Saturday, May 12, 2012

Makers Mark - A Compendium of Kerfing.

In the same way a 300 year old violin shows the masters cut from a chisel, the Weissenborn shows the marks of the machines that helped produce them. It is not bad nor is it lazy. But a sign of a maker who's tools were tuned to perfection and who knew how to use them.

While many aficionados refer to the different finishes or bridge design eras, under that is a story of industrialization, which shows how the Weissenborn was not only outwardly different, but being made differently.

The kerfed linings that hold the instrument together are ubiquitous, yet one of the most difficult parts of an instrument to make, and a classic example of Weissenborn's changing approach.

Weissenborn was a violin maker for the majority of his life. While many violin makers work out of tiny studio's, we know Weissenborn did not fit the mold and was becoming more industrial by the time he opened his piano repair shop in downtown LA.

Its important to note in the late 19th and early 20th centurys, the available machinery was massive and industrial. For the most part, the smaller 'home shop' machines we know today would not be developed until after Weissenborns death in the late 1930s.

1920s Machinery Ad.

So what was he using? While Weissenborn's ad refers to a large shop space of 1135 square feet, the instruments reflect work of a violin maker in the traditional style.

 Evidenced by the kerfing closest to the tail and neck blocks in the earliest instruments, Weissenborn glued the kerfing in full size, and beveled it afterward in the classic violin style using a gouge and knife. Saw marks on the kerfing and inside the instrument indicate a rudimentary table saw was used to rough the parts.

For the restoration of the above instrument, I had to reproduce a small amount of this style of lining, and here you can see it in the pre carved form. Interestingly this instrument was made using the distinctive white spruce, once common to the piano trade.  

When the Weissenborn Company Ltd opened its doors in 1923, production had grown and changed exponentially, and the kerfing was now pre-cut to final shape before being glued in. Here you can see the faint band saw marks produced during the bevel cut.

Mid 1920s spec reproduction lining.

By the late 1920s, Weissenborn's tooling (and finishing) had become state of the art for the time. Now you can see the kerfing cut from a tilting table saw.

 These marks are ubiquitous throughout instruments of this era, particularly the 1930s models were only the critical joints were dressed. The late 1920s models tend to have the linings dressed:

Ca.1927 reproduction lining.