Anton Krutz was born in Leningrad, Russia, into a family rich in musical history. Two of his grandparents were Leningrad conservatory graduates and both parents were music majors as well. Grandfather Lev Krutz was a violinist with the Leningrad Symphony Orchestra. During one of the darkest hours of WWII, he participated in the historic debut of the Leningrader Symphony by Dmitry Shostakovich. This live broadcast inspired all of Russia. Anton began making violins at age twelve in Kansas City, apprenticing to master luthier Earsel Atchley. (the first American to enter a Quartet in an International European making competition). He attended and graduated from the internationally known Violin Making School of America in Salt Lake City and then concentrated on the restoration of valuable instruments. Working in different prestigious shops across the country he ended up in the violin shop of Philip Injean across from Carnegie Hall and then with the David Gage Bass shop in New York. Anton later moved to Kansas City joining his father Misha Krutz. Now Anton builds his own instruments and enjoys an international reputation. His instruments are owned and played by many of today's prominent musicians.GeometryMy model, arches, and graduations are all based on "Golden Proportion" (.618) geometry, for centuries designated as a phi (F). Its presence can be found in the sacred art of Egypt, India, China, Islam, and other civilizations. Also many aspects of nature like organic life, the human body, lightning, and sound evolve through the laws of Golden proportion. The Cremonese used this knowledge in the construction of their instruments. incorporating the same principles in all my instrument's archings and graduations gives them a unison of voice that when played together is rarely heard."There must be no decoration, only proportion." Quote from St. Bernard of Clairavaux, who inspired the architecture for some of the most incredibly resonant acoustic twelfth-century churches.
GraduationsThe thicknesses or graduations of the top and back plates are very influential on the sound. Violinmakers start out using widely accepted standard graduations. With experimentation and experience they proceed to change their graduations by to thinning or thickening certain areas of the plate for desired acoustic effects. Most times separate schemes are developed for graduating the plates of different instruments.I took a different approach. I graduate my top and back plates using consistent patterens based on Golden Proportion geometry. This allows for uniformity of plate flexing and optimum velocity of vibrations throughout the plate. Of course the density and tuning of the plate is always taken into account, and the whole pattern is made geometrically thinner or thicker accordingly.
ARCHESThere are many books, some of which I have listed at the bottom of this page, that have been written on the Golden Proportion and how it was used to construct the instrument form. But until now there was nothing written about how to geometrically construct arches with the Golden Proportion. I am sure there are many geometric and mathematical paths to achieve the same result.Like most luthiers I have experimented for years with different grounds and varnishes. I've accidentally had cooking resins explode, blown a hole in my wall, caught my leg on fire, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. All in the name of finding "The Great Look!"For those not familiar with the term "ground"; it is the sealer that goes on top of the bare wood before the varnish is applied. As far as I am concerned, it is the most important variable in the finishing process. The ground is actually what gives varnish its luster, beauty, and a look of depth, as well as improving the sound of the instrument itself. The ground achieves this by a multi-process application: First, I apply an organic layer, which colors the wood, giving it a golden brown refractive sheen. Second, I seal it with a clear (fresco painters) casein. This is what hardens the outer surface of the wood, makes it impermeable to moisture, and most importantly gives it a coat uniformity.For example, imagine a mattress with individual coil springs. Those springs are like the cells in wood. If you lay down on the springs without having a one piece spring net on top connecting all of them, then you will only strongly compress the springs you're laying on. But, if that spring net was there, then your weight or force you were exerting would to an extent, be distributed among all the springs. The same concept applies to instrument plates, especially the top plate. Each note causes different sections of the plate to vibrate, so the casein film helps distribute those vibrations to the whole plate. Improper grounds are why many instruments do not improve and even wear out with time, especially the factory made ones which usually have no ground at all. Last, I apply a layer of fused amber on top of a fresco layer of lime. This accentuates the figure in the wood and adds dichroism, which is the bending of light as it enters (the ground in this case) and is refracted out.The emphasis of most books and topics of discussion is on varnish though. Its function is to protect the instrument, provide a colored transparent film to accentuate the ground, and not be constrictive to the plates' vibrations. The latter of its functions eliminates all spirit and lac varnishes. Those varnishes are as restrictive as a tight trench coat around an athlete.
That leaves oil varnish. The oil varnish I use now is a simple one of fused amber and sun-thickened linseed oil. Several lightfast (primary colors of) red and blue pigments and lakes are used for richness of final color. But there are tons of recipes and I sure feel like I tried a lot of them.
When I first started experimenting, the goal was to make the varnish rather than the ground have the refraction and dichroism, through chemical reactions etc. Since most of the authors were convinced the answers to "The Great Look" lay in the varnish, all kinds of exotic procedures were found to torture the varnish and its prosecutor as well. Many of the procedures were tedious, time consuming, and inconsistent. One time after five hours of preparation I overcooked some varnish by two minutes. It turned into unliquifiable solid mass.
INSANE! Its ironic how even after five hundred years of instrument making and countless volumes of written material on the subject, luthiers are still experimenting. Looking at other professions one can see standards that are followed. If a better process is discovered and proven to be effective, it then becomes the standard. Not so in violinmaking. Every luthier has their own personal varnish war stories and secret victory recipes.
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