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Hi all, I've been reviewing what I can about the original set-ups of Cremonese and Brescian instruments (although I'm always interested in other traditions as well if anyone wants to share).

I noticed a couple of the fingerboards had a centerline joint visible at the tailpiece end - 1664 Andrea Guarneri Tenor viola, and the 1690 Stradivari Tenor viola in Florence. I started wondering if it was common practice in cremona to use cut-offs from the top and back to build the fingerboard.

Reading up on Hargrave's 1987 article concerning a relatively unaltered 1679 Jacob Stainer violin, he says "The top curve of the board is very flat, and it has a very tiny saw or file cut in the center at the end (see drawing). This "notch" is about the size that a string would fit into. I have no idea as to its originality or use".  Centerline joints can be just as useful as a scribe line or notch, so I started wondering if these joints had a function.

However, the original Strad fingerboard MS 129 isn't joined down the center at all - it's just a willow core with maple edges on either side (bass and treble). I think I can see joint lines indicating that the 1613 Girolamo Amati pochette fingerboard is of this variety as well. I don't see any centerline scribe line or notches on these two. The 1669 Andrea Guarneri viola seems to have a different variation of border edging as the fingerboard end face doesn't seem to correspond with the grain along the underside of the board. The 1721 Stradivarius 'Lady Blunt' fingerboard seems to have a single core with no edge border.

Just was wondering if anyone else could add a little more concerning original baroque fingerboard variations, or about any tool marks they might display which could shed light on method or process. I'm assuming that the pinhole at the nut end of the 'Lady Blunt' fingerboard was added later for display purposes.

Also, if anyone can offer some more definitive answers concerning which fittings might or might not be original in the Ashmoleon's collection, I'd really appreciate it. I haven't been able to purchase the new text yet, and I'm seeing contrasting opinions in the older sources I own.

Thanks,

Joel

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Is the Guarneri example not a split rather than a joint? It looks from the photo as if the (slab) grain runs through the "joint" Interesting that the spruce seems to be used on the slab. I have always used  with the grain in the vertical direction assuming that it would have less tendency to warp. Many veneered fingerboards seem to droop at the free end after a while.

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I don't know much about fingerboards but i spent quite a bit of time looking at the fittings on the Ashmolean instruments. Most were made by the apprentices and workers at Hills. The Brothers Amati viola has old pegs but not original for the time. The tailpiece may be. I tried to find out just what you are asking and had to work pretty hard to get info. If you show me the instrument you are interested in, perhaps I can help. Fittings were never given much importance in the history of the violin family as a rule. Some of the pegs made by the Hills workers are amazingly tasty.

ahmolian carved pegs1.jpg

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The Cite de la musique in Paris has some fingerboards (associated with Amati??) but their  website does not have photos. I just have a very bad photo of my own and it doesn't show the part that interests you but probably others have better images.

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I've always been curious about that Medici fingerboard, perhaps it's been discussed here before. Is that center wood snakewood? Is it a veneer, certainly money was no object. I would assume that the maple border was added to the interior wood and the ivory and black purfling was built aound the center. In that case the maple binding would be two long Ls joined at the center bottom insted of a three piece set joined at the corners. Interesting way to do it kind of makes the maple look like a Continuous border which is sweet. 

I also see he spruce grain lines going through the (crack?)BTW

 

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I'm curious about the inlay on the Medici board. What is it made of and has it been etched or painted?

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50 minutes ago, deans said:

I'm curious about the inlay on the Medici board. What is it made of and has it been etched or painted?

Mother of pearl, etched.

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My method for setting a neck involves scribing a light line in the same place you show, south end of the board ,smack in the middle of The width. With a pin by the nut centered on the neck a string can be run down to the saddle and using a square riser off the endpinhole finding center and adjusting the swing is easy.I remove the line when done.

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Thanks Davide. I have a copy that's just an outline, may have an artist do the etching some day.

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Thanks for the responses everyone. It's getting late, so I'm just going to share some pics for now. 

The last two pics displayed in the gallery at the bottom of this page are supposed to show details of the c. 1574 Andrea Amati viola at the Ashmolean. The tiny reference book I own "Stringed Instruments" by Jon Whiteley states that "the tailpiece is old and probably original" and that the new fingerboard was built to match it. Another pic of this tailpiece is attached below.

The Brother's Amati violino piccolo is remarkably well preserved, with original fingerboard and tailpiece intact. Whiteley says the Ashmoleon's Brothers Amati viola retains its original tailpiece, with a replaced fingerboard made to match. 

The Gasparo Da Salo 'Ole Bull' / 'Jewel Room' violin supposedly retains its original fingerboard, although it has been lengthed. A Google image search pic shared by Tarisio's blog is below. Whiteley supposes that the fingerboard on the Gasparo Da Salo viol below is original, with the tailpiece built to match it. He also suspects that the Da Salo viola (at the Ashmolean) retains both its original fingerboard and tailpiece. 

MS 129 (stradivari fingerboard) was posted here by Davide Sora. I posted 2 Google image search pics of the 'Lady Blunt' fingerboard (provided by Tarisio) below.

As you can see, there isn't much to go on regarding fingerboard variations or tool marks here - I'd love to hear more on that if anyone has seen these up close and is willing to share. Perhaps someone has opinions regarding the originality of some of the fittings on the Ashmoleon's instruments though? I'd rather not go back and find the quotes tonight, but Whiteley, and Karl Roy agree if I remember right, but Roger Hargrave was more skeptical in the Jacob Stainer violin article I mentioned at the top. Oh, that reminds me, the Stainer Tenor viola in the NMM (referencing the Strad magazine article) supposedly retains its original fingerboard with a later tailpiece made to match it. Pic of the poster is added below.

Joel

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One last idle question - the Jacob Stainer tenor viola at the NMM's fingerboard is supposedly pear (looks like a 1 piece board with no side borders built around a core to me by the way). Are any of the Amati fittings or Da Salo fittings pear? Stainer's lion head scroll on the 'King' violin is also pear if I remember correctly. 

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On ‎11‎/‎10‎/‎2017 at 1:31 PM, Joel Pautz said:

Hi all, I've been reviewing what I can about the original set-ups of Cremonese and Brescian instruments (although I'm always interested in other traditions as well if anyone wants to share)...

3354GuarneriViolaFingerboardLowerEndLG.jpg

 

I have a ca. 1820-30 Hopf violin (dendro 1810) in stunning original condition with original unaltered neck and apparently still the original saddle. It looks like the violin was never played much - the pegs are not bushed, the holes not even reamed much bigger (if at all) from the original.

I did think I had a replaced fingerboard though. Now I'm not so sure anymore. Could this be original (maybe the core blackened later)?

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This fingerboard looks quite new, indeed. Original Vogtland fingerboards of the period are either from solid wood, like beech or maple coloured dark or have a thin veneer of some fruitwood over pine and are very sharp at the lower end, not as thick as in your photo.

The light construction makes them easily subject to warping and cracking, so they are often replaced.

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Any views please on whether different Baroque fingerboard facing woods have a significant effect on sound, and what, if any, effect a light alder or spruce core might have on sound as opposed to e.g a thick top ebony top veneer on maple or whatever?

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For the player, lighter is better for the Baroque board, which due to its volume has the potential to be quite a brick! I got to examine Stanley Ritchie's Stainer, which had been reconverted by Bill Monical in the early 70s. At that time I guess they hadn't worked out that the boards were veneered, because Bill made the entire wedged board of a single block of ebony. It was staggeringly heavy. 

Given that the violin must be supported by the left hand/arm when the chin/shoulder rests are not used, the playing health consideration must be among the foremost in the luthiers mind, I think. 

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2 hours ago, MeyerFittings said:

It's hard to imagine Bill not knowing something--even in the 70's.

 

I know what you mean. But there they are, along with his bridges on both the Stainer and the Maggini he converted for Stanley. 

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I'm interested in what to me seems a small amount of glue used to adhere the fingerboard to the neck in the photo below.  It would have made removal easier, could that have been the motive?

Regards,

Tim

Edit: Also just noticed what looks like a nail hole. Used for securing the blank during shaping?

image.png.fa829d3d4d299cd0f0a5243375488744.png

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6 hours ago, TimRobinson said:

I'm interested in what to me seems a small amount of glue used to adhere the fingerboard to the neck in the photo below.  It would have made removal easier, could that have been the motive?

Regards,

Tim

Edit: Also just noticed what looks like a nail hole. Used for securing the blank during shaping?

image.png.fa829d3d4d299cd0f0a5243375488744.png

I think the central area is probably hollow, in order that the whole thing would glue petty tight.

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On 10/24/2017 at 7:54 AM, JacksonMaberry said:

For the player, lighter is better for the Baroque board, which due to its volume has the potential to be quite a brick! I got to examine Stanley Ritchie's Stainer, which had been reconverted by Bill Monical in the early 70s. At that time I guess they hadn't worked out that the boards were veneered, because Bill made the entire wedged board of a single block of ebony. It was staggeringly heavy. 

Given that the violin must be supported by the left hand/arm when the chin/shoulder rests are not used, the playing health consideration must be among the foremost in the luthiers mind, I think. 

In the mid-1980s I had an opportunity to spend an hour playing what I recall was a Jacobs--or perhaps some other nice late-17th c. Dutch violin--which was reconverted c. 1980.  Beautiful instrument, but DANG that thing was a club.  Because it was so heavy and of course there was no chinrest, I feared that it would tumble out of my left hand.  It felt awful and put me off the whole baroque violin thing until I later encountered one that had a lighter fingerboard and was delightful.  Another interesting aspect of this, though, and why I wonder whether Ritchie might want to consider having those fingerboards replaced, is that I was convinced that the wedge of ebony was acting as a mute or otherwise doing weird things to the sound--does that make sense--that so much weight in the neck is not a good thing acoustically?

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I'm sure having a super massive board absorbs energy that could be better used elsewhere. As for Stanley, he isn't playing much these days so I don't think it's an issue for him. I know going too light can be bad too, but I'd rather tend that way than too heavy. The baroque board I just finished weighs only 33g. 

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14 hours ago, Conor Russell said:

I think the central area is probably hollow, in order that the whole thing would glue petty tight.

That's really perceptive and makes much more sense than what I thought I was seeing.  I will do the same next time.

Tim

 

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Thanks for the comments on sound - any views on whether and how the material used for the playing surface affects violin sound when the fingerboard has a spruce core? Most of the recent replacement fingerboards I've seen on Baroque setup violins have been ebony veneer on spruce, but flamed maple doesn't appear uncommon.

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