Michael Darnton

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About Michael Darnton

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  1. I have a policy on striped side, but I think that in terms of performance that is near the bottom of considerations. In my opinion. I wouldn't flip a bridge to compromise the cut just because of the stripes. I know that some people put this at the top of their list. . . . perhaps habitually, because it's the first step? :-) I have heard that $$$tripes face back so the player can see them (and the expen$ive brand that usually accompanies them, because this is what you are really paying for in some cases) and that they face front to supply support against warping, but I don't seen any evidence in warped bridges that would support this. In terms of support, one could also argue that perfect quartering relative to both sides would require the stripes going right down the middle, and not strongly visible from either side. That position probably has the most "logic" for the scientism crowd who've never cut a bridge but know how you should do it. (This is the clue for the host of participants on my "ignore" list to jump offer their opinions!) Most makers of a certain age will remember when the inexperienced new owners of Aubert decided if they like stripes, we'll give them stripes, and started making beech bridges. Anyway, yes, we all have our strategies, that's for sure.
  2. If you look at a new bridge blank from the side, you will see that they are (always?) cut slightly angled so that the brand should naturally face the board. If you want to put it the other way, you need to start right out by enlarging all of the cuttings to turn the cut slightly, which affects what you can do from that point on, especially around the feet. In some cases, with high, pointed arching, it's impossible to face the brand to the back because then you will run out of foot thickness on the inside because of this effect. In this situation, brand to board, facing the bridge shell quickly removes the brand. If you shell the back similarly to the front, that damages the brand on the back, if that is where you put it. So if you take special care to keep the manufacturer's brand, you may be forced to compromise your bridge cutting standards. If customers get fussy about the blank, the brand, how it's cut, I gently slide them off to a Burger King, where they do it your way, since they didn't come to me because they want what I do. Think of it as asking for the salt and ketchup in a fine restaurant.
  3. You continue to use them and I continue to not use them?
  4. Jeffrey, my reference to identifying one's own work was a response to that suggestion by someone several posts above you. As far as I know, stamping a bridge is to identify the dealer who sold your friend that wonderful violin he has, so that the friend will come in to see what else that dealer has. I think I can observe that shops that depend on sales of expensive violins virtually always have brands on their bridges, while the guys without brands are almost always the little shops who live by repair and their own making. Who wouldn't want their little billboard on a Strad, there to be seen every time another player looks at the instrument? Those not in the business probably don't know that instruments being switched around between dealers for short specific trials with one of shop B's customers have to leave home shop A without a brand or the bridge will either be de-branded or replaced with dealer B's bridge. This happens all the time in the business. Because a bridge is definitely a little billboard. In the other direction, when I do someone a favor and cut a bridge for a total garbage violin, I will often not stamp the bridge. Not because the bridge isn't good, but because I don't want my shop associated with that type of instrument. Billboard placement.
  5. I am not going to wade through seven pages of what looks like nonsense to find out, but it appears that I might be the only person in this thread with any actual experience in the matter at hand. I reset a fallen adjustable post from one of the several manufacturers who was kind enough to send me a kit of the appropriate tools and a quartet of samples to try on my own. People might refer to the chinrest/tailpiece thread currently running, where the bottom line of the thread should be read as that you don't change something without some resulting change. In this case, yes, the adjustable posts I tried sounded definitely different. The instruments sounded thinner, a bit similar to a very hard spruce post that was not well fit, which is probably what you should expect from a post made of a hard material which is not fit (points to Jerry for saying that ball joints are not the same as stable, cut ends.) A friend who had also tried them suggested to me the one situation where he found them to be an advantage, so I tried several instruments with that problem, and though the specific issue was slightly improved, everything else was made worse. No one involved in the testing heard a bit of tonal advantage to the posts, though some technical aspects improved for the player--speed and response have already been mentioned. None of the testers wanted the post in their instrument, however, because of the tonal loss. Every one of these people was a player who was experienced playing a number of different instruments and was experienced in ranking them, not someone who had lived with a single one for years, and I do think that this kind of overarching experience makes a huge difference in tonal tests, which may explain some of the adjustable post "successes". Regarding the danger aspect, the samples I tried had a fine thread and a very advantaged nut. I got no sense at all of the tension of the post. I think it would be easy to slowly jack the top and back dangerously far without any sense that the pressure on the violin had moved into the danger zone but I also think that most players would not want to make the adjustments themselves. I worry about helpful stand partners though, since those characters are always a danger.
  6. The earliest plausible-looking branded bridge I can find in the violinbridges.co.uk site is a Betts, which would be towards the middle of the 1800s. They have relatively many from around 1900. I have seen older bridges that weren't branded. I hope that no one who does this work needs to see a stamp to recognize his own bridge!
  7. George, I don't think anyone believes that such a violin is actually louder at a distance--It's that it is louder than it should be, considering the distance. That is quite plausible if a lot of the energy is going off in other directions and has to be reflected back forward before its heard. Andreas, to answer that we need to get into what carrying power is. Is it only decibels, or is it competitive advantage? I have heard plenty of new bright violins that disappear when others are being played. They sound louder than others at a distance, then disappear with a piano or quartet. I regard this as a type of tone quality that you WISH you could hear less of, because it's often obvious mostly by being offensive, but can't win in a real fight---like a drunk in a bar. I often find this happening on violins with soft (kevlar, etc,) tail hangers as in another thread, which is why I mentioned that I never use them. This behavior is clearer if you are trying violins against a piano or guitar or something like that in succession, and also in a full hall with lots of skin and cloth to absorb high frequencies, which is why I always coach players not to trust their testing of lone violins in empty halls. David brings up a question I have always wondered but never had the chance to test: how would one of these good violins do in an empty field with no hard floor or walls around it.
  8. In my experience this is something that really great instruments often do. It happens because a substantial amount of the sound is coming off the ribs and back, and all of these vibrations don't come together until some distance away from the instrument. Under your ear you are only hearing what comes off the top--only a small portion of the total---so the player can't realize what's going on. Players who claim they know when they are playing a violin that carries will miss these. I have heard this with two del Gesus, and one Strad cello, for instance. The cello sounded as if it were stuffed with towels, until about 25 feet distant, where it was incredibly loud and vibrant. One of the del Gesus failed to sell because the concertmaster who was trying it said he couldn't hear himself playing but all of the people around him were telling him to pipe down. Another feature of this type of sound is that if you stand at a distance and close your eyes, it is more difficult to locate the position of the instrument than with others--there is a cloud of sound on the stage rather than a point. Do a comparison with another violin, and I think you will hear this easily, once you are aware of it. I also once heard this with a John Lott cello, so it's possible to get it without paying a few million bucks. I don't know if I have ever heard it with a modern violin. People who are familiar with the effect usually consider it to be something desirable, in my experience, because the instrument sounds so large and penetrating/overpowering from a distance.
  9. Consider the difference in sound between an over-the-tailpiece chinrest firmly gripped vs a side-mount rest, or none at all, violin resting on the shoulder?
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Plywood never acts the same as solid wood in any musical instrument
  13. 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.
  14. 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.