Stephen Rossow Steve Sirr John R. Waddle
Violin making is what John was trained to do at The Violin Making School of America, in Salt Lake City, Utah (1978-1981).
John is also part of an ongoing collaboration with luthier Stephen M. Rossow, and Radiologist Steven A. Sirr, M.D., on a project that uses existing and emerging technologies to explore the structure of-and ultimately replicate-famous violins.
Steve Rossow started doing repairs and restoration work for John in about the year 2000. Since then, we have developed some new techniques for making violins. Steve has his own website.
The three of us wrote an article about The Betts Stradivari, made in Cremona in 1704. The article was title :The Progress of Progress", and was published in "The Strad" magazine in May of 2010. If you missed it, and would like to read it, you can download a pdf of it here.
John has also written an article for Strings magazine on our process. It is in the April 2010 issue.
In April of 2009, John was asked to make a copy of a violin made in 1679 by Nicolo Amati.
The Amati violin was made available to the three of us for study. This allowed us to take lots of pictures, notes, measurements, and Computed Tomography (CT) scans. Years ago, it was called Computed Axial Tomography or (CAT Scans), but the technology has changed, and now the imaging is not limited anymore to just the axial images, so the axial designation has been dropped.
CT scans allow us to see the violin in ways that are not possible any other way. We can see not only the surface of the outside of the violin, but also the wood structure, and the inside of the violin as well. Density differences can be seen. Since 1989, with the help of Radiologist Dr. Steven Sirr, of Minneapolis, we have scanned more than 100 of the world's finest violins. Some of our articles on this subject appear elsewhere in my website.
Here are a picture of the label in the violin, and the Amati violin in the CT scanner.
A CT scanner is a device which can pass X-ray light through an object. As the X-ray light encounters areas of greater density, less light passes through. Differences of density are detected and shown on a computer screen. Images can be produced using specialized software. The data is digitized.
The Nicolo Amati violin is a fascinating violin. In 1679, Nicolo would have been 83 years old. His son, Hieronymus II would have been active in the shop, and could have done much of the work. The scroll was clearly made with the same pattern as the one used by Nicolo's Grandfather, Andrea. The pattern for the body was the same one Nicolo used for the violin known as the Alard, housed in the Ashmolean Museum in London. Nicolo Amati was the only violin maker in Cremona who survived the plague of the 1630's. It is interesting to have a chance to study this great violin.
Here is a photo of the mold for the Amati copy violin with the blocks glued on. The blocks are made of willow, just like the original. Steve Rossow made the mold for the rib structure from CT scans of the violin, using his CNC machine. This insures that the rib structure will be exactly the same as the original.
The next step is to make the ribs and glue them to the blocks.
Here, the spruce top is being planed flat prior to carving. The top will be two pieces glued together and book-matched. The block plane handmade made out of walnut.
Below, you can see the top and back in the clamps. These will be carved into the Amati copy violin.
Having the top and back joined and flattened, it is time to cut the outline and carve the archings. We are using a new process. We discovered that we could use the CT scans to make Stereolithography (STL) files which can be programmed into a computer which is connected to a Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) machine, which cuts out the top and back exactly the same as the original.
Here is a picture of Steve Rossow's CNC machine. Steve and friend Chris Ramirez have made the machine, and Steve has learned how to program it and carve the tops and backs.
Steve cuts out the top and back using the machine.
Here is what the process looks like. First the arching is carved,
Next, the outline is cut out.
Now the back is ready to be graduated.
The rib structure is completed now, and ready for the top and back to be glued on.
The top and back are close to being ready to glue on to the rib structure.
Here is a picture of the body, next to the original Amati violin.
Next, the Amati neck and scroll digital file was entered into Steve Rossow's computer. It looks like this;
After carving using our new process, it looks like this;
After some careful finishing, with the original Amati on the bench for visual comparison, the scroll looks like this;
Here is another view;
The new scroll is exactly the same size and shape.
Here is a picture of the original violin next to the copy.
The varnish process includes tanning the wood with UV light, priming the wood, sealing the wood, varnish made of natural resin and walnut oil, and some natural pigments. I am trying to make the copy look as much as the original as I can.
The violin is completed and has sold to the owner of the original Amati violin. For a fraction of the price of the original violin, he now has a copy that "feels the same".
Now our focus has shifted to making a copy a 1704 Stradivari violin known as "the Betts". See the "Betts Project" page of my website for more information.
Here are two pictures of the finished copy of the "Betts". This violin sold to a professional musician from Wisconsin.
Now having done a copy of a beautiful Nicolo Amati, and a great Stradivari, we are interested in turning our attention to doing a copy of a great Guarneri "del Gesu". Stay tuned.