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Al Cramer

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Everything posted by Al Cramer

  1. For what it's worth -- I used to turn folk flutes & piccolos, and found Watco tung oil gave an excellent finish (it's basically tung oil with some driers added). I tried linseed/turpentine/driers mixtures, but they always left a residual top-layer that started looking crappy over time. Not so the tung oil: it did become a bit duller, but you could restore it with an olive-oil wipedown (wood flute players do that periodically to the bore, so wiping down the exterior as well doesn't strike anybody as weird).
  2. That looks like a gorgeous instrument & I enjoyed watching the Curtin video -- thanks for posting. Re chinrests: I've evolved into a less-is-better philosophy. I did this for physical reasons: I'm kind of Neanderthal looking but short of stature, with broad shoulders and a short neck. Given this (ok, ugly) physique, I've set up my violins with Dresden chinrests, cut down as much as possible so as to still keep the holes intact. On my 16.5 inch viola, I dispensed with the chin-rest altogether. So the question is: do I sound better when I setup the chinrests this way because I've mated the instrument better to suit my particular body? Or do I sound better because I've reduced the weight of the chinrest, and thus its impact on the sound?
  3. When I listened to the piece on my laptop, I couldn't hear the flutey-ness of the Stainer. When I plugged my Focusright into my laptop & listened thru headphones, I could. But only in the high notes: lower register sounded nothing like a flute. Really interesting instrument, I can see why some people might really value that sound model. BTW -- everybody played beautifully in that video but they need to pay a little more attention to visuals. Like: smile more? They all look like they're trying to solve difficult problems in algebraic topology. I'm sorry to bring this irrelevant shit up, but if you're posting stuff on youtube, the visuals matter.
  4. I just wanted to thank Michael Richwine for adding to this thread. Also Marty Kasprzyk for citing a very interesting research paper in response. Really interesting reading. As a player, I'm fascinated to see how people are working to understand this 400 year old invention & make it the best it can be in the 21st century. Personally I think Michael's project is more likely to help players, but I totally get that the kind of research cited by Marty can be important to makers.
  5. I hope Michael Richwine will post something to this thread. Reason being: in US, some people who play fiddle (like Nashville session players) really like well-made Euro Maggini-style instruments from turn of 20th century. They don't play much above 5th position, and the theory is that the extra 1/4" in body length gives a bigger & richer sound in the lower register. Are we just wrong in thinking this way?
  6. Don't worry about the varnish & deep scratches -- there are ways to fix that that still respect the historicity of the instrument. If you want to restore this instrument, first thing to worry about is the neck geometry. Has the neck sunk? There are many many postings on this forum about neck geometries. You should read them! If that's too much, here's what I do. Measure vertical distance from end-of-finger- board to center of G string. That should be <= 6 mm. Then measure vertical distance from end-of-fingerboard to E string. That should be < 4mm. Finally, measure distance from top-of-fiddle to top of bridge. That should be somewhere between 28 and 32mm. If these measurements are all correct, the neck geometry is ok and you can proceed to carving a new bridge & fitting a new soundpost. If they're not, you will have to correct the neck. The pros who post here know how to do proper neck resets. All I know to do is knock off the top nut, remove the fingerboard, and add a shim.
  7. Renegade -- I just wanted to provide some context for martin swan's comment. He wrote "it would be better to cultivate respect for old objects" but didn't explain why. I think what's going is: you're colliding with current moral values regarding restoration. For violins, it's ok to do whatever it takes to make them playable again. And it's ok to repair damaged finishes. But going beyond that is problematical (so some people think re-graduating plates is ok and some people don't). Mucking around with the scroll seems a definite no-no. Even if the scroll seems badly carved, it's part of what the instrument is. One of the great things about vintage instruments is that they connect us to the people who made them, maybe centuries ago. They live on thru their work (even if was poor), so when you mess with their work you're erasing them. BTW -- I am in no way speaking for martin swan or anybody else who posts here. I'm just trying to explain why people are offended by the idea of recarving the scroll. Again I wish you best of luck!
  8. If that were my violin -- and the neck geometry was acceptable -- I'd first approach it as a setup-challenge. So get sound post right, make a bridge, re-plane finger board as needed, then noodle around with upper & lower nuts & tail-piece setting to get something that sounds & plays as best it can. Then I would do finish-restoration (something I personally love, as I trained as a painter but always secretly wanted to be fine-arts forger). Best of luck!
  9. Al Cramer


    Yay! Sounds like you're 90% there. Your idea that it's time to start worrying about strings sounds right-on.
  10. The idea of taking the left side of violinA and joining it with the right side of violinB is fascinating. Is this something people are doing now? I would love to see what results if you take 2 different violins by the same maker, and perform that image composition.
  11. Al Cramer


    Addendum to previous post -- Should have mentioned: there was a note string some time back where people were talking about SP setters, and Michael Richwine posted a photo of the S-tool he uses, where he's re-ground the tip so it's more like a spear. I bought an additional S-tool and reshaped it like he did, and it's really cool: you can use it to slightly rotate the post around its vertical axis after you've placed it, which can really help with the fit.
  12. Al Cramer


    RobP, your understanding of nominal positions is pretty much in line with mine. The only thing I can add is: that rule-of-thumb about distance between north-edge of SP and south-edge of treble bridge foot should be equal to table thickness is maybe a little wrong? On my fiddles, I always wind up a mm or so north of that. Re lateral adjustment: I always seem to wind up with the center of the SP directly behind the center of the treble foot. It sounds to me like your SP is really wrong. If you've got the tools, why not make some new ones and fit them? You can order stock from Stewmac. Fit is really hard, but if you slack the strings and pull out the end pin, you can peer in there and get some idea of what's going on.
  13. Al Cramer


    If you mean the north side of the SP is 3/8" south of the southern edge of the bridge foot, that's like 9mm? There're many many postings about SP position on Maestronet. I've spent hours fiddling with that on my 3 fiddles (plus other people's); and at least on mine, one seems to want a distance of 1.5mm, one wants a tad more than 2, and the third is somewhere in between. I felt these distances were suspiciously small, but the Olympians who post here told me that these distances weren't that weird. Best of luck if you want to mess with it yourself!
  14. Would be good for Scottish music -- the player could buy a kilt that matched the fiddle.
  15. I like how the feet are tilted forward, like the bridge is standing tip-toes, yet the body of the bridge arches violently backwards. It's like an extreme yoga pose for a violin bridge. Thanks for sharing, I would never have thought such a thing possible and am seriously challenged to understand how the static forces make it so.
  16. Thanks Michael & GoPractice! Reason I asked about the wedge is: I naively thought that the right fix would be to just make a thicker fingerboard. But I can now see that even a tiny increase in fb weight might effect the sound. But couldn't you compensate by scooping out a bit more wood on the underside? No need to respond to this post. I am beginning to see how violin repair & restoration resembles chess -- every little move you make HERE effects the state-of-play over THERE. It must be amazing to work at the level you guys do.
  17. Here's a link. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2022/jul/07/kronos-quartet-david-harrington-violin The pix are interesting -- seems he uses 4 fine tuners. Also it looks like there's a tiny shim (untapered) under the fb. What would be the purpose? (Maybe I'm just misreading the photo).
  18. To the OP: This discussion is getting pretty metaphysical. If you just want to know the value of the instrument: very little as re. $$. Small shops set these things up badly and offer them on Reverb.com for like 600$, then wind up accepting an offer for 200$. The "Made in Germany" label will be a real turn-off if you're in the USA, because it strongly suggests the fiddle is a German-trade instrument sold via Sears or Monty Ward's catalogs back around 1900. Funny thing is: some of those instruments were actually good! You just can't tell unless you set it up and play it. Or have somebody do that for you (which will be costly). If for some reason you want to learn violin, this might be a decent instrument: if you post more and better pix, people here can help you figure much it would cost to make it playable. If you've no interest in playing it, I'd suggest listing it on Craigslist for 150$ and see what happens.
  19. Could the savants please comment on the arching? It seems unusually flat, but maybe my eyes are deceived by the photos.
  20. Many thanks to the people who posted, esp. Davide Sora: really interesting to learn about Amati pegboxes vs later instruments, it totally accords with what I see in my German copy of the Amati pattern, maybe that baby is more accurate than I thought. Davide, I also wanted to thank you for the wonderful videos you're posting. They are really great re. content and beautifully produced.
  21. Does anyone have any insights into asymmetries in pegbox wall thickness? I have 2 fiddles, both of which I think are turn-of-the-century German factory instruments. The Amati is my good fiddle and the Maggini is my beach fiddle. In both cases the pegbox wall on the treble side becomes thinner as it approaches the nut. Have also seen this on some low-quality thru-the-neck instruments I set up for friends. Recently I bought an unused 2006 Yitamusic violin to see what it had to offer (quite a lot! Really big sound though not as nice as my other axes). Here the wall-thicknesses are the same on both sides. So I was wondering: what's the deal? At first I thought: less good instruments are symmetrical re width of treble and bass side, better ones aren't; but then I think a I remember watching a Davide Sora video in which the two sides had the same thickness (though I'm not sure at which stage the video was shot). Thanks!
  22. Any chance you could interest your client in trying one of the flat shoulder rests? Here's one: https://www.johnsonstring.com/cgi-bin/music/scripts/violin-viola-cello-music.cgi?itemno=SRVVARTS111/XB&gclid=Cj0KCQjwkruVBhCHARIsACVIiOywUTbF7pYn98znhhnsixJ7W8SobmH71ecURGrb4VjhTgUyWM9gJgYaAhV4EALw_wcB There are others. I don't have any experience with them -- I don't use a shoulder rest, but I basically only wear ancient t- or sweat shirts, so the instrument is only rubbing against soft cotton.
  23. Hi Theghostis -- If your goal is to get that instrument setup as efficiently & cheaply as possible, you should definitely take it to a good shop (which can be hard to find, depending on where you live). But if you want to spend $$ and time (LOTS of time) to learn to DIY it, it's definitely possible. Assuming the neck doesn't need a reset, I bet you could get OK results after spending a couple of hundred bucks and fifty hours of time. Not anything like what the maestros who post here would get, but OK. DIY setup is only an option if you want to spend a lot of time thinking about violins. Like take the question "How do I tell if the issue is the neck or the fingerboard?". I bet if you thought more about it, you could figure that one out. Best of luck!
  24. Just to add to Brad Dorsey's last comment -- -- and writing as a complete non-pro -- I've had good results fixing damaged finishes on instruments using watercolors and spirit varnish. For watercolors, a basic 12-pan set of Winsor-Newton colors is all you need. For varnish, I use Behlen spirit varnish, thinned down with denatured alcohol. Also you need nice squirrel hair brushes. It takes a while to get the hang of restoration (it's all about multiple layers) but if you take some time to mess around on scrap surfaces it's pretty amazing what you can do. One of my big goals in life was to become an incredibly successful art-forger: never realized that goal, but restoring violin finishes has been almost as satisfying.
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