Friday, December 24, 2010

Gluing the fingerboard


Over the past few days, amidst other projects, I started and finished the fluting around the outside of the scroll. One thing I noticed about the 1714 "Jackson" Stradivari I saw last summer was how flat the fluting was, that the sides came down quickly, the edges were sharp. I previously had thought of the fluting cross-section as a rounded trough, but seeing that particular one it was more like a rectangular trough with the bottom corners slightly filled. I tried to do something like that here.

Getting the fingerboard ready for gluing on the neck, I like to scrape just a little depression down the inside center, a little space for glue to move about. I don't like the trenches one sees in older commercial instruments, and I don't think that the "X" knife cuts do much good.


With not-so-fresh hot hide glue, I glue the fingerboard in place. The fingerboard is one of those pieces that is meant to come off, and the next person to deal with this fingerboard (possibly me, possibly someone else), would not be happy to find that I used very strong, hard-to-crack, glue.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Playing the contra dance with the new fiddle

Boise contradance band

For the past several Decembers, we've played the Christmas dance for the Boise Contra Dance Society. We have a lot of fun with it, throw a few Christmas tunes in the sets, and get good, happy response from the dancers. And this was the first public performance on the new fiddle, strung up last week (as described in the previous post). It worked, I could hear it, and I had no disasters. For a less-than-a-week-old fiddle, I call that a success.

Rachel sat in with us, on fiddle, and off to the right, you can just make out Dana's face -- she's playing keyboard. A fellow violin-maker, Tim Black, of Silverton, Colorado, was visiting, and got these photos with his cell-phone.

Fancy stepping

Swingin joint

Cellista julia

This last photo shows Gary, one of the callers (the other being Denise), as well as Julia on cello. You can almost see Bill on mandolin, and the left-hand of Tim S. on guitar.

And here's a shot of Tim Black and I, back at the shop, the day before the dance, holding fiddles we've made.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Strung up


Strung up the varnished fiddle today, and spent a while playing it. This is the fiddle last seen here --

I have a preliminary set-up on it, and will let it settle in for a few days, making adjustments. I'll try to get a video/audio up soon.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hollowing the peg-box


One method to start hollowing the peg-box is to drill a series of holes, with a stop to leave a minimum thickness at the bottom. I don't always do this, and don't know that it really saves much time, so I do it or not depending on my mood at the time. This is then followed by work with a gouge to remove the excess wood.


The pegbox is mostly hollowed out, a little final trimming left to do, particularly at the nut end (on the left in this photo), where I'll take a bit more out after the nut is in place. Next step is to cut the fluting on the bottom and up & around the scroll.


A look at the inside, with the top glued on. In part this is simply to show some of the internal geometry with the parts together, but also to show some of the tool marks. On this one, I'm just leaving them as is. Easiest to see, I think, are the knife cuts in the ribs when I trimmed the linings. Between those, on the c-bout rib, you can also see the toothed-plane grooves left when I thinned the wood down before bending. And you can see a few gouge marks in the corner block, where I worked it down to shape. These tool marks are removed from the outside, where they can be seen, but inside, I don't think they affect the instrument's tone or response.

Bruce Carlson has posted some nice photos of Guarneri del Gesu interiors on Maestronet, including this one, which shows some of the toothed-plane marks --



Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Gluing the top on; Jackson-Sloan Stradivari


Following advice of Oded Kishony, I'm going to fit the neck to the body before gluing the back to the ribs. To glue the top to the ribs, though, I need to get the form out. I trimmed the linings last night, and this morning I took out the form. It appears to be a problem, but just split the corner blocks on the diagonal, knock the end and neck blocks loose, and you can spread the ribs taking the form out.

A word about the chisel with the plastic handle. It's cheap. I bought it over 30 years ago when I was doing carpenter work and carried it about in my leather work-apron. In my violin work, I find it pretty handy for scraping old hide glue and other destructive tasks. It takes a quick edge, though it doesn't last, and is the right size for splitting out blocks.

After the form is out, I trim the blocks to their final shape.


Here's the top glued to the ribs. Next step is to finish up the neck, then fit it.


With the glue hot, I decided to add the label to the back. Here it reads: Inspired by Antonio Stradivari 1714 "Jackson-Sloan" Nampa 2010. Inspired here really means in the more artistic sense, and certainly not a copy.


This past June, at the Southern California Violin-Makers Workshop, I got to play the 1714 "Jackson" Strad, as well as a 1742 Guarneri del Gesu, both owned by Doc Bill Sloan. A tremendous experience, I was particularly taken by the Strad. I was also surprised by its appearance, being much higher arched than I would have expected out of a Stradivari. We were able to really look over these instruments, and estimated the Strad top arch at 18 mm, and what appeared to me to be very steep arching. The e-string on this Strad was simply amazing. Anyway, I tried to follow a similar arching concept, without having anything like arching diagrams, just my memory. Hence, "inspired by."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Shaping the bass bar

I fit the bass bar to the inside of the top yesterday, and glued it in place. Today, the fun part of trimming it down to shape. I get a kick out of running the thumbplane along the upper edge and taking off long curls of spruce.


Here's the finished bassbar. This one has a somewhat higher arching than my last fiddle, which also shows up in the shape of the bar. After rounding the outer edge, I'll glue the top plate onto the rib assembly.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Bru


The reason I'm interested in making violins is because I like music: making, listening to, and dancing to. Here's the band I'm in, the Bru.

My daughter, starting her business as a photographer, took our photo after we performed in a St. Andrew's Day service last Sunday in Boise. In addition to the photo being taken by my daughter, the kilt I'm wearing was made by my sister, and the fiddle was made by me.

From left to right we have Bill, a long-time friend of mine, whom I've spent many a day tracking the mountains for deer and elk with flintlock in hand, Julia on cello, new to the band, and a good influence musically, myself, Dana, who usually plays piano, but occasionally graces us with her fine voice and guitar, and Tim, a piper, guitarist, whistle-playing accordionist -- pretty much anything he gets his hands on.

It's a fun group.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cutting f-holes


Spent a couple hours cutting f-holes today. I carefully layout the stems, since the terminal holes are already drilled, and then basically cut the treble side carefully until a soundpost will fit through. Then I cut the bass side. And I try to make them match. One of the discussions that often pops up on violin-making forums are whether, when following the design of a classic violin, whether one should try to copy the asymmetry present, and whether it was due to design, or error, or age. I'm not that far along. I make my design as symmetric as I can, and the asymmetries come in on their own! :-)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dang it!

I had started the hollowing of the back, as with the front, and then got down to the point of using my drill press to map out the basic graduation scheme. I had just seen a photo of another fellow doing the same thing, except with about a 1/4 inch drill-bit. I always had used a 1/16 or 3/32. Had a 1/8th bit in place, so left it there.

Here's my basic set-up.


Going around the edge, I felt the stop slip, and the drill just broke through the outside. It's the hole at about 10:30, with light showing through. The hole at the top, almost out of the photo, is the registration pin hole, and meant to be there. I think the thinner drill bit requires less downward pressure, and is therefore less likely to cause the stop setting to slip.


So, my first thought was to fill the hole with a dowel. Then I started thinking (a dangerous thing, really) that I wanted wood that matched better, particularly the direction of the grain. A dowel would have the grain perpendicular to the grain of the back. So I evacuated a roughly oval shaped area, found a piece of maple that had been cut-off from this back, and started to shape it to fit. The four little blocks are glued around the hole to make sure I put the patch down exactly the same way each time.


After spending way too much time fitting this patch, using chalk dust to see where it touched and where it didn't, I finally got to the point that I thought it might work. Fired up the glue pot and used fresh, thick hide glue.


Here's the area with blocks removed and the overhead of the patch removed. You can see the outline of the patch, but it appears solid. I didn't worry about matching the grain exactly -- the outside hole is about the diameter of a pencil lead -- but at least it's the same wood.


Actually, in retrospect, I might have been just as well to use a dowel.

With all that nonsense out of the way, I am now back to getting the top to its proper thickness.