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  1. While mercury is nothing to mess around with, the elemental mercury in lamps is less of a hazard than methyl-mercury in fish. Wouldn't worry about the bulbs from a mercury standpoint. The risks of hard UV are a different matter. You can really cook the proteins in your eyes that way. I wouldn't want that around.
  2. My experience is that moving the top has the greatest impact on tone and balance. But I am an ametuer.
  3. Broad and flat can be OK. Go too flat and you will have trouble fitting a bridge. But Jim is right, if it seems reasonable move on. Keep a notebook so you can write down what later steps are affected by your choice. That way you can review and make intelligent choices about your next build. No one ever wants to stop and write things down. :-) I actually write on my wood: don't cut off the button, cut the neck dovetail this direction, knife cuts in this direction, etc. (I can hear the chuckles in the back of the room.)
  4. Also leave extra wood, do not go all the way to the final arch heights. If you are working cleanly with sharp tools, you only need to leave a millimeter or two. Then use a contour gage (or a pencil chucked in a drill press) and work on correcting the contours. Only then, at the last, work the arches to their final height.
  5. You are on the right track and working to develop the instinctive understanding of the shape that you need for this task. Don't be discouraged if the suggestions don't seem to help too much. Once you have the feeling, it will all make sense. I can describe the taste of melon, but you will not know until you taste it yourself. And after that, nothing need be said. I am on my 6th build, and only now do I have the understanding to get close to my desire! A couple of tips. Go VERY slow from the start. I lose the feeling if my works starts getting too choppy. (Also hard to smooth later.) Get your gouges very sharp, the cuts should look like glass, not ragged. This will make a huge difference in the "gracefulness" of your shaping approach, not to mention the smoothness of the final product. Use finger planes, set with a very fine bite, to do your rough shaping. This slows you down and gives smooth lines. Look at a finished violin as you work, look for the relationships in the shaping.
  6. I wouldn't worry about the occasional use of xylene, although I would avoid unnecessary skin contact and use it in a well ventilated area. Nitrile gloves are better than no gloves, but they will be eaten over time. If you want something to worry about, worry about the CFCs in nonstick pans, fabric treatments, and household cleaners. That stuff is nasty: fat soluble and never breaks down
  7. I have a similar issue. No fibers are stuck to the varnish, but the varnish has gone matte and has a microtexture, as if the varnish flowed or something was deposited on the varnish. Can clearly see the suppot points in the case. Very faint, but bothersome to the perfectionist in me. 1927 Johann Glass that is in pristine condition. I have just left it alone up to this point. Suggestions?
  8. So anything I think I am seeing is just specific to the instruments i am looking at, and not a general feature of different makers?
  9. My examination seems to show that Strad has a little steeper neck angle (fingerboard rises more) but the plate arch height is the same within a mm or so. Does this seem right. Does this imply a higher bridge height for Strad?
  10. I believe International Violin carries silk coverings.
  11. Is International Violin a reputable supplier for tools and templates?
  12. Are there any good introductory exercises for developing the techniques for playing fugues - easing into the voicing, articulation, managing the themes, etc. It seems like someone would have created a set of etude along these lines. Your suggestions are appreciated!
  13. Yes, single distance. I am near sighted and my regular glasses worked great at 6 feet, naked eyesight worked great at 1 foot, but the music stand distance was impossible. (Drugstore readers will not work for this if you are nearsighted, it is the opposite of the prescription you need.) IMPORTANT: Give your optometrist the exact distance to your music stand! They tune the prescription to give you laser sharp focus at a very precise distance.
  14. I too went to my optometrist and got a prescription for music stand distance. The improvement is wonderful!