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Hey Joe

I actually made four Voboam copies. One was kind of simple, with two piece ebony sides, and I french polished that one with shelac and waxed the top like a lute. Two were fancier and more like the original 1687 Alexander Voboam and Bob talked me into using Behlin padding laquer on the sides and five piece pearwood back. You kind of put it on the same way you french polish with a wad of cotton. The last one that I still own (you might have seen that one at the Portland VSA) was the full nine yards with four piece ebony sides. I think that I french polished the sides and back but I can't remember. It was 1983 or so.

I do remember that Bob Lundber's shop where I was making it (my own shop had too many distractions, so I spent one day a week at his) had all of these great double windows. The Behlin had some solvent in it that fruit flies seemed to love. There were clouds of them around the guitar all the time and everbody was ticked off. It was actually pretty funny. Chris Burt might remember, he used to come around and visit. Thire was also an apprentice of Bob's named Guenter Mark trying to work among all the fruit flies. He was a great guy and maybe some of you EU folks have heard of him. He makes gamba and lutes near Nuremburg now.

Joe, did you hang a bit with Boris in Wilmington?

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Rico,

That's the one I saw, but what do I know from baroque guitars? What a piece of WORK! I skipped Wilmington because I had promised to babysit 2 of my grandkids that week so their parents could go on vacation...grandkids trump VSA...I hear though that Boris had a good time hobnobing with his fellow wizards.

onwego.

Joe

ps:Behlens smells worse now but it doesn't attract flies anymore

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WOW, that's really interesting about the Ramirez thick finishes! Your first hand experience with these folks is worth alot. I guess this shows that the ideas about the finish and the effect is all over the board. Michael Darnton told me once if he wasn't so steeped in tradition and his own method, he would just buy a good oil varnish from the hardware store and use it.

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I've read recently about some research that was done on Stradivari's violin finishes and his use of a mineral ground. Am I correct in my understanding that the mineral ground mentioned in association with violins is the same as the pumice filler used in french polish on guitars? I know there's a difference in application. And perhaps a difference in the intended purpose.

In guitar, the pumice is both a slight polishing agent and a grain filler. Being transparent when saturated with shellac and impervious to shrinking with age, it gets in the wood pores and stays there, leveling the surface and allowing the natural color to come through. I'm not as clear as to it's purpose on the violin as there is less emphasis on the smooth glassy type finish and more on the non-penetrating sealer as a ground.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
mignal

Well the major difference is that on a guitar the top doesn't get pumiced, only the large pores of Rosewood, Mahogany etc. In actual fact I haven't heard of a single guitarmaker applying a mineral ground to Spruce but of course there may be the odd one.

Now, that's interesting. I hadn't thought of the guitar being only selectively filled with pumice. Hmmmm... Since most articles covering Strad's finishing techniques don't go in to much detail on where they take their samples, I'm puzzled now as to whether the 'mineral ground' is over the whole instrument or only on the non-spruce parts.

Since the contours of the carved top on a fiddle intersects more of the grain and exposes more pores than a flatter guitar top would, perhaps some fiddle makers used the mineral ground on the top also.

Please forgive the speculation of a non-builder. I merely marvel at this wonderful art form.

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I think on the advice of a violin making friend, I used egg white as a sealer on he top. I know that I never used pumice or rottenstone. When spraying lacquer I used sanding sealer as first coat and a very dark paste filler to fill the pores of the back and sides. After this was wiped off against the grain it was sandwiched in by another coat of sealer. I don't think that I cared much about the pores when I french polished I just kept rubbing it in. I sure don't miss spraying lacquer. Very bad stuff.

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Hi Joe, did you get into that site and if so, what are your thoughts? I don't suppose this is any different from 100 other products worldwide. One possible area of concern is that it does penetrate deeply (but not heavily) - one could seal the surface with a complimetary sanding sealer to offset that problem I suppose.

Talking about egg-whites. I used egg whites on at least half of my violins as a sealing coat and I think it works very well as a sealer. I have also used gelatine and that too works well as a sealer. Typically one would not have to do grain-filling on a violin as both maple and spruce have little or no pores. Some guitar woods though have a lot of open pores though. One of the experienced makers here does not grain-fill and prefers the look of open pores.

My guitars so far have been maple/spruce so I havn't had to make that decision yet - the one I am working on now uses Padouk sides/back which will require filling. I have done some successful tests where I added pumice to the first few coats of this "Woodoc" we are talking about.

Does anyone know if egg white is considered a grain filler (by itself) or if one could maybe add pumice to it?

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We've been systematically experimenting with primers, grounds, and sealers for around fifteen years, now, and they can make a very noticeable difference in the sound of an instrument, especially when you are looking for that last bit of sweetness from an already good violin. Some grounds, like potassium silicate, tend to make violins pretty screechy and harsh, others tend to deaden the sound. The trick is to selectively enhance or soften the particular frequencies that improve the sound of a particular model, with its particular arching and wood. Lots of trial and error, but the results have been worth it. This isn't just talk or speculation, since results speak for themselves. We're not particularly famous or well known, but our instruments are played by a number of touring soloists and principal chairs of major orchestras. I've heard for myself how much difference the ground can make on otherwise identical violins. We have a little advantage because we have a number of luthiers producing mid-level violins as well as our professional models, so we have ample opportunity for experimentation.

BTW, our master luthier says categorically that one of the main reasons French bows were so good is the ground they use under the finish. Given our experience with violins, that is not at all implausible, but I haven't had an opportunity to pursue the matter further with him.

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"BTW, our master luthier says categorically that one of the main reasons French bows were so good is the ground they use under the finish."

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Can you ask him if he has ever been told what the ground is? Perhaps you might also ask him what he thinks the actual mechanism is that contributes to better sound.

I think the wrong kind of finish could negatively impact a bow, but I am somewhat sceptical that grounds could play a role in improving the sound of a bow. I would be curious to hear more about this theory.

Perhaps you can ask him to clarify the use of the word "were". Does this mean he thinks French bows of today do not sound as good as those of the past? Of course this would imply there is a lost secret to French bows, and we all know nothing is more intriguing than the idea of a lost secret.

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I'll ask. I've been meaning to follow up, but as I said, our experience with violins makes the assertion about bows pretty plausible. I was originally strongly of the opinion that the varnish system (primer, ground, sealer, varnish in whatever combination) could only degrade the sound of an instrument, until I listened to several years worth of instruments with different systems on them. The results have been consistent and repeatable, and I'm thoroughly convinced. Many grounds can make an instrument more powerful, but not necessarily better sounding. I play just such an instrument for fiddling in noisy jams because it cuts through the surrounding noise very well. Couldn't begin to speculate on a mechanism - our progress has been purely by brute force, empirical trial an error on a lot of instruments. Most of the incremental improvements in our instruments have come from improvements in the varnish system. The basic outline, arching, wood, and graduation have been pretty consistent for quite a few years.

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Rico, I remember seeing some of your baroque guitars during construction, but not during the finishing process. The clouds of fruit flies must have been lots of fun, but I'd never have guessed from looking at the finished guitars. I always liked those guitars.

Jeff's French polished instruments did begin after Cyndy moved to Portland. I remember, at the time, she talked to several of us about our approaches to French polish. She does a lovely job--a fitting final grace to Jeff's amazing guitars.

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>>>Can you ask him if he has ever been told what the ground is? Perhaps you might also ask him what he thinks the actual mechanism is that contributes to better sound.

I asked. No idea what the ground might have been, but we're about to start finding out.

Anton's pretty much done with experimenting with violin grounds for a while, since he has achieved the sound that he has been after for so long. We'll see how the latest instruments with the current ground and varnish develop and mature for a while before contemplating any further changes. In the meantime, he's got a stock of near-identical bows laid in, and we're about to start experimenting with them. I'll be happy to let you know in a general way what sort of results we get, as soon as we get some. (Methodology: Make samples, get a lot of good players to A/B them with known standard, listen very carefully to the instruments and the player's response, take careful notes, repeat until patterns become clear, then try something else...).

As far as the mechanism goes, it's pretty hard to do more than speculate. It's apparent that different grounds damp or enhance the transmissions of certain frequencies. Anton's pretty empirically driven, not given to being overly theoretical. Artist, not engineer.

>>>I think the wrong kind of finish could negatively impact a bow, but I am somewhat sceptical that grounds could play a role in improving the sound of a bow. I would be curious to hear more about this theory.

Well, it's inescapably clear to us that choice of ground and its method of application strongly affect the sound of an instrument. All you have to do is look at all the (fairly) controlled comparisons we, and lots of others, have done. So if grounds affect the sound characteristics of instruments, I think the question to ask is, "Is there any reason that it wouldn't have an analogous effect on Pernambuco?"

>>>Perhaps you can ask him to clarify the use of the word "were". Does this mean he thinks French bows of today do not sound as good as those of the past? Of course this would imply there is a lost secret to French bows, and we all know nothing is more intriguing than the idea of a lost secret.

The word "were" was my choice, since the reputation of French bows in general was established a long time ago. We're primarily violin makers, not resellers. We see and work on a fair number of good Italian violins that belong to some of our customers, but we don't deal in them like a lot of shops do. Same with bows. We have a very good bow maker in Moscow, and handle a few other contemporary bows, but don't deal heavily in antique bows, so don't really have an opinion on modern vs antique French bows. I could repeat the opinions we hear from players around the world, but that wouldn't have much point......

It'll probably be two or three months, since time is pretty tight lately, but I'll try to post some preliminary observations when available, positive or negative.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Nonado

I am somewhat sceptical that grounds could play a role in improving the sound of a bow. I would be curious to hear more about this theory.


I'm skeptical as well, that bow grounds would have an influence to the extent that grounds change a fiddle.

I'd expect that the density of bow wood would make it less responsive to surface treatments than a less dense wood, such as spruce.

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Sorry about the format of the above post. It went in OK, but the forum keeps changing things on me, both in Firefox and IE.

David, I understand the point of your skepticism. Hopefully, we'll have some tentative answers pretty soon. Some of those old French bows are pretty amazing in the way they affect the sound of a violin. Hard to believe it's just the wood, carving, and camber, when makers in other countries presumably had access to the same wood. Guess that's why we do research.

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"Hard to believe it's just the wood, carving, and camber, when makers in other countries presumably had access to the same wood."

The same 6"x1/2"x36" stave of pernambuco can be cut into bow sticks that vary significantly in the density, bending strength, flexibility, fibre direction, defects etc.

Differences in quality control over the wood, camber, graduation etc could easily account for the variations between bows, without invoking special properties of the surface materials.

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Joe, it's on there, 'cause I just read it an hour or so ago!!! Seems that the main link isn't up yet but I got to it through another link some way some how....Great read by the way..Regards, Lonnie..

quote:


Originally posted by:
joerobson

Oops. Sorry this is not yet available! I'll let you know when it is.

My apologies.

On we go.

Joe

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Joe Robson describes how he achieves a deep sheen without using abrasives

Joe, Thanks for posting the link to Rico's GAL Journal cover photo. I remember Rico's layer cake rose well. I love those old rosette styles and Rico did a lovely job. I got a chance to look at one of them again at the NW Musical Instrument Exhibit last spring.

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