Jump to content
Maestronet Forums

Hand made versus machine made violins


Delabo
 Share

Recommended Posts

12 hours ago, Don Noon said:

I wouldn't keep any of these things a secret, but neither would I print up a disclaimer sheet to hand out specifying all these details.  I think the buyer needs to ask, if it's of importance to them.

There are some makers, who advertise their violins as " totally handmade" - probably to build an opposite to factory-violins, which normally are considered as not very valuable because of more than one maker or even machines, who did the work and therefore no consistent artistic signature is present in the final violin. 

These makers, who are interested in this idea, can work and advertise that way and clients, who are interested, can ask. The trade can focus this thing, but trade mostly focusses on old instruments of times, where machines didn´t exist.

For me a precarving is not a crime, but I would expect, that the final steps are done by the maker itself, so the final appearance would be a handmade one.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 520
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

All very interesting to me as I have been using much of what is discussed here for some time.  My clients that have asked how I am able to make high qualities violins, in the USA at prices competitive with imports, have been very positively impressed.  I have not yet had anyone find anything “wrong” with using current technology, to the contrary, they often see it as a way for them to own a violin of much higher quality than they could have had and at a price they can afford, which clearly goes to the discussion of “pricing”.

If a client is ready and willing to spend the amounts needed to acquire a violin made by a person with a great reputation, at a bench entirely with hand tools, and best yet, tweaked to their liking possibly including the selection of wood and finish, all the more power to them and great for all involved.  On the other hand, if someone is working with a much more limited budget, and really wants the best violin they can afford, then they should not be overly concerned with how it was made, but should be interested in sound, playability, and overall quality, all of which can and is produced using modern technology.

To put this into perspective, I am able to produce excellent violins that are price competitive with typical import violins.  Although I would never make this claim, and am quite happy to explain my use of the best available technology to produce the finest possible instruments, you would never be able to detect that I use the advanced technology that I do under any level of examination.

Frankly, if had been lucky enough to have been sent to Cremona as a 13-year-old to apprentice, I too would be happy to hand carve violins in my shed and sell them at the highest levels. Since I was not so lucky, I have chosen to develop and stretch currently available technology so that many more people can enjoy high quality instruments.     

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As a CNC user, I can say that it is just another tool in my shop that requires expertise and especially an eye for detail and workmanship. There is no such thing as a machine-made violin because a human (:rolleyes:) is behind each step. We have yet to be replaced by Artificial Intelligence.

Consider resawing logs for tonewood. Few luthiers would use a handsaw like our ancestors,  but turn to a bandsaw. There is a higher level of expertise in running and adjusting a bandsaw than a handsaw. The bandsaw like a CNC makes quick work of the job, but in the hands of a neophyte, a lot of good wood would likely be ruined.

Would you ever say that the bridge on your violin is machine made? Surely, it is mass produced with "cookie cutter" machinery like a CNC, but the wood must be selected and machine-cut properly. Then in the hands of a luthier it is trimmed and finely adjusted to make it functional and esthetically elegant. The same holds true for any CNC'ed parts.

Bandsaws and CNC's are here to stay. Time for the Luddites among us to move on. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some of the commenters here seem to equate the use of a CNC machine to "factory made," while "handmade" denotes built by an individual craftsman.  This was likely true ten years ago (or more) when CNC machines were very large and expensive (and could only be employed by a factory), but now there are small CNC machines that are affordable by a one-person shop, or even by someone who builds instruments as a hobby. 

Second, some people suggest that if a CNC router is used, the "machine" is building the violin (a "machine-made" violin).  Those people apparently do not know how a CNC router works.  There is a huge amount of human work that goes into the process, and arguably more difficult work, with more demanding skills required.  Hand carving takes practice, and is a learned skill, but not a mentally challenging process.  Anybody can learn to carve; using a CNC machine requires more intellect.

Whether or not a CNC router is used, it is the builder that designs the violin (in detail), decides construction, plate thickness, assembles the pieces, finishes the violin, and sets it up.  There is no machine that can do that.  If a violin looks good, is easy to play, and has an impressive sound, it is because of the mind of its human maker, and the skills in using his or her tools.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Would it be possible for one member of Maestronet to send a CNC computer template to another member if they both owned identical CNC machines ?

If yes, could the CNC machine be programmed to totally shape and finish the plates so only a final scrape is required ?

If the answer is yes to these two questions, then can it be said that the member who was the recipient of this kind donation has made his own violin ?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Michael_Molnar said:

Bandsaws and CNC's are here to stay. Time for the Luddites among us to move on. :)

 

9 minutes ago, Chris Llana said:

Hand carving takes practice, and is a learned skill, but not a mentally challenging process.  Anybody can learn to carve; using a CNC machine requires more intellect.

 

Well, before this "luddite" goes back to his "not mentally challenging" work, is there anything you two want to add to the actual topic?

On 11/17/2018 at 4:17 AM, Delabo said:

The question that comes to mind is, should they all be sold for similar amounts of money ? And should the maker who uses a CNC to make his instruments be obliged to reveal to his customers that machinery was used in the making of their new purchase ? Also, does the maker who eschews modern ways feel that they are more in touch with the wood ?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 minutes ago, Delabo said:

Would it be possible for one member of Maestronet to send a CNC computer template to another member if they both owned identical CNC machines ?

If yes, could the CNC machine be programmed to totally shape and finish the plates so only a final scrape is required ?

If the answer is yes to these two questions, then can it be said that the member who was the recipient of this kind donation has made his own violin ?

Yes.

Yes.

Technically yes.  It'd be like two people that own a bread-maker, buying the same ingredients, going home and making the bread.  Technically they both just made their own loaf of bread. 

Then they decide to go on bread-making forums, and accuse people without bread-makers of being Luddites, and tell them to move-on.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 minutes ago, Matthew Hannafin said:

Yes.

Yes.

Technically yes.  It'd be like two people that own a bread-maker, buying the same ingredients, going home and making the bread.  Technically they both just made their own loaf of bread. 

Then they decide to go on bread-making forums, and accuse people without bread-makers of being Luddites, and tell them to move-on.

There is the argument about  one member using better  wood selection which would equate to different flour.

And then how do you finish the bread before baking, with brushed on milk and sesame seeds or not ?

This equates to different varnish and how much to scrape etc.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If one considers the violin to be a finalized and perfected design which we can only aspire to replicate with varying degrees

of success, then using machines and computers to expedite some of the craft work seems reasonable.

 If one considers the classic Italian violin to be merely the latest and greatest attempt at solving certain needs

involving creative expression via musical sound production, then putting ones full powers of observation

and intelligence behind every stroke of every tool offers more possibilities of creative evolution of the final product.

 

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In a trade where most violin buyers know little about the product, and students are sometimes advised by teacher on a (possibly secret) commission who understands less about evaluating a violin than the student supposes, buyers rely on makers and other sellers to self-regulate. I'd like to see a 'Which Violin' or 'Buyers' Guide' section in The Strad or one of its competitors, where experts on violin playing and making attempt to evalute the working methods and quality of work of all contemporary makers. Of course it is subjective, just like the hi-fi press. It might, however, draw back the veil a little.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

(Edited to remove erroneous quote source)

 

Hahaha let me tell you a story...

So I decide one day that I can probably make some extra money helping Jay repair bows. Looks simple. Take off the old hair, add new hair, fix the length, comb it, stick it in the holes and rosin it up and you’re done. 

Right?

”Jay, show me how to repair bows.”

Jay is very kind. He smiled and handed me a little square of pine and a knife and said,” Cut that into a trapezoid.”

I whittled and cut and shaved a bit and said,” Um...I need another piece of pine.” Jay smiled again and gave me another and I proceeded to repeat the process of getting each angle smaller than the previous.

After about 4 chunks of pine went into the bin, I said,” Well that’s a fruitless excercise.”

Jay smiled again and said,”cutting the wedges for the face and frog is the easiest part of rehairing a bow. If you can’t do that, you’re in the wrong business.”

And as he said it, he cut a little square of pine into a perfect trapezoid without even looking. And it took him about 20 seconds.

so I strongly reject the idea that “anyone can learn to carve.”

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

32 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

Hahaha let me tell you a story...

So I decide one day that I can probably make some extra money helping Jay repair bows. Looks simple. Take off the old hair, add new hair, fix the length, comb it, stick it in the holes and rosin it up and you’re done. 

Right?

”Jay, show me how to repair bows.”

Jay is very kind. He smiled and handed me a little square of pine and a knife and said,” Cut that into a trapezoid.”

I whittled and cut and shaved a bit and said,” Um...I need another piece of pine.” Jay smiled again and gave me another and I proceeded to repeat the process of getting each angle smaller than the previous.

After about 4 chunks of pine went into the bin, I said,” Well that’s a fruitless excercise.”

Jay smiled again and said,”cutting the wedges for the face and frog is the easiest part of rehairing a bow. If you can’t do that, you’re in the wrong business.”

And as he said it, he cut a little square of pine into a perfect trapezoid without even looking. And it took him about 20 seconds.

so I strongly reject the idea that “anyone can learn to carve.”

 

Matthew wasn't the originator of that comment, to be fair. 

Also, while I'm not sure I agree that "anyone can learn to carve", had you persisted you would have eventually succeeded.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 hours ago, Matthew Hannafin said:

Well, before this "luddite" goes back to his "not mentally challenging" work, is there anything you two want to add to the actual topic?

You unfairly combined my remark with another made by someone else. In fact I do not agree with the the derogatory allegation that carving is not mentally challenging. It can be very intuitive, a power few people have. 

However, if you feel that you feel comfortable with being a Luddite, have at it. :lol:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, donbarzino said:

If one considers the violin to be a finalized and perfected design which we can only aspire to replicate with varying degrees

of success, then using machines and computers to expedite some of the craft work seems reasonable.

I suppose nobody is going to stand up and say they've made a violin that sounds is than this or that famous old Cremonese masterpiece.  I think there is more to study in nice instruments, that can help a maker make a nice instrument with the materials they have.  Fundamentals that Hargrave and many others have written about.  Makers usually build up a collection of tracings, measurements, and notes on instruments they've had a chance to study.  I think that first hand experience is worth much more than simply downloading a .stl file and skipping ahead to a "perfect" replica showing up underneath your router.

Just because now-a-days anybody with the kit and know-how can make an "exact" copy of a scanned instrument, like the Betts for example, doesn't add up to a nice instrument every-time.

There have been some fantastic and inspirational violin makers in the 20th century and alive today, and now, more and more musicians chose to play on a modern instrument.  That didn't happen because those makers just made machine-accurate exact copies of the "best" violin, over and over.  They studied, they worked, they developed as makers, they developed their own voice, and we're lucky some of them wrote and shared.

All of the makers I know well, and respect will talk about "still learning" every time they make another instrument.  I would think that would be stunted at least to some extent if you machine your own parts.

3 hours ago, John_London said:

In a trade where most violin buyers know little about the product, and students are sometimes advised by teacher on a (possibly secret) commission who understands less about evaluating a violin than the student supposes, buyers rely on makers and other sellers to self-regulate. I'd like to see a 'Which Violin' or 'Buyers' Guide' section in The Strad or one of its competitors, where experts on violin playing and making attempt to evalute the working methods and quality of work of all contemporary makers. Of course it is subjective, just like the hi-fi press. It might, however, draw back the veil a little. 

As good of intentions as something like that would have, I'm guessing it would be read like a CNC witch hunt, and at least one lawsuit would develop. :lol:

As Michael Molnar pointed out, CNC is here to stay....over time musicians will develop their own opinions if they want to own a CNC violin or not.  In the mean time...it seems some makers here say that yes it's ok, and they don't need to tell anybody unless they ask...and musicians today are just in the dark about what's happening on the "workbench."

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What strikes me as missing from the "cnc folk" is the pleasure of working a piece of wood from start (sort of) to finish. I truly enjoy getting a billet out and spending a while with it, just looking. Then the process reveals, slowly, what that piece of wood has to offer. A cnc is to quick, a truck stop hand job verses a great evening. And really, it just doesn't take that long to work a violin top and back to the point a cnc can get it.

That being said, anyone who made a violin from start to finish, by themselves and using whatever methods they choose,  made a "hand-made" instrument

 

Edit: It also strikes me as a science vs craftman/artist debate, in some regards. Some.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You seem to have opinions around CNC work, and technologies influence on violin making...I'm just wondering if you have anything to add regarding the original questions brought up:

On 11/17/2018 at 4:17 AM, Delabo said:

The question that comes to mind is, should they all be sold for similar amounts of money ? And should the maker who uses a CNC to make his instruments be obliged to reveal to his customers that machinery was used in the making of their new purchase ? Also, does the maker who eschews modern ways feel that they are more in touch with the wood ?

I think they're great questions.  Sadly I'm getting the vibe that more and more makers are OK using the logic of "it's just another tool" than to stop and wonder if the musicians think "it's just another tool" too.  It's reading more and more to me like when it was revealed lots of Parmesan cheese sold in stores had sawdust in it.  And the food companies response was, "If you asked if it had sawdust in it, we would have said yes."  And I'm guessing there were cheese technologists who marveled at the fact that with a little technology, we can still make good enough cheese, but now it's easier and cheaper!

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 hours ago, Delabo said:

Would it be possible for one member of Maestronet to send a CNC computer template to another member if they both owned identical CNC machines ?

If yes, could the CNC machine be programmed to totally shape and finish the plates so only a final scrape is required ?

If the answer is yes to these two questions, then can it be said that the member who was the recipient of this kind donation has made his own violin ?

First answer is YES, that's just like when one maker lends his moulds and templates to the other.

Second answer is YES, but the result will be just VSO, not master violin, unless the maker found out the "secret", and he miraclously knows how exactly the finished plates should be already when he puts the wood into machine. So the maker either is EXCELLENT (or genius) with wood and can program the machine accordingly for each individual piece of wood, or he just doesn't let the machine cut too close and leave enough meat to finalize the plate to HIS best standards. In both these cases the maker can be considered master of his craft.

If recipient of code (CNC program) just runs it on randomly selected piece of wood, he is creator of VSO of random quality. Just like the factories. Anyone and his brother can download the CT scan of Betts off internet and easily create code to make physical copies on CNC (if he is up to the job in assembly and finishing departments), but this will not result in reliable quality of tone and he will never gain any reputation on that work. That is the part that machine will never do for you. It will only blindly repeat the same instructions precisely whether they are right or wrong for given piece of wood.

Delabo you are really apparently twisting facts to suit your own theories. The thread title is the proof. Machines don't make violins, behind each tool and machine there is a human you should judge the input of the human in the result and not the tool. You don't seem to know much about actual carving and even less about CNC technology. I've carved completely by hand (instruments, wood carvings, small decorative objects etc), I've used copy carving machine (with templates I carved myself) and I've used CNC (with programs I created myself) and can compare the processes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 minutes ago, Matthew Hannafin said:

You seem to have opinions around CNC work, and technologies influence on violin making...I'm just wondering if you have anything to add regarding the original questions brought up:

I think they're great questions.  Sadly I'm getting the vibe that more and more makers are OK using the logic of "it's just another tool" than to stop and wonder if the musicians think "it's just another tool" too.  It's reading more and more to me like when it was revealed lots of Parmesan cheese sold in stores had sawdust in it.  And the food companies response was, "If you asked if it had sawdust in it, we would have said yes."  And I'm guessing there were cheese technologists who marveled at the fact that with a little technology, we can still make good enough cheese, but now it's easier and cheaper!

 

Thanks for that reminder. Sometimes I need a wake up kick in the ass.

This is an issue of marketing. Some musicians love the myth of the little ol' woodcarver releasing the musical spirits from the wood as it were. But there are some who like the idea of the scientist unraveling the mysteries with computers and laboratory research.  Again, it's about your customer.

I hide nothing. I tell them I use both analytical methods and intuitive feelings to bring the best results I am capable of doing. Most are intrigued by the CNC. They think it improves accuracy. To dismiss what I do as machine made is misleading and smacks of being derogatory which is the reason I felt obliged to make my remarks. Makers who have never been involved with a CNC are living a myth that this produces a machine made violin. That is nonsense. There is no such violin until AI replaces us. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

21 minutes ago, HoGo said:

Delabo you are really apparently twisting facts to suit your own theories.

All Delabo has done is ask some questions.  He's asked to be corrected along the way if he's confused.  I think he has raised a great question.  Can we forgive him for there not being a better term than machine made?  I think that is sort of just going to be the handle people refer to violins that have the parts milled on a CNC (aka CNC machine)...unless a better term is coined.

Hogo, maybe you have something to add to his original question, of should CNC made instruments be sold for the same amount, and should the customer know about the use of CNC.

We're living in a time when anybody can buy a 3d printer at Wal-Mart...is it wise to just assume every musician on the market now, or in the future, wants to see similar technology chugging along behind the person they pay to make a violin for them? 

Pretend you're a musician who just found out a violin you tried is CNC made (and you have no idea what that means)....type into Google, "cnc violin" the idea quickly forms of a machine going very very close to done, and then a chap scrapes it smooth and it's onto varnish.  The first videos that pop up are like watching a machine from Doctor Who simply bend space and time to will a violin into existence.  I really don't think there will be much margin in future violin buyers' minds about the idea of using a CNC to "rough out."  It needs the same equipment, the same proficiency with software, the attachment to scan your own work and make cut patterns is easy to get...and it'd probably be a difficult thing to explain that "I still need to remove 2mm!" (or any amount)  Musicians wont dig deeply into our discussions on MNet of what is the line where it stops being handmade...they'll see a CNC machine...and then your work has become, in their mind (the only mind that matters if you're trying to sell your work):

Machine.

Made.

Nothing changes the fact that you can drink a cup of coffee, on the other side of town, while a CNC does its job.  If you want the credit in the mind of the musician for all the work you actually have done (and I know you have...I've used CNC at Red Wing under Steve Rossow, I understand the process) it is very important to start educating your future customers...just as modern makers of generations ago had to fight even to get their instruments taken seriously.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, HoGo said:

Delabo you are really apparently twisting facts to suit your own theories. The thread title is the proof. Machines don't make violins, behind each tool and machine there is a human you should judge the input of the human in the result and not the tool. You don't seem to know much about actual carving and even less about CNC technology.

Fact: I have never made a violin.

Fact: Until the CNC thread appeared last week I had no idea that members here used CNC machines to make violins.

Fact: I was genuinely shocked and disappointed. It shattered my illusions. You guys were my heroes, and I am still re-adjusting.

Fact: Whatever I can convince my head to believe about the use of CNC machines, my heart over-rules it.

Fact: Stradivari remains my hero.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.




×
×
  • Create New...