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Instrument measurement


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Measurements like body length or width, is it measured along the straight line like the ones you'd get with calipers or along the curve commonly used like tape measures?

How about the measurements in big books like Strad or Guarneri Or Strad posters?



Koo Young Chung

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I always see measurements made with a tape measure curved over the arching, because a tape measure is more compact and more convenient to use than calipers.  A truly accurate measurement needs to be made in a straight line.  I think most books posters, technical drawings, etc., showing dimensions will specify how the measurements were made

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I have seen several instances where there was a note that said something along the lines of " all measurements taken with calipers unless otherwise noted".  I think as a general rule it is safe to say that most measurements are taken with calipers.  I just looked at three books that I had near and all three mention that the measurements were taken with calipers.

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The differences between straight line, caliper measurements and flexible tape measurements over the arching are surprisingly small, although, given the standardization of what the dimensions of a newly made violin should be, those differences can be important.

A while back I did some measurements with both caliper and tape on the 4 or 5 instruments I have to see what the differences were.  Off the top of my head the differences were (all measurements taken of backs still attached):

Upper bout: with caliper, shorter by about 1mm, or less,  than with tape.

Middle bout: shorter by about 3 to 4 mm .  Some people on Maetronet have reported differences of 5 mm.

Lower bout: shorter by about 1 mm.

Length: shorter by about 1 maybe 2 mm.  This is measuring from the bass side of the neck button straight down to the edge at the bottom, the same distance from the center line as where one is measuring at the top.

I should double check these numbers, but what I distinctly remember is that the middle bout gave you the biggest difference as an absolute number and, of course, as a percentage.  The other differences were almost not worth worrying about unless you were going to worry about a 1 mm difference.

In doing these measurements, you would want to calibrate your tape and caliper to each other.  Maybe, say, the tape measures 1 mm shorter on a straight line than does the caliper.  I did not notice any great difference between my tape and caliper on a straight line, but I wasn't extremely careful of checking that.


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