Violin making is a 500-year old craft...
... and many of the steps that go into making a violin are still being carried out just as they were 500 years ago. The most direct way to solve many of our fundamental questions is to consult sources from the past.
Nevertheless, scientists have fortunately lifted the “mystical veil” from several areas of violin making and can provide clear insight into many of the work methods and materials that were in use during the classical period.
Certainly, violin making is not yet an engineering science, but at the same time we no longer have to regard our craft as something nebulous or totally mystical.
In the image above you can see an electronic thickness gauge in action. An electronic field strength gauge measures the distance between the magnetic ball (inside the instrument) and the measurement device, and transmits the data to our iPad.
That's extremely practical if we want to check a violin before repair, draw up a report on an instrument’s condition, or measure the different thicknesses of a model instrument to make a copy.
The LucchiMeter is a device originally designed to measure the stiffness of Pernambuco wood for bows, but it has soon become widespread among violin makers as well. A brief ultrasound pulse is sent from an emitter (on the left in the photo) to a sensor, and the time interval that the ultrasound takes to travel through the wood is thereby measured.
- an extremely practical method to help us discover hidden flaws in wood, and to get an idea of a certain wood piece’s degree of stiffness.
Actually, no CT scanners in “workshop size” for old violins are yet available. But a lot of old instruments have been scanned in medical ct-scanners so far and with each visit to the United States our CT scan archive grows, and it now contains more than 100 complete datasets from old violins, violas, and cellos. Thus you can now even take a look inside famous old instruments!
The printouts from this information are so rich in details that they form an excellent basis for our work.
- visit → Our glyptotheque
FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) analysis programs have been on the market since the 1990s. Large mainframe computers were still required back then to carry out the analysis; nowadays, even the hardware inside a notebook of better quality is capable of applying the FFT algorithm to analyze an instrument’s timbre or a tap tone.
This is really convenient when we want to ascertain the main resonances of the table, the back, the fingerboard, and other components of the instrument.