Custom Violin #31 149

Completed March, 2015

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

This classical violin features some of the finest wood I've ever worked with: master grade maple and spruce hand selected and imported from Europe by John Preston of Old World Tonewoods. It's a real joy to work with such superb materials. It features a hand-rubbed aged oil varnish finish and ebony accessories. The sound is all that I expected from the choice of tonewoods: big, robust, and wonderfully balanced. This one's for sale at $5,000.

Construction Photos

The top and back wedges are jointed to a light-tight fit and glued together with hot hide glue. Matching maple ribs are ripped to width and sanded to finished thickness.

The ribs are bent over an assembly of variously sized pipes heated by a light bulb. Unfigured maple is also bent to the shape of the linings. Spruce blocks are temporarily glued to the bottom half of a two-part form with hot glue (the kind that comes in a stick and you apply from a heated gun). The blocks are cut and sanded to shape. The "C" bouts are glued in first with hot hide glue (the kind made from hides and hooves, and that Stradivari used). The protruding ends are sanded to match the curvature of the blocks.

The upper and lower rib bouts are glued in, and the rib assembly is set aside to dry. Linings are ripped from the wider pieces that were bent earlier. The neck block is squared and cut to thickness. This block is large enough for two necks, so I'll have a slight head start on the next violin. The peg holes are located and drilled, and the necks are cut to shape on the bandsaw. A centerline is marked around the edge. The ebony fingerboard is cut to finished length and shape. Locating pins position it on the neck blank.

Plastic templates are utilized to mark the beginnings of the scroll and peg box. The rib assembly, with the form still inside, is sanded to finished height on a flat panel covered with an abrasive sheet. The upper half of the internal form is removed. Notches are cut in the corner blocks to receive the linings. The points are sanded to finished length.

The linings are fitted into the notched blocks and glued into place with hot hide glue. The upper halves of the corner blocks are carved to flow into the sides. A washer and pencil are used to mark the overhang of the top plate. The plate is cut to shape using a bandsaw, then the shape

is refined on the spindle sander. The edge thickness is established on the router table. A power plane removes excess wood before the plate is fastened to the table of a shop-built duplicating router, which removes even more wood in preparation for hand carving. This device is also shop-built,

and begins to define the recurve along the edge of the plate. A Dremel tool is used to rout the recess for the purfling. The corners are cleaned up with a sharp knife. Purfling is bent over a hot pipe, using a damp cloth to provide just a bit of steam.

The pufling is glued in with hot hide glue. Carving of the neck begnis with the inside of the pegbox. Then excess wood is removed with first the bandsaw, then with chisels, gouges, and handsaws.

The cheeks are shaped with a sharp chisel. A handsaw is used to remove chunks of wood from the scroll. The outer line of the scroll is first defined, then the scallop, and lastly the barrel.

After the scroll is roughed out part way around, the lines are extended and the process is repeated until the full scroll emerges from the raw wood. The twin scallops along the spine of the scroll are formed with small scrapers of different sizes.

The scroll is roughly sanded. The neck heel is formed on the spindle sander. Rasps and scrapers are used to shape the neck. The edges of the scroll are beveled with a sharp chisel, and after some final sanding the neck is finished.

The outside of the top plate is shaped first with scrapers, then finished with sandpaper. The graduating plan is marked on the back. The top is basically of uniform thickness, with a thinner region around the perimeter and a slight thickening above the soundpost. The drill press is set to a stop with the proper gap between a wooden "finger" and a small bit.

Thicknessing holes are drilled over the top, with the holes stopping at the proper thickness. Wood is removed from the inside first with planes. When the holes have nearly disappeared, I switch to scrapers. It's time to set

up the laptop, the digital scale, and the calipers. Ideally I'm looking for a top plate that at a thickness of 2.8MM and a weight of 68 grams, vibrates at 310.55 hz. Since no specific piece of wood will have these exact properties, I'll juggle the three parameters to maximize the top's potential. As I approach the final dimensions, I switch to sandpaper to remove the final couple thousandths of an inch of wood. The edge is roughly profiled. The tuned top plate is as graceful and flowing on the inside as on the out. My final specs were an overall thickness of 2.65MM, a weight of 67.8 grams, and a tap tone of 313.86 hz (Eb4 +15 cents). This top is stiff for its weight and thickness, which I expected from the high quality of the wood. This should result in a responsive and powerful instrument.

I've really put up a lot of photos of this project, and I'm in danger of this page getting too large for some connection speeds. Go to page 2 of construction details.

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