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Who are the most undervalued contemporary builders?

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I worked across a bench from Matsuda for several years and he is one of the most careful and self critical makers one could imagine. Hence the double gold medals at the (Ottawa?) VSA competition. His high out put is the result of knowing exactly what order to do things in so that there is no down time for drying glue and having the confidence to use saws and large gouges to cut very close to finished lines. Also some pretty clever machinery for more mechanical tasks like shaping blocks or cutting purfling grooves. Definitely the cleanest, most precise and fastest maker in a shop where most people had an award or two under their belts.

Rene Morel said that the quota when he was working in MIrecourt was three good quality finished white instruments a week.

Time is money.

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46 minutes ago, gowan said:

Cox's number seems high but, if I remember correctly, he's been making instruments for over 50 years so he averages under 20 instruments per year.  Is it so unusual to make 20 violins in a year, especially if that's mostly what you do rather than doing a lot of repairs and restoration.

Judging from my week at Oberlin Acoustics with him, I wouldn't be surprised if Doug works 10 - 12 hours per day.  He seems borderline manic, or at least very high energy.  60 hrs/week at 200 hrs. per instrument = 15.6 per year.  Quick, efficient work and/or a weekend here or there gets to 20.

On the other hand, I probably average ~2 hours per day of actual work at best, so it isn't surprising that 3/year would be a good year for me.  Manic I'm not.

 

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It's hard to believe it takes 200 hrs.  I think if everything was set up I could make one per week. I've never made one, but seems like one day for top, one for back, maybe two for neck plus ribs, one or less for fitting up.  Slather on varnish and kick it out the door.

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Yeah, I'm an asshole. No insult meant to anyone. It seemed to me that 1000 instruments since 1981 (claimed on Cox's website. 1000. Since 1981. Just him in his shop.) is a lot. Too much , I guess not. It's possible to do that and more: you'd have to build a box to measurements and keep going. One can get good and fast enough that 27/year would be the natural result of a great working method. And Matsuda...doesn't need my validation. His instruments stick out anywhere they are, even to me.

3/week would be the speed of a slave, not an artisan. I don't care if Rene Morel did it. That's messed up. Amazing that he did that, but even I know all the steps and that's obviously not leaving a moment to finesse...anything.

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1 hour ago, nathan slobodkin said:

 

Rene Morel said that the quota when he was working in MIrecourt was three good quality finished white instruments a week.

Yes, but Rene has also claimed that the factory cut the guy with only one arm (the other was lost in  the war), a little slack.

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32 minutes ago, not telling said:

Yeah, I'm an asshole. No insult meant to anyone. It seemed to me that 1000 instruments since 1981 (claimed on Cox's website. 1000. Since 1981. Just him in his shop.) is a lot. Too much , I guess not. It's possible to do that and more: you'd have to build a box to measurements and keep going. One can get good and fast enough that 27/year would be the natural result of a great working method. And Matsuda...doesn't need my validation. His instruments stick out anywhere they are, even to me.

3/week would be the speed of a slave, not an artisan. I don't care if Rene Morel did it. That's messed up. Amazing that he did that, but even I know all the steps and that's obviously not leaving a moment to finesse...anything.

Honestly asking because I don't know. If high throughput is a goal, are there efficiencies to be gained by doing multiple instruments at a time and do ribs for a week, tops for a week, etc. rather than doing each instrument sequentially? 

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11 minutes ago, glebert said:

Honestly asking because I don't know. If high throughput is a goal, are there efficiencies to be gained by doing multiple instruments at a time and do ribs for a week, tops for a week, etc. rather than doing each instrument sequentially? 

Sure, and that's likely what Stradivari did.

I don't plane out a set of linings for each instrument. Instead, I will make large batches at a time, likely to last me for several years.

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42 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

Yes, but Rene has also claimed that the factory cut the guy with only one arm (the other was lost in  the war), a little slack.

Was this the same guy with the hook-hand who made a violin in 24 hours?

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50 minutes ago, devaraja42 said:

Was this the same guy with the hook-hand who made a violin in 24 hours?

If Rene ever made mention of such a dude, it did not happen when I was present. :)

Sure, there are some pretty good jokes about Rene Morel. There have been some pretty good jokes  about Burgess, too. ;)

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41 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

If Rene ever made mention of such a dude, it did not happen when I was present. :)

Apparently René used to tell a story about this violin maker in Mirecourt who made a bet that he could build a functional (if not great) violin within 24 hours, without using any prefabricated parts (besides the obvious ones like fittings and strings). He was supervised by other violin makers who took turns watching him to make sure he didn't cheat and have any prefabricated parts hidden away - and he managed to pull it off. René would then finish up the story by saying that this guy only had one hand, and the other hand was a hook (replacing a hand he had lost in the war).

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3 minutes ago, devaraja42 said:

Apparently René used to tell a story about this violin maker in Mirecourt who made a bet that he could build a functional (if not great) violin within 24 hours, without using any prefabricated parts (besides the obvious ones like fittings and strings). He was supervised by other violin makers who took turns watching him to make sure he didn't cheat and have any prefabricated parts hidden away - and he managed to pull it off. René would then finish up the story by saying that this guy only had one hand, and the other hand was a hook (replacing a hand he had lost in the war).

Did this story come directly from Rene, or might it have been enhanced a wee bit?

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25 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

Did this story come directly from Rene, or might it have been enhanced a wee bit?

I didn't hear it directly from René (I never met him), so who knows? Maybe Jerry would know this story.

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31 minutes ago, devaraja42 said:

I didn't hear it directly from René (I never met him), so who knows? Maybe Jerry would know this story.

Most of the people who worked alongside Rene have high respect for him.

Sure, I didn't have high respect for Hans Weisshaar when I first left that shop. It was something which developed later, with more experience to put it into better context.

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51 minutes ago, devaraja42 said:

I didn't hear it directly from René (I never met him), so who knows? Maybe Jerry would know this story.

Rene would tell stories once in a while in the shop. I took them always with a grain of salt because most of the times he told us such stories to tell us indirectly 'you think you are working fast? You can work faster, if you only want to.'  

Nevertheless the standard speed of a Mirecourt trained violin maker seems to have been 2 violins a month finished in the white but if I am not mistaken they didn 't have to carve the scroll. (Something Rene never mentioned)  

According to Rene there was a maker by the name of Jaendel (if I remember correctly) who was able to produce 3 a month and had lost his arm in WW2. 

I think no one ever did some fact checking on the lost arm and I tend to believe that we should rather think of 'handicapped through injury during WW2' (maybe a crippled hand or so)

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2 hours ago, glebert said:

Honestly asking because I don't know. If high throughput is a goal, are there efficiencies to be gained by doing multiple instruments at a time and do ribs for a week, tops for a week, etc. rather than doing each instrument sequentially? 

My husband tested this. He can do one a month very easily if his only job is to make an instrument. His batch of six, which he only has four hours a day to focus on--at most--has taken near three years. He likes doing one after another of every step, because you get faster and better that way if you keep them all at the same point. It's hard to keep them all at the same point and not just take off on one of rhem. That's what he says. And he will not do a large batch like this again. But he is doing as David Burgess described. Blocks on form, ribs ready, templates made, just kind of preparing for another 10 instruments. Keeping them all at the same stage for the duration though...some form of torture and not financially easy either.

Others may feel differently about this, especially if you're not using hand tools at every step. 

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35 minutes ago, Andreas Preuss said:

Rene would tell stories once in a while in the shop. I took them always with a grain of salt because most of the times he told us such stories to tell us indirectly 'you think you are working fast? You can work faster, if you only want to.'  

Nevertheless the standard speed of a Mirecourt trained violin maker seems to have been 2 violins a month finished in the white but if I am not mistaken they didn 't have to carve the scroll. (Something Rene never mentioned)  

 

Rene frequently mentioned that in the Mirecourt workshop, he made only the corpus. Others made the scrolls, and yet others did the varnishing.

I don't think that his claim (to me) of making three corpuses per week is implausible, for factory-level work.

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3 hours ago, glebert said:

 efficiencies to be gained by doing multiple instruments at a time 

Effciencies?  You will have become efficient by the time you get to the last box.  I did six at one time just to see if I could make it through, I guess.  I mention the corpus/box because that's what I wanted to do - it looked like a fun thing to do, I've got the room and wood for six.

  Then the fun was over after six boxes and the trudgery began.  It wasn't very fun but doing so kept me at home and I eventually realized if I just stayed put with this type of work everyday for hours on end my bank account wouldn't suffer any.

If you really want to try making several at one time the first thing I recommend is a violin plan that you or someone else knows will work for best results when finished  and the best thing I've done after that multiple build session was to put all of the power tools aside - less stressful doing one build at a time with hand tools only these days.

 

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3 hours ago, devaraja42 said:

Was this the same guy with the hook-hand who made a violin in 24 hours?

I remember Farl mentioning a few years ago - seems the one handed worker was making one per week or was allowed to make one per week.

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On 6/2/2019 at 9:36 AM, Thomas Coleman said:

Nothing against Mr. Manfio but he only makes violas and DG made no violas (that we know of) so that's not a very good comparison.

This is not correct. I have seen and heard one of his violins.

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7 minutes ago, Twinpipe said:

This is not correct. I have seen and heard one of his violins.

Go to his (Manfio's) first page in the Bench section and there a video of an incredible Manfio violin.  A very good violinist playing Mozart and Franck on it in a little party setting.

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1 hour ago, David Burgess said:

Rene frequently mentioned that in the Mirecourt workshop, he made only the corpus. Others made the scrolls, and yet others did the varnishing.

I don't think that his claim (to me) of making three corpuses per week is implausible, for factory-level work.

I completely agree with this. 

I was just recounting the stories as I heard them myself in the shop with my thoughts on the border line between truth and fiction. 

Rene told as well the story of a cello neck graft he made over the weekend. The  next time he told us the story, he added to it that he changed the top block as well. :ph34r: When he left the workshop one of the violin makers in the shop made a funny  face saying. 'Strange, last time he told us the story he didn't change the top block.' 

Not that I want to minimize Renes working speed paired with an incredible precision, but he had his charming flaws as well when it came to telling stories of the past. 

'Lorsque j etais encore jeune...' was usually the introduction (almost like 'once upon a time...') and then came one of his stories when and how he made one of his amazing restorations. Usually he mentioned in those stories that he couldn't do it any more because of his bad eyesight. I think he meant it as encouragement for us with the warning to take care of our eyes to enjoy speedy working as long as possible in our lives as restorers (or makers). Good memories for me.

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1 hour ago, not telling said:

My husband tested this. He can do one a month very easily if his only job is to make an instrument. His batch of six, which he only has four hours a day to focus on--at most--has taken near three years. He likes doing one after another of every step, because you get faster and better that way if you keep them all at the same point. It's hard to keep them all at the same point and not just take off on one of rhem. That's what he says. And he will not do a large batch like this again. But he is doing as David Burgess described. Blocks on form, ribs ready, templates made, just kind of preparing for another 10 instruments. Keeping them all at the same stage for the duration though...some form of torture and not financially easy either.

Others may feel differently about this, especially if you're not using hand tools at every step. 

I think every maker has to figure out for himself which 'working rythm' works best. One instrument at a time or several parallel. It is a very personal choice. At least it seems that Antonio Stradivari had developed a method working in batches of 3 instruments. 

 

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1 hour ago, uncle duke said:

Effciencies?  You will have become efficient by the time you get to the last box.  I did six at one time just to see if I could make it through, I guess.  I mention the corpus/box because that's what I wanted to do - it looked like a fun thing to do, I've got the room and wood for six.

  Then the fun was over after six boxes and the trudgery began.  It wasn't very fun but doing so kept me at home and I eventually realized if I just stayed put with this type of work everyday for hours on end my bank account wouldn't suffer any.

If you really want to try making several at one time the first thing I recommend is a violin plan that you or someone else knows will work for best results when finished  and the best thing I've done after that multiple build session was to put all of the power tools aside - less stressful doing one build at a time with hand tools only these days.

 

You too, hmm?  Six? Who are you? It's weird, you living in our area and making instruments. 

Hey...how you doin this week? Did the tornado stay away from you?  Our town got smashed to bits. But then, you would know that already.

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7 hours ago, nathan slobodkin said:

Rene Morel said that the quota when he was working in MIrecourt was three good quality finished white instruments a week.

Wow. That’s a whole lot of bending over and scraping. Yet when I met him he appeared as healthy as a horse, and he looked like something from the Renaissance painting

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