UK carbon fibre violin

October 12, 2010 at 12:33 AM ·

Hello everyone my name is Stephen, I am in the process of making a Carbon fibre violin. I am an Aerospace engineer and know all about carbon fibre but as I know little about violins I am being helped in this area by Peter Boardman peterboardmanviolinmaker.co.uk/
The making of the molds and construction of the violin should be easy for me but it will take a few prototypes to get the tonal values to Peters satifaction, once complete, as I work full time and this is a part time project I will only make a few to start.
I posted this on another forum and though it might be of interest. The prototype is finished now and there are a few vids some poor picture quality but it gives some idea of its so, there are 3 vids here
youtube.com/watch?v=KIwahwmkh-..._in_order

Replies (43)

October 12, 2010 at 01:54 PM ·

On Maestronet, I believe a gentleman by the name of Don Noon is also making carbon fiber violins.  He's an aerospace engineer and perhaps you guys can trade notes.   He sent out one recently.

UL

October 12, 2010 at 03:06 PM ·

 Actually Don had one of my violins.  He is not a fan. :-)  I attempted to darken the tone and got it a little too dark and into the tubby range.  If you are on facebook  you can lookup Rochon Violins and see the pictures of my experiments.  I also have some audio and video up on youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/user/ReardonViolins.  Send me a private message if you want to.  Not sure how many outside links I can put in before getting in trouble.

By the way I am a vibration diagnostic engineer for large equipment, so I think we could benefit from sharing.

Stuart Rochon

October 12, 2010 at 11:35 PM ·

 @ stephen

Good job Stephen, but I think you should paint the violin in a violin color and not black.

October 12, 2010 at 11:35 PM ·

October 12, 2010 at 11:43 PM ·

 I wonder if painting the cf would affect the tone, perhaps only marginally, but in theory the difference would be there.  I have no objections to black cf bows, nor to black cf violins or cellos.  I think the distinctive black could be a good excuse for talking about the instrument.

October 13, 2010 at 01:11 AM ·

Is there any reason you kept the cornices?

October 13, 2010 at 03:08 AM ·

 I would say don't paint it brown! I would even say that it's a bit of a mistake to make it traditional violin shape seeing as you will get more interest from those of us who are interested in non-traditional things. How about losing the corners like Luis and Clarke have. Scroll and f-holes could be non-traditional too. Knowing the violin world this sort of instrument would have more appeal to non-classical violinists. There is also the student market.

October 13, 2010 at 09:42 AM ·

Interested in all the comments as this is the prototype and could be changed. I thought it would be nice to leave it in its natural carbon fibre finish, I was also worried that putting layers of paint on would change the sound because as it is its only a fraction of the thickness of wood. It was a personal choice of shape, I looked at the others and felt the original shape looked best and as my mentor Peter Boardman (violin Maker) said, if they closed there eyes and picked it up it should feel and sound just like any other. I am remaking the molds to start making new ones and improve the finish which will have a glass type 3D look as you can see from some of the images of the prototype here. http://yfrog.com/ngpicture015jpj

October 13, 2010 at 12:25 PM ·

 From listening to the video, it has a very clean tone.  This isn't nessesarilly good or bad.  But a wooden violin has a certain buz to it, much of learning to play the violin is to find how to turn that buz into a ring, so you would think that getting rid of that buzz entirely would be a good thing.  But it's something that a good violinist uses and manipulates, such that some notes will be buzzier and some ringier... You should experiment with gluing very thin layers of styrofome or balsa wood to the inside bottom half of the violin.  This would mute the tone, but maybe it would also make it sound "richer"...

Here is another carbon project.  Note how ugly their model is :D http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9sHo2XEYFU&feature=related

 

October 13, 2010 at 12:52 PM ·

"Note how ugly their model is" @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9sHo2XEYFU&feature=related

 It is a prototype, after all – the second one if I understood correctly. They (NottinghamScienceCity) themselves admit there is a long way to go and it is largely by trial and error.  I notice that one of the comments raised the question of did it have, or does it need, a bass bar.  The bass bar in a wood violin has two functions – to provide strength (not an issue with CF, I'd have thought), and to spread the vibrations from the bridge across the top table; which is one reason that very old violins with a short bass bar don't produce today's big sound.

October 13, 2010 at 01:42 PM ·

Apart from getting the sound right the very first thing you noticed/remarked how ugly theres was, that was why I stuck to the original shape, I did do my homework on the translation from wood to carbon ie, stiffness factor-strength and maybe had a bit of luck also (it happens in Ireland) to get a good sounding instrument.

October 13, 2010 at 04:40 PM ·

I did put a bass bar in mine (using my scaling factor as in the other parts) and from advice from Peter he finished it with ebony fingerboard, tailpiece normal bridge and strings that he thought would suited it best (evah pirazzi) again so it felt just right for the player. A big thanks to Jonathan from plate tuning.org for his help Professional Classical player Alan McClure from http://www.irelandquartet.co.uk/  and Niall McClean http://www.niallmcclean.com/  both give it a good workout and loved it

October 13, 2010 at 05:26 PM ·

What is shifting like on what looks to be a glossy neck?  I've wondered, even looking at the L&C ones that I covet, whether shifting would be challenging on a surface that one's skin would be more likely to stick to.

I wouldn't paint it, but it might be something you can offer as an option for people who feel the need to hide the instrument's nature.  I'm not a fan of fake wood painting though, nor fake antiquing.  I'm not crazy about an instrument that effectively lies about itself, but I can see why someone in an orchestra might want something that doesn't raise eyebrows for the sake of people who listen with their eyes.  :-)

October 13, 2010 at 07:00 PM ·

About ten players have tried it and none have complained or noticed any difference, it has a very thin coat of 2k clear  which I suppose is similar to the finish/feel of varnish on wood.

October 13, 2010 at 07:24 PM ·

I have to say I listened and I thought it sounded dreadful, but it was probably the playing as much as anything. I don't suppose my comments will be popular - but it seems that it's always impossible to tell from these videos.

Get Hilary Hahn to play it and tape it and we will have a good idea.

October 13, 2010 at 07:51 PM ·

If you can get Hilary Hahn to play it, I will send it to her, I would love to hear and see her playing it as well.

October 13, 2010 at 07:55 PM ·

Cool.  I'm slightly curious about how a powdercoat finish on the neck would feel while shifting.

October 13, 2010 at 08:37 PM ·

There is another video a well known traditional player tried it for me, again as the comment said earlier its not ideal, recording on a small camcorder with a tiny inbuilt mic then the video and audio get compressed to upload to yuotube and it is played back on pc or laptop speakers. I will try and get a more professional recording later or Hilary agrees to have a go, meanwhile heres Niall McClean.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eM1feF2UTTI&playnext=1&videos=5vMkeOIgJMY&feature=mfu_in_order

October 14, 2010 at 03:39 PM ·

@ Janis -

I own a Luis and Clark violin and viola.  Shifting is very smooth and effortless.

---Ann Marie

October 14, 2010 at 05:53 PM ·

It would be interesting to see if these violins open up after being played a bit.

October 14, 2010 at 06:25 PM ·

Has anyone ever done a double-blind test on these things?

October 14, 2010 at 07:37 PM ·

If you are referring to the carbon fiber, they are very loud in their own right. 

When you have the conductor of a professional orchestra telling you that they could plainly hear the instrument you were playing above the din of the symphony, I think that says it all about projection.  That occurred when I was playing viola.

---Ann Marie

October 14, 2010 at 08:30 PM ·

 "they could plainly hear the instrument you were playing above the din of the symphony"

I don't think it's a good idea for me to use one yet in my chamber orchestra :-)

... but for solo cello ... ?  But then I'd have to discuss it first with my DFA :-)

October 15, 2010 at 01:37 PM ·

Exactly.  My instructor teases me about wanting that "big viola sound", but calls me a "closet violist" because when I play it at lessons, I "whisper" on it by just surface playing on the strings.

I played once with a local Symphony.  I had practiced the pieces I was playing to oblivion.  So, when it came time to actually play, I OPENED the viola up and let it project out.  Afterward, the conductor approached me and said,"You played all the right notes.  Which is good, because I could hear your instrument all the way up on the podium."

That was my first real eye-opener about how a carbon fiber instrument can project.

---Ann Marie

 

October 15, 2010 at 03:19 PM ·

Outwardly its the same size, but in thickness its wafer thin compared to wood but probably still 10 times stronger, I joke with people who have played it that its so strong I will take a picture of me standing on it im sure it will take it. (after everyone has played it first) Thats one of the benefits plus it is not effected by heat cold damp (good traveler) and will not crack split or deteriorate in any way should be good for a long time in original condition, no maintenance just a wipe with a cloth.

October 15, 2010 at 05:16 PM ·

There's a story on L&C's website about a cellist in New Orleans whose L&C cello spent a couple weeks underwater after Katrina blew in.  Needed new strings, soundpost, and bridge, and was otherwise perfectly playable.

I also have to say that, not wanting to travel with my viola AT ALL, I would love to have an instrument that I could check on a flight if I were absolutely forced to without spending the entire flight chewing my nails in fear.  The bridge might get broken or the soundpost cracked, but at least the thing would be in one piece at the end of a flight if I had no choice but to check it.  Wooden instruments wind up as piles of matchsticks in that situation.

Last, I like the idea of it being lighter, louder, and different.  My teacher tried one and had nothing but good words for it.  I'm definitely hoping to have one someday.

October 15, 2010 at 05:17 PM ·

Theres would be stronger than mine looks like that type is (solid) or a least sandwich construction where as mine is thin skin hollow construction but still very strong. I am remaking the moulds at the minute to ensure perfect cosmetic finish and after all feedback on tonal values are returned and and any small alteration are built in, I hope to make 5 at a time having the first ones ready for the new year,,,,I no,,why so long but ive been at this about 8 months now and want to get it just right.

October 15, 2010 at 08:23 PM ·

stephen mcconnell

Are you in London? If so I wouldn't mind trying an instrument.

 

October 15, 2010 at 09:57 PM ·

I live in N. Ireland but am happy to post out the prototype, its in England at the minute but need it back next week, a few of the players have invited me to bring it the the Ulster Orchestra rehearsals.

October 15, 2010 at 10:05 PM ·

I would rather it didn't get too complicated - and we have a non existant postal service in England. I just though if you were in London I could give it a quick try out, but I'm sure sooner or later I will come accross someone with one  that I can have a quick F# major scale on ...

October 16, 2010 at 01:11 PM ·

As I said the carbon violin is In England being accessed by a expert player builder restorer who  is going to help me make fine adjustments to get the best possible, as I am an aerospace engineer and not musical his comments will mean more to you people,

"Hi Steve:
 
                 I'll assess everything I can think of!   and get reactions from anyone who has a play or a listen to it.
 
The G string with it's Helmholtz resonance (about C# I think) is wonderful for slow playing, but is so strong that it loses individual fast ernotes on the G: the Bach E major Partita low notes become indistinct.  This only applies to the G and lower notes (E falt, F) on the D string. I'll have to think about how we might tame the Helmholtz a bit!
 
The A string is clear, and the E string is even better - maybe the best I've ever played: they play themselves. So easy to play fast runs."

October 20, 2010 at 12:46 PM ·

Apart from a little change, do not want to alter to much as its really good as is, the moulds are being remade to perfect cosmetic finish, so should be making these in a month or so time. This is what Jonathan added after he has had it for a week.

The violin as it stands is saleable now: it really does what it says on the box - it looks and sounds like a good traditional violin, but in sexy Carbon-Fibre.

October 20, 2010 at 03:37 PM ·

It would be nice to have affordable options in the Carbon Fiber material.  L&C is obviously a good instrument but still, based on my knowledge, much more expensive than necessary.  If you look at other carbon fiber instruments such as mandolins or guitars, the CF violin can be made to be excellent at a much lower price point.  Having options would be good.


What would you price yours? 

An interesting test would be to compare yours to the LC violins.

JT

October 20, 2010 at 04:05 PM ·

I would have no problem putting this violin up against any carbon fibre model,  as one player described it as awesome and if you look at the shape I have kept it looking as it should. some pics of the construction here.  http://img816.imageshack.us/g/picture032e.jpg/

As you say and I agree the price is overly dear, my target is £1800 about half of whats currently available and this takes into account 8 months research and development, I will be another month or so before the first 5 will be made.

October 20, 2010 at 06:05 PM ·

I do not know exactly what you mean, but I am remaking another set of moulds its hard to get this type of thing right first, but this time its to ensure perfect cosmetic finish, all this work is costly. The carbon fibre violins will be hand made by myself and then go to an experienced luthier who supplies and fits fingerboard, tailpiece, strings, bridge, knilling pegs and soundpost sets it up and tunes it, he has to be paid for his work.

October 20, 2010 at 06:23 PM ·

"it looks and sounds like a good traditional violin, but in sexy Carbon-Fibre."

 

I'm not sure that such a description does the instrument any favours. It surely can't compete with wood for beauty, and can only be competetive on sound. Unless it sounds better or equal to the best Italian/French or whatever violins - then it must fall by the wayside? It's advantages of course, but only if the sound is excellent, would be in its possible stability in extreme climatic conditions.

October 20, 2010 at 06:50 PM ·

You got it in one, its as far as violins go its indestructible, sure it can be broken but will take quite a lot.

October 20, 2010 at 07:39 PM ·

Top plate is layered up in its mould vacuumed and cured,,bottom plate is layered up in its mould vacuumed and cured the ribs are layered in there mould and a bladder is inflated to apply pressure and then cured, I have an old mould which holds the bottom plate and the ribs are bonded with 2 part epoxy , the neck mould is also attached to the old mould so the neck is layered up and cured which bonds at the same time to the ribs and bottom, the top with f holes cut are then bonded on to finish the shape

October 23, 2010 at 05:43 AM ·

In response to those who say these have to rival the best italian violins, it doesn't really.  The weather independent stability and durability is a huge advantage.  So, if it provides a better tone than wood violins in the same price range, it is viable.  It does not have to match the 'best' of the wood instruments which runs in the six figures.  Or even the five figures.

By the way, if you are going to innovate, you might as well just put on the perfection pegs for the easy smooth tuning and get rid of the fine tuners.

JT

October 23, 2010 at 09:23 AM ·

Yes perfection pegs where fitted,,because the pegbox sides are so thin the friction pegs would not have worked, but the perfection pegs work great and everyone likes them.

October 25, 2010 at 04:17 PM ·

Super....:)

 

JT

October 25, 2010 at 04:23 PM ·

You my have spotted the fine tuner on the E string, that was my violin maker friend, he put it on because he so used to and he wanted to keep the same feeling to the players that everything about the violin looks and feels just right.

October 27, 2010 at 09:49 AM ·

While the violin was away in England being accessed with an expert who is going to help make a few small changes he took some nice images which I have put up on the website.  www.carbonviolin.co.uk

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