Recording arching profiles: Ahead of the curve

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Recording the archings of instruments is one of the most difficult areas of violin making and restoration. Charline Dequincey describes a method using dental compound which is accessible to anyone, and gives high-quality results

Computerised Tomography (CT) scans are very useful for violin makers, both in the process of making new instruments and in helping to understand the work and intentions of the classic makers. The technology was developed mainly for medical use but has also been used widely in many other fields. However, the equipment for this valuable process is expensive, and difficult to access for many individuals.

One of the most useful functions of CT scanning is to make cross-sectional ‘slices’ of a violin. These allow makers to see the arching curves in various places, as the profile changes constantly across the front and back plates. Makers often use these profiles to compare their progress while carving and refining the arching during construction.

This article presents an ‘analogue’ method of recording arching profiles, using moulding putty mounted on a thin backing. This method is readily accessible and the materials and technology affordable, unlike CT scans or accurate 3D-scanning technologies. Used appropriately, it is safe for the instrument and can provide more precise curves than a plastic profile gauge can record…

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