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steveperry

Any reason not to copy Stradivari cornerless ex-Bell?

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I am going to make a cornerless violin.  Any reason not to copy the wide-waisted Stradivari?  When the waist narrows, I find they look awkward.  Perhaps the wide waist and differently spaced F holes would give a somewhat deeper tone that would please many people not looking for a soloist sound.  

 

Comments and suggestions extremely welcome.

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Well, as we speak one of our own is making me a copy of the Chanot-Chardon Stradivari.  It has launched a few careers and I am excited to see what it will be like.  I will keep everyone informed.  The box is closed and the neck is being carved!

 

 

DLB

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I have heard rumors that cornerless violins tend to twist over time, and that longevity issues are the reason that we don't see more of them.  Not sure if some sort of minimal corner block would help this, and I have no direct evidence of this supposed twisting issue.  If it is true, then I imagine that luthiers who have worked on these older cornerless instruments may have done something to correct twist and perhaps stabilize them.  Wish I could cite a resource.  I'd be interested to hear if anyone has some knowledge one way or the other about the long term stability.

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Stability is interesting.  I know how to keep that in control and will do so.  

 

Dwight, Del Rio is where my daughter was conceived, I remember the motel well!    Thanks for the links.  I'll be in Chicago in a month and go see the real thing if they'll let me in.  I'll be going by car, so I won't be as road stained as with my usual two wheels!  I really would like to look over the arching in real time 3D.

 

Thanks all!

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Stability is interesting.  I know how to keep that in control and will do so.  

 

Dwight, Del Rio is where my daughter was conceived, I remember the motel well!    Thanks for the links.  I'll be in Chicago in a month and go see the real thing if they'll let me in.  I'll be going by car, so I won't be as road stained as with my usual two wheels!  I really would like to look over the arching in real time 3D.

 

Thanks all!

I'm glad you have good memories of Del Rio!  I still feel like it's Mars even though I have lived here for 33 years.  You are welcome here any time.  I am not really too worried about stability as guitars and the like seem to get along ok, but I will have an object lesson some time this fall.  I was able to wrangle a visit with the original instrument with the fellow that is building mine.  Alex Rose at Bein and Fushi has always been so kind of me and was sweet enough to arrange it.  I bought a violin from them a few years ago and I guess I am on their mailing list for life.  They always treat me like I am someone important ( I am not, not even close :-)  There actually is some recent thought that the Chanot-Chadon may have been a one off and not a Viola d'amore.  My observation is that the size of the ff holes seem to indicate that it was at least larger or longer when it was first made.  I don't know if anyone knows exactly who, where, or when it was cut down, or even why it's known as the Chanot-Chardon.  Chanot is well known for his experimental guitar shaped violins and perhaps it got it's name by osmosis?  The instrument has been an interest of mine since I first saw it on Joshua Bell's album cover maybe 20 years ago.  I saw the thing and said "what in the world is that!"  I have a wild idea that it might be a nice pattern for a 16" viola.  I think I may have an appointment with the copy shop :-)  I am always looking for the long strange road around things :-)

 

 

DLB

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B and F are billing it as a cut down viola d'amore.  I expect if there was any hope at all that it was a "one off" they'd jump at the chance to sell it as such.

 

Strad's pattern for a viola d'amore has decided C-bouts.  But there is also a pattern listed as being for a "soprano viola," whatever the heck that was.  Sacconi pictures a "6 string soprano viola without points transformed at a later date into a violin, with the addition of the points..."   page 226.

 

I'm not arguing any point of view.  I would just like to know if anyone has sorted out all the possibilities. 

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Me either, it is a bit of a puzzle and I don'y know another sort of instrument that is just like it.  There are some extant stradivari viola d'amores that are about the same shape. One has a flat back like a viol.  The cut down from something else theory seems the most likely.  I have a feeling that it amounted to something that would not be salable or useable and what ever shop it was in did it to make some income.

 

 

DLB

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I've built over 40 cornerless violins using inside mold methods and never seen any prroblems with them at all. Based on my understanding of shape based structual engineering a continuos flowing curve is less prone to distortion that that of a simmiliar shape with protrusions. This is best visually seen by observing free plates, one cornerless and one with "points". If left unclamped to any flat surface, just "free" they will both distort, but the ones with corners will often show more plate deformation particularly at the corners where they will have a tendency to flair upward. However plate distortion is much more driven by the wood itself and its charecter than anything else. {along with the stress loads}

 

From a players standpoint Ilike playing cornerless violins better as I feel more "free". Meaning corners establish a "bowing zone" and that is great, I'm not suggesting people be sloppy with bowing, it's just that once one achieves compitence in bowing, knowing your area of range from close to the bridge to up to the fingerboard, it's just nice to have to ever worry about the frog catchng a corner. It's kind of a psychological thing that's hard to describe. I guess anyone who can play ok will not have a problem with hitting a corner, as a beginer may, but even if you are good, its nice to not have them sticking out, its just a different experience thats kinda hard to describe. I could see some people very much like corners as they give a defined visual marker.

 

And from a standpoint of damage by accidentally striking the instrument against a hard object, the chances of damage increase dramatically with corners compared to a round object, with "points" and corners" the ways in which contact will ineract with force is statistically increased, thats just a basic reality of a shape and the reality of its structure. Never hit you leg on the corner of a round table,did ya?

 

For example set the violin on its edge on a table, the cornerless violin is making contact  on the 2 highest points of the arches of the upper and lower bout, if force is appled by "whacking" it down ala' Pete Townsend, the force will be applied to strongest points of the shape, that being the peaks of the arches, whereas if we do the same thing wth a cornered once, the force of lbs per sq. inch will be focused on these tiny "tips" points which basically means that if one built violins to smash, the ones with corners would be easier tp break, same thing with the edge catching something,that can't even happen with a round shape, baring something catching the lip edge.

 

My personal feeling about the cornerd violin is that its shape and design are outcomes of practicality of the times and that because of the reality of the way lumber was cut, shaped and made ready for sale that it was not only a very elegant design/ shape visually and strucually, but it was also is a design that allows for "Small" peices of wood to be used. Not saying a guy couldn't have resawn a 40" peice of rib, it was just more practical to use shorter peices as they were easier to produce. Corners allow for this use of short lumber

 

edit; I would say, that if I did not have basic power tools at my disposal, I would definitley make violins with corners, knowing what I know, it is only the "wonders" of power tools that allows me to easily mill things to dimensions I want with some ease, that allows or gives me incentive to use that ease of milling in my designs

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Okay then...really dumb question...

Is there such a thing as an oval or round violin?

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I went looking...haven't seen a round or oval one but did find one shaped like a starfish...or maybe just a star...

But I suppose that would still give room to bow...

P.s. it is a star of David...

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I have heard rumors that cornerless violins tend to twist over time, and that longevity issues are the reason that we don't see more of them.  Not sure if some sort of minimal corner block would help this, and I have no direct evidence of this supposed twisting issue.  If it is true, then I imagine that luthiers who have worked on these older cornerless instruments may have done something to correct twist and perhaps stabilize them.  Wish I could cite a resource.  I'd be interested to hear if anyone has some knowledge one way or the other about the long term stability.

 

My posting about curvature of ribs may influence your comments.  There are four areas of minimal stiffness in the ribs of a cornerless violin.  Perhaps this would allow more easy twisting.

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I'm currently making a copy of this instrument for Dwight, and so far it's been pretty fun. For the most part I have just been focusing on the instrument as it exists today. However, theorizing about what it was in the past has been unavoidable.

 
There is contention amongst experts/dealers as to what it really is or was, and there are believable arguments on both sides. But for the most part I don't think anyone cares that much.
 
I think the converted d'amore theory is most believable, and easiest to explain. See pages 252-257 of the Charles Beare Strad book, which features a modified d'amore (the same one in the Sacconi book). If you compare this with the Chanot-Chardon the end results are quite different. Nevertheless there are a few similarities; most notably - the f-holes, outline, and existence of ebony pins in the ribs.
 
In Stewart Pollen's Strad book he says "one of the wood forms in Paris that was originally used to make small guitars was later altered by Stradivari to make cornerless viola d'amore". He also says "Stradivari apparently made viols with flat backs canted at the top as well as arched-backs canted at the top; and with arched backs." This, to me, shows that it's quite possible that most of the pieces of these instruments could be original. Though, Beare does make specific mention that the cornerless paper pattern in his book is for a "d'amore with a flat back, canted in the upper bout". And of course there are many examples of flat-back viols that have had new plates made and are now functioning as arched-back cellos. This gives us no definite answers, but also gives us little to rule out.
 
The Chanot-Chardon is specifically mentioned in the Pollens book, and gives us hints about its name and the provenance of the scroll - "This instrument first appears in the 1850 inventory of the Chanot-Chardon firm in Paris as a violin by Stadivari in the form of a guitar. There is no documentation that this firm converted the instrument…though the conventional scroll that is presently mounted…could very well be the work of Georges Chanot." 
 
I could talk about this for days but that's all I've got for now.

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