What is the simplest way to build a 1/16 violin at home?

February 14, 2018, 11:47 AM · Hello, everyone.
I have her an almost-5-years old boy, who asks for his birthday a kit of tool to make a violin. ))) i understand that to build a real one is near to impossible. But the process will be more important. However, something somewhat playablity would be nice to achieve. Do you have any suggestions, ideas, and advises?

Replies (31)

February 14, 2018, 12:08 PM · If he wants to play the violin, rent a real one from a store. If he just wants to build a violin for fun, he could make a fake one with craft materials (won't be playable). I can't think of any specifics. Maybe YouTube videos on how to build a violin?
February 14, 2018, 12:27 PM · We have one, he takes lessons since he is 3,5. Now he wants to make a violin. We watched some videos on youtube. That's why he asks for a set of tools, we also visited luthier, who kindly showed all the steps.))) but we will also need wood and all the other stuff. There are plenty on market for 4/4, and I Googled nothing for 1/16. That's why i am asking.
Edited: February 14, 2018, 2:54 PM · Really? Make a 1/16 playable instrument at 5? If I were you I’d buy a cheap ($60) 1/16 violin, take it apart, and give it to him with instruction on how to put it back together! That will make him the youngest luthier in training ever! You might even be able to find some cheap Chinese kit in the blank for that matter.
Edited: February 14, 2018, 3:01 PM · Google "cigar box violin"

This is sweet:


February 14, 2018, 5:04 PM · Back in the 50s in Europe there were camps where kids build their own string fiddles they can bring back home to play. That sounds perfect for your kid if they still exist! Perhaps something that you can research on and let us know if you find out anything!
February 14, 2018, 5:46 PM · Cigar box is a good idea, as is disassemble and reassemble. You can probably buy a violin in the white and pieces and set up something violin like. The challenges will be pegs, nut, bridge and soundpost, endpin and fingerboard, but may well be playable. Maestronet they do more of this, and you have some woodworking skillz they'd probably be glad to talk you through parts of it.
February 14, 2018, 6:34 PM · I don't really know what's your purpose, really... anything you build is going to be really bad, it takes years of practice as a luthier to make something decent, and that's what they say all the time. I am a little confused...

Have you really watched videos on YouTube about how violins are made?

It's something a 5 years old won't be able to do at all. I challenge you to carve a scroll, and you'll see what I'm talking about. Then just think about making a decent neck, straight, parallel and contiguous to the scroll's vertical line, right in the middle. Then try to fit it in the violin body. I mean... come on, it's something completely impossible, be realistic. Only the son of a luthier, by his father's guidance and huge assist and check of the progress, I could see this as a successful task. But the hard tasks would probably be done by the father.

The idea of buying a cheap chinese violin, take it apart and then put it together seems the most reasonable, but I still bet it will be a huge failure. Yeah, it could be kind of educational to put it together like a LEGO, but the result will be upsetting, I'm quite sure, and also the violin is already made, there's nothing special about the resulting violin.

Edited: February 14, 2018, 9:47 PM · Take a 1/8 and cut it in half!
Edited: February 14, 2018, 10:19 PM · Tim,

Why so negative? Did you read the original post? No one is expecting this to turn out well - even the father. He simply wants to allow his child the exposure to the process and get him started in wood working. Without knowing the child we can't judge if they are mature or not enough to be introduced to something like this, but the parent can.

They aren't aiming for a perfect scroll, or an instrument that will fill a concert hall. They are looking to learn how to hold tools, work safely with sharp objects, and to follow a process to build something complex. Instead of thinking about the resulting instrument, think about the skills that need to be learned in order to produce it. How to use saws, knives, plains, how to draw outlines for cutting and how to work with glue and clamps. Life isn't about perfection, it's about the journey.

No need to be so negative.

February 14, 2018, 10:27 PM · Now thinking about why he wants the violin.

Maybe he is interested in playing a violin? If so, the worst thing to do is just give him some small violin to play with without a teacher. All he is going to do with a the small violin, were it fake but playable or a real one from a shop is going to be to learn the positions of the hands terribly wrong and make a lot of frustration for him when he unlearns the positions right later on. It is like making a child go up the hill instead of helping him on the way.
It really really is a bad idea. Even with a cardboard violin it really is important that the hands go right straight away. With violin playing there is a thing called practising right and that also applies to small children.

He is just the right age to start suzuki violin, so how about getting him a trial lesson and making him wait for that. Hell get a cardboard violin from the teacher first then.

If you want to build something together, try building a kantele or similar simple stringed instument.

February 14, 2018, 11:33 PM · Thanks, everyone!
I really like the idea to get a bigger set and cut it. Seems to be the simplest way for now.

To clarify for everyone:
1. We do have 1/16 already for real practice. Even 2 of them, as well as 1/8 for future. The topic is not about that we do not have a violin. It is about get in touch with the process. 5 years old children are not so patient in general, so I was looking for something that would speed up the process and simplify it. But not down to the level: buy one )))))))
2. My son takes violin lessons since he is 3,5 years old. So it's 1,5 years of lessons already. He is doing well for his age. He is very dedicated. He loves his teacher. (It is not Suzukki).

In general, my attitude is to give a child a chance to try to realize his ideas.
First of all, it is important that
1. He got the question how the violin was made.
2. Spent time on watching videos and photos
3. Went to local luthiers twice already, willing to help them ))))) and asking questions.
4. He did not drop his idea yet. Even after several monthes. He discusses with me time to time the process.
5. He asks the tool set for his birthday. So he values it more than toys. ))))

I think to try to build a violin is better than to play I-pad )))))) even if the result would be not a new stradivary. ))))

For us, the VSO that would be possible to bow and get some sound will be the success. )))

It was a good point about fingerboard and pegs.

I think for the first trial, i would use those from one of our 1/16.
The other idea was to 3d- print those parts: in paper or in VLA.

And thank you for the youtube link. Not bad idea actually ))))

Thank you everyone one more time, and if someone have more comments and advises, i would happy to get them.

Edited: February 15, 2018, 2:56 AM · Well if that is the case then go fir it.

What i would do in the same situation, if my similar age girl would ask for it, is to buy a cheap 1:16 violin (from flee market or such) and then break it down together with her and see all the parts. to let her feel what they should be like. And only after that start building a violin.

February 15, 2018, 6:22 AM · Hmm - starting with no previous experience in woodworking and having a violin as the first project is brave. It's like starting to play and having Paganini caprices as the first piece.
But since it is the expressed wish of the boy and he is showing persistance I say go for it. I have always encouraged my own children to try things. And make sure that you get small sized real tools - he will need a saw that can saw and carving tools that can cut. One of my children was given a "tool set" and it was utter rubbish - we had to throw it all away. Try to simplify the shape at first. Perhaps 3mm plywood would be a good material? Or if you want to carve it the real way use a softer wood like poplar or linden. I would suggest looking at using ukulele pegs. They don't require tapered holes. And perhaps even the shape of the ukulele head.
Have fun with the project. And do let us know how it goes!
February 15, 2018, 6:36 AM · A 5 year old, even though I am no luthier, shouldn't touch actual woodworking materials until like 10. Even though I'm in high school, some freshman nearly took his fingers off on the radial arm saw the other day, and we're all trained properly.
February 15, 2018, 6:39 AM · Actually if it's like knives, with you watching him, should be okay.
Edited: February 15, 2018, 7:41 AM · I'm going to take a different approach here. That child could have been me. My mother told me that when I could barely crawl I would crawl over under a friend's grand piano when he played and beat time. As soon as I could talk I was asking for instruments, and my parents got me every toy instrument I asked for (mostly wind--no percussion!). As soon as I could take lessons, I did, and now I've been a violin maker for 35 years.

I would buy something like this: https://www.howweelearn.com/spectacular-homemade-musical-instruments/

or some other publication about instruments for children to make. Not necessarily violin, but anything that could be played. Make them and build them, have fun. As it gets more complex, if you look you can find plans online for small plucked "guitar" type things that are very simple. Do that, too.

At this point, with the promise for more later, that might be enough.

February 15, 2018, 8:15 AM · What?
I'm in no way negative, I'm just realistic, and a 5 years old can't make a violin, period. I didn't thought about the sharp tools you need to use, but now that I've read it, yeah, that's another point. It would be quite irresponsable to let your kid play with those sharp tools, the knife to make the f holes...

Is anybody here serious about this, really?
I don't really think so.

If you want to pass some time with your kid making instruments, that's fine, do something like Michael Darnton suggests, that's a great idea. Just forget about the violin, really, it's like trying to make your kid compete in a Karate competition at 5 years old, really, it's not possible.

February 15, 2018, 8:28 AM · Kids are in the kitchen at 5. Kids sew at 5. I know I used some tools at 5. Some of them were even sharp. I am sure there are things at the craft store that could work.It doesn't have to be out of the same woods a violin is out of. Use something that is easy to cut - pine, balsa wood, card board. There is some new stuff sold to fabric people that is not fabric and is not leather but is used like fabric to make wallets and stuff. It might work for your purposes. You could use the plans for a violin and go through the whole process. It sounds to me that the child is after the process of exploring how one makes a violin, not after a playable violin.

Kids do compete in Karate competitions at 5.

February 15, 2018, 8:38 AM · Search "cereal box guitar" for a kid-friendly project you could probably adapt into a "violin".
Edited: February 15, 2018, 8:48 AM · I think this is a great idea, but I agree with Roger. Buy a cheap one and take it apart completely (except for top and back seams, those could be hard to put together again). If you want it ALL taken apart then you could just remove the strings and take the instrument to a machine shop where they have a vapor degreaser, and run the instrument in there with something like trichloroethylene for an hour. That'll strip the varnish too. Then all you need is glue (Elmer's will be fine) and clamps and some boat varnish or maybe even allow the child to paint the instrument in fun colors.
February 15, 2018, 9:54 AM · Thaks to all for your time.
Each of you has a valuabe insights.
I do care abut the safety, but he does his own stuff since 2,5 and he helps me in the kitchen. He is just interested in all kind of crafts. He is aiming to build a violin now, and it would be difficult to re-focus him))) believe me, i have tried hard )))))

Most proably we will fail. And it is fine. I just want now to increase chances to get something that would have a some sort of sound.

Thanks for the wood suggestion, and i think, i will use one of our violin as a template and source of all the other parts (fingerboard, pegs, strings etc).

To curve is not difficult or danger, actually. Not with knife, but with the special tool. You have your fingers behind the sharp part in a holder, and you move that thing away from you.
I was playing with wood and tools since i was 4, building and curving and decorating. I had my own swiss knife since i was 5. And i new how to use it by the time i got it.

But you right it can be dangerous...

February 15, 2018, 7:06 PM · "starting to play and having Paganini caprices as the first piece" ...

I've never quite seen that, but a late teenage near beginner who was starting to play Bach unaccompanied on his VSO (He was quite competent on the piano too) turned up to a church social I sometimes visit. I'd bought in an emergency and kept a comparatively decent cheap violin (a Piacenda), and was planning to swap it with him, but he never turned up again.

February 16, 2018, 11:39 AM · Actually Suzuki Book 2 students play "Witches' Dance," which is a version of Paganini's Le Streghe! So we introduce things and let kids try to do as much as they can do.

I think it shows wonderful curiosity and persistence by your son, that he wishes to make a violin. When my daughter was three she wanted to paint. I got her one of those books where you just paint with water, but you get to use a paint brush - I thought this would suffice, and I was also concerned about the chemicals in paints. She saw right through this and emphatically asked for "real paints." In the end, I wound up getting her acrylics! I'll never forget the way she spent hours combining the different colors, trying to match her own skin tone using white, red, orange. She was strangely "ready" for that, and her concentration and care really caught me by surprise.

Practice, at anything, makes us good at it. It sounds like you have the right idea. If he has to use a tool, then assess the safety and if it seems reasonable, show him how and supervise. It's interesting how, when a child is focused on an activity that he or she consider sto be worthy and "real," the child will step up.

I really hope that he does it! Will you write a blog about it, if he does? :)

Edited: February 16, 2018, 1:16 PM · I love that you are allowing your son to explore. I would maybe explain to him that to begin he must make something that won't sound the same as his violin. He can then later on make something he likes. This could lead to a rewarding career or at the very least a good educational experience.

I was raised in a surrounding where my father was into lots of projects and he let me play with the tools when I was in my early teens.I would be very cautious of letting any 5 year old play with serious tools. Case in point. The first time I tried wittling wood I had a sharp pocket knife pushing it away from me. I had my other hand in front of the knife and the knife slipped.There was a lot of pain and blood.I shaved part of my thumb away. I never forgot that lesson, but you don't want your son to learn that way.

He could loose an eye falling on a sharp tool. Harsh chemicals could easily be very bad for him. This all seems like common sense but a 5 yr. old doesn't have common sense yet. I wouldnt let my son within 50 ft. of any sharp tools until I was convinced he was capable and at that age he isn't. Just be careful please.

Edited: February 16, 2018, 2:20 PM · "5 yr. old doesn't have common sense yet"

And that can also be said of most adults I'm afraid. ;-)

I've also been known for chopping various parts of my fingers as a child! Axes and carving tools were most effective. I still bare the scars (and resulting arthritis) half a century later!

February 16, 2018, 4:05 PM · Children can be taught responsible use of sharp tools from an early age. As long as they're supervised, simple woodworking for a 5-year-old isn't unreasonable; there are (non-violin) kits for that age.
February 16, 2018, 4:38 PM · I know, so does everyone, that kids can build things, they do it all the time, but the OP wants his kid to build a real 1/16 violin, and I said there's no way he can do it, plain simple. You can teach a kid that it's dangerous to touch a sharp edge, but let the kid work with those tools for 100h or more and an accident is guaranteed. Violin making is not suitable for kids, physically and mentally, unless you're some kind of genius. As many have said, start with a wooden flute or recorder, some simple instrument, and years later you can try to make a violin.
Edited: February 16, 2018, 4:54 PM · Over the years whenever I had DIY project at home, I'd teach my daughters some basic skill that goes with it. And that's included power tools (saws, finish nailer, etc.). Some things are more intrinsically safe than others. Table saws are more safe than circular saws or chain saws, for example. They weren't 5 years old, but certainly under 10. I remember having a plumbing project one day and my older daughter (then probably 8 years old) was curious about it so I showed her how to solder fittings onto 1/2" hard-pipe with a MAP torch. Obviously I would have required her to do that a few times with my supervision before flying solo, and obviously she wouldn't ever do such a thing when I wasn't home.

When I was a kid my brother was the kind of kid who learned how to do everything very young -- power tools, etching his own printed circuit boards with acid, soldering, etc. Our dad was a chemist and we learned the importance of "safety first."

Kids can be very different. You just have to know your own child to know what they're capable of.

Edited: February 16, 2018, 5:34 PM · Lydia I haven't seen those kits. I'm pretty sure they are glue assembly, pre cut parts etc."Simple woodworking" being the disclaimer.That really isn't wood working that's assembly. Maybe pre woodworking :)

I've just seen too many bad things happen. It can happen to over confident adults too.

Watching the Three Stooges is funny. In real life it really hurts.There's enough bad going to happen to him just because he'll pick up sticks fight other boys and try to be a super hero. The real knives can wait until later IMHO :) I could give you a list a mile long of all the things that happened between 6 and 10 that really hurt and didn't always heal right away. Little girls are usually wired a little differently.

February 16, 2018, 7:55 PM · I combined clumsiness with an interest in building things, and chemistry, so my personal acquaintance with accidents is high. ;-)
February 17, 2018, 11:48 AM · Thank you all.
I will update you, how it goes. Anyway, I have now about a month to decide the process and purchase and pack the stuff. Then we will work at the summerhouse from April, I hope. And since it is not a quick process, hopefully, we will finish it by the end of summer before schooling. Let's see how it will be.
For now, I tend to use chip softwood from the stock to make a body, and then parts from a spare violin to install. I think that would be the cheapest way. I might come back with questions later.

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