francoisdenis

Who do retouch thicknesses from outside ?

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I would be curious to get a feed back of those who retouch
thicknesses of the plates  from outside.
Which kind of improvement do you get or expect ?
how do you proceed? do you work on the table, on the back?
In which parts of the instrument with which tools?
Do you learn something new about the making process?
Did that change something in your approach?

 

 

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Francois, 

I was doing it as a test in the past with a super heavy Chinese instrument built in the 80s, . Though the experiment was successful, I didn't follow up on it because, well, probably no matter what you do on such an instrument, you'll 'improve' it. In the experiment I scraped the scooped areas on the border at both C bouts of the back and could increase the sound volume and diminish the nasal character. Considering the amount of wood I had taken it was actually a pretty dramatic and unexpected change.

However recently I am re thinking the whole process, and I think it is crucial to find first where and how big the areas are located to adjust anything. I am sure the areas are rather big. I think it is also necessary to start with thicknesses rather too thick everywhere.

I will make another test with my super light violin.  (See the thread in contemporary violin makers Gallery)

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Andreas,

You right , I agree that with an heavy Chinese violin you are almost sure too improve something...

In the years 90th  I started to string the violin before the warnish trying to get a warnish which do not affect, in a too bad, way the sound. At that time my conclusion has been : thiner are the ground and warnish better it is. I found that a certain amount of warnish (which could not be considered as excessive following our standart), can definetly damage the sound quality I like.
Doing that, I started to experiment with the thickness and I came across some interessting résults. Surprisingly some part of the violin seem to have none real importance in the sound because, the instrument being stringed, you can  remove a lot a wood and nothing happen. At the opposite some other parts seem excessively sensitive one small move of scraper blade can change a lot when you are on the good spot.
Pretty disturbing actually.

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In general I would think that the scoop of the edge should be watched carefully because if we look at it like a hinge or joint it has a great influence on the movement of the whole body. 

If this was the reason why Cremonese makers apparently made the edge work on the assembled instrument is open to question.

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The thincknesses of the edge were my first interesst but I don't get any obvious result on this side. What I noticed for sure is : closer your are to the bridge more effective is the result. Furthermore dispite my effort, I never really managed to change the caracter of the sound but you can efficiently arrange the balance and the homogeneity of the instrument.
Already a usefull beginning

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42 minutes ago, francoisdenis said:

Doing that, I started to experiment with the thickness and I came across some interessting résults. Surprisingly some part of the violin seem to have none real importance in the sound because, the instrument being stringed, you can  remove a lot a wood and nothing happen. At the opposite some other parts seem excessively sensitive one small move of scraper blade can change a lot when you are on the good spot.

Pretty disturbing actually.

 

Which parts are you referring to in particular?

In any case, I think it's more of a risk to ruin the sound than to improve it by working on the stringed white violin because you can not know when to stop, so I avoid doing it.
Sometimes I scrape a little bit more the edge fluting from the outside on the closed box without the neck, but only if I have the impression that the breathing of the tapping volume is too weak, but it does not happen very often.

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29 minutes ago, Andreas Preuss said:

In general I would think that the scoop of the edge should be watched carefully because if we look at it like a hinge or joint it has a great influence on the movement of the whole body. 

If this was the reason why Cremonese makers apparently made the edge work on the assembled instrument is open to question.

Stradivari didn’t seem to have a problem making thick scoop. So maybe he didn’t care about this aspect. 

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47 minutes ago, Davide Sora said:
In any case, I think it's more of a risk to ruin the sound than to improve it by working on the stringed white violin because you can not know when to stop, so I avoid doing it.
 

Do you speak of experience or is it just a fear?

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1 hour ago, francoisdenis said:

Do you speak of experience or is it just a fear?

Fear..... and try to imagine what could happen.

How do you know when to stop, or if keep scraping can lead to further improvements or make the result worse?

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1 hour ago, Davide Sora said:
 

Fear..... and try to imagine what could happen.

 
How do you know when to stop, or if keep scraping can lead to further improvements or make the result worse?

First learn by experimentation. No needs to start doing your test with
your customers orders...when you start to be a bit more confident you can try for real.I remember doing that with a colleague, to have been surprise how quickly we achieve an agreement.
I have to say that these experiences date back nearly 30 years but they have had an influence on my approach even if I use this possibility rarely now.
To answer your question, It's one of the thing i found instructive, violins are not only a matter of thicknesses weight and stiffness  it's also a lot a question of equilbre of this parametres.

So Imagine two weighing pans you try to find the balance if you go too far you can always go back if you add or remove weight or stiffness. It's an image but practicaly it works a bit like that .
But I know that i'm not alone to have done this kind of experimentation.
Do you learn something?

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2 minutes ago, francoisdenis said:

But I know that i'm not alone to have done this kind of experimentation.
Do you learn something?

On a few occasions I have experimented with a cheap instrument, carving off wood from the outside in various spots to see what happens.  Usually I hog off at least .5mm to try to make the change as significant as possible.

The results have been universally unimpressive and unclear.  Since I usually have gotten the instrument down to a reasonable thickness to start with, making anything thinner was never an improvement... but the changes were not large.  The most significant unimprovement seemed to be thinning the island of the top; the least was anything on the back.

I do "retouch the thicknesses" routinely from the outside after the box is closed, but not for any tonal adjustments.  I leave the edges and corners only roughly finished until the end, so I'll be able to do final aesthetic shaping, and I want to go over the entire outside one last time to get everything smoothed (and in case I ding something up setting the neck).  From my other experiments (and many regraduations), I don't think this small amount of work would hurt anything.  Even if there WAS a repeatable method to adjust externally, I don't see how you'd know what to adjust on a white instrument, as it will be a very different animal after varnishing and aging for a few months.

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5 hours ago, Torbjörn Zethelius said:

Stradivari didn’t seem to have a problem making thick scoop. So maybe he didn’t care about this aspect. 

Maybe .

in the end it melts down to our personal interpretations and how we can make it work on a Strad copy. 

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59 minutes ago, francoisdenis said:

But I know that i'm not alone to have done this kind of experimentation.
Do you learn something?

 

41 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

 Even if there WAS a repeatable method to adjust externally, I don't see how you'd know what to adjust on a white instrument, as it will be a very different animal after varnishing and aging for a few months.

Of course I conducted my own experimentation, but little by little, trying changes in thickness (or other things) from the inside during working, from instrument to instrument.

It is perhaps a rather slow evolution, but I think it is also what the ancient violin makers have done over time, working on your personal work and comparing and observing the work and ideas of other colleagues.

I believe that the intuition guided by the reasoning and the results obtained can teach a lot and I believe I have learned something useful, and I am still learning.

But I'm quite in line with Don's ideas, a white instrument is a very different animal from a finished one.

Although I do not deny that it can also be useful to slaughter a violin from the outside to try to understand something, I think it has too many limits and I prefer not to do so and I would not recommend it because I do not see all this evidence that some of the ancients have ever done this.

Perhaps it would be better to open and modify the finished violin after settling, but since I do not think that significant changes can be made to transform the sound by modifying only the thicknesses (for the little that can be done in the already finished instrument) I prefer to accept and live with the results obtained and move forward, thinking about possible improvements to be made in the next being able to act on more decisive structural parameters.

I do not think any violin will ever be perfect,  not even the Stradivari are not and never have been, but in small steps I think we can make a significant evolution to get closer to our idea of perfection, which inevitably will never be shared by everyone especially when it comes to sound.
 


 

 

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1 hour ago, Don Noon said:

On a few occasions I have experimented with a cheap instrument, carving off wood from the outside in various spots to see what happens.  Usually I hog off at least .5mm to try to make the change as significant as possible.

The results have been universally unimpressive and unclear.  Since I usually have gotten the instrument down to a reasonable thickness to start with, making anything thinner was never an improvement... but the changes were not large.  The most significant unimprovement seemed to be thinning the island of the top; the least was anything on the back.

I do "retouch the thicknesses" routinely from the outside after the box is closed, but not for any tonal adjustments.  I leave the edges and corners only roughly finished until the end, so I'll be able to do final aesthetic shaping, and I want to go over the entire outside one last time to get everything smoothed (and in case I ding something up setting the neck).  From my other experiments (and many regraduations), I don't think this small amount of work would hurt anything.  Even if there WAS a repeatable method to adjust externally, I don't see how you'd know what to adjust on a white instrument, as it will be a very different animal after varnishing and aging for a few months.

I think the funny thing is that when we graduate the loose plates we are much  more fussy about thicknessing in general.

So don't those experiments question most graduation theories? 

And, what is in the end the most crucial factor for the sound? If any reasonable thickness works (I mean nothing exaggerated like a Chinese made instrument from the 80s), there are still the arching the material and varnish left as sound factors. 

 

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39 minutes ago, Davide Sora said:

But I'm quite in line with Don's ideas, a white instrument is a very different animal from a finished one.

I understand that you have clear idea of the influence of your varnish and that this is important enough to disqualify your appreciation of the sound of an unvarnished violin

 

 

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46 minutes ago, Davide Sora said:

I do not think any violin will ever be perfect,

I think that it is not the topic,.

it is more to know if we can expect to learn something usefull or not doing this

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2 hours ago, Don Noon said:

The most significant unimprovement seemed to be thinning the island of the top

following your statement we could conclude that the violin was already to thin

or that it was at the optimal thickness.

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27 minutes ago, Andreas Preuss said:

what is in the end the most crucial factor for the sound

May be the most crucial factor will not exist ...

if all the story will be a matter of balance?

all the violin concept being like the parts of suspended mobile, never alone

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16 minutes ago, francoisdenis said:

I understand that you have clear idea of the influence of your varnish and that this is important enough to disqualify your appreciation of the sound of an unvarnished violin

 

 

Varnish in this context is indeed a delicate issue. 

So thinking about the experiment I would approach it (in theory for the moment) like this: start with top and back too thick. I would use tap tones as a parameter. If the wood is by far too thick tap tones are simply not there. However the moment when the first come out the plates are usually still too thick. I would choose this thickness as starting point and assemble the instrument.

For thinning down from the outside I would start from the top. After reaching a desired result (whatever this might be) I would apply the ground varnish on the top. Only the I would attack the back in the following manner: Upper and lower bouts first then as last adjustment taking wood from the c bouts of the back. 

 

 

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3 hours ago, francoisdenis said:

May be the most crucial factor will not exist ...

if all the story will be a matter of balance?

Balance is certainly a consideration. 

Speaking about crucial factor it depends on the expectations you have. I would in no sense expect this kind of miracle that after taking away a tiny chip somewhere all of a sudden the Stradivari sound jumps out of the box.

maybe it is really just about weight reduction without harming the sound.

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I purfle and scoop the edges after the box is closed. I take care that the inner shape of the plates will allow me to make the edge I want later. I have a bit of leeway with depth and shape of the scoop. 

I start by running all around with a gouge, then blend in to the arching. This is where I can take a little more or a little less, but here, I'm more focused on the strength and resistance of the plates than the sound. I press down at the bridge and around the edges, feeling for movement. 

I honestly don't think I could make any useful or informed choices to micro-adjust the sound at this point. I only have a very basic image of how I think the plates might work to go on, so for me, to spend a lot of time studying this would be of limited use. Im not even sure that what worked on one instrument would transfer to the next.

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In his closing remark, he says that Cremonese violins show a roughness or unevenness on the outside, not seen on violins from other places. From this, he says, we can conclude that the Cremonese tuned the white violins by scraping bits out around the edges.

I can't help thinking that he's seeing what he wants to see. 

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I remember reading that when inserting a sound post in a violin, it should fit snugly, but it should not push so hard as to make a bump on the violin's belly. Here, the sound post on the 1727 Benvenuti has pushed the stiffer maple back plate out by about 5 mm!

Obviously, it is in urgent need of repair work. Although, if it sounds good now, I can understand why one would not wish to risk disturbing perfection.

At least, that's what I see when I look at that micro-CT scan.

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6 hours ago, Don Noon said:

  The most significant unimprovement seemed to be thinning the island of the top; the least was anything on the back.

Maybe that's all we need to know? ;)

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