bigger than 1500W, it is perfect for making up to 1kg of rosin at a time, big enough, me thinks.

    The thingy won ever go any hotter that 240C by my experience with mine, if you go for the sand bath method, even safer. I am a bit of a jackass myself and enjoy cooking straight on the pot, but I check my temperatures very often with an infrared thermometer.


    How exactly does as sand bath work?

  6. First, remember that cooking oil varnish is VERY DANGEROUS, not only the varnish catches fire but the vapours too, so cook it outdoors, use protection, etc. etc.

    So lets talk safety then for making the Marciana varnish (My understanding is that the Marciana recipe is less dangerous than a cooked turpentine recipe like Kevin Hill's or Foulton -- I have no interest in trying to make these). I've read bits and pieces in other threads about safety but it would be good to document agin the measures makers take for preparing a Marciana varnish

    - Work out doors

    - have a fire extinguisher on hand -- but what type do you need -- is there a special type for extinguishing oil fires?

    - Where fire resistant clothing -- is there a spacial type of material that resists oil fires?

    - Where full face and head protection

    - are different cooking vessels more appropriate that others?

    - What else?

  7. Back when the first glitzy color book of violins, Stradivari in Japan, came out, I used to corner visiting makers by noting that they had a copy of it. How did I know? Garish, oversaturated antiques, with black dirt, just like in the book.

    All the more reason to share opinions on the quality of available reference (either print or digital). For many of us who are amateurs without regular access to good instruments, good photography is critical to help train our eye. I'm exploring several resources

    - The Luthier's library -- arching images in particular

    - Tarisio online

    - The Ashmolean book

    - I hear the Strad varnish book is very good as well, but I have not personally seen this

    - And last but not least, the work of good contemporary makers (many of whom post here!)-- honestly, I find your work more useful reference than the ancient stuff as I develop my own style


  8. ...how can you tell if the Tarisio jpegs have an accurate white balance at time of capture? !

    I'm not a professional photographer, but I suspect the Tarisio images posted online are very accurate to the studio/lighting conditions in which they were taken -- in other words I don't think they digitally enhance the image. If this is the case you do want to print with the embedded colour profile included with the iamge

    What I was able to achieve was a screen/print accuracy through a color managed workflow and with resolution that is far better than what you will see in a book or magazine. (Also the best results I got were with the Harmon Gloss AB paper -- the Ilford Silk Fibre is wonderful but is too yellow)

    You'd be surprised how unstunning accurate photos look. As far as I know, no one is publishing or using really accurate photographs, and I can't blame them.

    I agree and disagree Michael. The photo on your home page is wonderful. However, I'm not a fan of the standard 'violin mug shot' you typically see in violin books and many sites. I understand why pictures are taken this way, but from a maker's standpoint -- these images are taken under unnatural lighting conditions that tend to make the resulting image appear flat and saturate the colours. How many of us view us normally view our violins under studio lighting conditions?

    I'd rather look at pictures like the one on your home page Michael or this one on Tucker Densley's home page

    I will say I do like the results of the new Ashmolean Instruments book that mixes both styles. Check out the detail photo of the Messie on p. 164-- one of the few violin photos that actually conveys a sense of what the varnish looks like to my eye. Compare it to the Strad poster of the same instrument. They look very different and there are several reasons why they shouldn't.


  9. Just received my copy of the Ashmolean Instruments Book, oh my -- I'm practically speechless! I won't attempt a review, but I will say this is the finest violin book I've ever seen. The production values -- binding, printing, photography, art direction, layout, research and writing etc -- are stunning and set a new standard for me in book production. The photography alone makes it a valuable resource as the pictures extend the viewing experience beyond what you can typically see behind a glass case.

    As an aside, the packaging was bullet proof



  10. Joseph,

    I'm in a similar situation. Personally I will buy some varnish from Joe to start. BUT I do want to learn how to cook my own. The one thing will NOT do is attempt a varnish with cooked turpentine. This seems way too dangerous for me.

    What I'd like to try is the recipe 339 from the Marciana Manuscript documented in Geary Baese's Classic Italian Varnish. (2 parts Linseed Oil, 1 part Greek Pitch, 1 part mastic)

    Any advice from this community on how to do this safely, would be much appreciated!


  11. Not sure if this has been covered here before, but like many, I grab photos from the Tarisio site when items come up for auction that inspire me.

    For a lark, I tried to print an image today -- a Brother's Amati violin. The results are stunning. I'm a hobbyist photographer with a good printer at home. I grabbed a few of the images, dragged them into Adobe Lightroom and printed them on my Epson R2880 with Ilford Galerie Gold Silk Fibre paper (good archival stuff).

    I did 2 tests: one with the front bouts image (which has enough res to be printed more that life size) on Letter paper. The second was the front image (res is lower 5 X 11in a 300 dpi) on B3 paper -- 13X19 in. Although these are JPEG files and they are not huge, virtually no artifacting can be seen with the naked eye. My monitor and printer are calibrated so the output looks identical to the screen images. I didn't try printing from a paper roll but theoretically you could print a front or back image full size! (although this would be pushing it from a resolution standpoint)

    The images look better than anything you'd see in the Strad Magazine poster and I hazard to guess give the printing in some of the best violin books out there a run for their money. Unless you are using an Ezio monitor the prints look vastly better that what you'll see on screen.

    How accurate is the Tarisio photography? According to the histogram, there was no dynamic clipping of the colour spectrum in either of the two photos I tried.

    As an amateur maker I don't have access to great work on a regular basis and rely on photos to study and learn. This just opened up a whole new world of opportunity for me


  12. Nice work.

    I believe you've got "the eye" for doing this.

    Are you a sculptor? Those are some prety mature lines - can we see a side view?

    Thanks for your kind words! I'm not a sculptor but I work in a software company that develops some of the leading 3D software for the design and entrainment industries.

    Frankly, I'm quite embarrassed to even post my work given the quality of much of the work I see from you guys. Not to mention the god-like stature of many of the makers that post here. -- Got to get out of my shell I guess if i'm going to learn and grow

    Don't have a photo of the finished side -- this one is early on before the chamfering, throat and peg box were cleaned up. (Also the colors may have shifted when the files were uploaded -- the white balance and black levels look off in my previous post)




  13. After completing my first instrument a viola, I laboured under the misapprehension that I could actually build a cello in a reasonable amount of time. Working in high tech and learning the skills of a luthier are not always compatible from a time management perspective!

    I'm going to let this rest for a while and start into a violin.




  14. Hi Members

    Not sure if anyone else uses the lutheris' library http://www.theluthierslibrary.com/ (linked from the national museum of music's website)

    This is a fantastic site with lots of good photos of instruments in the NMM and Met collections

    I just paid my subscription and used it a few times. When I went to log-in this morning I wasn't able to access the site -- I received a domain name error. I sent an email to the NMM asking what's up, but I haven't heard anything yet.

    Anyone know what's going on?