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

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Violin Making 7

Over the past few weeks I have really plowed ahead on the scroll. Actually, I tend to get a little obsessive about projects like this and can be found doing this when I should be doing other things. Anyway, I finished carving both turns and the underside. I started off using gouges, but ended up favoring primarily the knife. I made a small curved scraper out of an old screwdriver to clean the corners really well. I can see why makers prefer using wood with a plainer grain on the scroll as carving the figured wood is quite challenging. However, carving is one of the places I tend to shine and I think the pictures will bear me out on that as I think the whole thing is turning out quite well. If I again make a Strad pattern violin I think I'll just buy a pre-carved scroll and do the finish work. Cheating you say? Well maybe, but I'm basically getting the same results with a lot more effort, I don't call it cheating, I call it divergent thinking!

Next step on the scroll is to hollow out the peg box, then I can start thinking about the fingerboard. Hopefully my rib pieces will arrive soon so I can finish the outline and move onto the top and back plate. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Violin Making 6

So as it turns out I was unable to repair the bending iron I got. Instead I just ordered another and it works fine, it's a little big to do the C-bouts well, but it does the job. The first step I had to take for the ribs is preparing the pieces as they came from the supplier. They start off about 2mm thick and 40mm wide. I need them to be about 1.2mm thick and 33mm wide. First I used a low angle block plane to reduce the thickness. This was challenging because the figured wood chips out easily (meaning chunks of wood get broken out instead of getting nice clean shavings). Once the plane was set properly it worked well. Then I used a scraper on both sides to achieve a more finished look and a fairly even thickness. The last part of the preparation required me to square one of the edges, then cut the other edge to get my 33mm width. 

The bending part was a bit trickier than I imagined. I ended up cracking my first C. But the second one went much easier. Going really slow and getting a feel for how much the wood can be bent and when are the keys to getting it right. It takes patience bending and re-bending before the curve is fitting in such a way that when clamped the ribs fit the edge of the mould more or less perfectly. Once the rib is fitting the rib only needs to be glued and clamped.

 scraping the ribs to get the appropriate thickness
bending the rib using an old belt to help press the wood against the iron without burning myself
the clamped rib
finished C-bout profile

Friday, March 4, 2011

Violin Making 5

Carrying on with the scroll I sawed releif cuts in the side of the pegbox and chiseled the wood down to my lines on each side. Then I repeated the process on the other side. Next I sawed relief cuts around the first turn of the scroll. The angle I sawed at was very important here because I needed to avoid undercutiing the sides of the scroll. Again I chiseled the wood down trying not to stab the chisel into the sides of the scroll. Getting neat and even corners here is quite a challenge. Perhaps a specially designed scraper will get into the corners and clean them nicely. Then again looking more closely at other violins I see that I may have them pretty good already. Also today I ordered the part to fix my broken rib iron so hopefully I can begin bending the ribs soon! 

 sawing relief cuts into the sides of the pegbox.
 sawing the first turn.
the first turn all chiseled down.

Violin Making 4

Things have started to slow down a little as the shop has been very busy (which is good!). However since my last post I have been able to begin work in earnest on the scroll. I cut out a template from a sheet of acrylic. The wood I received is just wide enough for the scroll but not wide enough to allow me to square the block (it comes in a sort of wedge shape). So I glued some remporary pieces of poplar on the sides and then squared it off on the table saw. Then I traced the template and cut out the scroll on the band saw. I was able to clean up the saw marks back to the line using a combination of disc sander, knife, and scraper. I have begun cutting and chiseling the scroll down to finish dimensions and I will post pictures of this when I get further along.

 Here's the template. It is clear, but hopefully you can see it.
 This is some idiot violin maker holding a clamped block. Can I just say...thank god for Quick Grip Clamps!
The scroll after being cut on the band saw.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Violin Making 3

I have not posted in a few days because I have been working in short spurts, plus the weekends are usually spent completing customer repairs and such. Recently I prepared the two halves of the top for gluing. The top wood comes from the supplier as a quarter sawn piece that has been partially sawn through to half it. This way it can be book matched (meaning the 2 halves of the same piece can be put together like opening a book). The edges that will be glued together must be perfectly straight and square so that the edges meet precicely and there are no gaps in the joint. Once this is accomplished the halves can be glued.

 Truing the edges of the top halves so they can be glued.
 The top halves clamped.
The top halves glued.

Violin Making 2

This morning I leveled the blocks on some sandpaper I glued to a piece of MDF. As a Strad copy the violin will have a slight taper from the end block to the neck block which is why the blocks need to be leveled. I then traced the points on the corners and the curve of the end and neck blocks. The book says to carve the blocks bit by bit with a gouge, but I did a rough cut with the scroll saw and I will clean it up with the gouge, knife, and round sanding sticks. Using the sanding blocks, provided they are perfectly square, I can perfect the curves by sliding the squared edge along the flat work surface. I am feeling very good about the pace I'm setting. I am taking it slow and carefully thinking through each step before I proceed and everything has worked out really well so far. When the ribs come tomorrow afternoon I can begin planing them. I can also prepare the top and back while I'm waiting and cut out my lining strips. The rib bending iron should arrive toward the end of next week. My gouge is scheduled to come Wednesday. Thanks for reading!

Here I am tracing the outline onto the blocks. 
The blocks have been rough cut and are ready to be trimmed to accept the C-bouts.

Violin Making 1

I intend to to chronicle the adventure of making my first violin. I have been considering making my own for some time but was inspired by a visit to a prominent violin maker's shop in New York City to begin in earnest. Along with years experience repairing and restoring violins and their relatives, I added to my library "The Art of Violin Making" by Chris Johnson and Roy Courtnall. This book goes into more detail about the finer points regarding violin making that other texts lack. So far I have spent about 6 hours making the mould and fitting the blocks. I chose MDF as the material to make the mould and am following plans for a Stradivari. It took the most time to cut out the outline of the mould as I went very slowly using the scroll saw so that I would have as little clean up as possible and so that I could use the outer cut off piece as a jig to hold the top and back in place while carving. Yesterday I received the wood I am to use including the back, top and purfling. They were supposed to send me sides as well but they forgot and are sending them along. I should have them by Friday. I already have a nice neck block and I will make my own linings out of spruce. I am waiting for some tools; namely a rib bending iron, finger planes, and a incannel gouge to carve the blocks into shape. I will try to post something after each session of violin creation and will try to keep up with photos as well.

This is the completed mould with blocks glued in.