Custom Violin #29 139

Completed October, 2014

(click any of the thumbnails for a higher-resolution photo)


This custom violin features a red spruce top and European maple back, sides, and neck. It's a powerful instrument, with clean and cutting but resonant tone.

Construction Photos

Construction begins with the joining of the top and back plates with hot hide glue. The sides are sanded to thickness, and the sides, linings, and purfling are bent over hot pipes of various diameters. Spruce blocks are attached to an internal form with hot glue. The blocks are cut to shape, and the ribs are glued to the blocks.
The upper half of the internal form is removed, and maple linings are glued to the inside of the ribs. The outline of the violin plus the overhang is marked onto the red spruce top. The top is cut to shape, and the edge thickness is established on the router table. A shop-built duplicating carver removes excess wood, and the scallop is defined with a router jig.

The purfling channel is cut, and the purfling is glued in with hot hide glue. The neck shape is laid out on the blank, and the neck is cut to shape with a bandsaw. The inside of the pegbox is cut with chisels.

Carving of the scroll begins with the bandsaw, then progresses to a handsaw and gouges. The process is repeated on the second side.

The outside of the pegbox and the spine of the scroll is shaped primarily with scrapers. The neck is shaped with a rasp, and the neck and scroll are sanded smooth.

With the neck finished, I return my attention to the top. The outside is smoothed with scrapers and sandpaper. Thicknessing holes are drilled from the inside, and excess wood is removed with a plane. As the proper thickness and graduation is approached, the top is evaluated for weight, thickness,

and stiffness (tap tone) to arrive at the proper parameters for this given piece of wood. The f-holes are marked and cut. The tone bar is fitted to the back and glued in place. Then it's trimmed to return the top to its frequency before the f-holes were cut. Hot hide glue is applied to the mating surfaces and allowed to dry, then the parts are clamped together and the glue is reactivated with a burst of steam.

The internal form is removed. Linings are fitted to the ribs and glued in place. The neck mortise is cut. The overhang is marked on the back. The back is cut to shape, and a duplicating router is used to remove excess wood.

The back's purfling channel is cut, and the purfling is fitted and glued in with hot hide glue. The neck is glued to the body. The exterior of the back is scraped and sanded to shape, and the edge is profiled.

Thicknessing holes are drilled from the back side. Excess wood is removed with a finger plane; a toothed blade provides more control in this highly figured wood. Just as with the top, scales, calipers, and a computer program that analyzes the tonal characteristics are utilized to produce a back that is the correct thickness, weight, and stiffness. The label is glued in, and hot hide glue is applied to the mating surfaces and allowed to dry. Then the parts are clamped together and the glue is reactivated with a focused jet of steam. The instrument is thoroughly sanded, then given a coat of dichromate.

Dichromate goes on bright yellow, but over time will chemically alter the wood to a warm brown. A golden yellow varnish ground color is applied. The instrument is given a coat of pore filler, then allowed to dry for 24 hours.

Colored coats of varnish are applied until the desired color is reached. To aid in curing during this spell of cool, humid weather, the instrument is placed within a UV drying booth between applications. When the color coats are complete, the instrument is given a couple of clear coats of varnish for protection. The ebony saddle is shaped and glued in place.

The area beneath the fingerboard extension is rubbed out, and the fingerboard is glued to the neck. The instrument is rubbed out first with oil and pumice, then with oil and rottenstone. Perfection planetary pegs are fitted to the headstock. The end pin is reamed and installed.

The bridge and soundpost are shaped and fitted. Strings and chinrest are installed, and this one's ready to go.


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