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What are the materials used for purfling these days. As a youngster I used to think those lines olong the edge of the violin were inked and varnished over. Over the years I have cvome to understand that it is much more complicated. A shallow channel is carved into the wood along the edges and the purfling is glued in place and then ccarved and shaped flush with the surface of the violin. Obviously this is a skill acquired by quality violin makers. I read that in the early days purfling was mainly pearwood laminate, the outer layers were dyed a dark colour and the center layer a natural wood colour or, dyed to match the instrument.
My question, what are the materials commonly used to make purfling today and, is there any way yo determine what kind of purfling is applied to any given violin ?
Purfling is still made of various woods (the Real Luthiers will make their own with various laminates, dyed and un-dyed) and also of "fiber" which is a PITA to work with as it crushes and splinters and makes a mess with sanding.
"Cheaper" fiddles often have inked purfling lines, but there are some really nice fiddles out there with inked lines - it speeds up production.
AFAIK there really isn't a way to determine what kind of purfling was used. Age is a factor - older fiddles can be expected to have real wood purfling, but beyond that it's anyone's guess...
Mary in Lebanon, Oregon http://www.thefiddleandbanjopr.....dpress.com
Very interesting. Yes, I remember reading somewhere that there are some very expensive and fine quality violins that use inked purfling. I am finding the design and construction, materials and workmanship of the violin equally as fascinating as playing the violin. I would love to watch an experienced maker build one, or even to try to build one myself someday. Meanwhile I have to try rebuilding my old violin.
Purfling works by interrupting the growth of cracks since they like to travel along the grain of the wood. If that grain is broken up in some way, say by inserting another material into it, then the cracks a going to have a much harder time spreading.
Cracks are kind of like knocking over a line of dominoes. You tap one and the rest go as well. If you remove a couple of the dominoes and put a heavy book in the line instead then only those dominoes up to the book will fall. The rest will be safe.
It is a bit counterintuitive and under certain conditions the purfling could be a problem. Under the conditions a violin is normally exposed to, however, the bumps along the edge that create little cracks are far more of a problem. Those are what purfling is designed to protect against. I could elaborate more later but now I'm running late to class.
My own fiddle is purfling-less and has some cracking across the top and back that followed the grain from the edge. I'll post pictures sometime.
Purfling doesn't strengthen the violin. It is there to stop small cracks from going deeper into the plate from the edge. Consider putting a hole in the middle of a piece of paper and then ripping the paper from the edge toward the hole. When you reach the hole the tear stops and to continue it takes a slight more force to start ripping the paper again. The same happens when a crack hits the purfling, it stops.
I was probably typing while you were posting. I like that paper analogy.
In the post above I mentioned there would be cases where purfling might not work so well. Such conditions would include those where the wood was put under extreme tension or torque. This is why a traditional hunting bow would not have any sort of grooves cut into it and be retired on showing cracking. Under repeated loadings of 100 lbs, or more, the bow would eventually blow apart.
Violins, however, are not subjected to such extreme stresses and are, comparatively speaking, fairly static. Thus, you're not trying to get the absolute strongest wood out there but rather a wood that will sound good and support normal playing. Then the goal is to protect that wood from normal wear, which brings us to Kevin M.'s post.
In short, yes, purfling weakens the wood somewhat. However, this is a design choice that is acceptable because it a.) is still within the necessary tolerance for the violin to function (you don't need the absolute strongest material/design, you just need the material/design that is strong enough for the job) and b.) actually serves to protect the instrument by limiting the spread of cracks due to normal use.
An other way to speed up production could perhaps be making top and bottom without overhang, then a binding is glued all along top and bottom. Like on guitars only that the binding hangs over the ribs some mm:s.
I've learnt he purpose of the purfling is to prevent moisture from seeping in through the end grain. This "outside purfling" would probably serve this purpose better, as the moisture would be stopped even earlier.
As a bonus it would look very good.
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