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The Making of a Violin: The Making of A Luthier

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Published: November 15, 2014 at 11:35 AM [UTC]

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The Scroll and Ribs continued ....

In the making of the scroll, I am discovering that to be a luthier, I will be using many disciplines such as: chemist, woodworker using hand tools, and an artist, in order to complete what many people call - the closest musical instrument to the human voice.

I now have only a rough outline of the scroll. But, armed with my measurements for the scroll length, eye to eye distance, and layer by layer angles and depth measurements I am wanting to start cutting and shaping wood. However, John has other ideas. John wants me to study scrolls, from Amati, Stradivari, Stainer, and others. I need to learn to take those measurements and make them flow seamlessly together.

After studying scrolls shapes, from the Old Italians, I began to sketch my scroll based on the measurements I took from the original violin. At first simple lines, then finer details, all with the finest examples in front of me. John and I talked over drawing negative space, comparing eye shapes from many makers and always referring back to the original violin which I am basing this violin upon. A couple of days later, we agree on a good design that is both pleasing to the eye and in keeping with original design.

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As the scroll took shape I soon discovered that my design will mean that I will need to now make specific scapers to obtain work in the tighter quarters around the scroll's eyes.

As you carve the the scroll you first start with saws and large chisels. And you work closer to your measurements the tools become smaller and finer. I'm working slowly on the scroll making sure I'm only removing the 'grizzle'.

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As you can see in the next photograph, the C bouts are glued into place. The C bouts are the most difficult, of the ribs to form and glue into place. And, some say the most important. Corners are tight, two curves that needto be blended together and all four corners need to be the same size.

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Because my wood is highly flamed and is +120 years old, I have soaked the ribs for about a hour. While I'm waiting I'll continue working on the scroll. I hate sitting on my hands and watching a kettle boil.

I'm heating the bending iron to 175 degrees and I'll be using hide glue at about 160 degrees. When actually bending the ribs the back of the ribs needs a tin strap with handles not only to prevent my hands from burning but also to help prevent the wood from ripping apart as I bend the ribs into shape.

An absolute perfect contact, with the corner blocks is a must. Before glueing into place I'll practice to be sure all goes well. Which of course is nice when it happens but rarely does.

Have a look at the photograph below and I'm sure you can see which side gave us the most trouble.

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After the glue is dry, 24 hours, I cut back the ribs to length (be sure all corneas are exactly the same length, are 90 degrees, and they are the shape of ski slopes. Easy, eh!

I've now glued the upper bout ribs,into the place, making sure there are no gaps along the edges where the upper and C bouts meet.

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The next two weeks finds me at work on the lower ribs, rib liners, scroll, and the center joint for the spruce top. Since the weather is turning I'll put some hot chocolate over the fire for you when you next drop by for a visit.

Reader's Question

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I've been asked, from a previous post, about a few of the tools I've been using for the shaping of the scroll. Here is a picture of the picture of a few of those tools, along with a bandsaw, and those scrapers I made by hand in order to shape the scroll - so far. Keep the questions and comments coming. I enjoy the feed back.

Posted on November 19, 2014 at 4:14 PM
Hi Ray,

Thanks so much for this blog. It's a total insider's view of how a violin is made and what goes through the maker's mind in the process. What a treat!

Looking at the C bout pic I assume that it was the bout in the upper half of the picture that gave you trouble. Can you elaborate on what you had to do to get it going the right way?

Thanks, C

Posted on November 21, 2014 at 8:35 PM
Hi C,
If all things are equal and your gluing goes according to your practice try's then one clamp and a edge is all you need to apply pressure on the C bout and keep in its place until the glue is set. However, when it does not go well then in very short order it is all hands on deck to save the day. For me, one C bout went perfect the other, three clamps with corks, small pieces pices wood and two extra people later saved the day and a lot of extra work for me. With the kind of support that we all give to each I now have two very good C bouts and it is full steam ahead. Thanks for the question.

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