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Adrian Lopez

Stradivari Violin Dimensions (Chart)

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I've been wanting to visualize the dimensions of Stradivari's violins across time, so I typed the numbers from the Hill book on Antonio Stradivari into LibreOffice Calc and prepared this chart. I'm attaching both the chart and the spreadsheet file. If you find any typos please let me know so I can fix them.

stradivari violin dimensions.png

Stradivari Dimensions.ods

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Interesting work.  Your data could be better presented by going metric, and then also by using the scale function on your graph.  The length data is something I'd like to see closer, as the 0-15" scale compresses any variation.  There is no reason to have the origin at zero, there are no zero-length violins.

 

Sorry for nitpicking, I just thought it might help.

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Interesting, though the idea of measuring with units as small as millimeter was completely foreign to Strad. I am convinced that some 'variations' look to us like some systematic changes but in reality were meant to be the same length or width. 

 

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Thanks for the information. 

Posting ratio information is sure to send some people scurrying to find some relationship with magical numbers like the golden ratio or the mystic 108, but I will stick to the theory that the dimensions were selected based on what looked good to the eye and felt good to the fingers and bow arm.

I have long wondered about the reason the upper and lower sides differed significantly in height. In ancient (and modern) architecture, lines were frequently tapered so that they would appear straight when viewed at a distance because of a perspective issue related to vision.

In the case of the violin top, assuming the gluing surfaces were made to fit flush with a flat plane, then gluing to a convex tapered box would stretch and place the top into a state of tension along the length. There will probably be some odd stress conditions across the width unless the box taper was continuous along the length. It might be a way to stop the top from going into a state of compression along its length when strung up.

Pre-tensioning structures like this is something I designed many times and for various reasons, but it always required sophisticated computer modelling and experimental verification to "get it right". Do any makers have experience with making the sides of uniform height and problems that might have occurred after stringing?

 

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9 hours ago, ctanzio said:

Thanks for the information. 

Posting ratio information is sure to send some people scurrying to find some relationship with magical numbers like the golden ratio or the mystic 108, but I will stick to the theory that the dimensions were selected based on what looked good to the eye and felt good to the fingers and bow arm.

I have long wondered about the reason the upper and lower sides differed significantly in height. In ancient (and modern) architecture, lines were frequently tapered so that they would appear straight when viewed at a distance because of a perspective issue related to vision.

In the case of the violin top, assuming the gluing surfaces were made to fit flush with a flat plane, then gluing to a convex tapered box would stretch and place the top into a state of tension along the length. There will probably be some odd stress conditions across the width unless the box taper was continuous along the length. It might be a way to stop the top from going into a state of compression along its length when strung up.

Pre-tensioning structures like this is something I designed many times and for various reasons, but it always required sophisticated computer modelling and experimental verification to "get it right". Do any makers have experience with making the sides of uniform height and problems that might have occurred after stringing?

 

The 'streching' of the flat top on a slightly curved rib garland is IMO not really doing anything because wood will adjust itself over time to the shape. I have never opened an old violin where you could see that it 'springs open', so the tension (if there was any) must have gone. 

I once tried to close an instrument in a way that the approximate down weight of the brifge is used to make the plate flush with the ribs. To do this I adjusted the rib height to make it fit. The result was somehow the opposite. Upper and lower block was in the end higher than the C rib area. Tonally I think it didn't make any significant change.

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Thanks for that observation.

I, also, have never seen a top spring open. But most, when fully removed, had a subtle but distinct warp to them across the width. When left sitting for a few days, the warp almost completely disappear and sit mostly flat on a level surface.

Wood when subjected to modest stresses will not undergo creep deformation. But it does not take too much of a stress level when combined with high humidity to cause a slow creep to set in.

Which makes the taper in rib height all the more baffling. If the top plate sees high enough stresses to cause it to creep and relieve any tensioning the taper would cause, then why taper the ribs at all?

 

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12 hours ago, ctanzio said:

I have long wondered about the reason the upper and lower sides differed significantly in height.

 

This is hard to see in the original combined chart so here is another chart comparing the lower and upper sides. I've updated the other charts as well, but I won't bother posting those unless someone asks (you can find them in the updated spreadsheet file, which I'm posting below).

stradivari violin dimensions (sides).png

Stradivari Dimensions.ods

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