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Cleated center seams


Ron1
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Did many (or any) makers cleat their center seams as a matter of course, that is, was it their normal way of making? If so, who were some of those makers? Or, are cleats usually an indication of seam repair? Or would it only have been done when the maker thought the seam on a new instrument was a little "iffy"?

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I'm neither a maker nor repairer but am old enough to have looked into quite a few violins. In none of those instruments, as I remember, were there cleats on the visible seam, the back's seam, except one. In that case the seam kept opening up for the player and after repeated closures that didn't hold without cleats, the dealer (not the maker) put cleats on the back's seam, about 3 or 4 of them distributed evenly over the part of the seam that wasn't reinforced by the blocks.

So, if my experience is typical, then the answer to your question whether many makers used center seam cleats is no. And, yes, cleats would be an indication of seam repair.

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Although most violins were/are made without cleats on the center joints of the plates, I have seen a bunch that were made with the cleats. No specific makers come to my mind except the JTL workshops. I've see the cleats mostly, if not entirely, on the back rather than the top. I generally see original cleats on joints that appear sound and well-made.

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I have seen some good old violins with what appear to be original cleats on the back. The varnish often betrays no indication of ever having been broken, so I am inclined to believe it was not as a repair. FWIW, I like to see them on violin backs, but only if they are meticulously executed.

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quote:


FWIW, I like to see them on violin backs, but only if they are meticulously executed.

As a potential buyer, I would shy away from a fiddle that had cleats on the back seam, if I were choosing between two fiddles, one with cleats and one without, and everything else about the qualities of the two fiddles were pretty much equal. Is my wariness about cleated back seams overdone?

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Oddly enough, in your dilemma, I would opt for the one with cleats, but again, only if they were superbly executed. I suppose personal history is responsible for certain prejudices. The first "exceptional" violin I obtained had cleats that I am certain were from the maker, and several other good violins I have handled have had them. In addition, I have somehow drawn an association of back cleats with corner blocks.

Although, I can see why you might have the view you have, and should you come across any good violins selling very cheaply that you cannot bring yourself to buy because they are cleated, email me.

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GMM,

Thanks for a good natured and helpful response to a friendly disagreement.

I would tend to put cleating the back center seam for reinforcing an already strong joint in the category of adding unnecessary wood to the plate.

But I will certainly, from now on, look harder and ask more questions if I see a fiddle with cleated back center seam to try to figure out when and why it was cleated. I won't assume I'm looking at a repaired seam.

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Your post had me wondering for a brief moment about such weight considerations, so I did some quick calculations (all in the name of greater violin knowledge of course!).

I determined (by making some) that the average weight of a cleat such as I am familiar with on my fiddles, weighs a maximum of .04 grams each. The few fiddles I checked had six or seven back cleats, for a total addition of just over a quarter of a gram of mass. I would go out on a limb and suggest that such a small addition of mass, equally distributed about the back, would be entirely undetectable by even the most sensitive ear or spectrum analyzer. In addition, fluctuations in shoulder rests, bow pressure, chin pressure, or even grip about the neck would swamp any potential effect even if it were measurable by super sensitive equipment.

It should be easy to test because pseudo cleats could be temporarily affixed to the outside of an instrument with double-sided tape.

I still appreciate the viewpoint of those who prefer no cleats.

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Cleats on the center seem seem to be doing something which they aren't (in the vast majority of cases, certainly in the case of a new instrument). Ergo, they were put there by somebody for the wrong reason. Why would one prefer a violin made by somebody who didn't really know what he was doing?

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I like violins by Alfred Vidoudez...he is an early 20th century maker of outstanding instruments who is often overlooked because he was "Swiss"...all the specimens I've seen had cleated backs with identical shaped cleats placed in an identical pattern -- hence, I think they were original to the instrument...why he did it is unknown...but he most assuredly was a master violin maker who knew what he was doing.

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I have two American instruments from the same maker one older one 1916 no cleats and 1928 with cleats. Oddly enough the latter needed a seam seperation repair when I aquired it. I recently set up a early 1900s German factory viola that was very well made instrument that had them. Personally a seam seperation repair would be the LEAST of my worries as far as buying something. IMHO

Mike

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quote:


Originally posted by: GMM22

In addition, I have somehow drawn an association of back cleats with corner blocks.

GMM22- Obviously you don't mean that corner blocks & back cleats necessarily go together. Do you mean that the presence of either (or both) is an indication that an instrument is 'well made'? This seems to be the general concensus I'm drawing from the comments, and also reflects my thinking on the subject. Whether or not the cleats are necessary, I think some makers learned to use them & probably believed they either helped, or certainly did no harm.

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Some makers (good & bad; commercial & non commercial) did it. Some makers did it when using highly flamed wood. Some repair people did it later on. Some repair people removed them when they thought they weren't required.... etc.

Choosing to purchase an instrument because it either has, or hasn't, an unrepaired back seam cleated is silly.

It's a wide spread practice that crossed many borders... so no, I don't think it's a viable method of ID.

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