Remaking a Stradivarius With the Help of a Little Modern Technology
It says something of a craftsman’s talents when their work is still universally respected 300 years after their death. Out of an estimated 1,000 to 1,100 instruments produced by Antonio Stradivari, around 650 survive today–the vast majority of which are violins. When they do change hands, they do so for millions of dollars.
Now a radiologist and two professional violin makers are working together to try to recreate a perfect reproduction of a 1704 Stradivarius violin. Dr. Steven Sirr, of FirstLight Medical Systems in Mora, Minnesota, and John Waddle and Steve Rossow have turned to computed tomography (CT) imaging to create a precise three-dimensional model of the violin otherwise known as Betts, which they managed to borrow from the Library of Congress.
The team first imaged Betts using a 64-detector CT scanner to capture around 1,000 images–which were converted into stereolithographic files and fed into a CNC router that had been custom-built by Rossow. The router was used to carve the scroll and the front and back plates. The pieces were hand-finished and assembled by Rossow and Waddle.
Does it sound like the real thing? Your author doesn’t know enough about the subject to judge, but Antonio Stradivari might have had one advantage that CT scanners and CNC routers cannot hope to replicate. There are numerous theories as to what gave his violins their unique sounds–they range from a period of low solar activity affecting the density of the wood, to a chemical treatment that he used to kill fungi and woodworm.