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Ken_N

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After going over some varnish on instruments that I wasn't happy with the way that they turned out, I see that I was playing around with them much too soon.  Even the prep was done too quickly.  

At the last MVA meeting Antoine Nedelec showed his varnish technique that included 3 weeks in the light box.  Really?  Yes.  So I'm starting that, and I see a side benefit.  I don't want to use the Pot. Nitrate, so in order to get the belly to get ANY color besides a light grey cast, I found that water with cherry wood shavings adds a punch of tannin.  Then a foam brush with ash water over that, and some color happens.

I don't wipe them down.  I keep them wet, and into the Lightbox. A day or so later, I check on them, and I see bumps and ridges from the humidity changes.  A good sharp scraper, and then another attack with the brew.  So far I've done it a few times, and each time the results are better.  Looking it over closely every few days really helps. The back and sides don't change much, but they get ALMOST fuzzy, and using a scraper like a plane takes dust off.

I'm going to do some work on all of my instruments; except for three that are lost causes!  I'm looking for the fall leaves look.  More transparency, maybe less color.  My early attempts, and even most of the later ones are far too opaque.  This one I want to get right from the start. This is about 10 days in on the Lightbox.  When the back is wet, the black inlay disappears, and only the white shows up, very brightly.

This is before scraping.

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1 hour ago, Ken_N said:

After going over some varnish on instruments that I wasn't happy with the way that they turned out, I see that I was playing around with them much too soon.  Even the prep was done too quickly.  

At the last MVA meeting Antoine Nedelec showed his varnish technique that included 3 weeks in the light box.  Really?  Yes.  So I'm starting that, and I see a side benefit.  I don't want to use the Pot. Nitrate, so in order to get the belly to get ANY color besides a light grey cast, I found that water with cherry wood shavings adds a punch of tannin.  Then a foam brush with ash water over that, and some color happens.

I don't wipe them down.  I keep them wet, and into the Lightbox. A day or so later, I check on them, and I see bumps and ridges from the humidity changes.  A good sharp scraper, and then another attack with the brew.  So far I've done it a few times, and each time the results are better.  Looking it over closely every few days really helps. The back and sides don't change much, but they get ALMOST fuzzy, and using a scraper like a plane takes dust off.

I'm going to do some work on all of my instruments; except for three that are lost causes!  I'm looking for the fall leaves look.  More transparency, maybe less color.  My early attempts, and even most of the later ones are far too opaque.  This one I want to get right from the start. This is about 10 days in on the Lightbox.  When the back is wet, the black inlay disappears, and only the white shows up, very brightly.

This is before scraping.

 

Nice bear claw.  Speaking of tannins (tannic acid), unripe fruit, leaves, and bark tend to have the most as the first line of critter defense for plants.  If you're brave, you taste the tannin level.  Tannins have an astringent taste.

-Jim 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Andres Preuss showed 2 Del Gesu models lately on his bench.  He said that the Ole Bull looked to him like it never had varnish on it.  I just sanded mine all off because my old varnish from 10 years ago was hideous and opaque from to many pigments.  I had it smooth, and ready to put something on it.  But instead I just left it.  This is what it looks like: (yesterday would have been better, it was sunny, but the Ole Bull had no strings on it).

The Ole Bull is #6 or #4 I finished about 4 in 2009. 

 

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Here's my take on the lack of varnish.  A guy came around wanting to buy a violin from Del Gesu, saw it on the bench, and fell in love with it.  

"I want that one right now."

"You can't have it right now, it isn't done."

"It sure looks done."

"It needs varnish, pegs and strings."

"I like the varnish the way it is."

"I won't give you a discount without varnish if that's what you want.  They are $15,000 (he almost choked when he said that) and people are already complaining about my edge work, so I'm not even sure I want to send one out with no varnish."

"I'll give you  $15,000 and one of my donkeys over there."

"Whoa, the wife has been bugging me for a donkey. You have a deal.  Go over to Carlo's House of Pasta, and get some lunch.  By the time you're done, the strings will be on it."

 

My Plowden that I finished last winter I just finished up redoing the varnish a month ago.  I had to glue the belly back on to the lower bout, and I really wasn't happy with ANY of my varnishes, except a couple.  Too opaque.  So I sanded it back until it looked cool, and polished it. I'm trying for the autumn leaves look.  If it looks like autumn leaves of some kind, it is good.

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Ken

 

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I don't play, but the Ole Bull sounds a bit louder, and the Plowden a bit clearer. Maybe the strings.  The A on the Ole Bull sounds muddyish? when plucked. It's just barely not as bright as the others.  It sounds the same bowed.  Something that I wouldn't know how to figure out.

Ken

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  • 2 weeks later...

 

 

I've been trying to finish up the other loose ends.  I took the varnish off the belly of the Gofriller violin.  The back and sides were fine, but the varnish scraped off with fingernails on the belly.  Don't know why.  It only nest to be set up now.  The Gofriller viola has a new finish too. It was VERY red, and now it is just transparent red.  Much better.  I'll have to see how the projection is, because a few have always been stable, never moving at all, and this one had gone low.

But I've been really trying to finish the guitar.  I used Z-poxy to seal, and like mastic around the inlays.  Some magical mastic that G.B. Guadagnini acquired from a time traveler.  I sanded through some of the nice golden patina that I had on it from ash water, and cherry chip water, and 2 weeks in the light box.  So when I was putting a coat of Z-poxy to get it more even, I got an idea to smear in some Azo Green oil paint.  

Sometimes impulsive acts pay off.  It makes a nice color with the Z-poxy.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The guitar is finished, and plays nicely.  The action now is a bit below 2mm on the high e and a bit above 2mm on the low e.  No buzz.  I need to fit the truss rod cover still.  I broke the head off trying to pound a stuck tuner bushing out.  Wailing on in unsupported sounds like a good idea doesn't it?  When I glued it back on, it seems like it set perfectly on the vee, but it is off on the short flats some.  Maybe it wasn't right, and needed to break off?  That's what I'm going with.  I guess it's better NOT to tell the things you did wrong, but the gory details are the best part.

It's even a bit too far out of the box for guitar people!  That's just what was in my head; an Archtop by G.B. Guadagnini as a response to his sons flattop guitars.  I even have f holes from one of his cellos on it.  

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  • 3 weeks later...

Evan, 

It's supposed to be G. B. Guadagnini's answer to his sons guitar.  The f holes are stolen from his cello, and scaled down a bit.  I have the action fairly low I guess, about 2+ on the low E and 2-  on the heigh E.  Seems to work.  But I'm only up to page  49.  I might need to make a narrower nut.  My finger wants to slide the low E off sometimes.

This is the first tough one that actually needs practice.  I heard a REAL version of this on my iPod the other day.  It was a little faster, far more even in tempo, and has some added strums and stuff.  I'm not there yet.

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On October 30, 31 Heisei at 7:16 AM, Ken_N said:

Andres Preuss showed 2 Del Gesu models lately on his bench.  He said that the Ole Bull looked to him like it never had varnish on it.  

I think I said that when I saw the original Ole Bull at Chi Mei it looked to me as if DG didn't have time to put the color varnish on. 

However maybe I didn't make clear enough that there is a thin yellow under coat varnish on it.

In general we can see more and more hasty work the later the instruments of DG. Chipped away pieces from the scroll, un completed edgework, rushed purfling inlay and so on. So I think this happened to the varnish application as well.

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Yes Andreas, you did make it clear.  The instrument has a ground, and maybe a little color on it, but no real buildup of a color coat.  My ground seals, but still feels like wood.  One coat of varnish gives it something that might be close to what the Ole Bull has. It is more than just a sealing ground coat. I don't know if you would call that the first varnish coat, since it FEELS like varnish; or the final ground coat that serves as a solid base for color build up. Joe?  

Sometimes that can look pretty good.  Places where varnish has chipped off the old masters instruments look pretty good there; especially if the first coat of varnish really bonded with the wood, and didn't chip away too.

If I did another, I'd add a little more color in that coat.  I try to learn from everything that I do.  Learning on your own, even with some help here, is a slow process.  It does give me my own working methods, but as far as copying; working from photos on line, or a poster isn't going to get you very close.

I know that my photos do not convey what I'm actually seeing.

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  • 1 month later...

I've been going over my posters, plans, and articles from The Strad.  I saw Andrew Carruthers skeleton mold, and decided that's what I'd do.  So I'm making violin patterns with all the information needed to make the instrument.  I can put the form, and any pictures that go with it in a small folder, and not have big drawings in my desk drawer that can't take the weight.  Some posters I hadn't studied yet, and that Del Gesu guy doesn't seem to do anything the same way, at least near the end.  

So I'll show how it do it from planning to the end.  But which one?  I have a Gofriller started, but the plates are pretty well roughed out.  And a Sycamore Montagnana started with a very high belly arch that is just roughed on the inside. And one piece of wild Big Leaf that can go with Englemann or Sitka, using any of these patterns:

Grofriller and Montagnana.  Viennese makers. Gofriller fairly normal.  Montagnana has the high arched belly. It varnish is outstanding.  Don't expect that!

Rogeri.  The earliest violin poster 1687 I have.  Very similar outline to Del Gesu, the grand Amati probably. It doesn't have the deep recurve of some Amati's; the bouts are more like Del Gesu. High arches on both sides. May be easier to show how it is formed.  I haven't made it yet.

Some Del Gesu's.  The Ole Bull and the Plowden.  I've made these.  The Ole Bull is very thick, higher arched, and the Plowden has a very low arch, and not so thick.  It is also very different in the way the belly was done.

The Vieuxtemps and Bruselow.  The Vieuxtemps has a thicker belly, not much, but thicker overall.  Fairly normal.  The Bruselow I've just started on the belly.  I haven't even looked at the back yet.  The color on the poster will blow your mind.

The ones I haven't done SHOULD work.  But we'd find out I guess.  

So seven models.  Which one floats your boat?

 

 

 

 

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I guess that the first thing to think about when you are starting to carve a violin, viola, or cello, or Archtop Guitar; (I carved mine the same way I do violins) is where to start.  First you have to study the arching on the poster. 

Make a tracing of the arches, and if they aren't the new ones, with the inside arch given, you have to draw that in as well, using the thickness map.  Tape it on to a window, and lay a chain on it, and see where the curve goes.  Mark where it would have been on the bottom of the plate, before the recurve was put in.  Mark all the cross arches, and draw curves between them on the violin rib outline.  You should be able to see how much of a "landing" the maker left when he roughed out the inside.  

How you have an idea about the cross arches on the inside.  Now check the outside.

I check to see if it is a curate cycloid, or just an arch.  Most are cycloids.  I find the midpoint of the arch, and mark it.  Take the overall height of the arch, and subtract the thickness at the low point of the arch.  Divide that in half, and subtract from the overall.  (15-3)/2=6. 15-6=9.  The midpoint should be 9 mm up from the bottom.  Its location width wise should be 1/4 of the overall width of the arch between the low points PLUS the number you got in the first equation, 6.  So (160/4)+6=46.  If your mark is close to there, a cycloid is a good fit.  

Now you have to figure out the long arch.  For the belly, you can generally use the outside to get an idea of what you have; the thicknessing is pretty even. For the belly, the thicknessing HAS to be in place.  Put dots in the 5 places where the arches are given,  then see if chain will work.  Probably not.  Some rise at the ends is said to be from years of being strung up, so if it is close, it could be a catenary curve.  

It could be a curve coming from both ends.  This is common on backs.  But on bellies, it is often very flat through the middle.  An easy way to get that is to have diagonal arches, and blend the space between them with cross arches.  Until I show it, you might not see it, but it will make the arch rise quickly, make a fairly flat area through the corners, and I the profile, and even the f holes can contribute to the shape; so it looks like it all fits.  It does because it was there by design.

I always rough the inside, and then rough the outside with the sides square.  Easy to clamp. Then I cut the profile, and then rough the recurve in a little to see how the plate feels.  I have it a mm or so thick each way, so a belly is about 5-6 mm,  and a back might be 5-8. At this point the inside can be made deeper later, or just smoothed up, and everything taken off the top.  Options are open.  Often I do this, and do some humidity cycling as well, while doing the neck and ribs, to take the stresses out of the wood.

I'll put the plan up here next when I decide what to make.  I'm leaning to the Rogeri, I think.

 

 

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Ok, we're going to finish up a Walnut and Alaskan Yellow Cedar Gofriller model.  It is a Gofriller ONLY in the method of Gofriller from what I can gather from the poster.  As a Venetian, he used the best wood; because it was there.  They also had wonderful varnish, but this one will be more about showing off the wood, and not about the red varnish.

The first step is the plan.  I make a tracing of the belly from the photo.  Check to be sure the photo is accurate from the poster.  This one has the c bout dimensions given as 5 mm wider than it is; so watch for that too.  I draw it right at the outer black of the purfling.  I draw in the f holes too.  Then I draw the arching of the belly in place.  I used my Lightbox for both of these operations.  I had to trace the arching with the poster upside down because of the way they are printed.  Now you can start to see what you have.

This one is VERY similar to the Plowden Del Gesu.  The arching is offset from the outline. Most will say that it is from stresses of being strung up for 300 years.  I'm sure there is some of that, but it seems to be further off-center in the upper and lower bouts.  I'll go with the idea that they both did it on purpose.  What you end up with is a belly that is like a tight, small violin, and a loose, wider violin all in one.

Does it turn out that way?  Maybe if you do it all right it does, I don't know.  They were thinking and doing.  They didn't measure body modes.

This is what I have so far.  The long arch is done using two diagonal arches that are located by the blocks and the upper f holes.  The thickness points on the poster are put in using pen, and the pencil lines are the arch going through them.  There are marks where the diagonal curve would be on the arch, and the arch goes through the points.  The arc is wider, and has more recurve on the bass side.  

Most instruments are not like this, at least not that much. Some are very close to being symmetrical and on center.  THOSE are the odd ones.  

Another thing is that of the 6 I did the last week or so, ALL OF THEM have the centers right on center.  Also, the diagonal line thru the corners on the outside of the instrument touches the top and bottom line at a set relationship with the OAL.  This one is .6 on the bottom, and .6 times the bottom at the top.  Really.

Think about it.  The corners are the things that the eye is drawn to.  It is very hard to even see WHERE the widest or narrowest part of the bouts is, but the corners tell you exactly where the are.  The angle, spacing, location, and width of them tell us a lot.

 

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The back has an underlying plan that seems to be very common.  A catenary arch from both sides that only goes to the opposite corner, bout, or some other point. This one is set up so the thick area is fairly low, and extends for into the lower bout, and the top is kept thin.  It also has an outside arch that is a full radius.  This one is about 1050 mm.  

Like the belly, the arching is not even with the outline either. But it is just on an angle, it isn't completely biased towards the treble.  The cross arches on the back and the belly on the outside are pretty much curate cycloids.  Maybe not perfect at the bottom, but that is a stylistic thing it seems.  

So we have the plan, but the one I'm making is different.  The belly is roughed out to 15.25 now, and will end up at around 14.6 mm, instead of 17.4 mm.  The back is roughed out about 19.5 now, and will end up about 18.3 mm instead of 15.5 mm.  So I'm trying to keep about the same volume inside,  maybe the back could be taller, because a tall belly would enclose more volume than a tall back; but it should be close.

So I'll have to figure out the arches for this one.  I have the inside already fairly close, but I find that it is easier to do the outside if I know where the point of inclination is.  So that will be the next step. You also need that the do the recurve on the inside as well.  That point has to be deeper than a straight catenary curve gives it, or the outside will look pinched.  I already figured that the outside long arch of the back will be about 900 mm instead of 1050.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I figured out the point of inflection for the belly and the back.  Then I wanted to rough out the neck.  I like to get it close, like when the final arching on the outside of the plates is done, and they are glued on.  When everything is together it is finished up.  

The neck is a piece of Walnut I found in the scrap bin at work.  Pieces used under bundles of 20 foot long or so bars of steel.  I found only one Walnut chunk, a couple of Cherry, Sycamore, flamed Maple, and Poplar ones.  It will need filling, the grain is very open.

I use finger gouges mostly.  I rough the mortise in after sawing the profile,  and drilling the holes.  Then I start the scroll.   I use a small Flexcut gouge for digging out the mortise. Then flat chisels finish it off.  The finger gouges do just about everything, but I like the Iwasaki files for carving the neck area.  The flat one sometimes for bringing the turns of the scroll down to size. 

The poster even has the depths of the undercuts.  So it takes a lot more time if you want to get it close.  It still doesn't take long.  The mortise cut easy, and was maybe 45 minutes.  Maybe 6 hours in it.  

The next step is to make the Skeleton Form to build the ribs on.

The camera is like me.  It sees SO MUCH BETTER in the sunlight than with any kind of lighting inside.  But the basement is cold enough; I'm not working outside when it's in the 20's!

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Since the back is a hybrid; half English walnut and half Black walnut, and the belly is Alaskan yellow cedar, I'm thinking of just doing a French polish for sealing, fill, and maybe for the final varnish too, and just let the wood be the star.  I've never done French polish  before.  I thought about a thin coat of fat varnish on top for toughness, but I've never heard of it being done before.  Then again: that never stopped me!

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OK. I've heard of people sealing with pumice or one of the hardware store pore fillers. I was just curious about how it was done, having never had to do it. I'm curious what the big guitar companies use on their exotic woods because their finishes are very transparent.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I haven't done much of anything anything downstairs lately.  I made up my skeleton mold, and have the ribs bent and glued on.  Not easy down there when it is 52 degrees.  I managed to put the locating holes of my pattern on the wrong centerline.  I fixed it now, but it looks a little weird at the corners on the mold.  It will be fine.  I also need to cut the tip of the corners back some.  I'll post pictures later.  Today I have things going on.

Today is our 43rd Wedding anniversary.  This morning when I got up, I read a few old posts on my devotional blog; today or yesterday was my 3,000th post.  Amazing.  I like reading them because I don't remember some (a LOT) of them.  One of them this morning was about a dream that I had forgotten.  

I always get some kind of confirmation reading them.  An answer to something I was thinking about, or reassurement.  I guess that's what a devotional is supposed to do, isn't it?  This morning the song at the end was one I don't know.  I use a lot of songs I don't really know. Three thousand videos are a lot.  I started listening, and it really wasn't my style at all.  I like a lot of his music, but this one?  I not really a "'sappy" song guy.  I like Alice Cooper's love songs better.  Maybe something like "It's Me"

My wife was making fun of me the other day when I was singing out, "No more Mr. Nice guy"  That song's a good one.  "My dog bit me on the leg today,"

But I found that the SSC song fit this day perfectly. 

 

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I made my Skeleton Mold.  It is a great idea that actually works.  It is easier to bend the ribs to the line than to an inside mold.  Somehow I put the holes for the pattern WAY offcenter.  The arching IS off center on purpose, but I went even further than that line.  I put new holes in it, and covered the others with tape.

Have you ever said this?  "I won't do that again."

I have the ribcage done; just a couple of chips in the corners to glue back on.  The top and back were roughed out, but I flattened the bottom of the back; and I cut the finish profile out after drilling the pin holes.  Then I planed the edges of the arch down to around 4mm.  

At this point, I will go back on the inside, and do the recurve.  I'll mark the inflection line, and then another one further in where the recurve will raise the main cross arch up some before the inflection point.  

On the belly, since it is the lowest arch I've ever done at 14mm, there isn't a whole lot of recurve.  I cut the f holes in now, and then do the recurve on the belly.  I always put the f holes in early.

The back isn't  high, (for me) at about 18mm, but you can see that a large amount of stock will come out.  

The AY cedar smells good.

My dad died almost 7 years ago.  He would have been 100 on Thursday:

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The back is ready for gluing on the ribs now.  Basically edge work is left to do.  I got the inside recurve done by blending the end to the inflection point.   After that the outside recurve is roughed by thickness, and the edges are brought close.  After the purfling is in, the back will be area tuned.  I did some already.

Now it is 121 grams, and it rings to the high f, high c, and low B on my guitar.  

After sprinkling the water on the outside, the outside, and the inside were covered in fuzz. I hadn't done that at all. I spent a little while with a couple of scrapers smoothing it out. What's weird is that when I tapped it, the middle tone sounded lower than it was before.  I checked, and now it is high f, middle f#, and low A.

Odd.

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