Custom Violin #30 140

Completed November, 2014

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


This violin features all-European tonewoods and a hand-rubbed oil varnish antiqued finish. I had intended that this violin be for sale, but I like it so much that I've decided to keep it for my personal instrument and for a demo; other than a violin from a very early effort, I haven't been able to hang onto one of my own. The tone is clean and bright and vibrant, and one that I've been looking for.

Construction Photos

This build begins with the joining of the spruce and maple plates with hot hide glue. The ribs are thicknessed and bent over heated pipes of various diameters. While I'm bending the ribs, I also shape the linings and purflings. The corner and end blocks are temporarily fastened to the lower section of the internal form with hot glue. The "Cs" are first glued to the blocks.

When the glue holding the "Cs" has dried, the balance of the ribs are glued in place. The points are trimmed, and the upper half of the internal form is removed. Maple top linings are shaped, fitted, and glued in with hot hide glue. The top plus the overhang is marked onto the spruce blank.

The top plate is cut to shape. The edge thickness is established on the router table. Excess wood is knocked off with a power plane, and then even more on a shop-built duplicating carver. The purfling groove is cut, and the purfling is glued in with hot hide glue.

The neck is cut to side profile, and the fingerboard is properly sized and fitted to the neck. The interior of the pegbox is cut first, while the blank can be easily clamped in a vise. The pegbox cheeks are cut on the bandsaw, and then work on the scroll proceeds with first a handsaw, then with gouges and chisels.

The exterior of the pegbox and the outer edge of the scroll are shaped primarily with a scraper. When the neck is shaped and sanded, I return my attention to the top. The outside is refined first with scrapers, then with sandpaper.

When the outside of the top is finished, thicknessing holes are drilled from the back side. Wood is removed with planes and scrapers. In the final anaylsis, a laptop computer, a digital scale, and a dial indicator are utilized to evaluate the stiffness, weight, and thickness and arrive at an optimum top.

The f-holes are cut. The bass bar is fitted to the back and glued in place with hot hide glue. In a moment of inattention while tuning the bass bar, I remove one shaving too many. There's no remedy short of planing out the old bar and fitting and gluing a new one.

With the new bass bar fitted, I trim it until the top returns to it's original tap tone, before the f-holes were cut. The top is clamped to the ribs, and the dried hide glue is reactivated with a jet of steam. The internal form is removed. The neck mortise is cut. The back linings are fitted and glued in place.

The neck is glued to the body. The body shape plus the desired overhang is marked on the maple back blank. The blank is cut to size, and the edge thickness is established on the router table. A shop-built duplicating carver removes excess wood quickly. The purfling channel is cut.

Purlfing is installed with hot hide glue. The back's shape is refined, and the edge is shaped. Thicknessing holes are drilled from the inside.

Wood is removed with planes and scrapers. The same tools -- laptop, calipers, and digital scale -- are used to bring the back to the proper stiffness, thickness, and weight. Hot hide glue is applied to the mating surfaces and allowed to dry. Then the components are clamped together and the glue is reactivated with a jet of steam. At this point, the instrument is ready for final sanding and finishing. After a thorough sanding, the instrument is given a coat of dichromate. This goes on bright yellow,

but overnight chemically darkens the wood to a soft brown. A ground coat of golden yellow varnish is applied. Colored coats of varnish are applied until the desired hue is attained, and then a couple of clear coats are applied for protection. When all the varnish is applied, the instrument is allowed to cure for a week or so.

The area under the fingerboard is rubbed out with oil and pumice. A nut is fashioned from ebony, and the nut and fingerboard are glued to the neck. An ebony saddle is shaped and fitted and glued in place. The entire instrument is rubbed out with oil and abrasive powders. The tuning pegs are tapered to the proper size and fitted into matching reamed holes in the pegbox.

The soundpost is fitted and set in place, and the instrument is strung up. Final adjustments are made, and this one's ready to go!

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