Top Made of More Than 2 pieces?


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Hi Everyone, Please excuse my ignorance in advance.... Why would a violin have a top made of more than 2 pieces? Was this a common practice in any particular era in violin making history or characteristic of violins made in any specific location? What effect would having a top made of more than 2 pieces have on tone quality? Does this make an instrument at greater risk for problems? Thanks so much, Regards, O

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I suppose you could say that more seams would mean more potential for problems; a glued seam is very strong though. I know that basses have tops made with more than just book matched wood, due to their size (hard to find stock large and clean enough).

I don't really see the advantage of making violins with more than the traditional one-piece or book-matched segmented tops. Perhaps your violin was made in an area where better stock was not available, or during a time when good wood was too expensive?

Factories always found odd ways to pinch a penny when making a fiddle. Photos would be nice, if you are talking about something that exists. :)

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Thanks for your replies.... In general, would a violin with a four piece top be considered of a poorer quality? O

Depends on who made it! If it was built by a normal builder then it might be looked down on. If it was by a cremonese maker then it would be a masterpiece. There are some famous cremonese violas with four piece tops or backs, they call them two pieces with wings added since that doesn't sound as bad.

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"Why would a violin have a top made of more than 2 pieces?"

1. The maker was a cheapskate trying to make use of small pieces of wood.

2. The maker thought more pieces conferred tonal advantage.

"Was this a common practice in any particular era in violin making history or characteristic of violins made in any specific location?"

I've most commonly seen multi-piece tops in mass-produced Japanese violins from around 1910-1920. But I wouldn't call it common to this type of violin -- maybe one out 50.

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"Why would a violin have a top made of more than 2 pieces?"

1. The maker was a cheapskate trying to make use of small pieces of wood.

2. The maker thought more pieces conferred tonal advantage.

"Was this a common practice in any particular era in violin making history or characteristic of violins made in any specific location?"

I've most commonly seen multi-piece tops in mass-produced Japanese violins from around 1910-1920.

3. The piece of wood in question was of exceptional acoustical properties, but not quite big enough, so the maker made a judicious compromise, rather than throw the wood away.

I think this would explain some of the Cremonese violins in question.

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"3. The piece of wood in question was of exceptional acoustical properties, but not quite big enough, so the maker made a judicious compromise, rather than throw the wood away."

Sounds like a cheapskate to me, but perhaps "a frugal maker making a judicious compromise" is a more polite way of putting it. He or she is using under-sized pieces of exceptional wood instead of buying full-size pieces of exceptional wood.

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Or he simply was not inclined to waste a perfectly good piece of tonewood, for lack of a small section that needed to be glued onto the edge.

I have done that one myself...I had an exceptionally beautiful piece of maple...the only one available, so there was no "choice" to get a cheaper piece...it was simply make a violin of this piece, or let it go to waste. The pieces I added in came from the same billet, just a few inches up, and, if you didn't know where to look, you would be most unlikely to notice the joints.

BTW, this is much easier to accomplish in spruce than maple. Line up the joint on a grain line, making sure the orientation is the same, so the refractive angle is identical, and it is nearly invisible.

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In my opinion, there is not a thing wrong with using more then two pieces for a top.

I've seen many very nice violins with multipule top and backs.

Most recently a beautiful Asa White.

And a long time ago a Stanley with a 5 piece back. That made me a bit nervous.

I think this would be a fun project. Just think of the possibilities.

HOWEVER, violinists are reactionary when it comes to innovations. Making such a plate would be a dead end in the violin market. Maybe a few fiddlers would like such a chimera.

That's my opinion. :) Please prove me wrong. :)

Mike

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Don't forget the American-made Jackson-Guldan instruments. Their instrument plates were made of numerous strips glued together. They may have even patented the idea, which was probably thought to provide a more stable plate. Weren't these strips about 3/4" wide?

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"Don't forget the American-made Jackson-Guldan instruments. Their instrument plates were made of numerous strips glued together. They may have even patented the idea, which was probably thought to provide a more stable plate. Weren't these strips about 3/4" wide?"

I've had several of those. It wasn't Jackson-Guldan, but someone else who patented this. I forget the name. The strips were about 1/4 inch wide, made up of pieces about an inch long diagonally end-joined. They also had multiple bass bars.

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"I have done that one myself...I had an exceptionally beautiful piece of maple...the only one available, so there was no "choice" to get a cheaper piece...it was simply make a violin of this piece, or let it go to waste."

You sound to me like a frugal maker making a judicious compromise. Certainly not a cheapskate!

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Hi,

Multiple peice top are common in the bass world, Ga smbas too for that matter, One of the basses in the Cleveland Orch. is by Allen of Conn. and has perhaps 10 strips of spruce glued together to make the table, may be more its has been awhile since I worked on it. It makes sense when you know that Allen was also an organ/piano maker so a soundboard made of many piece is typical. Its a great bass and there is another in the Firelands Museum in Norwalk Ohio, that one is a corbon copy of my client's except it is 20% bigger at least, but with the same top and detail carving. It may have needed two people to play it.

Reese

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