Violinist and violin have a close relationship. Although the player seems to age faster, the violin does too!
One part of the instrument which is unwillingly shaped and worn through the decades of use is the button.
The button is part of the maple back being left as an attachment to the upper curve of the outline to reinforce and hold the neck in place. Original cremonese well preserved buttons are rare to find, mostly the details and initial shape have been rounded off and smoothed out or in many other cases an ebony crown has been fitted.
Installing an ebony crown can become a necessity if the button is too small and/or too low. The hight of the button determines the shape of the neck root and if too low neck heel strength may be affected or the look becomes an issue. I quite like the look of a nicely shaped ebony crown but the drawaback always is that original wood has to be removed through the process.
For my new instruments I don´t have any conflict with removing original wood, my crowns are part of the antiquing.
I would like to show a few photos of how an ebony crown is made and also some pictures of original Stradivari buttons with wear and with a crown.
Here is a slightly worn Stradivari button. You can still see the decorative comma cuts on the left and right where the button and the outline come together. The shape is completely rounded away and smoothed over the centuries.
This is an early Stradivari button on a violin from 1683.
Note how large the maple part still is and how off-centre the centre joint sits. Todays restorers probably would have tried to save an original button in this condition
Making a button crown starts with a piece of ebony about 6mm thick, I use a forstner drill bit to drill a hole on the pillow drill.
Here you can see the crown fitted to a violin of mine.
Since I fit the neck after varnishing the neck is still rough and slightly large to be reshaped after the crown is installed.
This is the same crown from above.