‘Makers have been working blind’ - Cremonese archings

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Gareth Ballard presents a detailed method for analysing the various curves of archings

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Many violin makers, myself included, obsess about the methods of describing the outline of their instruments, but strangely glaze over when asked about the arching. I can only imagine that this is largely because they think it is unfathomable – surely not dull. In my opinion, it is the shaping of the arching, and the subsequent thicknessing of the front and back plates, that really distinguish a maker’s ability to produce a good-sounding instrument. These are the factors that govern the way the wood will flex. In this pursuit we look to the Cremonese masters for inspiration, although the method they used was never recorded or passed on to later generations. Some believe the Italian plague of 1629–31 was largely responsible for this break in the passing-on of knowledge, and there is some fascinating debate on the subject; suffice to say, violin makers have been working blind ever since…

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