Friday, November 18, 2016

New top for an old fiddle, part 3

Plunged through and cut the f-holes.  The terminal holes on each end are drilled first, and you're committed at that point.  Then, using a deep-throated fret saw, cut out the stems.  A little more thinning of the top, then trim up the f-holes.  This is nearly there.  Done for today, but will look at again tomorrow (on Monday) and finish up before fitting the bassbar.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

New top for an old fiddle, part 2

Making a new top for an old fiddle. The old top fairly badly damaged, and not really worth repairing. This is also probably not worth doing, financially, but I am using it as an excuse to try new things.

For example, I am not finishing the edges nor installing the purfling until after the top is attached to the body. So, instead of being able to use the edge or purfling for assistance in laying out the f-holes, I have to try to get them in the right places with less to go on.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

New top for an old fiddle, and 2 boxes

 Making a new top for an old fiddle. The old one came in with a 'repaired top' -- gorilla glue -- and after fussing with it a while, thought I might as well make a new top. It's an old factory fiddle, and the rest of the body is in not-bad shape. I had this chunk of Engelmann laying around. Since I've never used Engelmann before, thought it might be a good experiment. Noting some staining and a few sap pockets so far.

On the making-from-scratch front, I closed up two boxes last week.  Top is the 5-string, and lower a 4-string (normal) fiddle.  Working on cleaning them up, and starting the varnish process this week.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Carving spruce

After hollowing out the maple back, carving spruce is sinfully fun.  At this point, one can do amazing slices.

Nastiness will return while trimming the f-holes, with a knife, across hard-soft-hard-soft-hard-soft, but for now, the living is easy.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Arching, with lasers!

Down to scrapers on the back, cleaning up the arching, trying to blend in the channel around the edge, containing the purfling.  Lots of changes in grain direction to pay attention to.

Lasers used to be very exotic, but I bought one in a hardware store, used for leveling ceiling tile installation, among other things.  Pretty simple, and not sophisticated.  But it is another tool one can use to find the never-ending supply of bumps and distortions in ones arching.

Monday, September 19, 2016


Sometimes, one gets the feeling that there is more to be had with a particular instrument.  I finished this one this past February.  It was an experiment, in that I left the plates fairly thick, trying to follow the graduation pattern of the Paganini violin, Guarneri del Gesu's "Cannone" of 1743.  For example, the center of the back was about 6 mm thick.  More typical is the 4 to 4.5 range, and some are thinner than that.

I played it for a few months, not completely happy with it, though I am one of those who never is quite happy with a fiddle, so I try not to be hasty, but give a fiddle some time to develop.

But, in playing it, I felt there was more sound quality to be had.  This past June, I pulled the top and took a little thickness off the top.  It wasn't as thick as I remembered, so the modification was minor.  Put it back together and continued playing it.  Certainly an improvement.

I played this fiddle for several tunes two Saturdays ago, at the Boise contra dance, in an ADAE tuning.  It rang pretty nicely on those tunes in D major.  But with all that "A", I noticed even more the tendancy for a bit of a wolf on the open A.  Easy enough to handle with a little practice, but why should one need to?

So today, I pulled the top and am taking some of that thickness out of the back.  A fair amount actually.  Not overly thin, but a significant proportional change for this fiddle. 

I am curious to see the effect it has.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Fingerboard and back.

Working down the underscoop of the fingerboard with gouges, thumbplanes, and finally scrapers.  Nearly no one sees this, but it's nice to get the board to a proper thickness.

Using a template to check the long arch.

Toothed-blades in the thumbplanes.  It helps avoid tear-out on the flamed maple, plus, and I find this more important, it is easier for me to see the arching when the wood is not so smooth.  Sometimes that figure, when it's shiny, makes you see things, such as dips or rises, that don't really exist.

When the toothed-blade work is fairly close, finish off with scrapers.

Still a bit more to go, but I'm done for the day.

Thursday, September 15, 2016


Purfling on a violin is typically a strip, black-white-black, which is just inside the edges of the top and back.  It's made of three pieces, black, white, black, which are glued together.

First one has to cut the grooves for the purfling.

And then the purfling is bent, cut and glued into place.

On the upper left of this photo, you can see some of the cut-offs of the purfling strips.  The glue will dry for a day, then I can continue cutting the outside arching for both of these plates.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Beginning the top

I joined the top a few weeks ago, but just this morning did I get around to tracing and cutting the outline.  After working on hard curly maple of the back, it sure is fun to slice out big curls of spruce.

About 20 minutes of work with a big #7 gouge and a large thumb plane can remove most of the overhead on the top.  I leave the corners big at this point.  It's easier to get them into shape when there's less thickness to worry about, and a split or break near the corner is less likely to be a problem. The plate is about 6 mm thick on the edge at this point in my process.

Taking a break to tend to a few other shop projects, I came back to it this afternoon for about an hour.  Cleaned up the curves a bit, took the edges down to about 4 mm thickness, and started the arching.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Refining the outline.

Getting down to smaller tools, sharper tools, taking smaller cuts.  Getting the outline closer to the final shape.  Corners are always a challenge.  Starting to bring the arching into shape, comparing them to arching templates that I made out of paper and cellophane tape.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Carving a back, beginnings.

After splitting the billet and then joining the pieces, the 'inside' has to be smoothed.  I use a variety of planes, starting with an old Stanley scrub plane, sometimes using a small block plane, and finishing with a long jointer, mostly across the surfaces, side to side, with increasing thin shavings being taken.

Flattening is somewhat annoying -- most of it will disappear.  When it's flat, lay the rib assembly on it, and trace it.  This little bit near the tracing will remain.  That outside of it will be cut away.  And just inside, it will be scooped out after the outside is finished.

Figured maple is tough wood to work. Here is the same piece, flipped over, with a rough outline and the start of the arching.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Tool marks

Factory fiddle, no label.  Probably German, possibly early 20th century or late 19th.  In for repair, including a peg-box crack at the A.  Installing a spiral bushing here.  While doing so, I noticed file marks under the varnish -- tool marks from the original woodworker who cut this scroll.  Just thought it was cool.