Purfling is the black-white-black strip that runs around the edge of the top and back of a violin. It is typically made of three pieces of wood, dyed black (or nearly) for the two outside strips and dyed white (or nearly) for the inside strip. The violinmaker cuts a little channel all the way around the plate, then bends and fits pieces of purfling, which is then glued into place.
I just finished gluing the purfling on my latest --
The arching is incomplete here, as is the purfling, which still needs to be blended into the profile.
Purfling is a picky job. Because of a competition I'll mention later in this post, a friend sent me a quote from Biddulph's book on the maker Guarneri del Gesu. I received it just this morning, after I had cut and bent the purfling and channel, but was dissatisfied with my job, wondering what to do to clean it up. --
"The slot for the purfling is frantically cut. The knife slashed roughly along its intended route, leaving marks which career over the finished edge. The mitres are only approximately formed; the large gaps were sometimes quickly filled with paste, or simply left open. The purfling pursues a hesitant course, stopping short of the end of the corner, and meandering across the wide channel..."
Guarneri del Gesu is considered by most to be among the top two violin-makers, the other being Stradivari. This quote is in reference to the instrument named "Ole Bull" after the famous Norwegian violinist who owned it. It is reportedly a very nice instrument, and there is currently underway plans for an exhibition in 2010, featuring violins made on this model by living makers. You can read more about that here.