pawsplus

Stupid violinist questions

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I'm fascinated by what you guys do, but only know violins from playing them.  So bear with me . . . 

I was wondering if purfling has a purpose other than ornamentation.  Does it do anything to the sound?  If so, what and how?

I have seen you guys talking about integral bass bars.  Are those carved directly into the violin, versus being glued on after the top is carved?  Which is better and why?

Thanks for alleviating my curiosity.  I will ask more stupid violinist questions in future as they occur to me if that is OK.  :)

 

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I'll put in my beliefs, others may vary. These are not stupid questions and make up a good number of threads on this web site.

I could be wrong, but MO is that purfling is ornamental, there is some belief that it may prevent cracking at the edges, but it could actually do the opposite in some cases. I think there have been several threads and debates on this. I happen to be a fan of old purfling-less violins and none have developed a crack on my watch.

A good integral bass bar can be fine, and were done by many talented makers. Probably very few if any today though. There is a very large number of cheaper instruments with poorly done integral bass bars (and everything else) It gets an unjustified bad rap because many people associate it with these cheaper fiddles.

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Purfling can both help prevent cracks from starting and help prevent cracks from growing.

So purfling can stop an edge crack  from moving past the purfling into the interior and also prevent a crack from the interior from moving past the purfling to the edge.

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IMHO, purfling is pretty, but like Deans, I own some unpurfled violins, and have seen no evidence that purfled is structurally or tonally better, and have seen some evidence that, poorly done, it weakens edges.  Integral bass bars seem functionally OK, but they complicate repairs.  :)

BTW, there may, somewhere, be stupid questions (e. g., never ask politicians if they're telling the truth), but there are no stupid violinists. :lol:

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I’m glad someone has asked this question, I was actually under the impression that purfling was laid along the glue line, and the soft wood in the purfling functioned as a kind of gasket in that it allowed the plates to vibrate a little bit more freely because of the compressibility of the soft inner layer of the purfling.

Is that an old wives tale? 

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1) Purfling is inlaid into a channel carved part-way into the top. It sits above the ribs and protects the instrument from a good deal of damage. It also reinforces the glue surface so that the top is less likely to crack when removed. In the early life of the violin people didn’t use cases like we do now, so instruments were more prone to getting bumped. The edge might chip, but if the purfling was put in well, damage would stay outside the purfling line.  Poorly installed purfling will cause trouble.

2) Integral bass bars are made by simply leaving wood in the bass bar area in making. They are not used in fine instruments because they are harder to execute well while keeping plate thicknesses even. Also, they make it impossible to orient the bar properly and keep the grain straight at the same time. 

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58 minutes ago, GeorgeH said:

Purfling can both help prevent cracks from starting and help prevent cracks from growing.

So purfling can stop an edge crack  from moving past the purfling into the interior and also prevent a crack from the interior from moving past the purfling to the edge.

Purfling can also create cracks that wouldn't otherwise exist, especially near the top and bottom blocks, where the plates are crossgrain and the purfling is longitudinal grain, with vastly different expansion with humidity and shrinkage with age.  

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42 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

I’m glad someone has asked this question, ...........................

Eighty pages from now, you may regret that comment.  ;):lol:

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2 hours ago, pawsplus said:

...Thanks for alleviating my curiosity.  I will ask more stupid violinist questions in future as they occur to me if that is OK.  :)

 

I love "stupid" questions.  Often times basic questions are understood, but not necessarily to the depth one should know.  I would never had asked these questions.  Because you asked them I learned details I did not know.

Thanks for being curious,

Jim 

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3 hours ago, Don Noon said:

Purfling can also create cracks that wouldn't otherwise exist, especially near the top and bottom blocks, where the plates are crossgrain and the purfling is longitudinal grain, with vastly different expansion with humidity and shrinkage with age.  

Do you think that purfling affects the acoustic properties of a violin, or is likely to? (I did search MN before asking, and found a few comments, including a thread on edge thickness).

 

 

2 hours ago, pawsplus said:

Thanks!  This was very illuminating.  Hope I didn't start The Great Purfling Crack Debate of 2018. ;-)

If you ask a traditional maker about purfling they will probably tell you it is to prevent cracks, though whether they think that, or are just the old-fashioned type want to discourage impertinent questions from the lay person, like an old fashioned doctor, is not clear to me.

Many questions can be answered by searching MN (either in the search box, or by adding site:maestronet.com to a Google search). As a non-maker, I have the impression that often where the answer is not easy to find by searching, there is no consensus. Some makers strive to advance understanding of violins. It is a delicate question whether they usually make better instruments than their colleagues who just keep doing things (like purfling) the way they have been done for 300 years.

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Regardless of structure and tonal capabilities, inlaid purfling is a mark of good workmanship... if this workmanship wasn’t important then we wouldn’t care so much about deep-throated, finely carved scrolls.  

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I thought the plate edges would be better protected and stronger if the linings were on the outside rather than on the inside surface of the ribs.  I made a few instruments that way but people just assumed I had screwed up again.

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12 minutes ago, ClefLover said:

Regardless of structure and tonal capabilities, inlaid purfling is a mark of good workmanship... if this workmanship wasn’t important then we wouldn’t care so much about deep-throated, finely carved scrolls.  

Nicely inlaid purfling is a sign of good workmanship. Any Tom Dick or Harry can inlay purfling and make a violin lol. I think that how finely inlaid the purfling is can be an indicator of the overall workmanship. 

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4 hours ago, Nick Allen said:

Nicely inlaid purfling is a sign of good workmanship. Any Tom Dick or Harry can inlay purfling and make a violin lol. I think that how finely inlaid the purfling is can be an indicator of the overall workmanship. 

Especially the corners. Getting those right is damn hard. I'm not yet satisfied with my own work there.

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I'm under the impression that purfling is largely ornamental. Don't a lot of violins have very shallow purfling channels once the fluting is finished anyways? Like less than a millimeter?

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If you're interested in how purfling would be useful in stopping cracks from spreading, you might see if you could find the book "The New Science of Strong Materials: or, Why Things Don't Fall Through the Floor".

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21 hours ago, pawsplus said:

I'm fascinated by what you guys do, but only know violins from playing them.  So bear with me . . . 

I was wondering if purfling has a purpose other than ornamentation.  Does it do anything to the sound?  If so, what and how?

I have seen you guys talking about integral bass bars.  Are those carved directly into the violin, versus being glued on after the top is carved?  Which is better and why?

Thanks for alleviating my curiosity.  I will ask more stupid violinist questions in future as they occur to me if that is OK.  :)

No question can be stupid enough to be taken seriously. (Don't remember where this quote comes from)

In violin making school we learn that the purfling prevents the top from cracking when it gets a shock at the edge, especially where there is end grain on the upper and lower end. And this is true. The purfling holds the grains together like a thread preventing the worst.

On the back it is actually not so necessary as the many unpurfled violins of the past show. Best known for this practice is C.A. Testore in Milan at the beginning of the 18th century who rushed the making of his instruments to survive in finacial difficult times.

Integral or carved out bass bars can be found only in very cheap Bohemian instruments or bad amateur work. This should explain the difference enough.

Besides, I know one person who asks even wilder questions: my 8 year-old son. For example why did Stradivari make scrolls and not Ninjago faces on the head? :D

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16 hours ago, David Burgess said:

The purpose of purfling is so you can fit replacement edges without a visible joint. :)

LOL. One of my first jobs at Renes workshop was the edge replacement at an unpurfled cello back. The original inked purfling fortunately was not totally worn down.  However I realized how difficult it is to draw a nice purfling line with ink exactly over the joint of my replacement.

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20 minutes ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

If purfling is so good at stopping cracks why don't guitars use it?

but they do, however the protection comes mostly from the binding..

purflingdetail1.gif

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18 hours ago, Nick Allen said:

Nicely inlaid purfling is a sign of good workmanship. Any Tom Dick or Harry can inlay purfling and make a violin lol. I think that how finely inlaid the purfling is can be an indicator of the overall workmanship. 

Yes, the point I was trying to make ;)

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21 hours ago, David Burgess said:

The purpose of purfling is so you can fit replacement edges without a visible joint. :)

Like :)

If purfling comes unglued it can cause a buzz on certain or all notes (some have suggested that this frees the plates to vibrate) but in reality once you wick some dilute glue where the purfling is unglued from the channel, the buzzing immediately stops.

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