Friday, July 15, 2016

Violin Making 11: Heading Toward the Arches

Though cutting the purfling channels was a difficult and tedious task- bending, cutting, and installing the purfling itself proved to be much easier and quite fun! One can make one's own purfling, but it can also be purchased pre-made and I saw no sense in going through those steps when the "standard" black-white-black is what is called for. In the picture on the left you can see the top with the purfling laid in place, but not yet glued. I used the bending iron pictured to bend the strips into the outlines for the top and back. On the top I used 6 pieces with a joint at the center joints because those areas get notched for the saddle and neck. For the back I used 4 pieces so that the only joints are on the corners. Once the basic shapes were formed, I had to carefully match up the two corner pieces and make certain each piece was neither too short nor too long. I did not opt for the traditional Stradivarius 'stingers' - where the outer black strip of purfling protrudes like a needle into the corner - instead opting for elongated corners. Being a person increasingly skilled at minute details like this, I found this no trouble at all. Gluing was just a matter of heating the hide glue, brushing it into the channels, and pressing in the pre-fit pieces. After the glue dried I used a small amount of putty on the top plate to fill in a few places where the channel was not quite perfect, this should be unnoticeable in the finished product. I am now onto refining the shape of the outer arches of each plate. This is also a time consuming task, but for some reason one I don't find terribly tedious, maybe because the more I work the wood, the more it begins really looking like a violin!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Violin Making 10: Back At It After Many Years Of Almost No Progress

So... my last violin making post was more than 5 years ago, yikes! In that time I have made some small progress, but have mostly focused on repairing and dealing. Recently I made my first violin bow, but I decided I really need to finish the violin. My real sticking point became cutting the purfling channels. For those that don't know, the purfling is the (usually) three stripe black-white-black inlay around the edge of the top and back plates of the violin. It is not merely decorative, but important structurally, acting as a binding to help prevent cracking. Traditionally the narrow channel in which the purfling is installed is marked and cut by hand using special knives and small chisels. Having just completed the channels on both the top and back, I can assure you it is every bit as tedious and seemingly endless as it sounds. It has taught me an important lesson- if ever I make another instrument, I go modern and use a routing set up to cut the channels- performing this task by hand is not my idea of a good time. The channels are now cut however, and I can begin the fun part of actually installing the inlay.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Glued Soundpost

Sometimes we see some interesting things. A very important part of the violin, viola, cello, and bass is a dowel of wood called the soundpost which is positioned beneath (and just behind) the bridge foot on the treble string side. This post can be adjusted to make minute (and sometimes dramatic) changes in the tone of the instrument. It is inserted through the top of the instrument through the f-hole using a special s-shaped tool called, appropriately enough, a soundpost setter. Like the bridge, the soundpost stays in place by the tension of the strings pushing down on the top. Sometimes the post is put in too tightly and will not fall down even when the strings are removed. Luckily we rarely see the post glued into place. As you can see in the picture above, the post is still standing even after the top was removed. There is never any reason to glue a soundpost, indeed it can be quite harmful to an instrument to do so. A properly fit soundpost will stay in place and will allow for the best possible tone. Once I even had a soundpost on a bass where someone had driven a finish nail through the top into the soundpost. Definitely not a good idea.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Major Repair Example 2

After separating the piece from the block I was able to rejoin the piece to the treble side rib using masking tape to pull the seam together from both sides and a counter form (padded blocks that fit the contour of both the inside and outside) on each face to ensure a perfectly flat surface. The results were satisfactory as you can see in the picture below.

The line from the break should essentially disappear after some touch ups. The back surface of the rib I reinforced with a material that I like to use that is strong, thin, and lightweight and should last the life of the instrument. The block glued right back in place and the rib glued to the block with the material in between. I simply feathered out the edges so the ribs joined perfectly again at the center of the block.

The top is also moving along with the large touch up areas. I sanded the areas with a very fine grit paper to feather out the edges so that when I start applying the color I get an even and invisible transition. If the feathering is not done, the color builds up on the broken edges of the finish producing a dark "line." After the sanding I applied a very light ground color, then applied a coat of very thin varnish to re-seal the wood. I can now begin layering color in thin layers with layers of varnish in between to get back to the original color. You can see the progress in the picture below.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Major Repair Example

I've decided to add an example of the kind of repairs we handle all the time. This one is somewhat dramatic due to the degree of breakage, but it does not go far afield of what we consider normal repairs. The added difficulty is the large areas of touch ups that need to be addressed. This is a "Florentina" violin that is nicely made and has an approximate value of $4000. The customer confirmed my suspicion that is was dropped.

 As you can see in the picture above, the rib has been completely fractured right at the edge of the end block (inside). The small piece that has broken off will need to be carefully removed after the top has come off.

You can see in the circled area above, is the largest area in need of touching up. The rest of the violin also needs touch ups to various degrees. Major touch ups like this are some of the more time consuming repairs that are done.

Below is an image of the violin after the top has been removed and the small piece separated from the block. The next steps are to cut back the linings, re-glue the rib, and reinforce it from behind. Stay posted for further updates on this repair as it progresses.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Violin Making 9

I've been wondering if there is a way to make this blog a bit less procedural and a bit more...well, interesting. I guess I have been hoping and waiting for this process of making a violin to teach me something more essential about life, but so far it has been just a more difficult assembly. That is not to say that I'm not putting "myself" into the violin, but the making process has yet to yield any wisdom. Anyway, I glued on the linings which are thin strips of spruce that double the edges of the ribs to strengthen them and allow more gluing surface for the top and back. I also began cutting out the outline on the back, a process which is harder than I thought it would be. Shaping the back plate so that it it an exactly even overhang all the way around the ribs while getting the back to look perfectly symmetrical particularly on the corners and c-bouts has been especially challenging. I think I'll get it though.

Linings clamped with home made clothes pin clamps.
Using a washer to trace the offset outline as described in previous blog post.
Cutting outline with coping saw.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Violin Making 8

What a week! I have made some progress on my violin, but some of you may have noticed that my website is down. Oops! In my attempt to change hosts things got totally screwed up. I hope to have everything back up and running by the end of this week. On top of that, yesterday, I sliced a bit of the tip of my index finger off trying to make adjustments to my jointer. Oooooops! So my luthier abilities are somewhat compensated right now. The violin making is still coming along though. I finished hollowing out the peg box on the scroll and the next step is to get the neck and fingerboard ready. I also finally finished all the ribs after receiving some extra pieces seeing as I cracked the last piece I had originally. Oh well, this is my first violin so I guess everything can't go according to plan. Lastly I joined the two back plates with great success! The joint is darn near perfect and after planing and scraping I am very happy with the results. My next steps on the body of the instrument are to get a washer that I can use to trace the outline on the top and back that will offset the rib profile by 2.5mm (I'll put up pictures of this to make it more clear). I need to make my linings and attach to the ribs. I got some wood clothes pins to accomplish the clamping of the ribs, I expect that will make nice pictures too!

 Hollowing the peg box
 Tracing the outline onto the top
The back plates joined, planed, and scraped