nathan slobodkin

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Posts posted by nathan slobodkin

  1. There are varying degrees of  experience and expertise among the contributers to this forum. All of us have some things we could learn and some of us have some things we could teach. I understand the desire of some people to protect their privacy but there is an unfortunate result that some of the people  who ask specific questions receive answers which may or may not have merit and they have difficulty separating the knowledgable responders from the merely confident. While some people may think it rude to correct inaccurate or misguided  advice others may feel obligated to do so lest inexperienced members be led astray. Knowing who is offering information and what their credentials are allows people to assess the value of someone's opinion about the topic being discussed. As some have said if one is a student who is asking questions then it doesn't hurt to remain anonymous but if one is pontificating or making declarative statements it's nice to identify yourself.

  2. I also find it easier to judge the value of someone's information if I know who they are. While there are several anonymous posters who I have learned to respect there are also some where I would be interested to know if they have any credentials to justify their opinions.

  3. Strad junior,

    Different shops have different policies  but I think most leave the brand on. At the Francais shop we always left the brand on the back side and I have done so ever since. Your comment about not touching the back of the bridge shows your inexperience and your calling Michael Darnton's correction of your faulty assumption "rubbish" shows your arrogance as well. Just sayin'.

  4. 8 hours ago, Jim Bress said:

    This is the first time I'm hearing about adjusting the varnish for cello compared to violin (or viola). In what way are they different?  Something a little more flexible because of additional wood movement, or something completely different?



    I think this is most likely because you need a longer "open time" on a cello to allow for applying an even coating before it starts to dry. I tend to thin the varnish with terps or essential oils more than I would on a violin. What Strad actually did or even what Rene was really seeing in the finished film I really don't know. But he did state to me that they were different as if that was an accepted fact.

  5. 1 hour ago, joerobson said:

    I have discussed this with both M. Brandmair and JP Echard.  The scientific analysis is lacking.   Observation however gives us more information.   The varnish which is in first contact with the wood seems likely to be 4 resin to 1 oil.  However the making of that varnish retains flexability.  A very short oil varnish would be far more brittle than we observe and would make varnishing a cello very difficult.

    In varnish maker's terms a varnish of 1:1 is the most oil a varnish can hold and still be considered polishable.


    Morel told me he thought the varnishes on Strad cellos were different than on the violins

  6. 2 hours ago, Carl Stross said:

    Sometimes when re-graduating one replaces a hard to play violin , though one with some tonal color, with a deflated, false and monochromatic albeit easy to play one.

    Proving that the procedure done badly will have less advantageous  results than the same procedure done well.

    I have regraduated very few fine violins and when I did it was either an instrument belonging to a dealer who employed me or one owned by me. I have never regraduated an instrument at the request of a client. However I am aware of many highly respected restorers (Carl Becker and Rene Morel come to mind) who at times would decide to remove wood from an instrument in order to change it's tonal and playing characteristics. There are no cookie cutter answers to anything in this business which is why careful training and a communal professional knowledge are needed to make such decisions.

  7.  If this kind of tiny change in string spacing makes a difference in how the instrument sounds I would expect it to be caused by changing the angle between the strings and the bridge feet. While I think it is true that absolutely every adjustment  does matter especially on better instruments just loosening the strings could make as much difference as a 1/2  mm difference in string spacing so experimentation on this would be difficult. If the client feels more comfortable  with a slightly wider bridge I wouldn't think twice about giving him what he wants.

  8. On July 30, 2020 at 12:34 AM, Evan Smith said:

    When to re graduate,,,

    When it is otherwise a worthless piece of junk when it comes to being able to make real music on it.

    And to make it functional,, some wood has to be removed to increase it's flexibility.

    I don't necessarily mean hogging everything out to a pre determined set of grads which is what often happens.

    That's ok  to do with some old average two ton tank, because afterward,, it's now playable and someone can really enjoy it, that's great.

    But often it doesn't take much to make it right. There are fantastic violins that are on the thick side that one would be an utter fool to touch.

    Then there are bricks that are not as far away from  being a fantastic violin as one might think. But what happens is they get taken down to a pre determined thickness that has proven to work satisfactory time and time again to make an acceptably  playable fiddle,  I think that too often the "fantastic fiddle" was scraped away,,, on the way to the "playable fiddle" unawares. There is a big difference in playable and trying to get a great tone. Playable is always good, and I mean the fiddle works as it should. If you don't like that particular tone, or timbre, and it's not about set up,,sorry. Never risk play-ability over tone. Tone although beautiful, might not always be so great. In circles I've seen play-ability trump tone every time, with play-ability a great player can most likely get close enough to the tone he wants, unless everything's just too soft for them.

    I am in no way denigrating anyone for re-graduating anything, it is your decision and nothing wrong with it in many situations, I have done a few myself, lots of old carved in bars were removed when I was learning. I have been asked to work on a contemporary makers instrument, of course I flatly refused, I actually was a bit shocked that they would ask.

    Now for the sticky part,,,,

    If you have a nice violin that has some problems that cannot be overcome in any other way and removing some wood seems like the only viable option,,,(get another opinion)

    a couple of pointers,,,,

    1. When the violin is strung up,  without playing it you should know exactly where wood needs to be removed in order to restore its function. If you have not a clue, you have no business touching it. Gambling and playing the lottery with someones property is a little weird just to make a few bucks.

    2. If you don't know how to take a group of violins and order then from best to worst without playing them, then there is not a clue about how to re graduate them optimally.

    3. A violin is a resonate cavity, and it has specific things about it that shows that it is functioning properly, or poorly, or not at all.

    If you don't understand these things and cannot preform them, just leave it alone and don't guess about it. sometimes it only take a tiny amount to set things right, and if you go for the wrong spot you only move the target further and further away. and it will get much worse before it gets better if it ever does. Every little bit removed should show an improvement. There is a lot to the phasing of the violin parts, and it often doesn't take a lot to set it right, it won't sound a lot different, it will just become more  fast, open, and resonate and balanced, it  now works and is more satisfying to play. So if you are determined to do this you sure better know what you are doing,, period. I have ran into a few reworked ruined fiddles and it is stupid.

    Anyway why would I want to make everyone else's fiddles sound great,, and give a false impression about them, I earned the sound, they didn't.

    I like to make them.

    Evan cooped up


    Not to be rude but what the heck are you talking about? You can tell where you are going to take out wood by looking at the outside of a strung up violin?

  9. 16 hours ago, bungling_amateur said:


    "removing the soundboard from the body of the harp and planing by hand most of the original wood from the inner face. A new soundboard was then made and the gilded face from the original was glued on"

    I have a vague memory of reading about a similar process carried out on a famous-maker violin...?

    There are many instruments that have under gone extensive repairs. Some  rather good instruments have almost no original wood visible on the inside.

  10. On March 27, 2018 at 5:26 AM, JacksonMaberry said:

    Birdseye is neat, but I really love quilted. Haven't had much luck finding any, sadly.


    Quite common in big leaf maple. If Bruce Harvey on Orcas Island, WA is still in business he could probably find you some.

  11. 41 minutes ago, Strad O Various Jr. said:

    Is it all about the money, would you lengthen the manhood on the statue of David if it made it more valuable, or is it most valuable left the way the artist created it.

    Not the same thing. The David is a work of visual art with no other purpose than being looked at. A violin is a tool for a musician the best of which have an artistic value as well.  If they can't be played they are not fulfilling their primary purpose.

    Yes, money is certainly involved. Most people who look at a Strad have no real appreciation  for it's visual beauty but want to see it because of the monetary value. Because  of that it is possible to put them in museums and leave them in as original condition as possible. This is regardless of the fact that there are less than a dozen Strads which remain as they were when they left the masters hand. There are many other instruments that are just as beautiful in their own way yet do not attract the same attention from the public. If they are not able to be played they are likely to be neglected and destroyed. As has often been said there are Scarampellas which sounded horrible but had a distinct personality and a nice varnish so people bothered to regraduate them and make them playable and valuable. Because of that they are now more  appreciated for their own type of beauty as well.

  12. I don't mean to become a champion of regraduation but saying it should never be done is naive. I have made a living almost exclusively as a maker for the past thirty five years or so and the only instrument of mine that I know to be regraduated I have disowned. However while working in one of the best restoration shops in the world I saw and was sometimes asked to do regraduation of nice instruments that simply didn't sound as well as they could have. People did do funny things in the past like making instruments with 2mm thick ribs or 3mm thick backs and the choice is to put them on the wall and call them historic or "correct" them. If you are not the owner then it is easy to reccomend they be preserved as is but if you are the guy who paid $20,000 for a nice fiddle with no strings or fittings and needing a new neck then you are certainly going to be tempted to do what has to be done to make it playable and or salable. There really are no absolutes in this business and though we all have seen instruments which were damaged by injudicious regraduation I think we have also heard many which would not have survived if they had not been improved so some one could play them at a professional level.

  13. When Bob Bein was asked by somebody who had read Fritz Reuter's attacks re B&F being a regraduation mill "Would you regraduate a Strad?" His reply was "If it needed it". While I think any of the very few Strads having  original grads should be left alone as a historical document regardless of how it sounds there are many instruments which are more useful to modern players with some adjustments. The key is to get the thing in playing condition so you can hear it first rather than just assuming the maker was an idiot or that modern standard grads are the only way to make a fiddle. I once restored a beautiful Pollastri which had a top with more than 4 mm in the center and  less than 2 all around the edge. Despite being pretty sure I would end up thinning the top I did the rest of the work, strung the thing up and found that while the low end was nothing special the upper register had an amazing singing tone which was obviously intentional and very different from the norm. Not for everyone but some people loved it and  I was glad I hadn't messed with it before hearing it. On the other hand as some one mentioned there are a lot of modern Italians that look great, are worth real money but sound horrible until regraduated.

  14. 1 hour ago, Jeff White said:

    Shortened?? ( I know what you meant) I have to laugh as that sounds like something intentionally done, as opposed to the tip nose coming off and the player banging the tip into things for 40 years:lol:

    Shortened as in filed back rather than restoring the original profile.

  15. 9 hours ago, Blank face said:

    The frog shape with this thin thumb projection going down in a curve is very common in Mnk bows from ca. 1850-1900, usually in shop bows; if yours is silver mounted it's a bit better than usual. Nearly all of this bows have a one piece heel plate, also many made in the 20th century, so nothing special there.  The rather small and delicate head with sharp ridge is featuring one of the typical bell-alike models of what's called Knopf or Bausch school. In Germany one can find big amounts of such bows, although the big majority of them is of a cheap Abeille wood or mediocre pernambuco/nickel quality.

    The head shape is original? That is the nose has not been shortened?

  16. 10 hours ago, Don Noon said:

    I'd be more worried about the apparent lack of stiffness.  Dense AND stiff can be taken thin for a more normal weight, but not dense and floppy.

    But since it is this far along, giving it a test seems reasonable, just to see what happens at the boundaries.  I would continue, but limit further time/effort investment to only what is needed to play it.  No varnish, light glue, rough bass bar, etc.  If it tests out OK, then I'd take the top off and clean everything up.

    But I'm not needing to be efficient and pay bills selling to professional players.  In that case, I'd start over with good wood right away.

    You have to take a heck of a lot of wood out to reduce the weight of a violin plate by even 10 grams. My guess is even with fairly stiff wood you'd be well under 2 mm before you got into the normal weight range. 

  17. I'm sure a good enough rider could win a race with a three legged  horse but the rest of us are better off with a healthy thoroughbred.

    Good wood of reasonable weight is easy enough to find. While I do weigh wood at several points in the making process I have never had to weigh wood before purchasing. Any reputable, experienced wood dealer will be selling decent wood which can make good violins using normal techniques. I have only been burned when I bought  from a newcomer  to the business. When in doubt ask around or if the seller is really unknown get a sample before committing to any quantity. Medium grain, medium weight and perfect split gives a lot of options. The OP's wood is simply too heavy.

  18. Michael,

    When you refer to "your arching" working with widely disparate weights and thicknesses are you working with only one model? Because we have all heard great sounding violins with a wide variety of archings whereas great sounding violins with extreme weights are pretty rare. 

    As far as I am concerned I just don't use wood for violins where the top comes out to more than 70 grams with the bar and would think it almost impossible to get from Shunyata's 90 to 70 without getting absurdly thin. I would definitely reccomend starting with lighter wood although the ultralight wood you mention as being in vogue several years ago is definitely not to my liking and I think I only tried it once. 

    While I was taught as you were that you can make a good instrument out of any reasonable wood and cannot remember ever making a real dog I have also found that if one is using similar archings and models that there are certain trees which will give consistently better results. I have one or two pieces left of a tree that I bought in 1990 which has yielded quite a number of the best cellos I have ever made.

  19. On July 21, 2020 at 12:24 PM, Davide Sora said:

    I would start taking off wood in the center, I do not like thick area in the center of the plate, but it's just me (and some Strad and Guarneri for what it's worth).

    Where as other Guarneri are extremely thick in the center.