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Arching templates?


Carman007
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If you are prepared to spend the time you might be able to make your own.

Cross-arch profiles just about make themselves once you have measurements for heights and inflection point positions.

Of course the heights are determined by the long arches' shapes. Once you have that, figures can be set for the cross arches.

Working out the general geometry that early makers used for that requires a bit of research and guesswork. The pic shows what is my latest version.

 

DSC_0001.jpg

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I do find it difficult to believe that geometry was used for arching the plates. I can't imagine how a compass or dividers could be used to work out the arches on the plate itself while carving, and there's a notable absence of arching templates from the old makers. Not to mention that none of the violins made on the same form seem to have consistent arch heights or cross arch shapes.

The only method I've seen that accounts for all of this is that of Peter Westerlund. Considering the specific piece of wood and its properties seems to be a far more practical way to account for the variations from instrument to instrument in old violins.

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It is not particularly difficult to carve plates with no templates, if you have a good idea of the shape in your head and follow a carving process like Davide or Roger Hargrave.  It's the "getting the shape in your head" that takes a while, looking at lots of great violins, and making several of your own to notice where the differences are.  Most of my violins were carved without templates, and the few that were made with templates were not observably better or worse.  The one thing that seems to make a difference is experience... recent ones are generally better.

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I should probably preface my thoughts on things with an acknowledgement of my inexperience and lack of credible understanding of violin making. Though it would be a bit tedious to do that, and I'm sure my ideas can be easily dismissed without doing so.

I should also clarify that certainly arching by "eye" and by experience is just as credible an explanation for the variation in instruments as the Peter Westerlund approach, though sadly as I age it's clear my eyes are less and less trustworthy... Incorporating the "ear" just makes sense to me for the product in question and allows the material to influence the result vs. something less indicative of material properties like surface appearance. Though his approach is not as quantifiable as other methods I guess so less likely to be given weight. I have lots of opinions, not many are very well informed I'm sure.

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57 minutes ago, MikeC said:

I too have the presbyopia eyesight of age and unfortunately it seems the ears also :D  I've watched Westerlund's videos and can't hear what he hears for sure! 

Sometimes I think I can hear it and other times I'm not so sure. I think it's something that maybe can be learned to a degree. I also wonder how much of his experience is influencing what he's doing to some extent. The guy has built it looks like about 413 instruments so he certainly knows what they should look like. I'd definitely like to try his method if I can pull it off.

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7 hours ago, Mike Atkins said:

 I also wonder how much of his experience is influencing what he's doing to some extent. 

His method makes no technical sense to me whatsoever, but I can say that as well about the methods that many good violinmakers use.  My conclusion is that they all end up in a usable range of arching shape and graduations, and don't allow their methods to lead them to stray too far afield from more-or-less normal classical geometry.

For a beginner who is not steeped in what is "normal", adhering rigidly to ANY of these personal methods could end up in a strange place.  I would suggest starting with arching templates and graduation maps, and a gram scale.  Much less work, much less chance of going beyond the fringe.

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42 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

His method makes no technical sense to me whatsoever, but I can say that as well about the methods that many good violinmakers use.  My conclusion is that they all end up in a usable range of arching shape and graduations, and don't allow their methods to lead them to stray too far afield from more-or-less normal classical geometry.

For a beginner who is not steeped in what is "normal", adhering rigidly to ANY of these personal methods could end up in a strange place.  I would suggest starting with arching templates and graduation maps, and a gram scale.  Much less work, much less chance of going beyond the fringe.

definitely a wise suggestion… the difficult part about starting with a mould vs an instrument to copy is knowing what an appropriate starting point is for things like arch height. I do have a number of strad posters though so my plan is to maybe try and average some of the archings to get a feel for what it should be. I don’t plan to attempt what he’s doing until I have a better understanding of what things should look like. But I am intrigued by his method for a number of reasons. 

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It's easy to fall into a trap with this trade. It seems so dizzying in it's complexity as to he impenetrable. But try not to overthink it. The makers we worship were semi literate woodcarvers with a medieval understanding of mathematics. And clearly, that was enough! Study the geometry of the ancients, do some drawing, carve some wood, keep your eyes and ears open. Have some fun, while you're at it.

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I think what I have posted about arching fits in the category of violin geometry just like the 4-circle method used to design a pattern shape.

There is clearly an underlying geometry to arching however you go about carving plates. And that is that all inflection points lie on a straight line, looking from a 3 dimensional point of view. Deviating from that won't help the aesthetic or functionality of overall arching.

The long arches are purely functional. The back of many early instruments seem to have their own peculiarities, particularly approaching the button. I'm sure the subtleties there aren't noticed by many.

 

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11 minutes ago, JacksonMaberry said:

It's easy to fall into a trap with this trade. It seems so dizzying in it's complexity as to he impenetrable. But try not to overthink it. The makers we worship were semi literate woodcarvers with a medieval understanding of mathematics. And clearly, that was enough! Study the geometry of the ancients, do some drawing, carve some wood, keep your eyes and ears open. Have some fun, while you're at it.

The Cremona makers lived post the Medieval period. And they undoubtedly had all of the skills and mathematical knowledge necessary to carry out their trades.

There are complexities in what I have posted, mainly around edge height, but the underlying concept is quite simple.

The inflection point location is calculated by a simple right-angle triangle calculation as defined by its position along the arc.

Having arrived at a basic workable radius and orientation of the arc by trial and error (which can be varied depending on what sort of outcome you want)  I have no trouble drawing cross-arch templates specified by that geometry.

 

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4 minutes ago, Dennis J said:

The Cremona makers lived post the Medieval period. And they undoubtedly had all of the skills and mathematical knowledge necessary to carry out their trades.

There are complexities in what I have posted, mainly around edge height, but the underlying concept is quite simple.

The inflection point location is calculated by a simple right-angle triangle calculation as defined by its position along the arc.

Having arrived at a basic workable radius and orientation of the arc by trial and error (which can be varied depending on what sort of outcome you want)  I have no trouble drawing cross-arch templates specified by that geometry.

 

We are talking past each other. 

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3 hours ago, JacksonMaberry said:

Sure, it's all geometry at the end of the day. As to whether it is the appropriate geometry for the style and the billet in question, that's where the flexibility of a well trained eye and ear come into play. 

I'm only interested in concrete working methods which might lead to better outcomes.

I'm too skeptical to believe that makers who listen to what the wood is telling them have any idea of what they are talking about.

 

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6 hours ago, Dennis J said:

I'm only interested in concrete working methods which might lead to better outcomes.

I'm too skeptical to believe that makers who listen to what the wood is telling them have any idea of what they are talking about.

 

Is using the "eye" to carve the arching any less strange? It's just as much a reliance on subjective individual perception. I don't know that anyone is personifying the wood and saying that it's "telling them" something. But doesn't every maker ultimately use the "ear" to judge an instrument? And don't most makers judge the properties of the wood to select it? Why not allow it's properties to affect the construction?

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1 hour ago, Mike Atkins said:

1.  And don't most makers judge the properties of the wood to select it?

2.  Why not allow it's properties to affect the construction?

1.  If they can see the wood before purchase, yes,

2.  You have to know somewhat what properties are.  Wide grain or tight grain and density for starters could help.  What one thinks will work at the beginning becomes a wood/mass removal session{s} towards the end.  Let's say long story short, that I choose a 15.8 mm max. height for a belly along with a predetermined graduation plan.  I may find out after carving that I'm still 11 grams too heavy.  Where do I remove wood from and not mess up the original thickness plan?  

Maybe a particular piece of wood is good enough at a heavier weight.  Who do I ask to show what a flexible vs not enough flexible plate is?  

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19 minutes ago, uncle duke said:

1.  If they can see the wood before purchase, yes,

2.  You have to know somewhat what properties are.  Wide grain or tight grain and density for starters could help.  What one thinks will work at the beginning becomes a wood/mass removal session{s} towards the end.  Let's say long story short, that I choose a 15.8 mm max. height for a belly along with a predetermined graduation plan.  I may find out after carving that I'm still 11 grams too heavy.  Where do I remove wood from and not mess up the original thickness plan?  

Maybe a particular piece of wood is good enough at a heavier weight.  Who do I ask to show what a flexible vs not enough flexible plate is?  

I guess my point was that relying on a sense like vision to work out or assess arching isn't different from relying on hearing. Nor is it different from using "feel" to determine flexibility. None of that could be deemed a "concrete" method for building an instrument. Yet all of them could incorporate tools to validate the perception, such as calipers, frequency measurements, flexibility measurements..

Flexibility may not be the only way to determine how to deal with density variations, how it resonates and how cohesively it resonates across its surface could be another.

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The following may make you and whomever else new to this arching less gunshy.

Do you know how many of my plates have matched the templates used after I was done carving?  Answer is none.  Some are spot on, some are close and some work wasn't even close.  Didn't matter if I had a Strad template set or a Del Gesu set.

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While I can understand why a professional maker would want durable accurate templates for models they sell, there is no reason for a beginner to twist themselves into knots over templates. I print them out and then cut them from thin plastic like is used for notebook dividers. They are so easy to make you can use them for everything, and I end up with a good pile by the end.

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I don't/haven't used templates at all. I start on the inside,  and work from there. I've been told that it is not done that way; but it works. To get something very close to an arching of a certain model, you must do a lot of planning. You also have to be careful in your initial carving on both the inside and outside. 

I rough everything leaving a mm or so on each side; and more on the outer half or so.Then I tap them, flex them, and try to figure out if they seem like they are still way stiff, or already getting to where they should be. I might make them higher, or drop them lower, or make them to plan. There is a lot of leeway.

If you want curate cycloids, then you have to be sure not to get the initial arching too close to the edges. 

Even flatter arches tend to look bulbous if you rough them closer to the edge; but it will work for a Brescian arch, I think.

IF you had an instrument right in front of you to copy, it would be easier. With a plan and a photo? A VSO  is all you will achieve; unless you have a lot of experience examining, and handling .edu instruments of the style that you are working on.

I've only worked with pictures, so all I can create are facsimiles.

Del Gesu changed things up on nearly every model near the end. He didn't have to conform to a specified result. You are normally only given 5 arches for the entire length. Even if you follow these, a lot can go wrong inbetween.

Then again, I'm not normal.

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On 10/6/2021 at 12:35 PM, MikeC said:

I too have the presbyopia eyesight of age and unfortunately it seems the ears also :D  I've watched Westerlund's videos and can't hear what he hears for sure! 

I wouldn't worry about it. Lots of people have claimed to be able the hear things which others can't, and most of them never turned out to be among the most successful violin makers. Hearing can be strongly influenced by prior belief, and also by an over-active imagination.

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