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integral bass bar


nathan slobodkin
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Have any of the makers on this forum made an instrument with a carved, integral bass bar? I just did some work on a very nicely made MK instrument dated 1926 and had to remove the bar. I used my finger plane to go down to just above the surface of the top but when I went to soak out the last remnant I discovered the bar was in fact carved in. I have dealt with roughly carved bars on student instruments but this bar looked exactly like a glued bar and in fact it never occurred to me that it wasn't. I was wondering how this was actually made? I am picturing a lot of delicate shaping of the plate using the flat little shovel shaped gouge which I have seen in German tool catalogues followed by a sharp cornered scraper but am very impressed with the quality of this work. If any one has done a bar this way I am very interested in hearing about the process. Incidentally the graduations of this instrument while very stiff were extremely accurately done. The acoustics of this instrument were pretty flawed but the workmanship is truly excellent.

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6 minutes ago, nathan slobodkin said:

How?

I glued a strip of plywood on the part which would form the bass bar afterwards to stop myself from “Hogging that part out” (as they would say in Ann Abour). It actually takes more time than graduating, then fitting a glued bass bar, so the talk of it being a way of saving time is a myth

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11 minutes ago, jacobsaunders said:

I glued a strip of plywood on the part which would form the bass bar afterwards to stop myself from “Hogging that part out” (as they would say in Ann Abour). It actually takes more time than graduating, then fitting a glued bass bar, so the talk of it being a way of saving time is a myth

Yes it looks like a difficult job to get the kind of results I saw on the instrument in question. were you able to use your regular finger planes in the area nearest the bar or did you use some other tools?

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19 minutes ago, jacobsaunders said:

It actually takes more time than graduating, then fitting a glued bass bar, so the talk of it being a way of saving time is a myth

For a carefully graduated, well-made instrument, I have no doubt this is true.  For a crappily graduated, speed-is-the-object VSO, I could believe it's faster than trying to glue a bar onto the uneven interior surface.

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8 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

For a carefully graduated, well-made instrument, I have no doubt this is true.  For a crappily graduated, speed-is-the-object VSO, I could believe it's faster than trying to glue a bar onto the uneven interior surface.

the bloke at Höfner who fits bass bars day in day out takes about 20 minutes a bar including glueing. after a week or two you get quite good at it

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17 minutes ago, nathan slobodkin said:

Yes it looks like a difficult job to get the kind of results I saw on the instrument in question. were you able to use your regular finger planes in the area nearest the bar or did you use some other tools?

The area around the bar can’t be done with a normal thumb plane, I used a flatish gouge and scrapers. This is why I said that fitting a glued in bar is quicker

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1 hour ago, jacobsaunders said:

The area around the bar can’t be done with a normal thumb plane, I used a flatish gouge and scrapers. This is why I said that fitting a glued in bar is quicker

Thanks Jacob. This is what I was thinking and am somewhat surprised that the fellow who made this spent the time to do it this way. Really top notch craftsmanship but peculiar ideas about what  would sound well. Do you think glued in bars would have been more common on better MK instruments by 1926?

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13 minutes ago, nathan slobodkin said:

Thanks Jacob. This is what I was thinking and am somewhat surprised that the fellow who made this spent the time to do it this way. Really top notch craftsmanship but peculiar ideas about what  would sound well. Do you think glued in bars would have been more common on better MK instruments by 1926?

I posted pictures of an exquisitely carved bar as one example of many in my thread on Seidel https://maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/339564-seidel/. Many others did just as well. It wasn’t a short cut, but the tradition there. Obviously the very cheap violins were made in a mad hurry and the good violins with love & care, just as were those with glued bars. By 1926 it would have been an anomaly though, some elderly vm thinking he would “do one properly” perhaps?

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4 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

I posted pictures of an exquisitely carved bar as one example of many in my thread on Seidel https://maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/339564-seidel/. Many others did just as well.  ( ... )

I tried integrating a bassbar into constructions, but the experiments were not fruitful.

But that is the unskilled me. 

When I did glue in a bar, there is far more control and the height of the bar can exceed that of the clamping edge. What I did establish for my own work, was that trying an assortment of bars was more helpful in yielding that sound I liked. And this was 20+ years ago. Not sure what would happen now. And current bars are are glued under a bit of tension. Again, just me, working on inexpensive instruments. 

I have seen very carefully crafted work with precise top grads. They were delivered at reputable shops.

As a player, there are no commitments as to how we sound nor the needs of our young artists. I grew up with both warm golden sounds and the distinct clarity of eating fried foods outside the tent. ( midwest? ) I was at concert recently ( within the pas 5 years ) where virtually everyone had gray hair. My hair is not entirely gray, so was I excluded? The playing was good. We sat through a 2+ hour performance, with a visiting professor and soloist, and they were satisfied. The players were very good, delivered. New bass bar? Do we leave a well constructed bass bar and try other options?

Perhaps my point is that the owner of the instrument has some control over what they desire. We try to get them closer what they desire. I own a piece of fine art that I have no desire to upgrade, but only because I understand that it is a piece of what others consider "fine art."

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One question if I may, please.

What are the tonal characteristics and differences between a sprung bar against a non-sprung one?

As a player, I have noticed that the area between the eye of the f-hole and the foot of the bridge on a non sprung bar will sink a little after years of playing, while a sprung bar will maintain the arching in this area for much longer.  Also the arching deformity is corrected after replacement with a sprung bar.

Your thoughts please.

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12 hours ago, kyproset said:

As a player, I have noticed that the area between the eye of the f-hole and the foot of the bridge on a non sprung bar will sink a little after years of playing, while a sprung bar will maintain the arching in this area for much longer.  Also the arching deformity is corrected after replacement with a sprung bar.

How can you know wether a bar is sprung or not without removing it as a whole? The only thing I would conclude is that someone mistakenly tried to fix a deformation with that kind of spring, by worse deformations in the upper and lower part of the arching at the bass side.

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1 hour ago, Blank face said:

How can you know wether a bar is sprung or not without removing it as a whole? The only thing I would conclude is that someone mistakenly tried to fix a deformation with that kind of spring, by worse deformations in the upper and lower part of the arching at the bass side.

I do know from personal experience. The bass-bar was changed from the original one, as I was informed it was short. The new bar installed, I was assured, with no spring. The sound after the operation left something to be desired ( was about the same as with the original bar). Somehow after years I noticed the deformity. The bar was changed to a new sprung one which fixed the deformity, also improved the sound and response of the violin in a considerable way.

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Maybe they also changed bridge, strings, etc.? I'm a bit sceptical about this operation, because it doesn't really change the archinge shape (deformation), but transfers it into a load of regions where the graduations are usually much weaker than in the place where a deformation occured. I had to repair many of instruments where this opreation led to cracks and other damages.

A more logical and less risky approach appears to me to correct the deformed arching shape in a first step in a mould (with a sufficient amount of time) and stabilize the corrected shape then with a well fitting, unsprung bar.

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13 minutes ago, Blank face said:

Maybe they also changed bridge, strings, etc.? I'm a bit sceptical about this operation, because it doesn't really change the archinge shape (deformation), but transfers it into a load of regions where the graduations are usually much weaker than in the place where a deformation occured. I had to repair many of instruments where this opreation led to cracks and other damages.

A more logical approach appears to me to correct the deformed arching shape in a first step in a mould (with a sufficient amount of time) and stabilize the corrected shape then with a well fitting, unsprung bar.

With the replaced non-sprung bar, a lot of new set-ups went in to try to improve the sound, albeit, with little effect. I do see your legitimate point though that the tension is transferred to regions which are thinner thus increasing the risk of new cracks forming.

I stand corrected, but isn't the upward push of a sprang bar counteracted by the weight on top of the violin by the bridge via the strings creating a pressure equilibrium?

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12 minutes ago, kyproset said:

 

I stand corrected, but isn't the upward push of a sprang bar counteracted by the weight on top of the violin by the bridge via the strings creating a pressure equilibrium?

That is an old theory which was (for instance) propagated by Möckel. One can see the bar as a spring or a support. The jury is out, since one cannot prove it conclusively one way or the other. One thing is for sure, a carved bar is definitely without spring, and works perfectly when it has been left well alone:)

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When I recall it right (I have the book somewhere) Möckel recommended as spring a gap of ca. 1 mm at each end what probably won't do much harm nor had any greater lift-up effects in the long run, combined with the 5-5.5 mm bars he also recommended. What I often found were thick bars having gaps of 5mm or more after soaking out them, which were installed for "correction".

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5 hours ago, kyproset said:

I stand corrected, but isn't the upward push of a sprang bar counteracted by the weight on top of the violin by the bridge via the strings creating a pressure equilibrium?

I think so.

But I also think that excessive or improperly applied "tension" does more harm than good. The problem is that some believe that making a bassbar with tension is a shortcut for not fitting it perfectly and making it faster and easier, while in my experience the opposite is true.

It takes a lot of experience to properly fit a tensioned bassbar without running the risk of cracks or excessive deformation, not recommended for beginners. A bass bar without tension, although not easy in any case to fit perfectly for a beginner, has the advantage of an objective reference for the final outcome to be achieved.

 

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I haven't done any measurements, but my intuition says that a sprung bar with a mm or so gap at the tips is nowhere near enough to counteract the vertical force at the bridge foot.

If the idea is to raise the bridge foot enough so that is sinks back to the desired level when string force is applied, I think there are better ways.  You could either carve the top slightly high around the bass foot, or make a counterform and press the bar and top into the counterform when gluing the bar.  I use something like the latter method.

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The "sprung" bass bar issue likely needs another thread.

I do not restore precious instruments. But I do experiment.

The bar is fit, then material removed. These instruments that get a new bar most likely needed some leveling/ cleaning up of the regrads. Many were imported very thick, or irregular bumps here and there. Maestro Sora is correct, that a proper fitting of a "sprung" bar might require more work. But would we assume that all bars fit without any tension were properly fit? My use of tension is minimal.

For that matter, a loaded ( with strings ) normally fit bar might be more in tension depending on the curve and top thickness.  

Old instruments, especially those with thin brittle tops, require an incredible amount of care. The addition of newer, unemployed wood, and the shape make a big difference. So I leave restorations to experts or capable craftspeople. I would question everything about the restoration including the use of lower tension strings and lower bridge height. 

I grew up where many very nice newly imported instruments had steel strings sprung upon them. The tops were thick on some very nicely made Strad forms. With the newer Dominants in the late 70s? ( but not thicker gut... do you remember when you could roll them on a flat surface and feel which strings were thicker ) they sounded muted an anemic.

Bassbars move. I put a static load on them, and they flex. Dynamic load experiments would be fun. Have yet to put a voicecoil on a bassbar, but I am familiar with stories of experimenters who have. I believe that there are taller, narrower bars in use today ( mine, but with a standard or slightly larger footprint. ) The reasons: for more mass, or strength while other instruments might require something light and sensitive. Distribution of mass might be important. Some bars have beautiful, powerful end, while others have very subtle taper.

So the instruments that are experimented on have scraped backs, but the tops were not finished as well. Currently, my finished bars are taller than historic bars by at least a mm. Most of the time, the bars are profiled and finished after the install. I admire the sound of the table without a bar. But am more familiar with the sound with a bar and varnish. 

There are many factors to consider. I do hope that people continue to experiment at their own risk. There are no distortions in the instruments that I chose not to destroy. And the sound is significantly ( almost modern ) better, more dynamic both in the lower and higher frequencies. But not all experiments were successful. 

There are many considerations to be considered. I have not traveled much during the past few years. But one of the first places I was going to visit when near Philadelphia was to visit Brobst and Doug. The very questions I had were related to the bassbar. And neck angles.

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