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Njål Bendixen

 

Posts: 65
Joined: Aug. 25 2016
 

Old standards of measurements 

Hi Foro

I am beginning to think in a different way. When I examine an old instrument I want not just to document the instrument, but to try to understand what the original maker was thinking when the instrument was made. Therefore, I need to know what system of measurements the old makers were using, lets say in Spain in 1850. Also, I need to know there were regional differences in various parts of Spain at that time.

I know that the metric system was introduced in Spain in 1849. This does now mean that woodworkers adopted the metric system right away. The metric system was introduced in Denmark in 1912, yet I know from my father, who was an apprentice as a shipwright in the Royal Danish Naval Yards in the 1950s, that woodworkers in the 1950s in Denmark had begun to use the metric system, but at that time they still preferred to use inches. So I consider it very unlikely that Spanish luthiers were using the metric system in the 1850s.

I also know that different countries had different inches at different times, and that sometimes there were regional differences inside countries. The English inch was 25,4mm. The Danish inch was 26,2mm. My first cabinet maker teacher had the theory that the English had a smaller inch than the Danes because they drink too much tea. The French used the pied du roi, 27.1mm, which was introduced in Spain in 1700. Before that in Spain were regional differences as various provinces used different systems of measurements. For some reason the Danish later adopted the English inch. In Denmark the inch is nearly obsolete but for example water pipes are still sold in inches.

I also know that there were 3 systems for subdividing inches. The old system had regional variations but the system used both in France and Denmark was to divide the pied (foot) into 12 pouces (inch), the pouce into 12 lines (lines), and the line in to 12 points (twips). It is a misconception that we use apostrophes and quotation marks to designate feet and inches. The ‘ and the “ are actually small Roman numerals. Thus, 1 foot, 2 inches, 3 lines and 4 twips would be written as seen in the attachment at the bottom of this post.

In 1826 the Imperial system was introduced in Britain. This is the international system inch system used today. In this system the inch is divided into ½ inch, ¼ inch, 1/8 inch, 1/16 inch, 1/32 inch and 1/64 inch. What I do not know is if the Spanish ever adopted this fractional system. In Denmark this system was introduced at some point and Danish people today are generally not aware that there was an older system based on divisions of 12.

The third system is the decimal inch system dividing the inch into 1/10th, 1/100th and 1/1000th inches. This is an industrial system, and I highly doubt that Spanish luthiers used this system.

Using a system based on divisions of 12 or a system based on fractions makes a big, big difference. The fractional system favours divisions of ½, ¼ and 1/8 of an inch, but does not lend itself into easily divide an inch into 1/3. The system based on lines favours divisions of ½, 1/3, ¼ inch but does not lend itself to easily be divided inches into 1/8. So people using these different systems will tend to end up producing things with different proportions.

Is this important? Well perhaps only to me. If I measure a large Torres concert guitar with my metric ruler, then it will have a body length of some 487mm and a scale length of about 650mm. If I measure the guitar with my English inch ruler, then it will have a body length of 1’7” 3/16 and a scale length of
2’1”19/32. These numbers do not make much sense. However, if I measure the instrument with a pied du roi ruler then the body is EXACTLY 1’6” and the scale length is EXACTLY 2’. This I believe is not a coincedence.

So what I really need to know is what kind of rulers did Spanish woodworkers use and how did they subdivide the inches. I suspect that they used pied du roi rulers, but I do not know for sure. Also I have no idea if they used the old system of subdivisions buy 12 or they used the fractional system of subdividing the inch.

If any of you have any information regarding historical measurements in Spain I would be very grateful indeed.



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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 2 2017 19:01:44
 
estebanana

Posts: 8324
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: Old standards of measurements (in reply to Njål Bendixen

I've worked on this problem as well around 2000 and then again in 2010- I think you are correct. The French influence on mensuration was strong, however I think there was a variety of regional systems for architectural building cabinet making, furniture etc.. and that guitar makers were a subset of those professions.

BTW I have not forgotten your hinoki, but this week was difficult to get it to the post office for a shipping price. Monday.

There is resistance to these ideas because the metric system has become so entrenched in guitar making since the 1960's - I can share some information with you privately, but let me check with the source first. I also arrived at the same conclusion when I began looking at the dimensions of older guitars and looking at records of older guitars such as the Torres instruments in the Romanillos catalog raisonne' -

The best information I could find came from the Berkeley library in CA, I don't obviously have access to it at the moment. I think what should happen to really research this is that a trip to Spain is in order to look at original source documents in city hall records, I think this requires some deep digging into record keeping in a sample of towns in Andalucia and then cross referencing the data to build a consensus on which measurement tools were used.

Such a study may already exist in Spanish in a scholarly work on mensuration, if a work comes to light I would sure like to know about it. But on the specific topic of what inch guitar makers used I have a hunch that the formal cabinet making guilds or professional association records are the key to this. In that body of record keeping, if such a trove exists, I think the best answers will be.

Knowing how sick guitar makers are and being that Sevilla was the hub of guitar making in Torres' FE, first epoch, I think the carpenters who made wood coffins and guitars were probably the same group of cohorts. Maybe the coffin shop was outside of town near the cemetery, but I doubt it. They had to put the body in the coffin, if one could afford a coffin, and then cart the body via procession from the interior of the city out to where the bodies were buried. Coffins must have been made on the trade sellers' streets, Calle Cuna? near the guitar makers. I have this surreal hunch that the guitar and coffin making trades had a revolving door. And that could also be the roots of a lot of jokes about Pied du Roi's and .....well anyway...Instead of precious over priced "church door" guitars, how about "coffin lid" tops- or coffin wood backs & sides - Cypress would have been a wood that coffins were made of. Left over ripped planks for coffin building would be just right dimensions for backs & sides to be cut from.


Be prepared to get a lot of skeptical push back or discouragement on this issue for contemporary makers, it's not a popular idea, although it is probably the truth.

I think we should tap Piwin to get busy and do this research.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 3 2017 2:20:11
 
nhills

Posts: 230
Joined: Jul. 13 2003
From: West Des Moines, IA USA

RE: Old standards of measurements (in reply to estebanana

I seem to recall something from Brune about the Torres measurements. I can't find it, but as I recall it had to do with using English tools and rulers, so that Torres's measurements were actually in English inches. Maybe I'm hallucinating, but...
Cheers,
Norman

_____________________________

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"I'm just a poor crazy man in love with his art." - Santos Hernandez (as translated by R. Brune)
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 3 2017 2:41:57
 
estebanana

Posts: 8324
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: Old standards of measurements (in reply to Njål Bendixen

Norman, absolutely, planes and saws very likely, and English rulers too. But there's one more angle to consider on measurement tools. In old times when the industrial tools we know were not fully developed and distributed yet it was customary for craftsmen to make their own rules by ticking off marks with knife into a lath of hardwood. They copied the rulers of their masters...

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 3 2017 3:34:29
 
Piwin

Posts: 3298
Joined: Feb. 9 2016
 

RE: Old standards of measurements (in reply to estebanana

quote:

I think we should tap Piwin to get busy and do this research


In the words of Steffi Graf: "How much money do you have?!"
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 3 2017 5:24:05
 
Anders Eliasson

Posts: 5780
Joined: Oct. 18 2006
 

RE: Old standards of measurements (in reply to Njål Bendixen

quote:

I need to know there were regional differences in various parts of Spain at that time.


I´m 99.99% sure there were regional differences in Spain in 1850. Madrid was very far away from everything else. I also believe you are going to have serious difficulties in finding out what, when, where but good luck.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 3 2017 6:41:03
 
RobJe

 

Posts: 727
Joined: Dec. 16 2006
From: UK

RE: Old standards of measurements (in reply to Njål Bendixen

This might make a good starting point. Apart from Spain there is a copy in the British Library in London.

http://www.worldcat.org/title/equivalencias-entre-las-pesas-y-medidas-usadas-antiguamente-en-las-diversas-provincias-de-espana-y-las-legales-del-sistema-metrico-decimal-publicadas-de-real-orden/oclc/17652522#borrow

Rob
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 3 2017 9:50:30
 
Echi

 

Posts: 939
Joined: Jan. 11 2013
 

RE: Old standards of measurements (in reply to Njål Bendixen

Maybe I'm a little superficial but I don't understand exactly the point.
I understand it's both historically and culturally important to visualise the tools used by Torres and maybe this would help to understand what's behind a certain building method.
Nonetheless I suppose that the point is to keep the same ratio in the proportions, no matter the metric or imperial system. Am I right?
At the end of the day the guitars of Torres are defined by certain constant parameters (like the thin sides, his way to do the linings, the non scooped transverse bars etc. ).
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 3 2017 13:00:00
 
Njål Bendixen

 

Posts: 65
Joined: Aug. 25 2016
 

RE: Old standards of measurements (in reply to Njål Bendixen

Echi

quote:


Maybe I'm a little superficial but I don't understand exactly the point.


There is no point at all unless you think it is important. I do, most people probably do not. When working in inches you end up with certain proportions. If you wish to maintain these proportions working in mm, then you end up with some rather difficult numbers to work with. So over time, the proportions of musical instruments have slightly changed. Favouring numbers that are easy to work with. There is nothing wrong with a guitar that has been designed and made in mm, but it is a slightly different thing to a guitar made in inches. Does this make any difference? Yes it does; but perhaps only in a philosophical way.

When it comes to documenting historical instruments, doing so using the system of measurements that the instrument was made with is just SO much easier. The same goes for any other craft object, such as window frames for example.


Njål
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 3 2017 13:35:48
 
RobJe

 

Posts: 727
Joined: Dec. 16 2006
From: UK

RE: Old standards of measurements (in reply to Njål Bendixen

An extract

https://sizes.com/units/vara_spain.htm

Rob
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 3 2017 15:47:30
 
BarkellWH

Posts: 3244
Joined: Jul. 12 2009
From: Washington, DC

RE: Old standards of measurements (in reply to Njål Bendixen

If your aim is to document and, particularly, to catalogue historic instruments, I can see where it is imperative that you know the system of measurement used at the time and place in which it was made. It would be important for both historical and structural accuracy.

Bill

_____________________________

And the end of the fight is a tombstone white,
With the name of the late deceased,
And the epitaph drear, "A fool lies here,
Who tried to hustle the East."

--Rudyard Kipling
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 3 2017 18:51:55
 
Echi

 

Posts: 939
Joined: Jan. 11 2013
 

RE: Old standards of measurements (in reply to Njål Bendixen

If you keep the same measures and/or the same proportions it doesn't make difference (nor improve the accuracy) if you do it in mm or inches.
I have some plans of Torres and read some articles and books about our man (the usual of Romanillos, the Waldner-Grondona, the Ullrick etc.) and for each source I have to rely on the accuracy of the author as it is unlikely I'll have the chance to examine and measure a Torres guitar.
As a standard all the measurements are in mm. I could commute them in inches or something else but this wouldn't make them more accurate.
Maybe it's just me though.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 3 2017 23:33:15
 
estebanana

Posts: 8324
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: Old standards of measurements (in reply to Njål Bendixen

There are two parts to this -

Modern Museum science and documentation in Organology, the study of musical instruments, is conducted in the modern metric system as an international standard.

Within the greqter discipline of organology an understanding of the methods of mensuration of a particular time period and region is essential to know as much about musical instruments as possible. To study the methods of measure gives further historical context for an instrument. And also reveals a deeper understanding of the Ur models and methods of construction.

We keep modern records in the metric system, but we study the mensuration systems of the past in order to gain deeper insight as to how the first and the successive instruments of any lineage are developed.

A great example of this is the work done in the violin field, modern work is done in mm, but period work was done in oncia- when modern makers and researchers began to analyze violins based on the measurement of the Cremonese oncia, or the inch used in 16th to 18th century Northern Italy, new things were learned about tools and design ideas in the period. It also contributed to the de-bunking of certain ideas of 'mystical' ratios that were thought to be inherent in violin design. It made analyzing the systems used for vioiln layout to make more sense to moderns.

Yet when a museum curator, registrar, donor and violin maker meet to induct a historical violin into a museum collection they will document the instrument using the metric system. That way the insurance company, the future curators, and those players the violin is loaned to will all be on the same page to identify the instrument. The curators and researchers will hold two systems of measurement in mind when doing certain design evaluation and talk about period or regional standards of measure when it contributes intelligently to the elucidation of the description and understanding of that violin.






The classification of guitars in organological studies under the taxonomic heading of 'chordophones'. Sometimes I think they should be filed under 'chodeophones' -

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 4 2017 0:00:10
 
estebanana

Posts: 8324
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: Old standards of measurements (in reply to RobJe

quote:

This might make a good starting point. Apart from Spain there is a copy in the British Library in London.

http://www.worldcat.org/title/equivalencias-entre-las-pesas-y-medidas-usadas-antiguamente-en-las-diversas-provincias-de-espana-y-las-legales-del-sistema-metrico-decimal-publicadas-de-real-orden/oclc/17652522#borrow


This was excellent snooping, and it so happens Njal is in London.

Clearly Barcelona was the place you wanted to be, the Baleares only give you a half cana, but in Bacelona you get full cana!







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Attachment (3)

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 4 2017 0:32:20
 
Anders Eliasson

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Joined: Oct. 18 2006
 

RE: Old standards of measurements (in reply to Njål Bendixen

So nothing about the south and south west of Spain. besides Almeria which is southeast. Torres was very far from any of these meassurements.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 4 2017 8:54:31
 
estebanana

Posts: 8324
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: Old standards of measurements (in reply to Njål Bendixen

Sevilla is here, but partially-

My California was measured in vara in colonial times and for many decades after!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_customary_units

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 4 2017 15:10:37
 
Njål Bendixen

 

Posts: 65
Joined: Aug. 25 2016
 

RE: Old standards of measurements (in reply to Njål Bendixen

Rob

quote:

This might make a good starting point. Apart from Spain there is a copy in the British Library in London.

http://www.worldcat.org/title/equivalencias-entre-las-pesas-y-medidas-usadas-antiguamente-en-las-diversas-provincias-de-espana-y-las-legales-del-sistema-metrico-decimal-publicadas-de-real-orden/oclc/17652522#borrow

Rob


Thank you for the hint. This book has been reissued acutally. I have just ordered a copy.


Njål
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 4 2017 17:50:35
 
RobJe

 

Posts: 727
Joined: Dec. 16 2006
From: UK

RE: Old standards of measurements (in reply to estebanana

Clearly this is why Torres had a gap in production between the first epoch in Seville (vara 0.836 m) and the second in his place of birth, Almeria (vara 0.833 m). Such small things can drive a man over the edge!

Rob
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 4 2017 17:57:16
 
estebanana

Posts: 8324
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: Old standards of measurements (in reply to RobJe

quote:

Clearly this is why Torres had a gap in production between the first epoch in Seville (vara 0.836 m) and the second in his place of birth, Almeria (vara 0.833 m). Such small things can drive a man over the edge!

Rob


This was before the invention of modern psychotherapy, he must have made many trips to the church to talk about the heresy of the incoming metric system, which no doubt traumatized him. The change in the vara between cities, the inroads the metric system was making on society breeding havoc and ill will among customers, I'm not surprised Torres suffered a full breakdown. A person can only take so much mensuration.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 5 2017 1:00:36
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 3126
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: Old standards of measurements (in reply to estebanana

quote:

ORIGINAL: estebanana

Norman, absolutely, planes and saws very likely, and English rulers too. But there's one more angle to consider on measurement tools. In old times when the industrial tools we know were not fully developed and distributed yet it was customary for craftsmen to make their own rules by ticking off marks with knife into a lath of hardwood. They copied the rulers of their masters...


In the early 1980s we hired a cabinet maker to remodel our kitchen. The house came onto the tax rolls in 1938. The plan was to rip everything out to the studs, take the floor down to the yellow pine 1 by 4s that lay atop the joists, and build a whole new kitchen.

My wife minored in interior design at university, and was good at drafting. She drew up a detailed plan and discussed it with candidate cabinet makers. In the end she hired a man in his mid-sixties, a descendant of Germans who immigrated to Texas in the 19th century to avoid the universal military draft of Bismarck and Kaiser Wilhelm.

He measured the entire existing kitchen using a lath, making cut marks and emphasizing them with a soft pencil. Then the old kitchen was torn out, the new oak parquet floor was laid, and the cabinet maker set to work.

My wife had drawn a lazy susan in a lower corner cabinet, to make better use of the space. The cabinet maker was non-committal about building it. Eventually we were invited to have coffee at his house one evening. His wife served traditional German cookies.

After a decent interval we were taken to the shop out back, and shown a working mockup of the lazy susan, made from scrap lumber. The cabinet maker's attitude seemed to be that he was now willing to entertain the idea. I had mentioned that you could buy one ready made, but he was unwilling to risk compromising the quality of the work.

My son still lives in that house. I admire the cabinet maker's beautiful and precise work every time I visit. The only problem I had with him was due to my frequent business travels. Every time I left, I waited until the cabinet maker showed up promptly at his usual time. Then we would have a brief conversation about the work, ending with my saying, "Mrs. Jernigan is the boss. You need not delay any decisions until I come back."

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 5 2017 2:08:32
 
RobJe

 

Posts: 727
Joined: Dec. 16 2006
From: UK

RE: Old standards of measurements (in reply to Richard Jernigan

quote:

He measured the entire existing kitchen using a lath


All measurement is comparison and this illustrates it neatly. We have a term "offering up"in the UK - perhaps it extends elsewhere. If you need to cut a piece of timber to fill a gap you "offer it up", mark and cut.

Rob
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 5 2017 13:27:30
 
Andy Culpepper

Posts: 2952
Joined: Mar. 30 2009
From: NY, USA

RE: Old standards of measurements (in reply to Echi

quote:

If you keep the same measures and/or the same proportions it doesn't make difference (nor improve the accuracy) if you do it in mm or inches.
I have some plans of Torres and read some articles and books about our man (the usual of Romanillos, the Waldner-Grondona, the Ullrick etc.) and for each source I have to rely on the accuracy of the author as it is unlikely I'll have the chance to examine and measure a Torres guitar.
As a standard all the measurements are in mm. I could commute them in inches or something else but this wouldn't make them more accurate.
Maybe it's just me though.


I mostly agree with this... it is interesting in a historical perspective what kind of measurement systems came to which areas when, but I can't imagine it being very relevant to the actual craft of guitarmaking or understanding the work of historical makers.
I'm not sure a luthier would gravitate towards a particular dimension of, say, a bridge simply because it turned out to be a nice round number in whatever system they were using. But maybe it could have some small effect?

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 5 2017 19:31:50
 
RobJe

 

Posts: 727
Joined: Dec. 16 2006
From: UK

RE: Old standards of measurements (in reply to Njål Bendixen

I went back an read your first post again and then checked it out. Coincidence or design? Then I discovered that my inside leg measurement is 2.5!

Rob



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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 5 2017 21:38:06
 
Njål Bendixen

 

Posts: 65
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RE: Old standards of measurements (in reply to Njål Bendixen

My point is:

I do not just want to document a historical instrument. I want to attempt to determine what the original maker was thinking. We all use number that are convenient, unless we have a specific reason not to. One thing I am certain of though. Nowadays people tend to think in terms of absolute numbers. In the past it was much more common to think in proportions.

People often offer flamenco guitars with different scale lengths. Typically a modern maker may offer short, medium or long scale lengths, and typically this could be 650mm, 660mm and 670mm. To us this is so normal that we do not even think about it; but why always easy round numbers? Why do we not use scale lengths of for example 648mm, or 671mm, or 662mm. OK, some modern makers do use scale lengths that are not round numbers, but most modern makers do use round numbers. We do this just because it easy. The makers of the past did the same, they used numbers that are easy.

It is a coincidence that Torre's favoured scale length of 2 French feet (649,66 mm) is so close to 650mm that people assume that the scale length indeed was originally intended to be 650mm.

This reminds me of violins. A typical Strad violin has a body length of between 355mm and 356mm. This correlates to 14 English inches, which is exactly 355.6mm. Then at some point Hills publishes a drawing of a baroque violin where the neck lenght is shown as being 5 English inches long (127mm) and this then becomes the modern standard for baroque neck lengths. Thus a standard has been created that never existed in the past. I am though 100% sure that the Cremonese violin makers if the 14th and the 15th centuries did not think in English inches.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 5 2017 22:54:17
 
constructordeguitarras

Posts: 1488
Joined: Jan. 29 2012
From: Seattle, Washington, USA

RE: Old standards of measurements (in reply to Njål Bendixen

I use my micrometer, which is in "metric inches," for measuring thicknesses of guitar components, such as soundboards, sides, backs, neck shafts, bridges and braces. I thickness backs, for example to 0.100" or 0.095". It's not complicated, nor is it less precise than using metric units based on the meter. And I have tables on hand for converting to mm when I want to. So I know that 20 mm of neck thickness at the first fret equals 0.79". No big deal.

But that is interesting about the whole numbers of French feet and English inches.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 6 2017 2:14:07
 
estebanana

Posts: 8324
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: Old standards of measurements (in reply to Richard Jernigan

quote:

He measured the entire existing kitchen using a lath, making cut marks and emphasizing them with a soft pencil. Then the old kitchen was torn out, the new oak parquet floor was laid, and the cabinet maker set to work.

My wife had drawn a lazy susan in a lower corner cabinet, to make better use of the space. The cabinet maker was non-committal about building it. Eventually we were invited to have coffee at his house one evening. His wife served traditional German cookies.

After a decent interval we were taken to the shop out back, and shown a working mockup of the lazy susan, made from scrap lumber. The cabinet maker's attitude seemed to be that he was now willing to entertain the idea. I had mentioned that you could buy one ready made, but he was unwilling to risk compromising the quality of the work.


That is great story because it not only illustrates the point of using laths to demarcate space and dimension, but you have a work of craftsman's beauty to enjoy and pass to your kids. I can imagine the German cabinet maker came from the New Braunfels area where the German immigrant workers landed and began a community South of Austin.

Even today a good stair builder or custom cabinet maker or carpenter working on complex wood trim jobs or old houses needs to use templates now and then. Carpenters now often keep a hot glue gun in the tools collection and use to to frame together thin plywood strips ripped down 3" or 4" wide. A Japanese saw, pencil, razor knife and a steel ruler are used to fit a template into a niche or shape that will receive a tightly fit bit of wood work. Templates built up with a glue gun and ply are commonly used to calculate things like stair landing shapes and foot prints for cabinets that fit into old buildings with skewed walls, etc. Lath templates and '3,4,5' trick can be used to lay out anything from a small house to a pyramid. Until good lazer levels became cheap about 15 years ago, 3,4,5 and templates were common layout tools and ideas. I still would lay out a house with patterns, carpenters square and 3,4,5.

3,4,5 enables you to create a 90 degree angle with the construction of a right triangle. The construction can be done with any type of measurement unit so long as they are uniform. One side is 3 units long, anther side 4 units long and pulling them together with one side 5 units long creates a 90 degree angle where sides 3 and 4 meet and make a corner. It's how you lay out the walls of a house or pyramid an create them square.

This is important because it is trick #1 in preindustrial instrument building when the luthier wanted to create a 90 degree angle if there were no industrially made T -Squares, squares or triangles available. Say you wanted to make a triangle out of a plank of wood so you could hold it up to your ribs to see if they are 90 off the solera....well you take the plank, rule out 4 units with a ruler, put a nail right at the ends on 0 and 4. Tie a length of string nail to nail. Tie a another length of string at each nail at 0 and 4. Measure out 3 units on string and put a knot or pencil mark at three. Measure out 5 units and make a mark. Pull 3 and 5 taut and together until they cross at the 3-5 point and drive a nail in there. Take the ruler and hold it against the nails and mark out a right triangle with a 90 corner. Carefully cut it out with your saw and plane to the line to clean it up and you have a triangle to check your ribs. That is how instruments were made before everyone could afford metal tools.

Older makers did tend to lay things out in rounder numbers on purpose, there is a lot of evidence for this in studies made on extant instruments with measurement systems from the periods they were made in. Ratio and proportion are very evident in design theory and practice. However a lot of the mystical ideas about numbers and proportion don't hold up under empirical scrutiny. A lot of the mystical stuff is just baloney. There are however a lot of ratio an proportional standards to be found on the Ur models of guitars. One of the most obvious to make an example is the Spanish concept of the bridge in the time of Torres and after. It was set on 2-3-2 ratio and used a measurement pretty close to a modern standard inch.

The bridge has a 2-3-2 proportion and hangs pretty closely to 7" to 7- 1/4" meaning there is 2 in of arm or wing, then 3 in. of saddle mound and another 2 in. of wing. Why was it set? I know why, but I ain't telling. Just yet. And there are several other geometries on the Torres guitar that translate into proportional relationships. Some ar staring makers in the face, but don't perceive them until they begin to reason it out or it's shown to them.

This why understanding the conceptual underpinnings of the history of design is important. A lot of ideas inherent in voicing the guitar as understood by the 19th century and early 20th century makers lie in the proportional values and why those designs were arrived at. If we transliterate those groups of measurements and proportional relationships into the metric system we lose track of the original intent. It does not mean a person can't build a fantastic guitar working from a metricated set of plans, but it does mean there is a loss of knowledge as to why the proportional relationships were created and why. There is not only historical and intellectual value in that knowledge, but also practical guitar voicing knowledge.

And in the end, it's important to stay in touch with original intent even if you go far afield, there has to be reference point to the past, or eventually the intent will be lost. In the case of violin making a lot of the intent was lost and had to be re-understood via backwards engineering the violin design with the oncia until the mission parts of the Cremonese style of layout were rediscovered. Guitar makers are much closer in history to the Ur sources, so why risk losing the meaning of the original intent?


Someone really needs to put together a book of essays by different Spanish guitar authorities that deals with this subject in depth. Romanillos really did a of work, but he missed some key issues and proposed a not so useful square cm of soundboard aggregate, that does not really serve much purpose. But I think a new round of essays on the subject of design and original units of measurement and related topics is long overdue. Were going to lose the concepts that the pre-internet generations learned unless more of it gets recorded. Unfortunately I'm not in position to do more research nor am I an authority with any weight or pull in the business, but I sure recognize the importance.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 6 2017 6:08:55
 
estebanana

Posts: 8324
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: Old standards of measurements (in reply to Njål Bendixen

1927 Santos- what do you see?



Images are resized automatically to a maximum width of 800px

Attachment (1)

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 6 2017 10:02:59
 
estebanana

Posts: 8324
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: Old standards of measurements (in reply to Njål Bendixen

This is an exterior design analysis that shows proportions between features.

The bridge is 7" wide, the top is twice that at a 14"

Bridge is divided into a 2-3-2 ratio 2" of wing, 3" of saddle, 2" of wing.

The top upper bout at the horizontal middle of the sound hole is 3 sound holes wide.

The waist is determined by dividing the body length in half and making two squares that are half the body length to form a rectangle. The width of the rectangle is waist width.

The lower bout along the horizontal of the saddle is 4 equal units that are half the width of the bridge- 3.5 inches. 7 plus 7 is 14 , divided by 4- there's a reason for that.

The string to string width at the saddle roughly correlates to neck width at body join. This is more close on smaller Torres instruments, but the format remains the same as it exaggerated on later designs.

The layout is not accidental. An old rule for finding the width of a top on a lute is to use the sound hole width to determine the width of the side to side at the center horizontal axis of the sound hole. For example if the sound hole is 3"wide the width at that section of the bout will be based on 9" - On the Torres model this thinking could be vestigial design theory from lute making handed through guitar makers. Remember in 1840 this information was passed from teacher to student by rote.

If you take a mature Torres plantilla and analyze the dimensions with these proportions in mind you get very close to the model and see why the concept is cohesive. The plantilla outline is a freehand drawing, but it hits general horizontal axis points determined by proportions of width. Torres backs are slightly shorter in length that the later Madrid school work so the back as two stacked squares which make a beautiful rectangle, the squares are more perfect.

The Spanish -Torres guitar basic proportion is this:
Upper bout three soundholes wide
Waist half the length of the back
Lower bout at saddle horizontal, two bridges wide.

There's much more when you look at the total length of the guitar and then compare inner against outer lay out. oine of it is accidental, it's got a logic that is reproducible by internalizing the proportional underpinnings. And couple that to the concept that the units of measure in the pre-metric world are based on proportion of the human body and you find the guitar is proportional in scale to the body. Ok, that is esoteric, but interesting. When you superimpose the metric system over the concept the whole thing goes out the window because the proportions no longer ring out in simple ratios that can be remembered and drawn with a pencil, a ruler, a compass and the 3,4,5 rule of geometry.

There's more...but I always get called an **** for pointing this out, so you decide.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 6 2017 11:40:57
 
constructordeguitarras

Posts: 1488
Joined: Jan. 29 2012
From: Seattle, Washington, USA

RE: Old standards of measurements (in reply to estebanana

Stephen--

That's beautiful! Thanks!

Funny thing is, though, the supposed Santos plantilla that is commercially available (included by LMII with kits) doesn't look very nice. I'll have to check and see if it corresponds to these proportions.

--Ethan

P.S.: But what units were you using for those shapes?

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Ethan Deutsch
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I always have flamenco guitars available for sale.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 6 2017 13:08:37
 
RobJe

 

Posts: 727
Joined: Dec. 16 2006
From: UK

RE: Old standards of measurements (in reply to Njål Bendixen

When I pick up any flamenco guitar I feel at home with its shape and linear dimensions in spite of minor variations – they all please me. In terms of the total mass and its distribution I get more pleasure out of handling a lightweight (say 1.2 – 1.25 kg) traditional peghead. I have to admit that the best guitars to play are a little heavier.


So how did we get to the linear dimensions and the ratios between these today?

(1) Grew out feedback from players regarding sound, comfort and playability?
(2) Based on simple multiples of the standard measures of the time?
(3) Driven by aesthetics to give a pleasing shape?
(4) A combination of all three?

In the past I have assumed the first of these. Now I am intrigued by other possible answers.

And how did we get to the mass and the distribution of this?

Rob
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 6 2017 14:10:04
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