Rossow Stringed Instruments

Re-creating the Betts - CT Scans to CNC Replicas

I am part of an ongoing collaboration with luthier John R. Waddle and radiologist Steven Sirr, M.D., on a project that uses existing and emerging technologies to explore the structure of and replicate famous violins.

betts topbetts bottombetts neckbetts close up

Replicas of the Betts' parts, carved by Steve Rossow (click images to enlarge)

Waddle and Sirr began CT scanning stringed instruments over 20 years ago in an effort to better understand the instruments' anatomy and physiology. About five years ago, they joined forces with me on what we call β€œThe Betts Project.” Our project has worked to unite sophisticated, time-tested lutherie practices and the knowledge provided by CT scans of the Betts Stradivarius, one of the world's most important violins, with exciting emergent lutherie technologies - an area in which I have strong professional interest and skill.

This project has received national and international attention from musicians, luthiers, scientists, and the media. It was profiled in the May 2010 issue of The Strad magazine. Read the article β€œThe Progress of Progress” (PDF) for a description of the history and technology behind the project.

In the summer of 2011, we brought our work to the Oberlin Violin Makers Workshop at Oberlin College, where the world's leading violin makers gather to share information, learn from one another, and advance the field of luthery. The Betts violin was the focus of the 2011 Oberlin Workshop, and John Waddle, Steve Sirr, and I were excited to have renowned makers such as Gregg Alf, Chris Germain, Bill Scott, Raymond Shryer, and Sam Zygmuntowicz join us in working on a group project creating a copy of the Betts, using a top, back, neck, and scroll that I had carved using CT-scan data of the famous violin. The Oberlin collaboration, and the copy of the Betts that resulted, were highlighted at the 2011 Violin Society of America convention. Steve Sirr, John Waddle, and I were also chosen to present on our work at the 2011 Radiological Society of North America Conference in Chicago.

betts completedI have recently completed another copy of the Betts (see photo) and am delighted by both its aesthetic accuracy and tonal quality. John Waddle and fellow luthier Bill Scott have also recently assembled, varnished, and set up copies of the Betts, using top, neck, back, and scroll parts I carved from the CT data. Their instruments are remarkable, as well, and I encourage you to check out John Waddle's and Bill Scott's websites.

Steve Rossow
Luthier/CNC Services