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Attic Strads, and Why What’s Worth Something Is Worth What It’s Worth

Attic Strads, and Why What’s Worth Something Is Worth What It’s Worth

by Michael Darnton

Originally published in American Lutherie #25, 1991 and Big Red Book of American, Volume Three, 2004



One of the most common myths of violin fanciers is the existence of the attic Strad. The chances of finding a valuable violin at a garage sale are zip (or less). In recent years the number of Strads and Guarneris discovered in this world in this way can be counted on about three fingers, and they haven’t been found in attics in Kansas. Check out places like ancient European monasteries and the country homes of nobility if you want to increase your chances of finding something good. In spite of this, every large shop has several people a week coming in with a really bad violin they have been saving as a way to finance their retirement. In addition, hundreds of amateur collectors have instruments they believe are valuable Italians, which are “prevented from receiving their rightful recognition” by owners of the big shops who either “don’t want to admit that someone else has something good” or “don’t know what they’re talking about.” They are right; someone does not know what they are talking about. It isn’t the big shop owner.

In the early part of this century and the end of the last, thousands of cheap factory violins were imported into this country from Germany and Czechoslovakia. Although some of these look and sound quite nice and are made of beautiful wood, they are still just factory fiddles. Since much of a violin’s value derives from factors other than the quality of the wood and the quantity of sandpaper used in its construction, like it or not those factors don’t mean much in assessing the value of an instrument. Certainly no one would appraise a painting based on the cost of the paint and the quality of the canvas, yet many amateur violin collectors use that type of criterion for evaluating their finds.

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A Method for the Design of the Guitar Body Outline

A Method for the Design of the Guitar Body Outline

by R.M. Mottola

Originally published in American Lutherie #97, 2009



See also,
Parametric Models of Guitar Cutaways by R.M. Mottola
A Method For the Design Of the Guitar Body Outline Part 3: Compound Radius Curves by R.M. Mottola



One of the most tedious and time consuming aspects of designing a new guitar for me is the process of designing the body outline. The body outlines of my early instruments were the results of many hours of labor, usually over the course of many weeks. This process was so time consuming that I would often forgo it entirely, opting to reuse an existing body outline as is, or scaling up a guitar outline for use in an acoustic bass guitar. But over the years I’ve settled into a method for guitar body outline design which is far less tedious and consumes far less time than did my original efforts. This method involves the use of a standard model of the guitar outline. Use of this standard model helps to make the process of developing an outline more standard as well, and this in turn has resulted in the development of techniques which save time and frustration.

In this article I will be outlining the model and discussing some common guitar body types in the context of this model. In talking about the design method which makes use of the model, I’ll try to touch on some of the generic qualities of guitar body outlines and how they can be quantified in terms of the model. Finally, some of the tools and techniques of the method will be detailed. Please note that what I am discussing here is only the mechanical aspects of a body design. Issues of acoustics or ergonomics are not covered. Also note that this method works equally well with either pencil and paper or CAD drawing tools, although there are some differences in how these tools are used.

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Curved Panel Templates

Curved Panel Templates

by Reagan Cole

Originally published in Guild of American Luthiers Data Sheet #80, 1978



Many instrument makers prefer to build guitars, mandolins and the like with pronounced curvature to the back panel(s). The most common method of fabricating a “vaulted” back is to work from a solid plug mold which must be carved and shaped to very exacting standards to produce acceptable results. The plug mold is in fact the best answer when one is building a number of identical instruments. The drafting technique I shall describe is a workable alternative for “one-off” projects or as an aid in visualizing three dimensional forms.

Begin by making a full scale orthographic drawing of the intended form. This will show the back and side views, but it is not directly useful in determining the dimensions of thin wood (or other material) to be used in the construction.

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This article is part of our premium web content offered to Guild members. To view this and other web articles, join the Guild of American Luthiers. Members also receive 4 annual issues of American Lutherie and get discounts on products. For details, visit the membership page.

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