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The Violin Beautiful

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Everything posted by The Violin Beautiful

  1. I would suggest the Romberg flat is less sought after now partly because of the improvements in string technology (as expressed previously) and partly because of advances in setup work. I think there were great luthiers who did great setup work, but they were far fewer, and many cello fingerboards were made without proper consideration of scoop. The Romberg flat could potentially alleviate clearance issues.
  2. The best thing to do to conserve a violin is not to drop it! Once there’s been major trauma, it’s necessary to do more substantial work to return the instrument to good and reliable order. A good glue joint with strong glue and a fresh crack may hold forever, so it’s not impossible to do a repair without a patch, but in many cases there are enough conditions that it’s better for the instruments’ longevity to put in patches. I don’t like to remove original wood if I can help it, but sometimes there isn’t a good way to avoid it.
  3. I would definitively want to clean out the dirt in that crack. Given its appearance, I wouldn’t be willing to trust the repair to last, especially without a patch. It’s easy to say a crack repair has held for a long time, but a customer isn’t going to care how long it lasted if it opens up after they’ve bought it. For me, it comes down to making sure anything that leaves my shop is solid. I don’t want to send anything out that I can’t trust to last. I think a patch is a good idea for several reasons. First, the crack is right by the post, so it’s right in a high stress area. Second, the wood has been contaminated. Proper cleaning should improve the gluing surface, but there’s always a chance that some contaminants will remain and weaken the glue joint. Third, your glue joint may be strong (maybe even strong enough that you can karate chop it or break wood around it over your knee or drive a small vehicle over it for effect!), but the glue, unless treated with certain chemicals, will still be water-soluble. Elevated moisture in the air could cause it to reopen. Without something to reinforce the damaged area, the situation could become dire in very short order.
  4. We had a “genius” like Nagyvary in my hometown when I was growing up. He actually did have a scientific background too and a career as an engineer and computer programmer. He claimed he could take any violin and make it sound not only like a Strad or Guarneri, but like any specific violin you wanted. He asked me to pick a violin, so I think I picked Oistrakh’s Strad. He claimed that by placing beeswax in certain spots he could control the character of the sound. Once he’d placed all the globs of beeswax and recreated the desired sound, he’d replace the beeswax with UV-curing resin. Lo and behold, on the day he came to visit with the Chinese violin he’d adjusted for me, he showed up without anything. He made some excuses about having lent out all the violins he’d been using and needing to get a better one to use as a starting point. He spent some time looking at my instruments and spent a good deal of time talking about how successful his process had been previously (to this day, I’ve never met anyone who’s even seen one of his violins). He asked for another example to use so he could show two different sounds at our next meeting. I picked out a violin, played it, and asked him to reproduce its sound. I never heard from him again.
  5. If you’re looking for a supplier, I would highly recommend International Violin. Kenny is very knowledgeable and will help you get everything you need. The company sells everything you’d need to start out. As suggested above, violin making wood is not expensive if you go for newer and unfigured wood. Even mid-level wood will be pretty affordable, and there are often great deals to be found on sets. If you start out with good tools and good wood, you’ll avoid a lot of pitfalls and will be happier in the long run. Getting sidetracked by issues that aren’t a normal part of the process is frustrating and demoralizing when you’re learning.
  6. I haven’t had any issues with steering when using the spiral reamer. I have found that my straight reamers chatter a little more than the spiral ones, but they all cut fairly well. Yes, the spiral does cut a little faster, but it’s easy to control if you use it a few times. It seems to me that correct taper and a sharp cutting edge are more important in the long run.
  7. I’ve had several different reamers over the years. I like the spiral best, as I seem to get a cleaner cut faster. I don’t know if it comes down to the design or the quality of the metal. Standard readers are perfectly fine as long as they cut well and they’re correctly tapered. The result is the most important thing. I have never tried to resharpen one. I’m sure it’s possible, but I wouldn’t feel confident in the precision of the taper and it would take too much time and effort.
  8. I have two violins in the shop that were savaged by the same person. I have been putting off dealing with them as much as possible.
  9. I see a lot of soundpost cracks caused by tight sound posts where there is no evidence of any other damage. I have also seen someone put a soundpost crack into a brand new instrument while moving a post that was too tight. If the post only comes from into contact on an edge, that edge can act like a knife edge and put a lot of pressure into the top. Often a palpable ridge will appear, and it will eventually turn into a crack. Impact is definitely a common cause. A good number of the cello sound post patches I’ve done have been on cellos that fell over while in their cases.
  10. I often need to make adjustments to the knot after tying it for the first time. I haven’t tried the shim idea, but I can see how that might make it easier to adjust without having to retire the knot. What’s worked well for me has been to keep the ends of the gut equal in length. When I need to adjust the afterlength, I loosen the knot and adjust both sides so I can keep track of the amount of change. I’ve found I can often get it to the right length on the second try.
  11. String height is about the distance from fingerboard to string, or the amount of clearance a string has at rest. The middle and top of the string are not relevant because they aren’t the surfaces that come into contact with the fingerboard. You’re right that string diameter matters, and that’s exactly why using the middle or top of the string isn’t practical. To fine tune the curvature of the bridge, a template can be placed over the strings to be sure that they’re all in good positions relative to each other for bow clearance, but that’s a separate thing, not a measurement of string height. You’re missing a lot of crucial information. String height is only one part of what determines how a bridge is cut. There are many more important measurements.
  12. Measuring to the bottom. Measuring to the middle is less practical because it isn’t really a measurement of clearance, as a string is stopped by pressing its bottom surface against the fingerboard.
  13. The reason why the G and E heights of the strings above the fingerboard are given and not the D and A is that only two points are needed to establish the bridge curve. Once the heights for the G and E are laid out, the bridge template is positioned so it meets both points. The curve is then traced onto the bridge from the template. Then the exact spacing of the strings may be determined by using dividers. As far as the standard for fingerboard radius, 42 or 41.5 are more common. If the fingerboard is properly shaped and the bridge follows a good template, there shouldn’t be any serious issues with the heights of the middle strings. One detail to consider is the diameter of the D or A string. If it’s thinner (like a steel core A or silver D) the string groove will need to be shallower to correspond.
  14. I agree that the black marks are just crude antiquing. The marks in the wood on the back do seem to suggest something being used to scrape the original varnish off at some point.
  15. A toothed plane blade could leave marks like that as well.
  16. I’m not entirely certain, but the marks look to me like they were made by heavy grit sandpaper or a scraper. Perhaps someone removed varnish and got too aggressive, leaving scars in the wood. When new varnish was applied, it sank into the low spots, making the marks more visible.
  17. I would definitely get rid of the wedge under the fingerboard unless the neck is too thin without it. Then the projection can be re-evaluated. If it’s considerably low, a full neck reset is in order. If it’s not too far off and there’s enough edge overhang, a New York neck reset would be a good fix. If the neck has been dropping, try to find out why. Is the cello going through significant changes in humidity? Is there a weak glue joint at the top block? Was a different kind of glue used to put the top on that might creep over time? Is the neck solidly in its mortise? Any of these things could cause a neck to move. It is up to the customer to decide what work should be done. If the luthier is good, I would recommend the customer consider any advice given for a solution, but work shouldn’t commence until there’s a clear agreement.
  18. Regular hair for violin bows is fine. You can purchase coarser white hair or black hair and use that or mix it in with white to make salt and pepper hair. I have a gauge I made for measuring hair a while ago. I use that as a guide, then adjust the amount as needed. I get requests for black hair a few times a year, so I do keep some. Fiddlers occasionally ask for it as well.
  19. I’m not sure about other readers, but my reason for not voting thus far is that I don’t really like violins to be monotone. My favorite varnishes have a variety of colors. Some will change with the light source.
  20. The shady relabeling business will continue to thrive so long as people put faith in labels. There are forgeries and duplicitous practices in most (if not all) fields. It’s frustrating to have to navigate through the uncertainty, but it’s a reality, and that is why expertise is so valuable. There isn’t a simple solution because it’s not a simple problem. Some might argue that it’s better to only buy from a living maker, but that isn’t always a guarantee, given that there are plenty of makers who put their names on instruments they didn’t make. That’s one of the reasons for the formation of organizations like the Cremona Consortium or the AFVBM.
  21. The cost for this repair is dependent on the amount of stress on the ribs. If they’re bulging out, they’ll need to be shortened to avoid the area popping open again. The top or back do not need to be removed. If there isn’t actually too much bulging of the ribs, the seam can be reglued. It will generally cost a little more than the average open seam because the bottom block is loose as well, but it isn’t a big problem. Even if the ribs do need to be shortened, it’s not a major job. It might approach the retail cost of the violin, though, so just keep that in mind.
  22. I think this demonstrates a couple important points: 1) One shouldn’t automatically dismiss attic-found instruments as fakes, even if they’ve been sitting unseen for decades. The overwhelming majority are low quality, but it’s important to approach each instrument with a certain amount of respect. There are all kinds of reasons why violins, even great ones, to fall into disuse and neglect. 2) It’s not a new idea, but labels are not a good identifier. When everything else is known, they can be a supplement, but the identification process should never start with them. In this case it’s especially important because a bad label was in a genuine violin. This kind of thing does really happen, and more often than one might expect. Good labels are sometimes stolen and replaced with forgeries in order to trick people into believing in fake violins on the strength of their genuine labels.
  23. It’s important to have relatively current certificates when you’re selling an instrument. There is new information being learned all the time, so even some of the papers that were written by experts who have otherwise stood the test of time are now called into question. There have been a lot of experts whose judgment became erratic as they got to the end of their careers, not to mention the certificates that were questionable to begin with. As a result, some of them no longer carry any weight at all. I’m not trying to single anyone out, but I’m sure everyone can think of a couple examples. When a significant amount of value is being attached to an instrument, having a well-documented consensus of opinions over the years becomes an important consideration. @Jeffrey Holmes makes a great point about the value of a living expert. It’s worth a lot to have someone willing to go to bat for your violin if it’s called into question. This is also why it’s worth it to get the best certificate you can. Lots of people are eager to write one, but only a few have the authority to back it up.
  24. Old papers are part of the history of a violin, so they do have significance. An expert will make a determination based on his own opinion of an instrument, but having an established history increases the likelihood of positive identification. If a violin has no track record, an expert is more likely to decline to authenticate it. The stakes are high, so someone whose opinion carries that much authority is going to be very selective in what they’ll certify. Some makers are easy to identify, but many fine old violins are harder to positively identify, partly because of the working style of the maker, partly due to things like wear, repairs, or replaced parts. It’s in your best interest to provide all the information you have to the expert. That doesn’t guarantee that the new opinion will match the old one, but it increases the chance that you might end up with a certificate. Something that separates the experts at the highest level from everyone else is their avoidance of anything they can’t concretely identify.
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