Michael Darnton

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About Michael Darnton

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  1. Here's how we have done it in our shop: The change that comes from unstringing an instrument is a constant, so we get that out of the way first, then quickly cycle through all of the possibilities to find the one that works the best minus what we have observed as the initial unstringing change. Then we let the instrument sit overnight to settle and see where we are at. Then maybe do it again. We do that with changes other than just tailpieces, too. Eventually we get where we want to be--it might take 10-20 minutes a day for a week to really hone things in if the instrument is a twitchy one. We have been doing this for a few years now, and experience allows us to shortcut the process a lot, in that we've learned in a general way how all the alternatives work, and how to hear and subtract the take-down's temporary changes, so often we can get it on the first or second try. This has helped me a lot in doing customer adjustments, too, and the process is incredibly efficient now. I can't think of a single violin that came into the shop with a kevlar tailpiece hanger that went out with one, but that might be an effect of the type of violins we work on. Tailpiece and hanger material have huge effects, but as David has noted, there are a lot of "invisible" variables that most people won't consider that might be having a large effect on their own. In the OP's case, that same setup would sound a lot different if the back end of the tailpiece were sitting less than 1/2 mm from the saddle or even closer vs far away. This is why violin tailpieces are available in lengths from 105 to 114 mm, so you can change that back length without changing the afterlength.
  2. I have seen and worked on quite a few obviously-regraduated instruments, including fine old ones, including Strads and del Gesus, and new ones, and participated in both removing (not from Strads and del Gesus!) and replacing wood as well. I think that the whole issue is problematic in that there's been a tendency in the violin field (and one sees it all the time here, too) to believe that all problems and all solutions come down to a magical superstition in the supposed effects of graduation. Many regraduated instruments were gutted because they didn't work in the first place, acording to someone's standard of the moment. If they were fine, why do the work? In most cases, I don't believe the procedure resulted in an improvement, nor has replacing the wood resulted in the expected benefit, either, because the underlying problem didn't have to do with the amount of wood and is often easily sourced to some other factor that regraduation was hoped would compensate for . . . and failed. There are exceptions, and those exceptions are often quite blatantly wrong according to everyone's standard--I'm talking things like 2 mm thick violin ribs or 7.5 mm violin tops. However, I don't subscribe to the idea that some have that regraduation has ruined large numbers of violins; I think of it more that many regraded violins are solid proof that regrads don't fix problems that aren't graduation-based. The idea of value and investment in this type of discussion is an irrelevant red herring, in that an instrument that doesn't sell is a problem, not a valuable asset. People are uninformed if they think that patches, cut downs and instruments stretching don't happen today. And to repeat: plywood--wood made of plies and glue--can never sound like solid wood. Different simply is not same. If someone has a way to do replacements with perfectly matching original wood and no glue, I'm provisionally interested. This brings up the question of where patches work. I think just about the best place they help is where the original wood has been unable to support the load it's called to handle, and that this repair is the most likely to have tonal benefits. In my experience, anyway.
  3. Plywood never acts the same as solid wood in any musical instrument
  4. I have been waiting for a specific someone else to chime in on this but it looks like he's not going to show up so I will. In the eighties he and I and a couple of other people had access to the type of wood that the back of this cello is made from. It is an Italian willow tree that grows on the banks of a river. Basically the tree is an evaporative processing system: water comes out the top and minerals from the water stay in the wood. Working with this wood is like working concrete, and you hear crunching sounds as you are gouging, like you were gouging rock. Your tools immediately become ragged and impossible to keep them sharp. Scrapers quickly end up like saw blades, and leave wide tracks of parallel scratches . There were four or six of us who had access to this wood and I believe that each one of us only made one instrument from it before we gave up. The wide marks that look like dragged fingers are finger plane marks; the scratches that are visible in some of the pictures are from scrapers. It's obvious that he only scraped enough to remove most of the finger plane marks but didn't get them all, because it is an evil wood to work. The reason there are more plane marks around the edges is because it is harder to scrape concave areas and constantly changing areas around the c bouts and corners, but it's easy to scrape the big broad areas that stick up in the middle of the arch. You can see this type of markings on all of his father's willow cellos as well because they are the same wood, but never on violins, since the maple doesn't wreck scrapers in this way. In short, it's not a del Gesu characteristic; it's a result of wood species and growth conditions resulting in wood that destroys tools. When this thread started I checked with a friend of mine who I knew had made with a cello out of the same batch of wood that I had made a viola from, and he said the same thing that I would and that is that both of these instruments were some of our better instruments made from any kind of wood other than maple. This wood is really incredible tonally but it's too much of a pain to actually use from day-to-day.
  5. Is your problem with the ease of future resale? If so, then the extra string will do a lot more damage to that then the wood used.
  6. You would be surprised by how much difference a bridge can make.
  7. Though it might take some effort, I bet you could tune a bridge that is 4.5 mm at the top and 1.3 mm at the bottom to the same frequency as one that was normal. And I am betting they would sound very different from each other.
  8. Try snapping the arms off of a bridge in place so you can hear a before/after, and I think you will get some respect for the effects of weight in other places than just along the top. :-)
  9. I think that the DISTRIBUTION of mass is the most important factor, and I fail to see how tuning has to do with anything at all.
  10. C'mon, this isn't really that hard: two different phenomena means two different causes, even on the same violin. FWIW, I once worked on a violin like the OP's. It had been in a house fire, and the owner was giving it up for lost, but checked anyway. Every resin has its own specific pattern of degradation, as do different situational causes. Trying to boil things down to one cause is overly-simplistic, but then getting territorial about it as in this thread is just juvenile.
  11. If people weren't so busy abusively pimping their own ideas they might realize that this phenomena has a number of different causes, and the results are not all identical. For instance, the cello on Spidlen's site shows something very different from the violin under discussion, which is different from what you see on UK instruments, and so on. . .
  12. I think you would sense it differently were you to play with a stack of outlines. It's not the same as using photos, and very different from throwing a computer at it, as that joke of a site trying to write certs based on pictures a decade or so ago was attempting. It's a little like looking at dogs: it's hard to decide what makes a dog if you have never seen any other animal. Certainly at first glance they have nothing in common and scaling them the same and comparing pix doesn't really get to it, either.
  13. Marty, I have dozens--maybe hundreds--of violin outlines I have taken over the years. If you stack them on a window (budget light table) you can see that the curves and locations of important spots are very consistent over the whole period. Most variation, even within a single maker, is in the exact shape of the blocks. While overall dimensions vary a bit and make you think they are different, one doesn't realize how much the Cremonese have in common until you throw a Gagliano, or Venetian, or anything else on the stack. I think that Francois did a very good job of explaining the overarching ideas of the overall layout, which other schools of that time very obviously didn't know the smallest thing about.
  14. The software I used didn't work on large spans like someone trying to figure it out with with a compass or set of circles; it measures the curve of small segments and calculates them individually. It has been a while and I don't remember exactly, but I believe the segments I was using were about 1/2 inch long at the most, smaller in some areas, but it wasn't necessarry to drop the resolution beyond that to get a clear picture of what was going on. Changes in circles on the first Strad mold I checked were clear and abupt, there was one section on the outline that was obviously hand drawn, and the c-bouts were a bit of a mess, especially in the armpits and mirroring spot at the bottom of the Cs. If spirals or similar were used one would expect irregularity comparing distant regions, but that was not the case. Stradivari's mold-making precision was remarkable, with the circles of the original drawing precisely preserved from the point where they started to the point where they ended. I am hoping that readers are clever enough to realize that if most of a bout consists of small segments of X radius, and the large circle also matches that, you are looking at a circle, not a French curve or spiral. As anyone who has made a violin probably realizes, such a measuring strategy wouldn't work on a real violin, especially a worn old Cremonese one, due to the outline being several generations removed from the drawing, and executed in a way that would tend not to preserve the circles precisely beyond assuring that the curves flowed and looked OK, with wear and abuse on top of that. Fortunately, we don't need to measure violins--the molds are available, and Francois Denis thoughtfully provided his tracings of them on his own site. There are also several sources for good photos of them, Francois' book and Stewart Pollens' also. Since the idea and technique was by way of a private present from someone else, it's not mine to share and I will let people do their own research for a method.