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Kevin Kelly

Stainer, Amati pin speculation

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I thought about posting this in the “rib taper” thread, but it seemed like it had gone far enough afield by page 15…. (edit: looks like that thread got picked up again as I was writing this)

In that thread someone linked to this excellent post by Jacob Saunders that included this photo of an opened Stainer violin, with pin pricks along the center joint.

IMG_0412.jpg.1a32952b6931dcd50dce8a60d22fa3b8.thumb.jpg.9aa6ee52b56946f932a9fd99a27eacf3.jpg

That reminded me of something interesting I noticed a few years ago while looking through the catalog of the Museo del Violino.  MS 995 is a stick with scratch marks and writing on it. It’s 320 mm long, and the writing says “thickness of the violin of Amati of 1654 large pattern” (I won't post a large image of it because I'm not sure the museum would be happy about it)

Of course I had to clean it up a bit and take a look at it compared to a “large pattern” Amati of 1654. This was made easier by the fact that there happens to be one in the collection of the Library of Congress that is in the public domain. 

the yellow lines are lined up with the scratch marks on the wooden strip as well as I could 

1914203645_MS995wlineskjk.thumb.png.21efa4a533fd72d13f2ebdef80821df2.png

this image is a composite of ct images of the back, front, and sides of the "Brookings" Amati of 1654

 

1571154878_BrookingswMS995measurements_kjk.thumb.png.992fc49fa8069f17c4a050c452193323.png

You might notice that the pin in the back closely coincides with the "x" marked in the middle of the wooden strip, while the first yellow line is at the bridge location. Not sure what any of it means, I just think it's interesting. 

 

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Interesting work, thanks for posting.

The stick looks like a thickness survey made by Count Cozio di Salabue, judging by the attribution of the ink (CCS).

It could indicate that the pin is actually at the point of maximum thickness, and that the thicknesses slope symmetrically from that point. Too bad the measurements corresponding to the lines are not indicated on the stick<_<

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Do we know the thicknesses of the stick itself?  It comes across very much as a "story stick" in which case one would expect the efficiency to include a simple way to use your measuring tool to take the measurement from the stick.  In any case, much more useful for making than as a way of recording, surely? 

 

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Thanks for the interesting observation, Kevin. The marks seem to correspond with musical intervals. Considering that the distance between the upper and lower blocks correspond with the original vibrating string length, it makes sense IMO. 

I found the following intervals: small second, small sext, small ters, big nona and (of course) the octave. Are there more?

P.S. I will argue that this distance (the vibrating string length) is the starting point for the design of the violin. 

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21 hours ago, JacksonMaberry said:

Kevin

Thank you as always for sharing so freely of your insight. This was a really good post to ruminate on over my coffee.

Thanks, but I would say it's not that much of an insight, since it had a description written on it! I think I just spend more time looking at things like this than most people. One side-effect of not watching tv.

18 hours ago, Davide Sora said:

Interesting work, thanks for posting.

The stick looks like a thickness survey made by Count Cozio di Salabue, judging by the attribution of the ink (CCS).

It could indicate that the pin is actually at the point of maximum thickness, and that the thicknesses slope symmetrically from that point. Too bad the measurements corresponding to the lines are not indicated on the stick<_<

That's what I think is interesting, it hints that the thicknesses are assumed, and just the location needs to be pointed out. Whether it was from one of the Cremonese workshops, or, as you suggest, by Cozio, it points maybe to a different way of thinking about thicknessing than I have. 

13 hours ago, Andres Sender said:

Do we know the thicknesses of the stick itself?  It comes across very much as a "story stick" in which case one would expect the efficiency to include a simple way to use your measuring tool to take the measurement from the stick.  In any case, much more useful for making than as a way of recording, surely? 

 

the stick is 320 x 14mm according to the catalog, no thickness is given. maybe Bruce knows, if he's reading this. I get the impression from the photos it's just a strip of rib stock or something.

16 minutes ago, Torbjörn Zethelius said:

Thanks for the interesting observation, Kevin. The marks seem to correspond with musical intervals. Considering that the distance between the upper and lower blocks correspond with the original vibrating string length, it makes sense IMO. 

I found the following intervals: small second, small sext, small ters, big nona and (of course) the octave. Are there more?

P.S. I will argue that this distance (the vibrating string length) is the starting point for the design of the violin. 

I agree that the string length is the starting point, the other things you mention I was not aware of, but that's why I posted it - i thought others might have ideas about it.

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2 hours ago, Kevin Kelly said:

That's what I think is interesting, it hints that the thicknesses are assumed, and just the location needs to be pointed out. Whether it was from one of the Cremonese workshops, or, as you suggest, by Cozio, it points maybe to a different way of thinking about thicknessing than I have. 

the stick is 320 x 14mm according to the catalog, no thickness is given. maybe Bruce knows, if he's reading this. I get the impression from the photos it's just a strip of rib stock or something.

I agree that the string length is the starting point, the other things you mention I was not aware of, but that's why I posted it - i thought others might have ideas about it.

The fact that the writings are by Cozio, even if it leads me to think that it is his creation, of course does not exclude a priori that this artifacts cannot come from the workshop of Stradivari or even Amati. The Count had this bad habit of affixing his writings a bit everywhere to catalog the finds, in fact they are present even on the original forms of Stradivari and on many other finds attributed to his workshop. Thus no hypothesis can be rejected a priori.

I agree to the idea that the length of 320 mm, which shows the internal distance between the blocks, could represent the length of the vibrating string of the time. This distance is fairly constant in practically all Stradivari's forms. I don't know if this could be the starting point for the rest of violin geometry, but it's another fascinating hypothesis.:)

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I can imagine that at one time, vibrating string lengths may have been thought to have a lot to do with the body dimensions of stringed instruments, if they were to sound good. I also believe that subsequent history has demonstrated that to be false.

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15 hours ago, David Burgess said:

I can imagine that at one time, vibrating string lengths may have been thought to have a lot to do with the body dimensions of stringed instruments, if they were to sound good. I also believe that subsequent history has demonstrated that to be false.

I agree, it is clear that even with subsequent modifications of the vibrating string length of the modern era the violins do not sound all that bad.:P

These supposed origins of body geometry are of pure academic interest only, but from the point of view of the modern luthier they have no practical relevance at all.

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54 minutes ago, Davide Sora said:

 

These supposed origins of body geometry are of pure academic interest only, but from the point of view of the modern luthier they have no practical relevance at all.

I would not agree with that if your goal is to build using the same methods that they used.  It might be useful to know what they were doing and why they were doing it that way.  Was the stick made by Cozio or was it made by Amati and Cozio just wrote on it?   Obviously modern instruments are good and the end product is all that matters and if you built exactly as the old masters did then we would be making baroque instruments  but still I would like to build using as much of the old methods as possible.     I cheat and use modern tools,  band saw, drill press but as far as graduation and arching I would certainly like to know what they had in mind back then.  

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3 hours ago, MikeC said:

I would not agree with that if your goal is to build using the same methods that they used.  It might be useful to know what they were doing and why they were doing it that way.  Was the stick made by Cozio or was it made by Amati and Cozio just wrote on it?   Obviously modern instruments are good and the end product is all that matters and if you built exactly as the old masters did then we would be making baroque instruments  but still I would like to build using as much of the old methods as possible.     I cheat and use modern tools,  band saw, drill press but as far as graduation and arching I would certainly like to know what they had in mind back then.  

I like to understand the ancient methods as much as possible too, but then decide whether to follow them or not depending on whether they seem convenient or not in light of the results I want to achieve with my modern violins. For example, if I were to design the model of my violins starting from the length of the vibrating string equal to the distance between the blocks (assuming for a moment that this was the case) violins would come out definitely too long, and I would definitely reject the idea, even if it were the cornerstone of the geometry of ancient violins.

Regarding the stick in question, there is no possibility of knowing its exact origin, if made by Cozio itself or if it comes from the workshop of Stradivari or even Amati.

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On 11/21/2020 at 9:35 AM, Kevin Kelly said:

the yellow lines are lined up with the scratch marks on the wooden strip as well as I could 

1914203645_MS995wlineskjk.thumb.png.21efa4a533fd72d13f2ebdef80821df2.png

 

The far left and far right vertical lines are template? or pattern overall length.  Drawn up for which reasons?  Who knows.

From left to right line 2 is widest lower bout,  line 3 is lower corner area,  line 4 is bridge location,  line 5 is overall center/balance point,  line 6 is narrowest c bout width,  line 7 is upper corner area and line 8 is upper bout widest.

imo, has nothing to do with the Stainer table Sir.

 

 

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On 11/21/2020 at 9:35 AM, Kevin Kelly said:

IMG_0412.jpg.1a32952b6931dcd50dce8a60d22fa3b8.thumb.jpg.9aa6ee52b56946f932a9fd99a27eacf3.jpg

 

borrowing Mr. Kelly's pic................

Assuming the left, very small pin remnant is not from a bolt/screw clamping method and there is no pin mark under the fingerboard, the other three pin remnants can be made using screws with flattened points with thread diameters around 3/8".   1/2" wide is plausible too but seems overkill for clamping but taking into account the amount of years Stainer was making fiddles - possible.

No need to venture forth this way of holding a plate down if one already possesses the plate holding cradle that most use for carving.

Davide will have to really be convincing with another theory for me to have a change of mind.  Save it for a rainy day Beard - happy holidays to all.

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5 hours ago, uncle duke said:

Davide will have to really be convincing with another theory for me to have a change of mind.  Save it for a rainy day Beard - happy holidays to all.

My "theory" doesn't even convince myself, let alone if I intend to convince anyone else.:lol:;)

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The reason I posted this observation is simply that it shows a bit more about one artifact in a museum full of Stradivarian artifacts. I thought it was interesting to see how an artifact connects to a real actual violin. In this case, there is a written description referring to a particular type of violin  (Amati “large pattern”) of a particular year, and I happened to have ct scans handy of a violin of that description.

The strip of wood references thicknesses, but it doesn’t say what the thickness are, and it looks like it fits between the upper and lower blocks of that instrument. for me it is just an interesting thing to know, even though it doesn’t explain anything.

This is just an observation of academic interest to me, and it is the kind of thing I would just notice and file away until something came along that looked like it might be connected, like the Stainer back. I still dont’ know what, if anything, it means, but eventually a lot of observations may lead to something interesting, if more people know about it. I don’t think it explains the secret of Strad, or that it has anything directly to do with violin design, it’s just an interesting stick that now has a bit of meaning that it didn’t before. Maybe I should have titled the thread “interesting stick” instead of referring to pins, but that’s what reminded me of it.

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29 minutes ago, Kevin Kelly said:

The reason I posted this observation is simply that it shows a bit more about one artifact in a museum full of Stradivarian artifacts. I thought it was interesting to see how an artifact connects to a real actual violin. In this case, there is a written description referring to a particular type of violin  (Amati “large pattern”) of a particular year, and I happened to have ct scans handy of a violin of that description.

The strip of wood references thicknesses, but it doesn’t say what the thickness are, and it looks like it fits between the upper and lower blocks of that instrument. for me it is just an interesting thing to know, even though it doesn’t explain anything.

This is just an observation of academic interest to me, and it is the kind of thing I would just notice and file away until something came along that looked like it might be connected, like the Stainer back. I still dont’ know what, if anything, it means, but eventually a lot of observations may lead to something interesting, if more people know about it. I don’t think it explains the secret of Strad, or that it has anything directly to do with violin design, it’s just an interesting stick that now has a bit of meaning that it didn’t before. Maybe I should have titled the thread “interesting stick” instead of referring to pins, but that’s what reminded me of it.

Thanks, Kevin. I always value your observations.

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22 minutes ago, Kevin Kelly said:

The strip of wood references thicknesses, but it doesn’t say what the thickness are, and it looks like it fits between the upper and lower blocks of that instrument. for me it is just an interesting thing to know, even though it doesn’t explain anything.

Leaving out the far left and far right vertical lines the others can be thickness indicators.  

The lower corner, upper corner line and line 5 can use the same length screw while the lower bout and upper bout use a shorter length.  After another view I notice line 2 and line 7 don't coincide with the absolute widest parts of the bouts.  They're off a little bit.

So the workman had the concept of carving an interior plate down pat relating to the depth of the pins.  That is a lot easier than removing a plate and checking with calipers every so often - understandable.

How was the plate supported during all of this wood removal on the inside plate?  I understand the value of Stradivari's cradle or the Amati school cradle for doing such work.  

My way of plate support during inside carving is two padded lengths of wood running along the corners and outer bout areas clamped gingerly but securely - really primitive but works for me.

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It's always the same , a lot of preliminary work to gather as much reliable information as possible before you start to think about what meaning to give to it all.
I dream of collective work on these subjects, an open and collaborative database where it would be possible to deposit information.
It's easy to build such collaborative database on a subject like the place of "pins"
interested people?

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On 11/22/2020 at 9:55 PM, David Burgess said:

I can imagine that at one time, vibrating string lengths may have been thought to have a lot to do with the body dimensions of stringed instruments, if they were to sound good. I also believe that subsequent history has demonstrated that to be false.

That's a bit confusing for me
"A lot to do " doesn't necessarily means mean "with the quality of the sound" 
sonority jugements  change with time and needs  but not the fact that you have to divide a string in two to hear the octave. 
The main dimensions of the instruments was obviously and historically connected to the string length , but I don't see the connexion with a contemporary appreciation of the quality of the sound
 

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I wonder if someone made the micro-CT scan of Amati or Stainer that could reveal whether the holeswere drilled or punched through the wood?

Here is my favorite theory:

I imagine if your plate arch is completely carved on the outside and flat on inside and you start drilling hole with very sharp pointed drill - you will feel the tip od the bit with your finger on the outside well before the hole is large enough to be visible (and after wetting it may completely close on the outside). There is possibility they measured thickness of the wood before drilling and tried to stop without drilling through but their drillbits were rough and measuring devices not as precise as well... and some final work on the surface before finishing might have exposed the holes on the outside at later stage.

You can judge thickness in the spot during carving by inserting pointy wooden stick with some notches or nicks at required thickness. I would guess this was used just as general guide for rough carving the inside of the plates so the worker doesn't have to remove the plate from craddle and can work fast without stopping. Stainer perhaps used five such holes so he could remove bulk more effectively and closer to final thickness. Amati had better eye or used some simple inside templates to judge the progress just using one reference point....

Why tops don't have this? Spruce is much softer and you can carve halfway without worry to get too deep with rough tools (adze or some kind of drawknife or travisher might be the tool used for this) then punch it with the thickness punch (easy on spruce) and go on working till the punches disappear. Maple is much harder so they needed some guide to carve it closer to final thicknesses when it could be punched for final graduation (I guess you can punch 2 or so mm deep into maple without risking damage to the tool or point or deflecting too much). I saw a pic of Strad poplar back that had possible traces of the punch anvil on the outside surface as result of too hard punching (they probably treated softer poplar backs similarly to spruce). Stradivari probably used one of the scissor calipers for measuring thicknesses during carving and didn't drill holes.

The holes on the inside were plugged with wood (which is easy to get lost over time as the grain doesn't match).

I think this system would allow carving the inside with just one stop and removal from cradle from flat to final surface. I imagine one apprentice worked on several plates at time so they were all carved to rough inside then the punch was set and they all were punched and back to carving craddle to finish the work. Assuming there were more workers at a time they wouldn't need to have more punches or shift it back and fotrh between several benches.

 

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The problem I see with using a hole all the way through the plate for a guide to thickness is that it's not necessary.  If you know how thick the plate should be at a certain point then you drill a hole to stop at that thickness.  That way it doesn't risk going all the way through the plate and show on the outside.   Some modern makers do that.  Drill holes all over the inside stopping at a correct depth.  

 

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If I recall correctly, Stainer wasn't known to have any apprentices. Of the great makers of antiquity, he was the only "lone maker in a garret" that we so romanticize today. 

From what I've seen through f-holes, the Stainer holes appear to be punched rather than drilled, but I can't say for certain. Many of the existing instruments have long since lost their parchment strips that originally covered the center joint. 

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