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f-hole tutorial


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Those aren't horrible. The main thing I'd call a defect is that they're cut too open all around--the bottom of the stem of the left one in particular, but overall they're too open everywhere. Also, unless following the del Gesu model the wings shouldn't get wider towards the ends. Most normally, they're parallel-sided tabs that bend around; sometimes, on earlier models they taper--so I guess part of it is a stylistic consistency compared with traditional models. This example is mixed in that respect, but overall it's not inelegant.

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These holes (Andrea Guarneri) are pretty nice, though just a bit idiosyncratic at the top of the left one:


Here's the "Messiah" Strad:


Most Strad f-holes are just a little awkward for my taste, when compared with earlier Amati school instruments such as the A. Guarneri above, and these are no exception--the don't have quite the flow across the top. Notice in both cases, though, however, how the top of the upper wing points straight up like this: ^

Here's an early Strad--a little better to my taste:


It's not quite fair for me to talk about mine, because I like what I do, but on this one:


I think I pulled off the top the best, with the middle a bit stiff, and the bottom just OK--not as well unified as the top area.

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Some makers mix styles. For me, the challenge is always to come as close as I can to the original. As with many parts of violins, Cremonese violins have definite standards and design consistencies, and so there's something they all have in common. I don't think anyone would mistake my f-holes from a real Strad any more than they're confuse a Rugeri with an Amati--so instead of thinking of it as greater or lesser originality, think of it as personality sneaking in on a set form to make the form personal. I can't be Stradivari no matter how hard I try, and in one sense, that this is me being me, that should fill your request. :-)

The ends of the Tecchler holes are a bit too wrapped for my taste, especially the bottom in proportion to the top, and notice how the points at the top lean in, making the flaps look like they're falling in compared to Cremonese fs. Overall, though, they're well balanced and interesting.

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That's what I mean--notice that even though the holes really wrap at the top and the bottom, the points ^ still point straight up, which he does by broadening the angle on the inside to match the outside--completely different, but fits the rules (Rogeri was an Amati worker). The tapering width of the flaps is an Amati thing.

Another thing to notice about a nice f is how the upper hole hangs directly balanced from the space above it, at rest, not dripping in or out. Check the Strads (and my violin, where it's just right, in my opinion :-) on the Shar site) for the best executions of that.

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Doug - you should hear how they sound!

thanks for the tips - that helps a lot. Going back a bit - about Strad f's - I recently saw a nice 1709 example and the f's were probably the thing that impressed me most, incredibly fine in their precision and delicacy, perhaps the overall impression had something to do with the varnish....I just didn't see anything awkward about it. Can you show us some more examples of Strad f-holes that don't cut it? (and why?)


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I find I can't consider f-holes in isolation. An f-hole that is attractive in a template might not look well on the violin. The ones that 'work' seem to share the characteristics of natural flow of line, as if executed with a calligraphic pen--the narrow parts occuring where the pen changed direction. (del Gesu followed this to the extreme.) If done correctly edges of the wings will either converge or diverge gracefully. Both the top and bottom eyes are formed by following this theme in the example you linked to. It's a bit more subtle than Amati or Stainer (in fact Stainer resolved any ambiguity by bringing the wings nearly to a point.)

Am I making any sense?

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Yes, it's a nice looking example. Two comments--notice how he got a little out of control at the top--probably cut a bit too much heading towards the center over the eye, and then had to blend it in. Something like that (looking like a big forehead) usually means he lost it and cleaned it up as well as possible; another thing like that (not on this example) is wings that are too blunt and short when maybe the fragile little side point broke off, necessitating trimming the whole thing back. That's also common.

Another thing about this hole which is more personal taste is that I don't like to see an f hole undercut so much--when it's like that and you can't see any of the thickness of the top it looks like the hole has been punched out of a thin piece of paper instead of of being through something with body and thickness, and the edges, being acute, are more likely to become damaged with time.

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Heres the other one!


You have seen them before ,on a certain english fiddle by Meek.

I like them anyway ,they are not as undercut as they appear and look in good condition for 100 years!

I can see your point though, i think!!!

What about this one??


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