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Uncle Bob

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  1. Paulonia is a wonderful wood and makes wonderful stringed instruments. It does not sound like spruce. So it makes a very nice violin like instrument, but it does not quite produce what we expect and like from a violin. Materials matter. The truth is that the best violins sound a lot like the best violins. We have expectations for what they are supposed to sound like. So far picking for the least dampening and fastest speed of sound on a section of spruce with tight rings, seems to give us the best of what we expect from a violin. My ear is not perfect, but I have heard carbon fiber violins that sounded, to me, as good as the best spruce. This bothers me, I don't like it at all, but I am not going to ignore what my ears, faulty and limited as they are, tell me.
  2. The glue question is silly. Hide glue heats up easily so you just need to plan ahead. It costs a fraction of what other glues do, it bonds faster and stronger than anything but super glue and unlike superglue it can survive shock. Almost all other glues go bad in a year or less. Flakes of hide glue have a crazy long shelf life. You can pass the stuff to your children if it is well stored. Once you are set up and once you have used normal, plain dissolve and heat up hide glue, you almost stop wanting anything else. There are times when you will wonder how it went from almost the only glue used to a glue only used by serious craftsmen. There are places for other glues, but for a wooden instrument, it is in almost every single way, better than other alternatives. It cleans up, it mostly resists moisture, it is safe to use, it is repairable, it cost a fraction of what other glues do, it is as strong as almost all the materials you are gluing, the list goes on. Almost all other glues make repair very difficult if not impossible without removing material. If you don't mind that your instruments will be trash after the first attempt at repair, use something else. If it has to be waterproof, epoxy is pretty good. Know that you just made it disposable but go ahead and use something else. If you need safe and water resistant, shellac is a pretty good glue and you might be able to repair it. You can chemically adjust hide glue to slow or be waterproof, but a humidifier will do wonders for slowing hide glue without ruining the qualities. Waterproof hide glue can ruin your equipment and it defeats a lot of the reasons for using hide glue in the first place. With a garlic clove rubbed on metal, hide glue will bond to a lot of surfaces quite well, so with planning hide glue is an all around winner. Other glues are great at making sure the surface will never bond again. If you want a glue proof surface, dilute some tightbond with water and paint the surface. It isn't the prettiest finish, but if you then apply a bit of Johnson's wax, not much is ever going to stick to the surface you have made. Here is the thing. I have had tightbond and other glues fail and ruin the surfaces of what i was gluing so that I had to throw out some really nice wood. That never, ever happens with hide glue. If I mess up, I can clean up and start over. In summation, don't go looking for a fix when the original is not just good but near perfect. Normal, plain, old fashioned hide glue takes a bit of learning, but then is just works.
  3. As a bridge troll, I am never, ever going to accept a rosin or plastic bridge. If you innovate and use Yellow Pine or Post Oak, maybe, but never plastic.
  4. Before retiring from North American Veblefeltzer, I was working on the suspension bridge project that was going to revolutionize everything. Sadly the new manager of our division entirely ignored tap tones, shrimp shells and adjustable f holes. I was really disappointed since adjustable f holes were the only way to properly compensate for changes in air density and the effect that had on Helmholtz resonance.
  5. Let me be the first to argue that a classical Cremona erhu would have an entirely different breed of shrimp dissolved to make into a wood treatment and the methods of tap toning erhu are entirely different.
  6. The Virzi brothers made violins for a living. They won awards for their violins. The original Virzi tone producer was a violin thing and the guess is that they made over a thousand violins with these plates. Lloyd Loar played violin and considered the violins made by the Virzi brother's outstanding. Thus came Virzi plates in mandolins.
  7. While I am finding this all very interesting, this discussion has ignored Keith Hill, tap tones, carving variations in the support structures and Virizi plates. I suppose we can forgive the lack of discussion about wood and finish variations since College Station was mentioned, but without at least a warm argument over tap tones, this thread is still lacking. I am pleased that the Jezzupe has made the effort to make this a more complete discussion, but honestly we deserve more.
  8. David, check out persimmon as an ebony substitute. it is in the same family and the core of an old tree will at times be as dark. Persimmon is a bit more stable than ebony and it does not checker as badly. It is the preferred wood for wood golf clubs. I think it is worth playing with. If you want dark, you can always test some scrap with ebonization. If you soak fine steel wool in vinegar for a week you can use the vinegar to ebonize a lot of woods. You darken it and keep the grain. It works great on ash. It look horrible on juniper. It can look good on oak. The iron in the vinegar reacts with tannic acid and darkens the wood.
  9. There is a possible angle that makes this a brilliant gift. Japan has a serious bluegrass tradition. There are quite a few Japanese musicians who have grown up in the hills of Japan listening to live bluegrass since they were born. Bluegrass lives in Japan. Since it would be hard to find a Loyd Loar viola, this may be the closest thing to an ideal gift. TwoSetViolin might disagree though.
  10. I am very sorry to hear this. I will miss his voice here on Maestronet.
  11. My method to keep from overheating steel is to use a natural plant fiber brush. I wet the brush and keep the wet brush on the tool. Natural plant fiber because it needs to touch the very edge and some will contact the wheel. When the water on the blade starts to boil, I back off the blade keeping it held in place to save the angle. I dip the brush again, not the blade. Then with the wet brush in place I continue the grinding.
  12. You can obtain garnet, blond super blond, amber, orange and buttonlac. No need for pigment added. Different batches will vary so when you find one you love order more quick. The variations of color are seasonal, but there are other factors involved and processing matters. You can mix colors to adjust.
  13. It is clear that Antonio was a craftsman who stayed busy and had a high standard for productivity and quality. I think he quickly rejected things that did not give him good results. Working wood by hand in a shop with other workers, give you time to talk and time to reflect. Put yourself in Antonio's shoes for a moment. Consider what a great craftsman who knows, sound, materials, tools, craftsmanship and art, thinks about. Consider the craftsmen you know that come close to being as good or better than Antonio was. Think about what they have in common. What they have in common, they have in common with Antonio. Did he examine and go out of his way to figure out how others got their results? Did he listen to others and try to learn, test and expand on everything they knew? Of course he did. Did he have things he stuck to that no one could possibly talk him out of? Of course he did. Innovation, material science, alchemy, math, magic and philosophy have been part of luthery since strings were stretched and played. The violin may have been fairly recent, but he was taught by the best and the previous forms and variations were there for Antonio to study. I am sure that he knew the relevant alchemical theory. I am also sure that he put practical and reproducible results first. The clearest line between Alchemy and Science is the ability to reproduce results. Many alchemists were scientific and many scientists practiced alchemy. In Antonio's case, he was probably informed by the doctrine of signatures, but it never got in the way of his doing what he had tried and tested. He may have waited for the right phase of the moon to make pegs, but I doubt it ever got in the way of his putting together an instrument.
  14. Marin Mersenne, 8 September 1588 – 1 September 1648, had already written Harmonie universelle. In those 800 pages, apart from watching sawdust dance on wood and using Audacity to compare waves, just about every bit of physics that you can use in your modern workshop was available for a smart and skilled luthier. All Antonio had to do was walk to the naval yards, take a small measured sample of wood from each of the huge trunks lying there and measure the speed of sound in the wood by listening to the pitch. With a few days effort he could have more of the best wood than he could use in his lifetime. Add an amazing ear and great craftsmanship and you have your answer to the secret.
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