Discussion:
What Exalts Stradivarius? Not Varnish, Study Says
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Tashi
2009-12-06 16:13:29 UTC
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http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/04/science/04strad.html?_r=1&ref=science
Tommy Grand
2009-12-06 16:27:26 UTC
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Post by Tashi
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/04/science/04strad.html?_r=1&ref=science
Hum it seems that perhaps the whole, is more than the sum of the
parts. MT would you say that the reason your guitars, and these
violins, sound so great is not due to any bombshell luthier secrets,
but rather something ineffable about your "touch"?

BTW in the business world we call this 'syngery'!
Tashi
2009-12-06 17:22:18 UTC
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Post by Tommy Grand
Post by Tashi
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/04/science/04strad.html?_r=1&ref=science
Hum it seems that perhaps the whole, is more than the sum of the
parts.  MT would you say that the reason your guitars, and these
violins, sound so great is not due to any bombshell luthier secrets,
but rather something ineffable about your "touch"?
Let me first thank you Tommy for including yours truly, and
Stradivarius, in the same sentence. I did however, visit Cremona in
search of the "Holy Grail". I visited the Museum which had on display
the masters tools and templates. I also visited a room off the main
Piazza which had a couple of Strad's as well as "del Gesu" and
Amati.

However the closest I ever got in fulfillment of my desires was after
trying to follow a map of the central park in Cremona which showed the
location of the Masters grave, I sat down on a marble park bench, in
utter exhaustion and gave up my search. A few moments later my wife
looked down and noticed The Masters name written on the park bench,
Eureka! it was my destiny!

I do feel some MOJO was transmitted to me at that time.
thomas
2009-12-06 21:54:09 UTC
Permalink
 However the closest I ever got in fulfillment of my desires was after
trying to follow a map of the central park in Cremona which showed the
location of the Masters grave, I sat down on a marble park bench, in
utter exhaustion and gave up my search.  A few moments later my wife
looked down and noticed The Masters name written on the park bench,
Eureka! it was my destiny!
  I do feel some MOJO was transmitted to me at that time.
You were sitting on his grave? Does that mean the mojo was transmitted
through the butt?

Robert Crim
2009-12-06 16:33:51 UTC
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On Sun, 6 Dec 2009 08:13:29 -0800 (PST), Tashi
Post by Tashi
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/04/science/04strad.html?_r=1&ref=science
Also an article in "The Strad"
http://www.thestrad.com/nStory.asp?id=1206

Robertus
Tashi
2009-12-06 17:00:46 UTC
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Post by Tashi
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/04/science/04strad.html?_r=1&ref=science
"Their study, published online on Thursday by a German chemistry
journal, Angewandte Chemie International Edition, found that a drying
oil, linseed or walnut, was used as a first coat to seal the wood".

Im shocked that Strad put oil directly onto the wood to seal it.
This is a big no no, in the world of finishing today. Especially if
the oil has no dryers in it which I don't think it did. After sinking
into the wood it would never dry because it needs UV light. Seems
like it would be "very bad" on a soundboard, similar to crossing the
streams.

I did use once a coat of Tru-oil to seal the soundboard on a guitar,
then I French polished it......... one of the best guitars I ever
made! Perhaps the wisdom of Stradivarius can be summed up as
follows, "It's not about what you use, but more about _how_ you use
it". Women have been saying this forever.
Andrew Schulman
2009-12-06 17:20:45 UTC
Permalink
Post by Tashi
"It's not about what you use, but more about _how_ you use
it".  Women have been saying this forever.
I also like this quote:

“Maybe a player, when seeing a beautiful instrument, he plays better,”
he said. “Maybe this is the secret.”

BTW, Stewart Pollens, mentioned in the article, is the guy I worked
with on the project measuring the 1912 Ramirez and 1937 Hauser that
are in the Met museum's instrument collection.

Andrew
edspyhill01
2009-12-06 17:10:31 UTC
Permalink
Post by Tashi
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/04/science/04strad.html?_r=1&ref=science
One study speculated it was how the spruce and maple logs got to
Stradivarius. The logs were cut down in summer and fall then floated
down the river. The logs were left in the river until spring when
they were removed and prepared. The process of spending one or more
winters in water allowed the wood to soak up minerals into the wood
cells.

Here is one article.

http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20119561,00.html

"First he accurately copied the shape of a Strad. "The sound was bad,"
he says, "so I realized shape is not the solution." In 1978 he began
spending summers in Europe researching the history of Cremonese
violins. He learned that the violin makers of Stradivari's time "all
got their wood in Venice at the big shipyards and their varnish from
alchemists. The logs were floated downstream to Venice from northern
forests and stored in saltwater lagoons for as long as two or three
years before being sold." Back in Texas, Nagyvary analyzed tiny chips
from Cremonese violins and discovered the wood had a salt content 10
to 50 times higher than normal. Moreover, he says, after floating in
Venetian lagoons "the green logs were colonized by bacteria and fungi,
which slowly degraded the wood," making it lighter, more resonant and
up to 50 times more absorbent of varnish than new wood. Nagyvary now
soaks the spruce and maple used in his own violins in a saltwater
solution for up to four weeks, adding espresso grinds for color."
Richard Jernigan
2009-12-06 18:53:36 UTC
Permalink
Post by edspyhill01
Post by Tashi
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/04/science/04strad.html?_r=1&ref=science
One study speculated it was how the spruce and maple logs got to
Stradivarius.  The logs were cut down in summer and fall then floated
down the river.  The logs were left in the river until spring when
they were removed and prepared.  The process of spending one or more
winters in water allowed the wood to soak up minerals into the wood
cells.
Here is one article.
http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20119561,00.html
"First he accurately copied the shape of a Strad. "The sound was bad,"
he says, "so I realized shape is not the solution." In 1978 he began
spending summers in Europe researching the history of Cremonese
violins. He learned that the violin makers of Stradivari's time "all
got their wood in Venice at the big shipyards and their varnish from
alchemists. The logs were floated downstream to Venice from northern
forests and stored in saltwater lagoons for as long as two or three
years before being sold." Back in Texas, Nagyvary analyzed tiny chips
from Cremonese violins and discovered the wood had a salt content 10
to 50 times higher than normal. Moreover, he says, after floating in
Venetian lagoons "the green logs were colonized by bacteria and fungi,
which slowly degraded the wood," making it lighter, more resonant and
up to 50 times more absorbent of varnish than new wood. Nagyvary now
soaks the spruce and maple used in his own violins in a saltwater
solution for up to four weeks, adding espresso grinds for color."
Nagyvary has "discovered the secret of Stradivarius" half a dozen
times. Twenty years ago he was making varnish from shrimp shells.

There is no secret. Stradivari was just a great violin maker. No two
of his instruments are exactly the same. He knew how to get great
results from material that varied from piece to piece.

RNJ
alcarruth
2009-12-06 20:45:52 UTC
Permalink
Richard Jernigan wrote:
"Nagyvary has "discovered the secret of Stradivarius" half a dozen
times."

Yeah, and it's a different 'secret' every time! Kinda makes you wonder
which is THE secret.

Linseed dries faster with UV, but I'm not sure if it needs it. The
fact that it would add a lot of damping might not be a probem on a
violin: IMO the big problem they have is controlling all the power the
bow puts in. We can't afford to waste any of the small amount of power
a single pluck puts into a string, but that's not so much of an issue
with a fiddle if it helps make it sound better. Just putting in the
sound post cuts the efficiency of the fiddle in half, or so I'm told,
but it increases the output in the low range, where you need it, and
the big cut is in a spectral range where you don't want a lot of
output anyway.

Barlow and Woodhouse saw traces of what looked to be drying oil under
the 'ground coat' of some old master instruments in electron
microphotographs some years ago. The fact that the appearance of the
ground coat can be nicely duplicated by a simple French polish fill
with pumice lends some credence to that: the traditional French
furniture maker's method starts with flooding the surface with linseed
oil, and wiping it back before applying the shellac. If you do it that
way, you get a nicer appearance than you would from starting 'dry',
but, if course, we do try to avoid the damping of the oil on guitars.

To really get it to look like the Olde Boys did, you might need to use
a different resin than shellac, or, at least, add some in, to correct
the index of refraction. Still, the timing is about right; the
invention of the column still about the time of Strad's birth made
reasonably pure alcohol cheap enough to use for at least some
finishing. I usually do a quick FP fill on my violins, where it works
well to keep the colored varnish out of the wood, and cuts down on the
number of coats of oil varnish you need. A practical guy like Strad
would have appreciated those traits.

Alan Carruth / Luthier
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