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Low arch pros and cons


H.R.Fisher
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You could double the edges to gain back height.

The lowest serious violin I made was 14.7mm top arch... and tied for the top tone award at VMAAI.  I have experimented twice with extremely low arching... one dead-flat, and the other just under 10mm.   Neither was very good, but for different reasons.  The flat one I managed to get the signature modes OK, but the sound was very midrangy and boxy.  The slightly taller one had B1- and B1+ on top of each other and wolfy, but not horrid otherwise (but not great either).   

Bottom line... could work, but might be tricky.  I'd double the edges if I really wanted to use that top, but spruce is relatively cheap and I'd most likely transfer it to the experiment pile (which could be done later after finding out if it worked at 14mm, but starting with very low string clearance and/or a tall bridge to avoid resetting the neck if changing to a new top).

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Some people will like it while others won't.  

The various signature mode frequencies are dependent upon arch height and plate thickness.  If you are trying to keep the same frequencies you might want to make your low arched top a little thicker.

On the other hand there isn't much of a correlation between preferences and mode frequencies anyways.  But as Don mentioned the amplitudes of these are more important.  Too thin will sound tubby probably with some wolf notes and too thick will sound shrill or harsh.

"Don't worry, be happy"

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A low arching is not my preference, but in any case I would try to do it rather than discard the piece or waste time doubling the edges, so you can judge the result for yourself and have a direct experience.

I think it can't be all that bad, and some might even like that sound.

Keep in mind that everyone who is giving you their opinion here, has sooner or later made a low arching, otherwise they would not know what to say.:)

Me included, it has happened to me more than once, and I've always found someone who liked those violins and bought them.

It is more a matter of taste and goals, now when I buy wood I am more careful to take pieces that allow me to make archings of the height I like.;)

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3 hours ago, H.R.Fisher said:

    I am working on a top that had a small gnarl on the very top. In order to clear it I needed to work it down to a hgt. of 14mm. I don't want to throw it out if it can be used. Would appreciate your thoughts.  Thanks  Henry

 

How gnarly is the gnarl?

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9 minutes ago, nathan slobodkin said:

Good question. You can get away with small tight knots anywhere except between the FFs. 14 mm is low but not ridiculous. If you have much work into it you might go for it. If just beginning then starting over might be best.

I'm assuming the gnarl is a mini branch?

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4 hours ago, sospiri said:

 

How gnarly is the gnarl?

Just a small gnarl dipping down/concave which I had to clear away as it kept breaking out till it was all cleared away. Thanks for your responses,think i'll continue with it and as Don suggested keep the bridge on the high side so it can be replaced if needed. What is good enough for messie should be good enough for me. Thanks again,  Henry

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21 hours ago, H.R.Fisher said:

    I am working on a top that had a small gnarl on the very top. In order to clear it I needed to work it down to a hgt. of 14mm. I don't want to throw it out if it can be used. Would appreciate your thoughts.  Thanks  Henry

 

A lower arch height may make the plate a little more responsive in the lows and it will probably be a little less sensitive to humidity variation (for the violin as a whole. However, a lower arch top may creep a little easier, unless it get some extra support from thicker wood to compensate a little. Arch stiffens the plate and supresses vibrations, to some extent. 

Edited by Anders Buen
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4 hours ago, Anders Buen said:

Should a low arch of the top go with a low arch of the back? Or what is the best combination, and why? 

My lowest top arch (14.7mm) was paired with my second-highest back arch (17mm).  I don't recall exactly why I did that... probably with the idea of keeping the internal volume up.  It worked extremely well, but since I don't have a large database of outlier combinations (basically one), there's not much I can say about what's best or why.  But I will say that I feel more comfortable working with slightly higher top arching and lower back arching.

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14mm does not sound awfully low. The rest depends on the general stiffness of the wood and if or not it is split.

At least I noticed that some of Ansaldo Poggis instruments have a visibly low arch and do sound very well. I have seen one which had something like 13mm top arch. However I didn’t have time to examine the top thickness.

In the end you can make many arching heights work if you calibrate thicknesses and neck angle correctly. It is only advisable not to go to very extremes unless previous experience tells you to do.

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Thouhgt I'd share a graph of given arch heights of some Strads and del Gesus. The top plate arch is plotted along the Y axis and the back plate arch is plotted along the X-axis. The data come from Strad posters and the Bidulph del Gesu book. I have more posters I haven't added to the file yet, maybe the last 5 years.

210306 Archheigt top vs back.jpg

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40 minutes ago, Anders Buen said:

Thouhgt I'd share a graph of given arch heights of some Strads and del Gesus. The top plate arch is plotted along the Y axis and the back plate arch is plotted along the X-axis. The data come from Strad posters and the Bidulph del Gesu book. I have more posters I haven't added to the file yet, maybe the last 5 years.

210306 Archheigt top vs back.jpg

Dear Anders,

Thanks for the really great plot but please forgive me for being a picky ass--

I think your plot would be better if the horizontal scale and the vertical scales were the same length so that the plot would be a square rather than a rectangle.  

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On 3/6/2021 at 10:56 AM, Anders Buen said:

Thouhgt I'd share a graph of given arch heights of some Strads and del Gesus. The top plate arch is plotted along the Y axis and the back plate arch is plotted along the X-axis. The data come from Strad posters and the Bidulph del Gesu book. I have more posters I haven't added to the file yet, maybe the last 5 years.

210306 Archheigt top vs back.jpg

Thank you for showing this.

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