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BarryD

Are toolmarks acceptable?

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Should all tool marks be removed by whatever means? Would I be able to see tool marks on the great violins? Let me qualify the question by saying I am not not talking about sloppy craftsmanship but the small chisel marks on the scroll or maybe in the pegbox etc...I can use sandpaper or maybe a scraper and remove them. The photos I have do not tell me enough.

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Stradivari left toolmarks of all sorts all over the place. Examples are many, but include pinpricks where he used his compass to draw circles, for instance in the button and on the back of scrolls. There are Stradivari's guide cuts that he made in the corners by following the edge around to the end of the corner with blades set at constant width and then he deviated from these guide marks in the actual purfling, but you can still see the original marks. I'm sure there are tons of other examples. Sacconi points out quite a few examples in his book that he used as the basis for coming up with some of his theories of how Stradivari did things.

I'm inclined to think that we regard technical cleanliness and perfection and complete lack of evidence of toolmarks with much greater importance than they did 300 years ago.

I should add that you could reasonably consider Stradivari's partially-concealed alignment pin holes (partially covered by purfling) in the same boat as tool marks, that is, evidence of his particular working technique of a purely functional nature which isn't completely obliterated and hidden in the final product.

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I have the feeling that nowadays toolmarks are acceptable depending upon the model you use - less toolmarks on a Strad model, more on a del Gesu, for instance. Also, I think toolmarks are acceptable or desirable not as a compromise on the level of workmanship, but as a stylistic feature.

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It depends on if the instrument is old or new.

If it's new, some players and dealers will frown upon it.

If old, they will say something like this: "the instrument is full of tool marks - a higly personal aproach of the maker that adopted a "sculptural" technique - and you can see some remains of the varnish inside them, what would be impossible if the tool marks weren't there".

The same can be said about thick varnish. Some dealers and players will frown upon it on a new instrument, but if the instrument is old they will say something like this: "A rare aspect of this violin is that it still retains it's original thick varnish, generoulsy aplied by it's maker, that still covers all the instument and is untouched, giving to it an extra charm" (and price!).

Everything is forgiven in an old instrument by some players and dealers...

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I think tool marks are desirable if they are an integral

part of the making process. I often see del Gesu copies which look like the scrolls were sanded smooth, and the maker then went back and added gouge marks. That would not be desirable,

Andrew

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I like tool marks that are an inevitable part of the fluency of a maker’s technique and making process, of course there is a grey area between that and sloppy craftsmanship that is hard to define in some cases!

When tool marks are added at the end to give some kind of character it’s usually fairly obvious and tends to look contrived.

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Speaking of integral tool marks reminds me of two del Gesu copies I've seen. On one of them the maker laid gouge marks like fishscales, all the same size and depth, overlapping all around the scroll. On the other, the maker had apparently read that del Gesu's gouge marks were haphazard, and the result was a scroll that looked like his dog had been chewing on it. Both completely missed del Gesu's (well, his father's, really) effect of an efficient and skilled carver working in an organized and effective, but not compulsive, manner.

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the process used in making are ALWAYS evident ,to some degree to a skilled observer, whether they be machine, sandpaper, counterfet, or more traditional techniques.

and bear testimony to the truth, or to a sham.

This question is similar to the "shiny or smooth" question, recently discussed.

I read an article on Japanese sword polishing, and learned that trade requires a five year apprenticship. And that improper "restorative" polishing can ruin an item.

The market covets the product of a careful solo maker, who leaves a trail of his methods, and techniques,which testify to his love of the process. Then the market, seeks to find a counterfeit product to feed vicariously upon the value of history.

The tool marks must be a testimony to history, or they are a sham, and a disgrace.

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One other thing about tool marks ... when Hieronymus Koestler was here last year I showed him my latest viola and asked him to look it over. One of his criticisms (one of his MANY criticisms I should have said) was that there were tool marks on the undercuts of the scroll but not on the flats of the turns. He said he had no problem with tool marks but they should be consistent!

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Michael, If I were to look at one of your scrolls, would I see tool marks? How about your scrolls CTViolin? I have used my small palm gouges to remove the larger gouge marks. The corner where the wall meets the flat is clean all the way down the spiral. It takes side lighting to really make the marks show but I afraid that varnish will amplify every mark. I could sand them smooth...

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Oh ya, It will be amplified after varnish ,So you can give a test while your plate in your hand, give it a coat of ground "I dont know what ground you going to use" But a thin clear coat of shillac will clarify all the problems .

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Quote:

Michael, If I were to look at one of your scrolls, would I see tool marks?


It sort of depends what I'm into that week, and what model I'm making. You wouldn't see too many in areas that are easy to scrape; more in those that are less accessible. And they do make sense--I'm not putting them there for effect.

I am starting to sand a bit. I'm thinking Strad scrolls have quite a bit of abrasive softening, and even del Gesu heads don't appear left from the gouge or scraped, quite. Let's say I'm rethinking the whole thing.

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sandpaper is like virginity or salvation, you either are/believe or not.

dogfish skin... pumice well, OK

actually I don't think sanding removes ANY marks, humps, or other assorted irregularities, it just spreads them out. but you cannot make a surface flat with unbacked paper, and you cannot create a "fair" curve, which is what beauty is all about.. with sandpaper.

Lumpy curves, and I've create a slew of them, are butt ugly.

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That's exactly right, and after having made a bunch of crisply *carved* scrolls, the more I look at, for instance, a del Gesu scroll, the more I see smeared lumps like unbacked abrasive would give, as opposed to the self-conscious, too-sharp contrived marks of modern makers. Just a thought. The precise moment I started thinking about it was the day I saw a mess of concentric scratches on the volutes, under the varnish, of a cello scroll from about 1740, not Cremonese, but Italian. Since seeing those, I've seen a few similar marks on Cremonese instruments. Hmmmmm. But I'm not quite ready to come over to the dark side. :-)

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"How about your scrolls CTViolin?"

Let me answer the question by indulging myself, and going the long (winded <g>) way around. Only because you asked, BarryD, and because I believe that the scroll reveals more about the individual maker than most other parts of the violin besides perhaps the ff holes or maybe the edge work.

First off, you should realize that I have never worked with or studied the Classical Italian violins at all. The closest I have ever come to seeing a real Strad or del Gesu, is by being in the same building where one was locked away in a vault. Most probably I never will see a real one in person.

Or perhaps it is fair to say that I have studied them in passing in books, which isn't the same thing at all as having gained a familiarity with them through handling them repeatedly or dealing with them in person. I'm guessing that my making would probably change for the better if I had the opportunity to work with some of them. Who knows?

All of my experience, which is fairly extensive, has come from making and seeing the work of other contemporary makers - some of which are eons ahead of me in their skill and artistry, and some of which are where I was when I first started making violins, their experience notwithstanding.

That's why I always try to pay particular attention to details like the scrolls, ff's and edge work of other makers - it gives me some idea about the particular makers capabilities and their ability to conceive and execute an idea in three dimensions. It also gives me ideas for my own work. Let me add here that I have no particular emotional attachment to any of the design elements present in the violin - if I could conceive of a more elegant design for the various parts of it, I would probably incorporate them, but I can't. I've actually thought quite a bit about it.

With the scroll, I have evolved an idea of what I want to accomplish, and I use whatever means I have to, to get there.

I used to sand extensively in order to accomplish what I thought a scroll should be, now I use mainly gouges and small chisels and scrape a lot. Scraping is a violin makers best friend as far as I am concerned. (also, let me add that I find that sandpaper, backed or not, IS quite good for flattening or fairing both the back and the belly arch, if you also use your eyes and your fingers to detect irregularities in the surface, and perhaps use rough paper against the grain early on, but I almost always scrape afterwards because I like the surface scraping leaves. What would it matter what method one used to arrive at a particular shape, as long as the remaining surface of the wood has the shape and the surface characteristics you want? The wood that you have left has no mystical "memory" of the procedures used to produce it, right?)

I've posted here for years and listened with fascination as Michael, Jeffrey, and others have recognized various instruments as belonging to this or that particular tradition, and were able to characterize various features as belonging to this or that particular maker.

But that's not me, and it never will be. I never join in those discussions because I know and care virtually nothing about it. It's not that I don't admire their skill or knowledge either, it's just that I never had the opportunity (nor the interest) to develop it in myself.

With that in mind, the answer is this:

My own scrolls would probably display tool marks to another maker who was looking for them, but I flatter myself that they are little sculptures that stand on their own anyway. A player would definitely not consider them to display tool marks. Then again a player doesn't have the same eyes that a maker does.

Occasionally I can still see some tool marks, mostly because when I arrive at the point where I feel the scroll is finished, I simply stop. To remove any more wood would ruin the geometry I am attempting to get in the interest of a perfect surface, and I would rather have the concept correct rather than a smooth surface for the sake of a smooth surface.

Honestly, I'm not particularly concerned with how it would compare to another (even if better) maker. I make them to please myself, and most likely the buyer isn't going to have a clue anyway if it's a "good" scroll or not.

Slightly off-topic... if the buyer requests a particular type of scroll, or feature, I will do that for him. (for example, some people like really deep volutes, or a flat eye, while others would want the eye rounded - etc.)

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Possibly an icy cold Guinness Extra Stout or MGD called me away before I was really done erasing the traces... but damnit, that's what ART is all about, right? It's about people who don't want to work a real job, still being able to make beer money.

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I would speculate that many classical Italian makers used some sort of abrasive material to soften off some of the crisp edges left by cutting tools. I’ve seen a couple of very pure Strads that appear to have had the sharp edges softened under the original varnish and I remember one Guadagnini that had what appears to be clear sand paper marks on the archings under pristine original varnish.

I like to use a piece of cloth with some pumice in it to soften the sharp edges if I’m making a clean finished instrument.

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When exactly did sandpaper come into existance? Aside from the one's already mentioned, what other abrasives where around in Strad's time for woodworking?

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