Don Noon

Don Noon's bench

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Caution:  those who are sensitve to bad antiquing should avert their eyes now.

 

 

Very believable, now just dump some dirt from your vacuum inside over a lithographed Tony Strad label, and I'd risk fifty bucks on it if you offered it on eBay :lol:

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Stitches came out yesterday; still not too keen for scroll carving, so I thought I'd do some infrastructure updating.  I went nuts on audio... three sound systems: the TV, the main shop, and the machine bench in the garage.  This is the one for the main shop, showing what I have now and what it replaces (the speakers were fine).

post-25192-0-91033800-1385517858_thumb.jpg

A similar setup for the other two systems.  The old one for the machine bench was a real dinosaur: 40 year old receiver and one speaker with a single CD player.

Ain't technology wonderful?  However, I still have pains of loss thinking about all those LP's and cassettes that I'll probably never get around to hearing again. 

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... continuing with the scroll avoidance, I made this thing (an Ipod holder, related to previous post) out of leftover maple from the Snakefiddle.  The base is some very dense wood I don't know the name of.

post-25192-0-83855100-1386028299_thumb.jpg

 

Next on the agenda is making a variable speed power feed for my lathe, and a bunch of cleanup.  After that, I probably won't be able to avoid the scroll.

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A Change of Avatar.

 

The Snakefiddle has had its day.  It still has its place as the first thing I ever carved, and as a fiddle it still isn't too bad.  But it seems dated, and no longer represents what I'm doing now.

 

So, now you get to see me, which is also very dated.  It was taken today, but somehow looks so much older than it should (I'm referring to the subject of the photo, not the photo itself).

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Got the neck (mostly) done, now for fitting.  Here's how I'm currently attempting to do it.

 

First, I have a holding fixture solidly mounted in my bench vise, holding the body at the upper and lower back overhang.  I also have a safety strap in case it comes out of the slots (old aerospace habit of avoiding unlikely events that have major consequences).  I also have an overhead spotlight, which helps.

post-25192-0-48627600-1386961237_thumb.jpg

 

Since the neck root is planed perfectly flat, I use a substitute flat tool to do the chalk flatening of the pocket.  No need to be handling the neck all the time, and getting chalk all over it.

post-25192-0-25619000-1386961239_thumb.jpg

 

Plus, I have the neck mounted in an alignment fixture.  The long tail is to align with the pin down near the saddle area, and there's a rounded thingie indicating the proper projection.  This way, I can just hold the neck in place, and check everything very quickly, without messing around with rulers, bridges held to the body with rubber bands, or that kind of stuff.  It's also holds the neck more securely for planing off the bottom of the neck root.  The fixture was made with extreme care to be accurate, so I don't have to make tons of tedious measurements every time I fit a neck.

post-25192-0-42722600-1386961240_thumb.jpg

 

Here it is in place...

post-25192-0-67502000-1386961241_thumb.jpgpost-25192-0-18511100-1386961243_thumb.jpg

 

One concern is that the fingerboard scoop is mashed flat with this fixture.  For that, I try to keep the fingerboard flat, and add the scoop as the very last thing in the setup, after the varnishing is done and fingerboard reglued for the last time.  Also, before I glue the neck to the body, I'll take it out of the fixture, and check to make sure the neck projection is on target.

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Glued together last night, strung up this morning:

post-25192-0-74775300-1387043030_thumb.jpg

 

Everything went about as usual; there was about another mm or two to tweak in the neck projection after I took the neck out of the fixture.  Dummy - I didn't check the side alignment, and it went off by a lot while I finessed in the vertical projection.  It will play well enough; just gotta cut the string grooves offset on the bridge.  But anyone who knows about setup will see it right away.  Drat.

 

Soundwise, with used junk slapped on, it seems acceptable for a just-strung-up unvarnished fiddle.  Using the impact spectrum for reference:

post-25192-0-34747200-1387043027_thumb.jpg

 

Signature modes and amplitudes are about where I like them (translation: full low end, without wolf notes).  

 

The big transition hill spike at 930Hz (A#) looks like a possible problem, but tonally it doesn't seem to have much effect except for a strong A# on the E string.  The lower notes, where this is an overtone, don't seem too bad. 

 

Of more concern to a player is the steep dropoff from the A# to the higher notes... ~20dB difference on the impact spectrum.  It is definitely noticable, with a strong A# and dead(ish) zone above that for a while.

 

The bridge/body hill has what I think is a nice shape to sound good:  broad, strong, rounded, with some power below 2kHz. E string clarity and projection seem to be good.

 

One other playing observation that I can't show easily from any spectra is the mellowness of the G and D strings, which is not something I prefer.  It does show up if you look at the spectra of the individual notes, as a relatively strong fundamental.

 

Of course, all this scrutiny borders on pointless, as this was just strung up an hour or two ago, and there are big changes likely with varnishing and time. But at least I don't see anything I need to try to fix.

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I wanted to leave my white fiddle strung up for a few days to see if there are any tonal changes.  So I was looking for something to do and saw a Chinese VSO+ (slightly better than VSO) hanging in the corner, and figured it was about time for another sacrifice on the altar of tonal research.

 

The intent was to explore fiddle tone, as opposed to violin tone, where a more viola-like deep tone is desirable.  To that end, I figured to go very thin, and see if it could still be playable.

 

For the top, I kept the bass bar (which I had put in a couple of years ago), and hogged out 4.75g of wood.  It still ended up a lot heavier than my normal, but with extremely low taptones, likely due to dense-ish, wimpy wood and low (14.8mm) arch.

 

69.0g, taptone 322Hz with bass bar

 

For the back, I don't know what the free plate was, and just hogged out 9g of wood while it was still on the ribs.  Arching of the back was also low, at 14.0mm.

 

Assembled modes, as you might expect (and as sortof intended) came out very low:

A0=267

CBR=364

B1-=407

B1+=496

 

It is difficult for me to evaluate the tone, as it is somewhat different from what I'm used to.  It is especially odd to play a C on the G string, and get this huge note coming out, where it usually is up at C#.  But overall it seems like a usable fiddle with overly large-sounding G and D strings, which take a little extra bow energy to play.

 

Eventually this will be further sacrificed on the altar of revarnishing and antiquing, as it seems to have survived this round of torture.  Plus it has the original ultra-brittle spirit varnish on it, which I don't like at all.

post-25192-0-50780000-1387343002_thumb.jpg

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Stitches came out yesterday; still not too keen for scroll carving, so I thought I'd do some infrastructure updating.  I went nuts on audio... three sound systems: the TV, the main shop, and the machine bench in the garage.  This is the one for the main shop, showing what I have now and what it replaces (the speakers were fine).

attachicon.gifStereo Update.jpg

A similar setup for the other two systems.  The old one for the machine bench was a real dinosaur: 40 year old receiver and one speaker with a single CD player.

Ain't technology wonderful?  However, I still have pains of loss thinking about all those LP's and cassettes that I'll probably never get around to hearing again. 

Vinyl is back!  Haven't you heard?  What you need are some beefy tubes (pre-amp and amp; valves for Martin and his countrymen - lulz!) , and some serious flat panel speakers like some big electrostatics.  That should get your joint(s) jumpin'.  And don't forget the platter - a good 'table will do wonders for your LPs. 

 

Are you getting rid of your vinyl collection?

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No, I'm not getting rid of the old LP's.  And I do know that there are vinyl fans out there, and equipment to feed them (I know one personally).  But it's a hobby that's not high on my list of things to do yet, and certainly not a hobby that I'd want to have in my shop.

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Back to work on #15; varnish sequence on the back (not quite done, but close):

post-25192-0-76124700-1387907130_thumb.jpg

So far, I'm happy with how it's coming out.  Maybe I'll change my mind in the light of day.

 

The sequence:

white

nitrite+light orange dye

terpene resin in xylene

2 coats of a mineral ground/sealer, + 1 color varnish coat

second color coat

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Back to work on #15; varnish sequence on the back (not quite done, but close):

attachicon.gif131223 back sequence.jpg

So far, I'm happy with how it's coming out.  Maybe I'll change my mind in the light of day.

 

The sequence:

white

nitrite+light orange dye

terpene resin in xylene

2 coats of a mineral ground/sealer, + 1 color varnish coat

second color coat

That color looks beautiful.  May I ask what you did for color in the color coats?  How does it sound, compared to the Jackson?

 

And Merry Christmas to you and yours. ;-)

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That color looks beautiful.  May I ask what you did for color in the color coats?  How does it cound, compared to the Jackson?

 

The red is mostly from nano iron oxide (Chinese version), with some Michelman zinc alizarin resin in there too.  Some Gilsonite is in the mix for some brownish tint.  It's a real hodgepodge of stuff.

 

This latest one isn't the Jackson copy, but it is a Strad model, and I used what I learned from the Jackson copy to "improve" this one.  For talking purposes, low resolution spectra of bowed semitone scales is probably best to help describe "how it sounds" compared to other things.  FYI, 14 is the Jackson copy, and 12 is the one that performed extremely well in the most recent VMAAI competition.

post-25192-0-17691900-1387979528_thumb.jpg

 

The important points as I see them:

 

Strad - decent low power, least strength around 1000 Hz (nasal range), solid strength 1500 - 3500 Hz, very steep dropoff above that.  Translation: smooth, good power everywhere, very pleasing tone, no harshness.

 

14 (my copy) - some similarities in overall shape, but significant differences.  Weaker low end, stronger around 1 kHz, weaker 1500-3500Hz, and relatively strong around 5 kHz.  Translation:  less power, not as smooth, somewhat nasal, and harsh.  A lot of these differences I attribute to having higher density wood, especially the top.

 

15 (no varnish) - gobs of power everywhere.  Encouraging, but we'll see how much the varnish changes things.

 

12 - Very strong bottom end, strong nasal zone (1kHz), relatively weak 1500 - 1900 Hz.  Translation:  powerful, but somewhat nasal and a little something missing in the clarity department.  This was a Guarneri model with relatively low top arching.

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post-25192-0-50166900-1388431602_thumb.jpg

 

Firing up the solar BBQ to take advantage of our sunny weather.  147F reached on the surface; that should cure it up nice and quick. B)

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I'm getting concerned.  This fiddle is coming out almost 20g LIGHTER than my Jackson copy, entirely due to the neck and fingerboard.  Dimensionally, I didn't do anything unusual, but I did notice that the neck maple was like styrofoam while I was working it.  The fingerboard also is several grams lighter, even though I did even less lightweighting than ususal.  I think I'll try to retrofit a pin in the heel of the neck before I finally glue on the fingerboard, as a safety measure. 

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James,

The fixture is designed to spin the fiddle around the line defined by the endpin hole, with the axis horizontal.  So the neck has to clamp at some funny angle, with an offset.

 

 

The pinning operation, a last-minute decision, went about as well as you could expect.  Since the neck was already glued to the body, I had to make the hole shallow enough so as not to punch through the button. 

 

I did make a simple jig to get the pin hole close to the radius of the root, but not break through.  Otherwise, this was a hand-held operation... a bit scary.

post-25192-0-69351900-1388505993_thumb.jpg

 

But it worked out OK

post-25192-0-02854600-1388505995_thumb.jpg

 

 

The next concern is for the peg holes, and if this low-density maple is going to be a problem there.  I might just put in some mechanical pegs, which would remove that concern.

 

You might have noticed that the neck is in a rather rough state, and the scroll and heel are unvarnished.  I was trying a new sequence on this, to do the final neck shaping and varnishing after the final attachment of the fingerboard.  Definitely not the most efficient method, but I thought I'd see how it went. 

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Those clearances look very close!  I've found that if they're too close the pressure of inserting the rod with glue/ epoxy/whatever can push the glue through the neck to the crotch surface, and then you have a varnish/color issue.

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In this case, I am far more concerned about strength than aesthetics.  My guess is that the maple is well below .50 density, so if there is some glue soak-through, at least that will strengthen the wood.  I'll deal with the color as best I can.

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Varnished; strung up this morning (I just had to take the photos outside, to tweak the noses of those folks experiencing winter):

post-25192-0-37869000-1388862405_thumb.jpgpost-25192-0-35935800-1388862407_thumb.jpgpost-25192-0-98601700-1388862408_thumb.jpg

 

As usual, I have temporary fittings, grabbed out of the junkpile, just to get it strung up and playable for a while.  When the varnish hardens some more and things settle in, I'll do the final rubdown and polish and give it a good new setup.  It will probably sound worse after all that work.

 

The impact spectrum is not much different from what I show in post #33.  Resonance peaks have shifted slightly higher in frequency, and there are less radical peak-to-dip variations, which all makes sense with varnish.  Playing-wise, trying to factor out the "new girlfrend effect", it is very close to the tone I've been trying to get: strong E string, strong low end, with some growl to it and minimal nasal twang.  Perhaps some more unbiased ears will hear differently:

Jacopy, 12, 15.mp3

 

The first one is my Jackson copy, which I think is a bit harsh and nasal, lacking somewhat in power and low-end fullness (but still not too bad)

The second is my #12, known to be good sounding according to VMAAI judges.  I like it too, but it's a bit fuzzy/buzzy sounding, and parts of the E string are slightly weak.

The third is the new #15, just strung up this morning.  D and A strings seem a little less focused or punchy than I'd like, but still my definite favorite today.  I expect it will open up with time, as they usually do.

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Varnished; strung up this morning (I just had to take the photos outside, to tweak the noses of those folks experiencing winter):

attachicon.gif140104 1.JPGattachicon.gif140104 2.JPGattachicon.gif140104 3.JPG

 

As usual, I have temporary fittings, grabbed out of the junkpile, just to get it strung up and playable for a while.  When the varnish hardens some more and things settle in, I'll do the final rubdown and polish and give it a good new setup.  It will probably sound worse after all that work.

 

The impact spectrum is not much different from what I show in post #33.  Resonance peaks have shifted slightly higher in frequency, and there are less radical peak-to-dip variations, which all makes sense with varnish.  Playing-wise, trying to factor out the "new girlfrend effect", it is very close to the tone I've been trying to get: strong E string, strong low end, with some growl to it and minimal nasal twang.  Perhaps some more unbiased ears will hear differently:

attachicon.gifJacopy, 12, 15.mp3

 

The first one is my Jackson copy, which I think is a bit harsh and nasal, lacking somewhat in power and low-end fullness (but still not too bad)

The second is my #12, known to be good sounding according to VMAAI judges.  I like it too, but it's a bit fuzzy/buzzy sounding, and parts of the E string are slightly weak.

The third is the new #15, just strung up this morning.  D and A strings seem a little less focused or punchy than I'd like, but still my definite favorite today.  I expect it will open up with time, as they usually do.

 

2,3,1 for me. I'll listen again later. GREAT stuff Don !

 

...same.

 

Don, tell me please, which one must I like the most ? :)

Edited by carl stross

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I too like the third the best. I am impressed at the bass response on all of them. Usually what are considered "fine violins" by many have weak , lifeless low ends on them.

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