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CT Scans Help Researchers Perfect Replicas of Stradivarius Violins

"...offers a unique method of  imaging a historical object..."

1704 Stradivari Betts violin. (Photo: RSNA via Daily Mail)

History's greatest violin maker, Antonio Stradivari, lived from 1644 to 1737 and there are currently only 650 violins of his left in existence. What's captivating about these instruments is the sound quality they produce, especially after so many years.

Stradivari violins are a quality of instrument that many have tried to replicate with little success, but some recent insight into the inner workings of the violin may help. There are many theories as to what makes the instrument play so well, such as wood type or treatments, but with so few left, these musical artifacts are protected from anyone wanting to pry them open to find out.

Here's where the researchers from the Radiological Society of North America and X-ray technology come in. The Daily Mail reports that the researchers spent two years taking CT scans of the instrument, getting measurements of every nook and cranny, to make an exact replica -- inside and out. It is perhaps what was found inside that is interesting to some.

The Daily Mail has more:

"CT scanning offers a unique method of  imaging a historical object -- in a non-invasive way," said Steven Sirr, M.D., a radiologist at FirstLight Medical Systems.

"Combined with computer-aided machinery, it also offers us the opportunity to create a reproduction with a high degree of accuracy."

To create a violin with the same characteristics as the 1704 instrument known as 'Betts' Dr. Sirr worked with professional violin makers John Waddle and Steve Rossow of St. Paul, Minnesota.


Dr. Sirr, an amateur violinist, first scanned a violin with CT out of curiosity.

"I assumed the instrument was merely a wooden shell surrounding air," he said.

"I was totally wrong. There was a lot of anatomy inside the violin."

This revelation may help not only to build cheap reconstructions of the violins -- but help design new generations of instruments.

X-rays my reveal clues to making a Stradivari violin

Take a look at the CT scans -- including an inside view:

The Waddle and Rossow took 1,000 images of Betts and converted them to files that could be read by a computer controlled router that would then custom make the replica. The replica was hand assembled and varnished.

x-ray scans provide clues to replicating Stradivari violin

In additional to being closer to better replicating the famous violins for today's musicians -- Stradivari in existence are not played --the men also see an application in the CT scanning to help authenticate violins and reveal damage. The Daily Mail reports that this summer one of the violins sold at auction for $15.9 million.

One last thing…
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