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Kevin Kelly

Stainer, Amati pin speculation

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On 11/22/2020 at 3:55 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.

 

5 hours ago, francoisdenis said:

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
 

That's why I wrote, "I can imagine that at one time..."  

I don't think there is a meaningful connection, sound-wise. But if certain intervals of a musical scale (or their string lengths, either open, or stopped to produce certain notes) were chosen in the past to choose proportions or dimensions for the body of a stringed instrument, they may have believed it to be meaningful for sound. After all, it kind-of works that way for wind instruments. :)

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4 hours ago, David Burgess said:

 

That's why I wrote, "I can imagine that at one time..."  

I don't think there is a meaningful connection, sound-wise. But if certain intervals of a musical scale (or their string lengths, either open, or stopped to produce certain notes) were chosen in the past to choose proportions or dimensions for the body of a stringed instrument, they may have believed it to be meaningful for sound. After all, it kind-of works that way for wind instruments. :)

Ok I understand better your idea. I agree , the human mind 
likes analogy as a way to get an understanding of the world
unfortunately the best vegetable are not enough to make a good soup

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8 hours ago, MikeC said:

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.

Their tools were quite primitive compared to modern. At best they had hand brace with hand forged bit or something even simpler. I, too, drill holes to show me initial thickness during rough carving without need to measure or even lift the plate fromcraddle, but we have much better drills and drillbits than they had. I tend to think of those guys being very concerned about efficiency of the process, not the romantic types dreaming about big sound in big halls and slowly whittling small shavings and then tapping the plate for few minutes. Like Hargrave cited Morel some time ago, they "made ships fly". :-)

 

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I have a brace and bit. It's not all that primitive.  I think they were quite capable of drilling a hole to any depth they wanted to.  :)

 

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1 hour ago, francoisdenis said:

Ok I understand better your idea. I agree , the human mind 
likes analogy as a way to get an understanding of the world
unfortunately the best vegetable are not enough to make a good soup

I've had some good vegetable soups. But if the cost exceeded that of a spectacular steak, or a "happy finish" massage, I did feel a bit cheated. ;)

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2 hours ago, MikeC said:

I have a brace and bit. It's not all that primitive.  I think they were quite capable of drilling a hole to any depth they wanted to.  :)

 

I can't help thinking that whenever a hole was drilled all the way through a violin back it would be by mistake, the kind of thing that I would do, or a maker in a hurry or if the apprentice was doing that part of the work, maybe when cleaning up the back. I freely admit to not knowing much though. On all the violins which have these mysterious holes how many are visible from the outside?

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58 minutes ago, Andrew tkinson said:

I can't help thinking that whenever a hole was drilled all the way through a violin back it would be by mistake, the kind of thing that I would do, or a maker in a hurry or if the apprentice was doing that part of the work, maybe when cleaning up the back. I freely admit to not knowing much though. On all the violins which have these mysterious holes how many are visible from the outside?

I don't know how many are visible from the outside.  Someone can correct me but I think all the Amati and Del Gesu have it.  Strad does not have it.    Makes you wonder in what ways Strad was doing things differently from the other makers at the time.  

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On 11/25/2020 at 6:08 PM, MikeC said:

  Makes you wonder in what ways Strad was doing things differently from the other makers at the time.  

Probably understood how to make calipers and a carving cradle before the rest of them.   

Investigate a Ruggieri or an elder Guarneri to check for pin marks.  Supposedly they were co-workers/classmates of Stradivari under Amati.    

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On 11/25/2020 at 2:16 AM, francoisdenis said:

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?

Yes.  I would like to see a wiki collecting details about historical instruments.

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On 11/25/2020 at 3:09 PM, Andrew tkinson said:

I can't help thinking that whenever a hole was drilled all the way through a violin back it would be by mistake, the kind of thing that I would do, or a maker in a hurry or if the apprentice was doing that part of the work, maybe when cleaning up the back. I freely admit to not knowing much though. On all the violins which have these mysterious holes how many are visible from the outside?

Carlson, who has seen a good many of these, seems to be saying that all he's seen are visible from the outside.

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The OP observation is very interesting!

I'd like to know:

Is the stick made by the maker or an the observer?

Does the stick thickness document the plate thickness?

 

Ideas:  As noted, the marks are symetric around the center.  And at least some pairs of marks appear to follow a feature and then show a symetric reflection (bridge, bottom of soundholes).  Perhaps these where used to guide a symetric taper of back extra center mass?

Someone suggested the thicknesses might be standardized, only requiring location.  But given the variations seen, that seems unlikely to be broadly true.  But perhaps the maker had already set these somehow for the particular instrument at least?

I know in my own work, I use a compass from the max point to guide tapering more or less symetrically.  And I use the idea of proportions between the Max thickness, down to the general diaphragm thickness of the back. 3/4 1/2 1/3 or such.  Perhaps this is the use of the marks?

This then suggests motive for pushing your compass point all the way through the plate, especially if you might lower the max any after its original setting.

The hole and stick (as suggested earlier in this thread) allow a positive measure of the Max to work your proportions from.

???

 

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Also in this thread, the idea emerged that the string length equaled the distance from block to block, and the idea of the string length as a key length in instrument design.  

I'd like to treat these ideas as hypothesis, and test both if they might be true, even if in a variation, and also challenge and test if they aren't true.  This is something I go through with any idea I entertain as possibly true with classical making.

But first, I need to acknowledge my significant bias in this case.  I've long ago accepted a related but actually different idea from my own research as actually what is key to classical Cremona violin family instrument design.

And that is the distance from the bridge to the top of the instrument body, and more specifically the 'Stop Unit' as 1/3 this distance. But with the complication that makers freely calculated this either from the outer edge or from the mold line.   Many things, particulary in the stringing system, the head and neck, and the span across the upper soundhole eyes derive directly or indirectly from these 'Stop Units'.

But leaving that aside, let's hypothesis and test the ideas that string length is broadly fundamental to N Italian string instrument design, and that more specifically old Cremona makers set the distance between blocks equal to the string length.

Okay.  Just a gross check on the broad version of this:

1794726564_1536cAAmati.thumb.jpg.a1960c717db77e589746118bd111dfab.jpg

This is an Andrea Amati tenor.  

Now the two colored bars are equal in length.   And, the bar equals the string length but is too short to reach from block to block.

Well, probably the string length, and perhaps the body length have been changed over the years.  Ok. But does that create the possibility that our hypothesis was true before alterations? 

Body lengths of tenors have often been shortened, but not lengthened.  Undoing such a change would only break our hypothesis more dramatically.  Well perhaps the original neck was actually longer?  That is more plausible, but our hypothesis is hanging on a very tenuous thread.

Now what of the broader hypothesis that Instrument design was based on string length?

1833313542_1580cZanettoviola.thumb.jpg.886d3b520593eb8d0f58a0060f4c392c.jpg

A Zanetto viola shows the same issue we had in the Amati tenor, but more dramatically.

537202014_1550cGMariavielle.thumb.jpg.87b6236441b223a27d911481613d3376.jpg

 

1277177731_1525cLiradBraccioGMaria.thumb.jpg.b6bb5ef7967e2db02b1c77999a67ae9d.jpg

Looking at a larger vielle and lira d'braccio both by G Maria of Venice doesn't help our hypothesis any.

There is no simple relationship with string length simply giving the distance from block to block. No.

Both string length and body length tend to change with pitch range, but string length is more freely allowed to lengthen than body length.  And body length is more freely allowed to shorten than string length.  And neck length changes are partially independent of both.

Now, this failure of a simple equality relationship from string length doesn't mean there isn't some more complicated relationship present.

But, I will suggest again, that the system I've proposed, using 'stop units' is correct and tested out for Cremona violin family making.  And, it is the simplest possible system that correctly accounts the complex range of historical exmples that actually exist.

*******

Alright, let's look more narrowly. Perhaps the string length matches the distance between blocks just in violins, from old Cremona, and maybe just in some makers?

This is a smaller domain for our hypothesis, but still very interesting if true.  And there are other special relationships that distinguish violins from other members of the violin family, so why not this?

Our difficulty is finding evidence that allows direct comparison of the old string length to the distance between blocks?   So far, we've looked at examples that fail grossly enough to disprove the hypothesis outside violins.  

But finding examples that positively confirm single cases of the hypothesis relationship will be more difficult.

Here is the brookings again:

1682445292_1654NAmatibrookings.thumb.jpg.f657431bfaa1034f674d602eb46ec09a.jpg

This shows there is room for the hypothesis to perhaps hold in this case. And we know from earlier in this thread that the distance between blocks in this is 320mm.  But do we know if the original string length here was 320? No. It's reasonable to think it might have been, but we don't get to know. And, classical examples don't seem to hold to fix length approach.  Rather, string length, body length, stop length, neck length: all seem to vary in similar degree -- far beyond modern standards.

Here we have the Plowden, Willemotte, and Titian -but with modernized necks and string length.  Which we can see are too long for our hypothesis in each case.

14831093_PlowdenWillemotteTitian.thumb.jpg.8c6e1c4fa687f13d79717db21af1e7eb.jpg

But we can see the block distances well. And we can look to see if it seems plausible that the original string lengths might have been these.

1638488141_PlowdenWillemotteTitianB.thumb.jpg.4e92b5483605611bb7f779a94abacf3c.jpg

Again, we don't get positive confirmed cases of our hypothesis holding.  But, we also haven't had our hypothesis actually break yet.

 

With the 1595 Brother's Amati King Henry IV violin, we have more full length xRay views.

595060288_1595cBrosAmatiKingHenryvlnA.thumb.jpg.5830c8c2501e12faf5109f8d2eda4466.jpg

 

Same situation. No prove, no denial.

However, we also have a side view xRay that clearly shows us the rib line.  From this, we can look at the string length given by the block distance. And we can test.  We can test against the four specific possibilities of neck length spelled out by the 'Liberties at the Margins' in my proposed system.

903914125_1595cBrosAmatiKingHenryvlnB.thumb.jpg.57ef3ef07aa3c2efc71303a78c4f4dec.jpg

 

However, the block distance is still shorter than the nut position for the shortest neck length anticipated.

This appears to me to be a counter example.

And the Lady Blunt:

2016631931_BlockstoStringlengthhypothesis.thumb.jpg.e2cd28448b292a51cbb419d9a4e848b9.jpg

 

Here, we can see the outline of the ends of the original neck.  And, the inside of the pegbox tells us which mold.

If we take the trouble to put all the puzzle pieces back in alignment to each other, we get our cleanest direct test of the hypothesis, which breaks.

However, we can still simply reduce the domain of our hypothesis.  We don't know the hypothesis doesn't hold for N Amati violins, or maybe some subset of his violins.

 

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5 hours ago, David Beard said:

Carlson, who has seen a good many of these, seems to be saying that all he's seen are visible from the outside.

Thanks for that information. Not mistakes then, but deliberate! I did say I don't know much but I know a little bit more now.

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On 11/25/2020 at 5:31 AM, MikeC said:

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.  

 

That’s true if you’re using a drill press and stop, but if you’re using a brace and bit with a pointy end it’s much faster to just drill through to a hard surface until it doesn’t go any further.  Highly recommend trying it.  Once you get the hang of it it’s an incredible time saver. 

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2 hours ago, Advocatus Diaboli said:

That’s true if you’re using a drill press and stop, but if you’re using a brace and bit with a pointy end it’s much faster to just drill through to a hard surface until it doesn’t go any further.  Highly recommend trying it.  Once you get the hang of it it’s an incredible time saver. 

I wonder what kind of bit would have been used back then.  Twist bits and gimlets were not invented until the 1800s.   Prior to that I guess they would have had some type of spade bit or spoon bit.   It's easy enough to put a mark on a bit and stop at the mark.   I have a drill press but in my current build I just put a piece of tape on the bit and hand drilled it in the C bout.  I don't drill holes all over the plate, just one in the center for a guide in that area.  

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One other thought on Strad vs. the others.   Strad's thickness in the back plate is not circular, it's more longitudinal.  If the others used the pin hole as a fixed compass point for graduating the plates then you would expect to see somewhat circular pattern in the thickness and that seems to be the case in the thickness maps that I've seen of DelG.   Could that be why Strad did not have the hole while others did?  Who knows...  just one possible explanation, not necessarliy the right one.    A problem with that idea is that the pin hole seems to be farther towards the neck end than the center of thickness on DelG violins.  

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1 hour ago, MikeC said:

One other thought on Strad vs. the others.   Strad's thickness in the back plate is not circular, it's more longitudinal. 

Sacconi's "average of back thickness" plots on Stradivaris seem to suggest otherwise. I have not measured nearly as many as he did. How about you?

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2 hours ago, David Burgess said:

Sacconi's "average of back thickness" plots on Stradivaris seem to suggest otherwise. I have not measured nearly as many as he did. How about you?

I was assuming the accuracy of the image on platetuning.org which shows the average of multiple Strad backs.  Maybe you could call that circular but it appears to extend farther along the long axis than a circle would.   Also on the CT scan of the Titian I see what appears to be a somewhat linear feature.   No I haven't measured any in person obviously.   Of course this is just an average of multiple instruments so there are lots of variation among individual plates.  My guess is that he had some standard pattern and adjusted each plate according to it's characteristics. 

Strad Average Plate Thickness.jpg

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Circular enough.   Del Gesu tends to not connect and continue the thickness as fully to the cBout sides as Strad, and he tends to significantly elongate the mass into the upper and lower bout areas.

Scientific observation, like these measue maps, always have a range of uncertainty.  So they are very squishy.  It's wrong to read presentations of data with a false degree of precision.

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I would say that what can be seen in the image posted by MikeC is a pretty circular distribution. But making averages doesn't work, it would be better to refer to specific violins because things can be very different (or similar) from case to case.

2052164164_DSC_2992_SpexFondoStradrid.thumb.jpg.0ac8545aef7b7e0b5382c09e5e265243.jpg

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Popular wisdom, which I think is well supported, is that Amati back grads are longitudinal "target" shapes where the blue would be running up nearly to the end blocks, and nowhere near the c-bout edges, Guarneri family generally more circular, and the Strad's are more like a band across the c-bout. I haven't seen much to contradict this.

I think there need to be more charts from the other makers before anyone comes to a conclusion about Strads. Everything is relative.

What I don't see above is the thinness in the c-bout edges that you see in other makers. That's what makes the Strad band.

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Interpret as you will. 

These are visually composited from the image series Davide showed above.  All the Strad maps are made partially transparent stacked on top of each making a visual average.  Same with the Del Gesu.  

The numbers shown on the maps are from Buen's data set.

 

Strad backs:

626734266_backMaxStrad.thumb.jpg.93c313725786d9f300f0681eb94b6e53.jpg

 

Del Gesu backs:

2077594241_backMaxDG.thumb.jpg.264e240c3bba32960ce4e1a2b7c155fc.jpg

 

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On 11/25/2020 at 4:38 PM, David Burgess said:

I've had some good vegetable soups. But if the cost exceeded that of a spectacular steak, or a "happy finish" massage, I did feel a bit cheated. ;)

I can't afford to work for you on commission anymore.

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12 minutes ago, Advocatus Diaboli said:

Here are some slides from a Steiner violin ct scan.  The images of the 2nd and 4th pins won’t upload for whatever reason. 

90FA4040-E355-4FC0-918E-5081BF9B1628.jpeg

2DE1A99F-1F8B-403C-A076-B2988B565BB9.jpeg

F84B9836-B21B-47FD-855B-92C8C607E125.jpeg

DEF1CFB7-A24C-4223-8A74-855940552DF5.jpeg

A man of extremes - pretty dang thick at its thickest, and scary thing at its thinnest.

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