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Stradivari's secret was a concept?


Andreas Preuss
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35 minutes ago, curious1 said:

Ahh, the old reduce it by 1/4 trick. Otherwise know as the ‘fudge factor’.

If you like.  The cremona patterns do in fact leave the maker considerable flexibility.  But what you find consistently through the generations from A Amati through Del Gesu is that they work within the limited choices ranges of the traditional constructions and ratio. All of them finagle in the application.  All of them include or exclude a margin or edge feature in calculating a ratio as suits their whim or an immediate circumstance.  All the features present a range of ratio choices in the traditional use, not just one. And all the makers take advantage of these ranges.  In these ways, their methods are both highly guided and somewhat at liberty. It's a powerful combination, and seems to work well for them.

Without embracing or allowing for these complexities, one can not find the order behind the classical designs, because these flexibilities are an essential part.

Further, you will overlook the origanization of their work if one insists on a design worked out ahead of time and adhere to through to the completion of work.   Not just in the corner work, but in all parts, their design choices and ratio measures flow from what is actually present in the work as it progresses.

 

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58 minutes ago, curious1 said:

Ahh, the old reduce it by 1/4 trick. Otherwise know as the ‘fudge factor’.

'Fudge factor' is a good description, but perhaps disrespectful of this basic practice seen in the old making.

 

Notice how the shorter neck on very large instruments, and lengthened necks on very small instruments improves playability.

Also, please note that I described this kind of adjustment 9 posts before any example required.

(The principles shown here were worked out in my research a few years past by now.  They've been shown several times before in other threads, and in my blog.)

 

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8 hours ago, curious1 said:

The Stradivari ‘Medici’ 1690 tenor viola is an instrument that we actually have Stradivari’s templates for and its neck is essentially unaltered.

Stop (Mensur) 263.3mm

neck length 152.5mm (edge to nut)

Paper template (catalogue #237) neck length 160mm (heel to nut)

I can’t find a proportional relationship between any of these parts at least with the precision you imply.

mensure/neck, 263.5/152.5 is approximately 7/4 with an error of 2mm

mensure/paper template, 263.5/160 is approximately 5/3 with an error of 2mm

if we subtract 3mm from paper template for the edge overhang we come closer to 5/3, 263.5/157.1mm but with a .9mm error still. (If the edge overhang is increased to 4mm then the proportion would be 5/3).

if we look at the neck to volute relationship there seems to be better proportionality

volute height 67.4mm

volute length 50.3mm

neck length/volute height 152.5/67.4mm is very close to 9/4, 67.7 instead of 67.4mm

volute height to volute length is very close to 4/3, 67.4/50.3 with an error of .2mm

if we work proportionally from the neck the errors increase, 152.5/9x4=67.7mm instead of 67.4mm actual. 67.7/4x3=50.8mm instead of 50.3 actual.

 

 

6 hours ago, David Beard said:

Don't know what's up with your numbers.

 

All the measurements come from: 

Secrets of Stradivari, Simone Sacconi

The Cremona Exhibition of 1987, Charles Beare

Strumenti di Antonio Stradivari, Ente Triennale

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3 hours ago, David Beard said:

'Fudge factor' is a good description, but perhaps disrespectful of this basic practice seen in the old making.

 

Notice how the shorter neck on very large instruments, and lengthened necks on very small instruments improves playability.

Also, please note that I described this kind of adjustment 9 posts before any example required.

(The principles shown here were worked out in my research a few years past by now.  They've been shown several times before in ot threads, and in my blog.)

 

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4 hours ago, David Beard said:

If you like.  The cremona patterns do in fact leave the maker considerable flexibility.  But what you find consistently through the generations from A Amati through Del Gesu is that they work within the limited choices ranges of the traditional constructions and ratio. All of them finagle in the application.  All of them include or exclude a margin or edge feature in calculating a ratio as suits their whim or an immediate circumstance.  All the features present a range of ratio choices in the traditional use, not just one. And all the makers take advantage of these ranges.  In these ways, their methods are both highly guided and somewhat at liberty. It's a powerful combination, and seems to work well for them.

Without embracing or allowing for these complexities, one can not find the order behind the classical designs, because these flexibilities are an essential part.

Further, you will overlook the origanization of their work if one insists on a design worked out ahead of time and adhere to through to the completion of work.   Not just in the corner work, but in all parts, their design choices and ratio measures flow from what is actually present in the work as it progresses.

 

Do you actually think Antonio Stradivari made all those templates and patterns just so Francesco could make stuff up as he went along?

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55 minutes ago, curious1 said:

Do you actually think Antonio Stradivari made all those templates and patterns just so Francesco could make stuff up as he went along?

I don't know exactly what role the various templates played.

It could have been documentation.  And it could have been for transfer.   Transferring design work was part of the artisan practice generally (documented for example in Cennini).

 

But were did the template come from?   What I do know is that some of the templates are not tight matches to the actual scrolls etc.      Templates can have many uses.   For example a simplified template, like the paper scroll template with marking holes along the design, can be used to help place and align the work on  the wood blank.

I do actually believe that the design work and adjustment (with compass in hand) was much more on going and interactive with the building than we are accustomed to recognizing.  And I do believe that just about every detail was proportioned and circumscribed with guides.        

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, curious1 said:

Do you actually think Antonio Stradivari made all those templates and patterns just so Francesco could make stuff up as he went along?

The use of paper templates was just as today, to have an idea how everything should look like. The difference to todays makers is certainly what David Beard describes as 'freedom of choices' or maybe even something like 'roughing out with proportions and finishing by eye'. Considering the natural elegance Cremonese instruments have, I'd rather go for the latter. The whole concept was build on what I call natural symmetry. It looks symmetric, but when we mirror image one side to the other it actually doesn't match even for makers like Strad who worked pretty precisely. I think their idea was more like 'If you work with the same tools in the same order on the right and left side, the result is 'tool-symmetric'. Likewise the general proportions might get a bit distorted. 

Today for sure many makers try to get a perfect match of a pattern and perfect symmetry with no freedom of interpretation. No wonder that many modern instruments look rather like a product which rolled off an assembly line in a car factory.

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5 hours ago, David Beard said:

And I do believe that just about every detail was proportioned and circumscribed with guides.        

4 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

The use of paper templates was just as today, to have an idea how everything should look like. 

While I also think scrolls, corners, and f-holes were and are good candidates for templates, the arching may be a different matter.  Yes, I have used templates from posters and elsewhere to make arching, to get the idea of what it should look like... but the more I look at all the variations in arching, the more I believe it is a combination of carving sequence and a good eye rather than templates that resulted in Cremonese arching.  What it should look like was gained from whoever they learned from, plus years of experience.  All personal opinions, subject to change if anyone has found Cremonese arching templates.

The Roger Hargrave method makes most sense to me.  After a while, I think one can look at an instrument, poster, or CT scan, and get some idea of what the aching concept was, and incorporate that while carving... assuming you want to make an instrument along those lines.  There is enough information out there on a variety of instruments to pick and choose which way to go.  Of course, if you're trying to make an exact bench copy of a particular instrument, then templates would make most sense.  Depends what you want to do, but it doesn't look like the Old Guys were trying to make exact copies of anything.

 

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Based on looking at the widely varied results from any single maker, one could say the same about scrolls.

Having used templates for quite a while now, with a "unified theory" of how to generate them, and a constant flow of great violins through the shop to check my work on, I can tell you that there is usually a template-based logic behind the arching changes that you think of as random, and that this logic works from the edges inward, not from the center out or trying to fit the whole arch perfectly from one side to the other. Scoop depth and placement and edge thickness are all closely related.  I'm not sure that they cared as much about the center. The most data in this regard has come from the most extreme instruments that you would call "proof" of randomness. Here's an example:
https://1drv.ms/u/s!Aq4avJ8BfiuYhKJ9mrghHlH4AZpmqQ

More interesting to me is how many makers admit to drawing-based structure for every part of the violin except the arching, and then believe that regarding that, they just "winged it". I think that resistance comes from a lack of understanding of where the variations come from, combined with the modern need of makers to deny that they're making a product, not art, and to keep open at least one degree of freedom open to prove they are creatives rather than copyists.

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14 hours ago, David Beard said:

Don't know what's up with your numbers.

598424652_1690StradtenorMediciTuscan.thumb.jpg.4cd4cb4ca7a14de05309212ce2838ada.jpg

 

As can be plainly seen, the neck uses an adjusted stop unit that is reduced by  1/4.  Thus it follows the general pattern of (aSU + Su) to 3Su.

Also plain to see, the scroll height is 3/4 the Stop Unit.

 

 

12 hours ago, curious1 said:

Ahh, the old reduce it by 1/4 trick. Otherwise know as the ‘fudge factor’.

 

11 hours ago, David Beard said:

'Fudge factor' is a good description, but perhaps disrespectful of this basic practice seen in the old making.

 

It wasn’t the makers of old that were fudging it.

Dividing the mensur into 3 parts, using one of those parts and the nearest whole number division of the remainder to show some proportional relationship of neck to mensur, and then crying ‘Et voilà’ does not strike me as brilliance.

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19 minutes ago, Michael Darnton said:

The most data in this regard has come from the most extreme instruments that you would call "proof" of randomness.

I never said there was proof of anything, as proof requires irrefutable evidence, such as templates or notes of such from the Cremonese.  And it is not randomness, but a different underlying method that we each see, even in the most extreme instruments.  If all instruments from a maker had exactly the same arching dimensions, then it would be hard to deny the use of templates (or CNC).  When there are variations, then different observers can come up with different ideas about what they are seeing as the underlying pattern.

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I'm not aware of any functional real-world definition of proof such that you state, not even in court. The usual description, even in science, is more along the line of preponderance of evidence.

Lack of exposure and information will contribute to a lack of understanding a focused concept. First, of course, you have to have the idea; then, you have to have the access to test it, and acquire more evidence. If you have neither, then the pattern doesn't emerge and you're left with more possibilities, leading to the illusion that there are variations that don't in fact exist, and no strong pattern.

The danger of being too OCD is that you get locked into ideas that eliminate more than should be eliminated. One used to run into the idea among players and small shops that a "correct" violin was exactly 14" long, for instance, which would eliminate most Strads and even more del Gesus.

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3 hours ago, David Beard said:

I believe that if you look closely the body, soundholes, and volute of all of them are asymmetric.

Yes. I was thinking of the most striking examples.

On the other hand, the Betts for example, or the Lady Blunt show less asymmetry, and in my opinion were made by Antonio himself. All the decorated Strads are also fairly symmetric in appearance. 

Edited by Torbjörn Zethelius
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4 hours ago, Michael Darnton said:

 I think that resistance comes from a lack of understanding of where the variations come from, combined with the modern need of makers to deny that they're making a product, not art, and to keep open at least one degree of freedom open to prove they are creatives rather than copyists.

As I mentioned earlier, I don't run into many makers like that, and I do run into a lot of makers!

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2 hours ago, Michael Darnton said:

Based on looking at the widely varied results from any single maker, one could say the same about scrolls.

Having used templates for quite a while now, with a "unified theory" of how to generate them, and a constant flow of great violins through the shop to check my work on, I can tell you that there is usually a template-based logic behind the arching changes that you think of as random, and that this logic works from the edges inward, not from the center out or trying to fit the whole arch perfectly from one side to the other. Scoop depth and placement and edge thickness are all closely related.  I'm not sure that they cared as much about the center. The most data in this regard has come from the most extreme instruments that you would call "proof" of randomness. Here's an example:
https://1drv.ms/u/s!Aq4avJ8BfiuYhKJ9mrghHlH4AZpmqQ

More interesting to me is how many makers admit to drawing-based structure for every part of the violin except the arching, and then believe that regarding that, they just "winged it". I think that resistance comes from a lack of understanding of where the variations come from, combined with the modern need of makers to deny that they're making a product, not art, and to keep open at least one degree of freedom open to prove they are creatives rather than copyists.

Michael,

I dont use arching templates, but I do have a set system by whick i cut the archings. As you say, the edge thickness, depth and width of the scoop etc can be adjusted, but the working method stays the same. So the tools themselves, couped with the technique dictate the form of the arching. 

Do you think that the wide variety seen in Cremonese archings, different, but sharing a common language, might have arisen from following a common technique (gesture, as in French bowmaking), rather than a template?

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1 hour ago, Conor Russell said:

Do you think that the wide variety seen in Cremonese archings, different, but sharing a common language, might have arisen from following a common technique (gesture, as in French bowmaking), rather than a template?

I have about 10+ years of teaching my (let's call it "mine" since I don't seem to be convincing people that it's Cremonese :-) arching method to a range of students from beginners to professional in my summer class, which has helped me see a lot about how people work and think. I would put it this way: there doesn't appear to be any method of natural tool use that will achieve the arching that I identify as Cremonese, but there is a myriad of ways to "let the tools do the work" that wipes out these characteristics. I'm not saying that it's absolutely not possible, but so far what I have seen is that intent is what results in the right results, not some particular method, and that a moment of lapse of intent inevitably result in wiping the look away.

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1 hour ago, Michael Darnton said:

I have about 10+ years of teaching my (let's call it "mine" since I don't seem to be convincing people that it's Cremonese :-) arching method to a range of students from beginners to professional in my summer class, which has helped me see a lot about how people work and think. I would put it this way: there doesn't appear to be any method of natural tool use that will achieve the arching that I identify as Cremonese, but there is a myriad of ways to "let the tools do the work" that wipes out these characteristics. I'm not saying that it's absolutely not possible, but so far what I have seen is that intent is what results in the right results, not some particular method, and that a moment of lapse of intent inevitably result in wiping the look away.

Thank you.

I'd be really interested to see what you see. 

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16 hours ago, Torbjörn Zethelius said:

I'm wondering if the Strads with asymmetric f-holes once had 'Sotto la diciplina' labels in them. 

 I don't think so. Some very beautifully made instruments are pretty assymmetric like the Venus made in 1727.  In general Stradivari don't care about symmetry so much.

I would rather suspect instruments who clearly don't show his own style executed perfectly as 'sotto disciplina'. There I would suspect the Francescatti Strad (1727) as an example because the ff are clearly not Strad style.

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Here is one of the reasons why I think that Stradivari abandoned some aspects of the ratio related construction system handed down from the Amati family.

Picture 1 shows what I call the Amati system for placing the f-holes. The circle line running through the corners is centered exactly in the middle of the body length.

The smaller cirlcle running through the center of the f-points has its center on the golden section of the body length. Its diameter is the golden section of the bigger circle.

image.jpeg

PIcture 2: This system can be observed on even the wildest Guarneris, however working precision is, as expected, not at the same level as Amati.

image.jpeg

For Stradivari I see an interesting development. In his early period he used the Amati system, however already in an slightly assymetric way. The Tullaye made in c.1670 shows that the Amati system matches on the treble side but not on the bass side. (no picture because it didn't upload)

It is interesting too that we can still see the Amati system on long pattern Strads (picture 3: Harrison Strad 1698) which makes me believe the long pattern was created with the goal to increase the stop length. And maybe because the long pattern Strads were rejected by violinists, he abandoned around this time the Amati system to make normal size instruments with a slightly longer stop length.

image.jpeg

Picture 4 shows the f-holes Baron Knoop. Made in the same year as the Harrison, the Amati system clearly doesn't fit any more (picure 5) Thereafter basically the majority of his violins doesn't follow the Amati system any more.

image.jpeg

image.jpeg

I see the reasons in handling this differently in being able to place f-holes more freely to adopt to the slight assymetry of the outline and therefore he replaced the Amati system which constructs the f-hole placement from the inside with a system which works from the outside. The advantage is that slight assymetries are not so visible any more at the placement of the f-holes, because this is best visible at the short distances between f-hole outline and purfling line. In this sense I would call Stradivari a genius in cheating.

NOTE: The fact that sometimes the circles are not placed perfectly on a photo can have different reasons: The original layout was done on an arched surface so it is almost unavoidable that it looks a little bit distorted on a flat photo. Then working with it,it causes problems on a spruce top to place a circle on a hard grain and therefore it slides in one or the other direction. If the divider was made of wood it might flex slightly when drawing a line.

Edited by Andreas Preuss
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