Fun with lasers! PDFs linked to here show information extracted from a movie of the top and back of a Brothers Amati violin. The black lines on the still photos in the PDF are curtate cycloid curves generated with free CCycloid software, based on a very simple concept of best fit with the scans. Below is the original movie from which the PDFs were derived.
Cremonese edgework starts from edge thickness. Almost invariably, the thickness of the unworn edge on a Cremonese violin (in the upper and lower bouts, not the corners and c-bouts, which run by different rules) is equal to or slightly less than the distance from the edge to the purfling. This leads to the easy conclusion that the two are somehow related, and the cause seems clear: they were both set with the same tool. A single-bladed purfling cutter, such as the still-extant one of Stradivari, can do double duty: not only can it be used to cut the purfling groove; it also can serve to cut in from the side of a plate, to establish the finished edge thickness. I often do this instead of using my drill press, and of all the hand tool methods of finishing the edge thickness, it is by far the fastest and easiest. (This method of working establishes a band of square cross-section edge outside the purfling, which begs to be rounded into a perfectly circular edge, but that’s not part of this discussion.)
This is the tool I designed and built over 20 years ago for cutting purfling grooves.
Things have been busy in the shop. I’ve got some help now, someone who does really fine bow work, whom I worked with 25 years ago—James Min—is doing our bow rehairs and repairs two days a week.
When you follow this link, you’ll see why I don’t show the photo at its full size in this post: it’s the whole workshop, from one corner to the other, about 300 degrees of panoramic view of a wide-angle view of my shop. Open and pan the link for the whole effect!
I’m going to start being better about keeping these posts up now—there’s a lot going on here to show!
For those of you who are into photography stuff, in the last year I’ve added large format (5×7 and 8×10 film) formal portraiture to my project of photographically following the violin business. I’m keeping that on a separate Flickr page from my 35mm stuff.
I probably should have mentioned when I mentioned my photos of the Upper Peninsula in the 1970s a few posts ago that I have a whole set devoted to portraits of people in the violin business, such as the shot above of Will Whedbee working in his shop, and also some other violin photos, in my Flickr photostream.
I’ve been trying to add to the violin people shots on a regular basis recently, so this set will be growing. Additionally, I’ve been shooting more formal studio portraits on large format film (5×7 and 8×10) and many of these are of my friends in the violin making, playing, and dealing fields. The large format work is on a different Flickr page.
I have been writing a violin making book for a few years. Progress is slow, but I’m in no hurry. At this point I have a few easy chapters, not yet illustrated (the pictures will be half of the project, I’m sure). You can see what’s already completed to that point on the book’s own site.
(Me, 1979 )
Before I was involved with violins, I was a photographer. My last full-time photo job was in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, on a very small newspaper in an isolated and underpopulated area. It was a great job where I got to wander around in a four-county region asking people I saw doing interesting things to let me take their picture for the paper. My editor happened to hate both sports and check-passing/handshake photos, so I didn’t have to deal with that kind of stuff. He wanted general-interest pictures of normal people, and I was delighted to do that.
Anyway, recently I’ve been going through my old negatives, looking to see what I might have missed the first time around, and am finding all sorts of interesting pictures from that era. I decided to digitize some of them, and put them up on Flickr in their own set. These aren’t necessarily newspaper photos–mostly they’re pix of friends and family from that period, doing their daily things. That’s me in the garden at the top of this post, for instance (Annie shot that one).
I expect to be putting things up on a sort of an irregular basis. Check it out if you’d like, on Flickr.
In my quest for the perfect jeweler’s saw blade for sawing out f-holes, I once landed the world’s last supply of these antique blades, defunct blades from a closed hardware store, bought at a now-closed tool store in downtown Chicago. The brand is Gilbert, and I tracked them down to around 1890 or so. They’re perfect for the job, sawing a wide kerf with lots of turning room, quickly, but not making a mess.
Notice that they appear to be made by a machine-driven chisel upsetting the edge of a strip of steel that’s then hardened after the teeth are cut. From the contour on the top of the teeth, I decided they probably started out as wire which was rolled flat. The photo is quite magnified: the height of the blade, from the bottom to the tops of the teeth is a little less than 1.5mm, and there are around 20 teeth per inch.
I have wire! I have chisels! Just for fun, after seeing a video on making rasps (a similar process to the way these blades were made), I decided I’d try making a blade the way they might have done it 300 years ago, by hand. I took a piece of soft iron wire, 1mm thick, and pounded it flat, for a start, then I started chopping.
OK, so I’m not ready for prime time. I can see the similarity to the original, but it’s harder than it looks. Before I could finish a whole blade, I cut all the way through, accidentally. I posted this photo on a forum where a member of the rasp company was posting: he noted in response that it takes several years to train someone to cut a rasp to their standards, and I believe him.
Here’s the video that inspired me, if you feel like trying your hand at rasp-making.