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Progress pix

Michael Darnton

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It's finished. I set it up today, and took a quick set of photos, which are up now linked at the bottom of the third page. It sounds fine to me, but what do I know about violas. Several people who've played it so far say that it's extremely responsive, which even I can tell. A violist friend is stopping by tomorrow to play it, and I'll be mailing it out next week--the varnish still needs to set up a bit.

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It is absolutely beautiful--almost too beautiful for a viola, if you know what I mean!

(I have been watching the pix and drooling these past couple of months. But then, that's what violists do...you know the old joke about how you can tell whether the stage is level...)

I envy you, for being able to create such a beautiful thing (and envy Ethan, whoever he is, for coming to possess it). There is nothing like a brand new instrument, IMHO--except, perhaps, a brand new baby.


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I haven't had the sensation of what you describe Cliff, with the violin vibrating with local sounds. But, I nearly dropped my front one day as I was holding it, and my cattle dog (who's got the loudest, highest pitch bark ever invented), who was sitting at my feet, released the most shrieking of barks (purely for attention). The vibration that travelled through the soundboard was unlike anything I've ever experience. It came alive, albeit for 0.5 seconds. So I'm eager to experience this pleasure.

It goes without saying, Michael, that your work is a thing of beauty. Simple as that.

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The two things which strike me most are the corners and the head. I find it really hard to make them work the way I want to, but as far as the corners go it's perhaps partly because I never know exactly what to do with the outline of the corner blocks in relation to the external end-result. I think I'm prone to over-compensating for overhang on the block outlines.

One question - does the bridge stick to/gets embedded into the varnish at this stage, and if so, what do you do if you need to adjust the bridge in a few month's time - just rip it off?

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The only way to deal with corners, I think, is to make a bunch of violins. I've got it in my head now how a block is going to look as a corner. You could sit down and sketch it all out, though, very precisely. That works real well.

When I take off the bridge, it's most certainly going to take varnish off with it. I just don't worry about that--If I'm moving the bridge, I might put some "dark" on the bare spot so it's not too obvious.

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Michael, I guess this thread will be around for some time yet, but just in case - allow me to add my appeciation for your effort in sharing with us something of the creation process.

Even as a player with only a rudimentary knowledge of what's involved in making an instrument, following it's progress has been illuminating and I intend to show the file to anyone I can think of who may be interested.

I have a Strad of the McKenzie Strad viola somewhere(I think, without checking...) Without a close examination, that's what came to mind.

You mentioned on another thread that the client is unaware of the list of things that the maker notes for himself along the way, what might have been done differently.

Care to share what you have learnt and might incorporate in your next viola?


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Well, I got to see the 'real thing' and it is beautiful and can corrobrate, "it's perfect". I'm in Chicago for a couple days and asked Michael if I could drop by and see his shop. Somehow, I could not imagine a shop (table saw and all) on the 20th floor of a building. Even though it was a business day, Michael took an hour showing me around and giving me tips on selecting wood and sharpening. He graciously offered to answered any questions but, I was pretty much amazed at the whole visit and started comming up with a hundred questions after leaving.

He also showed me a violin "in-the-making" and his lightbox. I sure wanted to hear his violin and viola but, don't play well at all and was too embarrassed.

Thank you Michael for a great tour and taking the time.



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