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fitting a sound post


Mat Roop

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I can precisely record the location of a sound post relative to the F hole at the top using the split card method... but how do you get a precise record of the location of the post where it meets the back. If the post were ideally perpendicular, then its not too tough to get it real close... but what if the sweet spot means the post leans a little? For puposes of the current post fitting there might be enough landmarks to place it, but what if your client brings back the instrument a year later with the post down or moved by someone esle... Start hunting for the sweet spot all over again?

I like the idea of two small pencil marks to permanently mark the spot (n/s & e/w)... but in one of MD's writings, he says that is "bad manners".... and I don't disagree. But I do like the idea of giving the customer a record for the future... for when I'm long gone to the violin concerto in the sky!

What do you do?

Cheers, Mat

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Why is it bad manners to mark the back with discreet pencil marks for the post location?

It goes to the concept that as a restorer you should not alter what the original maker intended or created. So placing repair labels or other marks Changes the original makers intent... sort of like adding your own mark to the Mona Lisa after you were given the priveledge of cleaning it.

In a previous post I think it was Michael D that said a restorer/repairer should get in and out without being seen.

I also agree that an instrument keeps changing ... maybe after several setups, the marks will all become confusing.

I'll try photos and maybe with some sort of removable reference marker.

Cheers, Mat

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It depends which surface you are referring to. Obviously an art restorer is not going to mark the front surface of a painting but I doubt anyone would take issue with leaving a discreet mark on the back where no one can see. The violin is a different kettle of fish however. Every surface is visible and the ethics of what to do and what not to do differs for each individual restorer so it's probably best not to leave a mark. I believe some experts make detailed reference maps with the aid of a clear strip of plastic marked with a vertical line (see attached photo) which one places up to the end pin hole. This give you a vertical reference when mapping the location of the sound post.

sort of like adding your own mark to the Mona Lisa after you were given the priveledge of cleaning it. Cheers, Mat

post-45756-0-22667800-1324202630_thumb.jpg

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It goes to the concept that as a restorer you should not alter what the original maker intended or created. So placing repair labels or other marks Changes the original makers intent... sort of like adding your own mark to the Mona Lisa after you were given the priveledge of cleaning it.

A very small, discreet (and very removable) graphite mark, isn't altering anything. A new set of strings is a bigger alteration. I'll bet the maker even used a pencil in the whole making process. Its not like intentional graffiti put there in means of "leaving your mark". I have never felt like some sneaky ne'er-do-well, secretly leaving my signature in and instrument as I mark the post; I just feel like I am doing my job.

The difference between the Mona Lisa and violins is that violins are tools and are handled most everyday. The sweat and grime left behind from a player's hands and face (more germs than what's on a toilet seat BTW!) wearing on the varnish alters the original maker's aesthetic look of the varnish significantly. And, unless the person is toxic & totally stripping off varnish, we rarely have any qualms about that because it just adds to the patina!

So, as I see it, a tiny hairline of graphite, on the inside of the instrument, put there with the intent to help optimize the sound seems like an idea that indeed respects the maker, performer, and any future restorers. B)

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I prefer to be invisible as a restorer. But I don't really see the position of the sound post as being a problem.

I think it's a mistake to assume that the post should always be replaced in exactly the same position. After all, if the post fell over on it's own, it was probably too loose to begin with. It's probably not healthy for an instrument to have the post in exactly the same position for decade after decade and it isn't likely to indefinitely remain the optimal spot.

If, on the other hand, you're working on an instrument that has a very narrow sweet spot, then mostly likely there will already be some compression of the back on that spot and it will be very obvious.

What I see most often is that there is no record of the position of the post. I make a dated 'map' using the split business card, before I begin doing any work on a valuable instrument. I then give this to the musician to keep as a record.

Oded

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There are three things that are important when fitting a post: Perfect fit; Perfect position; Perfect tension (tightness).

Perfect fit is essential to the health of the violin, but only plays a minor role for sound. It can only be achieved if you fit using a magnifying mirror or have excellent eyesight. The post must always be introduced at the same angle from the end pin and through both sound-holes. Watch out for the optical (illusion) differences between the two sides. Always keep the setter slot hole at right angles. Only if you do this can you check if the post has moved every time one of your instruments comes in for adjustment. Always use chalk on each end.

Perfect position can basically be described as follows. Traditionally the best position has always been (for violins) 0.5 mm inside the bridge foot and half of the bridge foot width behind the bridge. And in most cases, (only God knows why) this seems to work. However, you can influence the sound by moving the post closer and further away from the bridge foot. Theoretically, if you move the post away from the bridge it increases response. However, if you move it too far it loses focus. Conversely, if you move it closer it becomes more focused, too close and it tightens up and becomes less responsive.

And then we come to the most important point. Perfect tension. In my opinion this is the most important factor for sound. But if you take a violin apart or make a new one, the tension required will change within the first hours or weeks depending on the instrument and the amount it is being played. (Even different strings can make a difference) Sound-posts mostly appear to get shorter in this initial playing-in period, as the plates gradually stabilize under the pressure of playing. For this reason I usually fit them a titchy bit longer. If the instrument is high arched this titchy bit will be smaller than for a flat arched instrument. A higher arching requires less movement to change the tension. I always insist on customers having a second adjustment after a month or so. This is usually enough and will often last for years. The skill is getting the post to stand upright, to fit exactly, and be at the correct tension. This may mean fitting several posts until you get it right. Especially when you are learning the process. Using a pencil to mark the position is in my opinion nonsense, because this position may change fractionally with time.

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Leaving evidence of a pencil mark might be bad manners, but using a pencil while your still learning probably helps focus your learning, and eliminating the use of a pencil can come when your are comfortable with what you are doing.

My opinion is that moving an even properly fit post does more to the plate that a tiny pencil mark, but it is kind of tacky looking. Using a pencil can be done to get the job done faster even if you won't be using the mark to determine the final position, which I don't.

I make a small mark with a pencil lead that is barely light enough to even see. By the time I'm done fitting I've usually moved over this mark and wiped it away, but it still helped me get there quickly

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It goes to the concept that as a restorer you should not alter what the original maker intended or created. So placing repair labels or other marks Changes the original makers intent... sort of like adding your own mark to the Mona Lisa after you were given the priveledge of cleaning it.

In a previous post I think it was Michael D that said a restorer/repairer should get in and out without being seen.

I also agree that an instrument keeps changing ... maybe after several setups, the marks will all become confusing.

I'll try photos and maybe with some sort of removable reference marker.

Cheers, Mat

On restorations, I agree with the get in and get out mentality without being seen. I do think however that pencil marks are not a big deal. First of all, they can be erased very easily.

I rub a little lead on the point of a bamboo skewer, and then use that to mark the post on the back. I don't do this while fitting a new post because it isn't necessary as Roger was describing. I only do it when an instrument comes in the shop and work needs to be done. We also take note of where the bridge is and where the post is in relation to the bridge. The lead marks left by the skewer are very thin and can be overlooked sometimes if you aren't looking for it. They disappear over time, but are there for the short term reference if the customer wants the post put back into the same position, or it may help to inform decisions about sound if we want to know where the post originally stood when the customer came in. Incidentally, we also take many different measurements including neck projection, overstand, bridge height, string length and after length, etc. We file this info away and have records for customers going back many years. We can access this years later to see how the instrument may have changed.

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If an instrument is working well, and other reference points are lacking, I often make a very light pencil dot on both the soundpost and the back by putting the pencil lead at the intersection between the two, and rotating it slightly. Even if the post eventually ends up being in a different spot, it still serves as a reference, and can be easily erased if its no longer wanted. I probably wouldn't do this on a pristine megabuck historical instrument, but even then, it might be the lesser of two evils, less destructive than the extra moving-the-post-around needed to rediscover that spot. Even if that particular spot is no longer ideal, knowing that it once was can be useful to me, and can save some dinking around, and maybe a little wear and tear on the fiddle.

On that megabuck pristine historical instrument, I'd probably make some gauges. One could be inserted through the endbutton hole, and measure the distance between the bottom of the post and the outside rib surface at the hole. Another could be inserted through the ff, and gauge the distance between the bottom of the post and the nearest point where the lining intersects the back. Could be quickly made out of coat hangers or long soundpost stock. For repeated use, it wouldn't take much work to make the second gauge threaded, so the length would be adjustable, like a cello bridge foot spreader.

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If the post is straight, why mark the back? I mark the position at the belly. I use a little slip of wood, with a half round notch filed into one end. The piece of wood rests against the soundpost at the top, lined up at its edge to the outer notch of the f, and with a pencil the inner notch is traced onto the slip of wood.

My diagram... wish it was my violin: it's the Kreisler.

post-35343-0-20431100-1324229561_thumb.jpg

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If the post is straight, why mark the back?

Two reasons that I can think of. "Straight" is often a judgement call. Straight relative to what? Two tenths of a mm change in the position of the bottom of the post can make the difference between the instrument sounding OK, and sounding really good, and the post could appear straight in either position.

The other reason is that not all instruments sound their best when the post is straight.

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Two reasons that I can think of. "Straight" is often a judgement call. Straight relative to what? Two tenths of a mm change in the position of the bottom of the post can make the difference between the instrument sounding OK, and sounding really good, and the post could appear straight in either position.

The other reason is that not all instruments sound their best when the post is straight.

I guess I'm not there yet. ohmy.gif

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Roger (or anyone else who knows), what's the reason for chalking the ends?

The reason we put a VERY SLIGHT dusting of chalk on the post ends is, that it is easier to smoothly shove the post around into the right place, without it moving in jerks.

For what it’s worth, I don’t mark the bottom of the post either, since if I measure the top end as exactly as possible and make sure that it’s straight, it should be in the same place anyway.

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Well, these weren't supposed to be unveiled until 4/1/2012, but here's a sneak peek:

Introducing the Peep-Hole Endpin:

post-35343-0-39532800-1324257372_thumb.jpeg

And the new Soundpost micro-Level:

post-35343-0-08892300-1324257403_thumb.jpeg

The soundpost can be accurately located by one of two new methods:

1. Micro-tracking chip, used with your GPS, and a matching chip in the bridge foot,

or more accurate,

2. The Ryobi® Shop CT Scanner, only $1649, Windows® Compatible.

tongue.gifrolleyes.giflaugh.gif

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Sound-posts mostly appear to get shorter in this initial playing-in period, as the plates gradually stabilize under the pressure of playing. For this reason I usually fit them a titchy bit longer. If the instrument is high arched this titchy bit will be smaller than for a flat arched instrument. A higher arching requires less movement to change the tension. I always insist on customers having a second adjustment after a month or so. This is usually enough and will often last for years. The skill is getting the post to stand upright, to fit exactly, and be at the correct tension. This may mean fitting several posts until you get it right. Especially when you are learning the process. Using a pencil to mark the position is in my opinion nonsense, because this position may change fractionally with time.

Yup. Agreed for most cases... but it certainly can depend on "where they go" after that second adjustment. Recently had one of your fiddles (several years old) in the shop that I was told still had the original post. It had gone to a rather dry climate, I think, because it ended up a lot more than an tiychy bit tight over time! I've had similar things happen with other instruments moving to the dryer states here. Unfortunately, it's very hard to anticipate, as some players are much more mindful of the humidity level in their homes and studios than others are.

I must say, great fiddle... though it was choking a bit from the stress when it came in. The owner was concerned to loose the "original" post, but was having some difficulties, and the old post too tight to move easily, so they let me put a shorter post in. They are even more happy with your fiddle now, (and the treble ff hole wing is looking much better too). I did mark the location of the old post (my habit; same method as David described, just a light dot on the intersection of the post/back, as a reference for where the old post sat), then gave the old post back to the player just in case they decided I was full of it (they can have someone else put it back in the same spot)... So if you see my little reference mark down the road you can feel free to swear at me if you choose! :)

Cheers Roger!

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