Graduation Dilemma

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The reason I defend tuning in this forum is because I think it is a

tool that many less experienced makers could use in their arsenal

to produce better instruments. I too have known people who you are

referring to in your phrase "are careful and skillful tuners is

that they're boring". To slavishly go after frequencies or patterns

in pursuit of making the perfect instrument is not a road I

would go down.

And just to be clear, at this point in my career I generally

graduate my plates completely before checking out their

patterns and frequencies. If I like the feel (weight, flexibility,

etc.) and ring of the plate prior to testing I do not make

changes but I certainly record them.  Also, as I think we can

all agree, every piece of wood is different and although it is

possible to force a pattern or frequency when graduating it is not

always beneficial.

Chladni patterns and modal frequencies are just another metric like

weight, thickness, arching heights, etc. Nothing more.

And lastly, another motive for my defense of tuning in this forum

is to evoke a witty, insightful, hopefully sarcastic and

succinct remark or story from you that will keep me in good humor

for several days.

Thanks Michael!

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I began my interest in violins the early '80s with tests on free plates. Back then you had to use things like a Brush chart recorder and a tube amp with a parametric equalizer instead of a computer with FFT software. I came to a similar conclusion (though I never got involved in graduating plates.) You can sort out good violins from bad, but you can't sort out good violins from exciting ones in this way.

That's interesting about Carleen Hutchins--I didn't know she'd deviated away from her earlier theories about the significance of free plates. At the end of her classic article in Scientific American, she acknowledged the fact that the assembled violin is an extremely complex vibrational system, and that there was much yet to learn about it.

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[Am I the only one who feels like this board must be running on a Commodore 64 these days?]

No, it is driving me crazy too- I wish there was some way to bring it to the attention of the site owners, AND having them do something about it.

Just imagine what the next "upgrade" will produce - so far each version has been worse in some ways than the one before.

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I thought the slow loading was designed to let us get some work done in between reading and posting replies. You just click on a thread, go do a neck set or make a bass bar, and when you get back the thread should appear shortly.

A couple of years ago, someone posted a "graduation map" for top and back plates. I am doing my first regraduation of an old German instrument and need the thicknesses. Does anyone remember posting the map, or can point me in the right direction.

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Andres is the one who's good at turning up old threads. . . .

What I usually do is make the top 2.6mm, except 3.0+ at the post, for an area a bit larger than a quarter; the ribs, 1.0mm; the back 4.5mm in the center at the narrowest spot, running evenly down to 2.3mm in the widest parts of the bouts. Make the waist on the back a minimum of 3.5mm, also. And don't get carried away with getting things right out to the edges--there should be a good blend, usually getting thicker to the edge, not a step close to the linings. If you do all that, you'll be in the statistical average Strad ballpark, which is usually good for most anything. If you're not overly precise in doing all of this, that's good, too.

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Hi everyone,

I want to thank you all for your previous thoughts and


I'm rejuvenating  this old thread because I have strung the

violin up in the white. As I mentioned I left the plates

 thick, 3.5 mm on front and 3 and 4 mm on the back. I did this

mainly because the top plate felt fairly flexible at this

thickness, and the tap tones where where I normally find them. I

thought I would see how it worked out.

I have been playing it for a day or so now and it seems to have

plenty of  projection. If I could single out any problem are

it would be that the G and the E are some what subdued

relative to the D and A (not really bad). The D and A sound good to

me. I believe the sound post is well fitted, but I have not made

any attempt to optimize its position.

My question now is what  symptoms would I expect to find if

the plates (especially to top) is too thick for optimum tonal

quality. I am still considering the possibility of thinning the top


Any comments?

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Sometimes I make my tops with 3.4 mm, but I use that combined with other aspects of my model and the technique I use. Thicknesses can't be seen separetely. Take for instance sugar, it's obviously a sweetener, but it's also a thickner, a conservant, a brightener.

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Hi Manfio,

I understand what you are saying. But I was wondering if you have

any specific tonal characteristics you would expect if the top was

too thick. Or are the possibilities too extensive to list. I

remember the "Cannone" model that I made was muted at first, until

it was played for a good while. I guess I would have expected to

get a similar response from this Viotti model if the plates were

too thick.


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Hi! If the top is too thick it will be difficult to make the violin sound, the sound will be on the shrill side too, and poor in harmonics.

You have mentioned that you left the Cannone model you have made thick, but the Viotti is another animal if compared to the Cannone, with that wide model and deep ribs that counterbalances the thick plates.

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elderthomas said:

"I have strung the violin up in the white (and have played it to

get an idea of the sound)"

i'm confused (hopefully people aren't sick of me saying that?

)...i was under the impression, especially from another

recent thread (i think 'improving violins') that the varnish makes

a huge difference in the sound? maybe it's that if it's bad varnish

already on the violin you can't do much about it, but if it's

unvarnished you can kinda allow for the difference that varnish


this is something i've wondered about when people discuss making

violins, and talk about putting them together, then making further

refinements based on that...i always wondered if they could

estimate without varnish, or if they varnished it, then took it

apart and made changes on the inside where there was no




PS to Manfio: there are no limits to the power of sugar! in fact,

it probably has it's own boards with intense discussion, just like

violins do!  

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Hi Cassi! I love cooking and I see many things in common with violin making.

The varnish plays havoc with the sound, the perfect varnish would have no influence over the sound. In general, when a violin does not sound well in the white I a see a red light in my panel.

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