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Stephen Perry

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  1. So much depends on technique. Sometimes I have it, sometimes I don't! Pocket knife I strop on my pants or a newspaper, in the field. Helps. They get set pretty steep, 40 degrees (20 each side) on Arkansas stone with alcohol, left that way, but improvised strops to bring to sharp when needed. Kitchen knives get the steel, then a stropping motion on a cutting board, very light. They only need abrasive sharpening if other people use them. Which happens. The shop is another matter. For utility use, I have a long leather razor strop from long ago, charged with green compound. And a ca 1900 razor hone / strop for straight razors, stiff. I level the hone on diamond every once and a while. The other side is impregnated with something oily and must have some super fine abrasive. This is the original charge, going strong after 100 years plus!!! I also have smooth maple with green compound, but I have misplaced it. And of course, 100 other sharpening things! No matter what the condition, I can bring a knife up to toasty sharp in short order. It's mostly technique. I can't describe, but I'm sure Davide has an incredible video on stropping.
  2. I'm glad to hear Michael is still kicking. I worried when the shop disappeared. He came by my shop once, now many years ago. When I was on the lake in the old country store. I've wondered how things change, what to measure, all that. You've got me thinking more about wood treatment. I've had lots of conversations about it with various people. Most notably with Scott Zimmerman (familiar to general music industry insiders) who during his time with Fender had the chance to experiment. If I recall correctly, it was electric guitars fitted with necks of submerged maple that the top end professionals liked the best, instantly. This wood had the greatest resonance. Believe that was the term he used. I wonder whether your treatment system, or perhaps other treatments, might give greater resonance, and whether than might make violins better! Anyway, interesting post.
  3. It's a guided channel scraper to get the curve up from the channel towards the center of the plate. I saw a video long ago of someone using this type of thing. I would 1. lose it and 2. figure out it wasn't required.
  4. Not exactly on point, but on piano (and probably other fixed pitch keyboards) different keys have different feels (to me at least, when I could still hear). On recorder, keys creating lots of cross fingerings have complex range of tone color, more than simple keys without complex fingerings. This I can hear, and the sweat pouring off the soloist might indicate the key really is tortured! On guitar, I imagined that some keys would tend to excite the unstopped strings more than other keys, but I couldn't tell any difference. As to what is dark v. light, I now admit to having little idea what people are referring to. So many opinions.
  5. Find a junk fiddle, pretty it up a bit, then put it in your good case. Make sure it has several bad cracks and the neck is out. Get up one morning and scream. Cry a bit. Express a random wish that the house could be heated.
  6. This is what I do. If I can get a good view of the wood once the surface is cleaned, I try to match the reflection direction and character to make an essentially invisible repair. It's actually worked a couple of times!!! Tragically, I find this type of work fun to do, which might well be some mental defect.
  7. The whole thing came together. I ended up using fingers and sound to graduate and adjust arching, top and back, nudging into compliance. M5 on both ended up lower than my "targets - but I have a pretty hefty edge. Once I got things where I liked them, I had pretty much a band / bullseye in the back and a very slightly reverse graduation in the center on the top. Pondered and bent and tapped and thought into submission. The arching ended up a bit flatter with broader channels by a tiny bit (just seemed to want that). Anyway, the violin (in the white) is very stiff under the fingers, responds rather fast, and has a more or less neutral and surprisingly even tone (considering it isn't varnished and is brand new settling in). The top end is really there, all the way up, but I suspect it needs the ground and varnish. It's a bit brash, which I've noticed with violins in the white before. The back goes from about 4.7 to 3.5 in the waist, and down to 2.2 in small areas of the lungs that were stiff. The top is from 3.3 to about 2.5 in small previously stiff areas. I spent a good deal of time feeling and working on the transition into the rib gluing surface. Flexing, feeling, scraping. I came to the conclusion that the arching and graduation around the corners is totally critical and somewhat difficult to pull off, but eventually the flex feels "right" and the top really seems to wake up. I am pondering all this, and consider myself a least confused at a slightly higher level! Regardless, it's a much better violin than I am violinist. Once it is varnished and pretty I'll have to find a real violinist to try it out!!! I managed to run out of materials, so they're on the way. Robson's balsam ground and some varnish I know will dry. Next project is making enough room for a garbage can UV chamber. This going from 1400 square feet of toy space to 120 sq ft is difficult. I have learned I can lose things very effectively in 120 sq ft. Thanks for your interest.
  8. Oddly, the tops I don't generally have issues with. I am thinking this back must be rather dense. I had some dense wood, and this might well have been some of it. Wish I could find my notes and such. I started two of these, and have the top and back of the second one, but no rib garland. Probably in a box in Chicago still! Anyway, it's getting there, but is thinner than I am used to. I am going very gingerly. The back seems much more sensitive to adjustments on the outside than the inside as far as liveliness and ring. I hadn't noticed that before. Thanks all
  9. I've gotten it mostly where I want. To answer Leister, the arching is convex about 1/2 to 2/3 out from center line to bottom of channel, then very slightly convex, almost flat, but easily seen with grazing light or a ruler. The wood seems to really like this. I'm not sure how stiff it is in terms of numbers - still pretty stiff. Graduations are across the waist, 3.5 mm to 4.6 mm, upper and lower bouts are thinnish, 2.5 to 2.7, but feel immensely strong. This is fairly dense wood for me (although I don't see my spec sheet in the working box, so I hope that isn't disappeared). Mode 5 is 340 hz. Weight is 117 g. The back seems very strong, and doesn't really seem too thick. I'd hoped for a bit more give, but maybe it's fine and dandy. Final cleanup and edging and such will take it below 115 even with no additional forays into reducing thicknesses. I'd really like another 5 grams off - I don't believe I've had a back over 110 g before, but this wood is different. Scrapes to an almost glassy finish and sings very nicely. Quite a bit harder than the maple I've been working with. I cut the back out in outline form in 2015, so I'm missing scraps and so on. Suggestions still HIGHLY welcome. I'm going to head back to the top - which has the arching nearly finished and is rough graduated. Thank you all.
  10. Just some thoughts, while taking a break from playing with arches myself. The above quoted concern seems well taken. The first step sets a point 2/3 out from the center at 1/2 of the rise. Everything inboard is convex, as indicated by Mr. Beard and set by this equation: "Set the channel. Use '1/2 fall in 2/3 run' workshoo rule to guide carving of main part of arching (central 2/3 from peqk of arch). Smoothly lend shape between channel and main part of arch. This gives classical arcging shapes in their full range of variety." The issue I see Mr. Kasprzyk pointing out is the magic zone between the inflection point and the channel, which is outside the equation and requires one to smoothly blend. So the equation works for 2/3 of the arch, and requires eyeballing for the rest. According to Mr. Darnton: "Cremonese" style lives in the area from the inflection out to the very edge." Looking at pictures and instruments and sections and templates and then banging out a fair number of plates, I certainly cannot refute Mr. Darnton's observation. This is the very area not addressed by Mr. Beard, an area Mr. Darnton points to as key. Certainly, the more-bulbous arches that are so easy to generate do not produce the character I like and do not resemble the Cremonese work. The Sept 26 picture posted by Mr. Darnton of a modern violin with the convex part running up to the channel illustrates the issue superlatively. Another effect of the 2/3 rule is that half the rise from the reference point (bottom of the channel, for example) is 2/3 of the way out from the center line (or whatever is selected). This looks about right for Mr. Darnton's second illustration, the modern violin, but not at all for his first illustration of a Cremonese violin with rather wide channels. If one considers the interior section from this 2/3 point as convex and that outboard of it to be convex, and the area inside to be a pretty arch (Mr. Darnton indicates it to be of less importance, and I can generate that interior arch well enough to match whatever math curve is popular by eye without looking at or considering the curve - they're all roughly the same, by violin standards!), then all the 2/3 : 1/2 rule does is set the inflection point. The whole focus on cross arches might be ignoring one way of making a domed shape, by scraping outwards from the center, rather than uniformly laterally from the center line. The violin shape is a shell, not simply a series of lateral arches. I have no solution to resolving the system, except to point out that the location and shape of the channel and the system of locating the inflection point and setting its height might well be all that's needed to make a nice violin arch that looks much more like Mr. Darnton's Exh. 1 than his unsellable Exh. 2. The longitudinal arch simply arising from the process of forming a convex shape between the channel and the inflection point, smoothly transitioning to a convex shape inboard of the inflection point. An inflection point based system would need to accommodate the ends of the arch.
  11. Arch is about 14 plus a little. Channel bottom inside the purfling, with room to deepen and move inward a little more. Bouts are about 2 mm inside purfling, about 1 in the waist. Edges are 3.5 in the bouts, 3.7 or a bit more in the waist. So it's fairly beefy (easier to remove wood than put it back on!!!)
  12. Normally I end up with pretty thin channels, but I was careful, and now I have a 120 g back. With a good deal of graduation left. Trying to figure out where to start. Channel bottom thickness in the bouts is 3.0 to 3.1. C bout 3.4-3.5 - So there's a good deal of wood there, and the channels would tolerate a little bit of deepening without messing up the arching. I have wood left to accommodate that. Lungs are 2.5 to 2.7, still feeling somewhat stiff Center is 4.9, too thick laterally still, the center line is pretty nicely established grading to 3.0 mm and then back up at the ends. I have the bullseye starting to come in, but it's still a bit hefty, not much though. Suggestion on where to start getting the weight down? Mode 5 tap is high (I didn't measure - just BING high). It's rather stiff in the center. The bouts are just starting to loosen up, and I suspect the stiff edge is having an impact, but that might be a good thing. Thanks all.
  13. Could you perhaps describe your philosophy/thinking/method for generating an arch? The section is one piece, how do you get the whole thing to hang together? What are you aiming for? What checks do you use?
  14. I'm happy to just be able to get some of our modern ways of thinking out of the way. Thinking in an XYZ rigid system, for example. Even if something happens to get some evidence behind it, there's no way to know what another is thinking, even with contemporaries.
  15. Mr. Darnton: Things let unsupervised do seem to cause issues. Especially tools. Working on auto engines extensively really shows that enough is enough, once you're where you need to be stop doing things! I loved doing engines. We don't do that any more in old ways. Which is probably "better" but takes a lot of the fun out of it. My notes and observations of random modern and the few nice old Cremonese I get to visit through glass has me suspecting I know where you are pointing. I'll go look tomorrow at The Greffuhle, I made an appointment to get into the museum. I usually bicycle down to say hi. I always learn something new to forget on the way home! Thank you for all your useful observations over the many years. Some stuff is actually sinking in!!!
  16. Thanks. I'm not trying to be confrontational at all. This kind of thinking - from both directions, the conceptual/theoretical v. working methods - has always interested me. I have the dual impediments of training in science and in law, so I have to make sure I'm thinking halfway straight! In the meantime, I'm shaping a pair of arches down in the shop without using templates and without trying to create anything in particular, except to make something that feels right. I have enough meat to do corrections later. In a bit, I'm going to get a socket set out, see whether the channel has worked itself into circular sections!
  17. Circular forms show up a lot, in essence. Tree growth. Stalagmites. Sun. Moon. We built with circles so much. I carve things and I notice I like circles. I look at great paintings and there are circles all over in faces and so on. The basic shapes. Squished maybe. I had a funny late 17th C violin for a while, likely N. Italian. Rather dishy, and extremely beat up. The top looked like there was a beer can imbedded, with the arching draping over it. I can't forget the obvious circles in it. Kind of doubt a template of any kind was used. This wasn't super crisp in any execution, but wasn't totally cringeworthy, either. I'm torn between the peace of an elegant system, with everything falling into place on paper, all the circles and lines and angles dancing - and the need for speed, to actually transfer idea into wood.
  18. David, there are so many good ideas in your work. Some has nice evidence in marks on old forms and such. A couple of principles that keep showing up pose questions. Perhaps you would consider weighing in on them. Circles. The old masters used circles pretty much wherever they could. Constructing outlines, constructing scrolls, ratio-making for everything. I find that I see circles more easily than other shapes, and tools often form circles (e.g., rasping an edge). We all like circles. We can mechanically make circles (compasses, pieces of string, feel of a tool) and like to see circles (my observation). While we have evidence for making circles as a method of generating some parts of the violin, I am unaware of any circle drawings or patterns for making the arching and channel, those dating from the original period of making. Am I missing some evidence? Another very key issue is in tooling. Take the channel model you present, with different arcs for different sections. I look at your drawings and immediately want to see a nice set of circular gouges of graded sizes keyed to rib height (let's take that, for example, as an inch, so the breakout into radii of fractions of an inch would be natural). And a set of graded finishing scrapers of various radii. These don't seem to be present. Did I miss some? Then add our tendency to like to see circles. They would apparently like to see circles in design, and we like to find them in reverse engineering. And add in the fluctuations in manufacture, the wear and weathering, the imprecision of measurement. Given all the above, can we reject the hypothesis that the old time makers in Cremona made things that looked good to their eyes, and that because circles looked good they tended to scrape in circular sections that looked good, and that because of that we can find circles in arching, mainly the channels? I'm just having a hard time linking these nicely linked up conceptual systems with workshop practice in a busy shop. Help me out. I've got a plate. The outline is designed with circles. I thin it to about the arching height. How do I decide this height? Can I reject this height as simply being a half inch, more or less? What do I do next? I'm not trying to be difficult, I'm just trying to get this as simple as possible. Set the edge height and start gouging? When do I start measuring? Is the longitudinal arch set from math, or is it a result of other decisions? How do we prove that? I'm not saying the various systems don't work, just that there's so much noise that any number of systems will work to get more or less into the window of what Cremonese arching sort of looks like. So I'm looking at the tool set and trying to see how to get to that arching through a clear, simple, efficient sequence of operations with those tools and the other information. We don't see templates or boards with cycloids marked out or boards that show the run-fall rule. We do have scroll back widths worked out on a reference. What else is there? We have straight edges. Did these play into things? Compass, straight edge, dividers. A pile of sharp things to cut wood with. How do you think this worked? I'm reminded of the clove hitch. There are all kinds of complicated ways to tie one, but it's a flick of the wrist to be performed very quickly when one jumps from the boat to the dock and has to secure that line RIGHT NOW. There should really be a super simplifying principle, but I don't see it yet. Thank you
  19. Mr. Beard, I haven't been following all this run-fall evolution, but one question, if you don't mind. "The test for the fall depends the points you choose to test between. The top point for testing is chosen at or a little ways out from the center line. The low point choice varies. Always a logical fall point is used. For depth, we see the edge level, the channel bottom, and underside of the plate all chosen in different classical examples. Horizontally, setting this lower point by the edge, channel bottom, or channel width are all logical. Classical examples stick within these examples. " I haven't sketched all these out. But wouldn't the above range of choices pretty much cover the range of classical examples using cycloids, circles, and everything else? Is it just that each instrument is consistent in the way the run-fall rule uses certain end points? As Mr. Burgess observes: "Are these things which cannot be easily observed with oblique lighting, and a bit of a skill-set?" While using the run-fall rule improved my arches, I'm now questioning whether this much analysis is used and am seeking a rapid workshop rule that gives the "right" looking result. Please do not think I am dinging your approach - it is highly educational and imposes a great consistency, but Mr. Burgess seems, at least from my distant perspective, to have a valid observation that making an arch "look right" may well lead to an arch that satisfies the rule. I am really enjoying this debate. Thank you all. I have two plates ready for final arching, so this is a particularly relevant debate!
  20. Pardon me for bursting in. A few things above really strike me - Burgess: I do question the value of trying to superimpose modern concepts and designs on older working methods, if a traditional outcome is the goal. Darnton: I guess this would be a more useful discussion if people would state their intent regarding the arching they use. Things like "replicate X", "achieve X tonal result", "make something I personally find attractive, without reference to something else". . . . something like that. It seems like the two of you (Peter and Dennis) are basically discussing personal preferences (choice #3 above) rather than specific objectives, right? That's a point of confusion I've seen throughout this discussion. Peter: the wood's properties dictates the arching height and volume/appearance. Those all seem to point at a key issue I have with templates and even post-arching analysis of one's own work. The facts, as I understand them, are that 1. there aren't templates in the old toolkits; 2. these were workshops looking to produce products; 3. while evidence of geometric construction are present on paper and forms and likely instruments, we don't see sheets of mathematical calculations; and 4. the shops were producing results that look like Cremonese arching without looking the same. There might even be a particular sound that comes from classical arching - my relatively unskilled ears apparently drag me towards the players who have something really cool and old in their hands. My dad says it takes me about 500 milliseconds to home in on the cool kids with the old master violins. This whole reverse engineering effort seems directed at getting to a final result that falls within the "looks Cremonese" envelope, regardless of whether the technique for getting there was even feasible in 1700 in a workshop environment. The quotes I gave above highlight the issue with this approach. Burgess points directly to this issue, that our modern concepts might not serve us well if the goal is to capture ancient working methods to get a traditional result - the result being the aspect highlighted by Darnton. Peter points to the arching being dictated by the wood's properties. Myself, I'm more focusing on what a fast worker with a couple of plates to shape might do quickly and efficiently to get to smooth shell structure that works to produce a violin. The top and back have different arches, they also differ in wood characteristics. Might those not be related? There's something simple and effective that underlies the development of the arching, and it can't be templates (there aren't any and they take too long to screw around with), doesn't involve tables of numbers (there aren't any), and can't be rigidly based on some complicated system (all the systems can be force fit onto the surviving instruments - and workers were unlikely to be interested in some complicated system). Within that working framework, some simple rules and working methods may exist, and I'm sure some makers are onto pieces of such a system if it works. David Beard's fall-run observations seem a useful check that doesn't take much doing, but the multiple lines of 2/3 etc are a pain to work with in any detail (I've done it, and like the result, but it's not fast enough). In my own small world of bashing through pieces of wood, I'm stepping back from templates and specific mathematical approaches and pondering other workshop techniques. There might well be something really simple going on that we're missing. Some technique / approach / tool use / alcoholic beverage / mystic chant.
  21. I know it's here somewhere. Stradivari had a small piece of wood with the distances the long way on a line and compass circles showing the widths at various points. There was a picture, and a modern example with I suspect the same numbers. I was hoping to make a duplicate to help in carving scrolls consistently, but I apparently didn't download the image and can't find it. Would much appreciate a link. If I recall correctly, it isn't in the collection in Cremona. Thank you all so much.
  22. I imagine I'm on my own more or less. I heard the Castelbarco Strad last night - that was a simple sounding instrument, but rather lots of volume. Dancing with the Betts. Goosebumps. I suppose a strong recurve and middling arch might do. I can rough and then work in from both sides, in and out. Thanks for the thoughts!
  23. Simeon Chambers sold me some very light Aspen and a very light top. These ring nicely. They've been sitting around. He said they'd make a great parlour fiddle. I don't doubt it. But I don't know what fiddle to build! Suggestions? Tempted by a high arch, high recurve design. Outline and size I don't know. I can wing the arching, if I have a vision, using Beard's 2/3:1/2 system and setting the channels appropriately. I just don't have that vision. Neither do I really have a clear picture of a big Strad model or a cute del Gesu or the S red violin . . . Something that sets off cleanly, with a very sweet tone, and not needing to be loud. I'm a bit stumped. Knowing what different arching is going to do doesn't baffle me, but has me pondering. Concepts? Thanks!!!
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