Raising the Chinrest

July 7, 2011 at 10:02 PM ·

Hi everyone! I am a beginner with only few months of experience under my belt. The violin feels very uncomfortable due to my long neck. No chinrest on the market (not even the 35mm SAS) allows me to play comfortably without having to press hard with my chin/jaw in order to prevent the violin from falling. I bought some corks (5mm thick) but they dampen the sound too much and the chinrest clamp cannot go high enough to fit all the corks to get the height I needed. So I plan  to do some modding myself.

What kind of wood goes with a standard ebony chinrest (Berber)? And what kind of glue should I use? Where can I get everything?

Replies (25)

July 7, 2011 at 11:28 PM ·

I'm a beginner too, just about 2 months into violin so take this with a grain of salt and me just thinking out loud, but if you cannot find a chinrest tall enough, would you be able to compensate on height by adding the tallest shoulder rest you can find to this equation?

July 8, 2011 at 12:36 AM ·

Not if the violin is to be in contact with the collarbone, as it should be whether or not a shoulder rest is used. 

July 8, 2011 at 12:37 AM ·

 Since raising the shoulder rest in effect raises the violin, I can understand why the op might prefer to raise the chin rest.  Here are two sites that might offer suggestions.



My own experience; I was fitted for a Frisch by one of his associates, but then had a violin-maker friend raise a chinrest I already owned.  Not much less expensive, really, but I was there, we could fine-tune as we went, and I felt more secure.  The Violinist in Balance site has some really excellent discussions of set up in general.

Good success to you!

July 8, 2011 at 12:47 AM ·

Why not simply add to the height of the existing chinrest by building it up with rigid structural foam and  casting resin? You could even take a plaster cast of your chin (in place even!) and use it as an aid in carving the foam to suit.

July 8, 2011 at 01:38 AM ·

Majory, how much did the fitting and raising cost you in total? I just got some craft wood locally. I wonder if the type of wood used effects the sound or not. Anyone know?

July 8, 2011 at 02:08 AM ·

He started the violin one with a high blank and cut it down; the viola one was my own to start with; that one he built up.  He charged me $45 each.  We spent most of a day 'fiddling' with them, and I'm quite happy.  Looking closely, you'd never know he did anything.  

Of course, he started life as an emergency room nurse, so he has a better grasp of anat & phys. than many violin makers, and I've found that really helpful at times!

July 8, 2011 at 02:27 AM ·

You don't exactly have to raise the chinrest. Just changing the way you "hold" the violin can make a world of a difference. I am speaking specifically of the Russian method of holding the violin. It is not uncomfortable or painful to play the instrument if you convert to the Russian way of supporting the violin. I am not starting a shoulder rest war, but I just happen to disagree with the shoulder rest. After using one for a year, I had tendonitis coming on. However, a teacher helped me with getting rid of the shoulder rest (I tried a raised chinrest at one point), I can practice with no pain whatsoever.

July 8, 2011 at 06:43 AM ·

Look for a nice thick dog-collar, perhaps the ones they use for bulldogs. The violin will rest nicely on it, and no one can accuse you of using a SR. I can hardly say the word anymore.

July 8, 2011 at 08:11 AM ·

Tanaeya, what is the 'Russian' way to hold the violin? Is it purely not using a shoulder rest? or does it also involve anything else different?

Just being curious as I already play without a rest, thank you in advance.  Jo

July 8, 2011 at 09:56 AM ·

Russian way to hold a violin? I am also curious, thought it only applied to the bow hold. After two shots of Vodka and "Na zdarovya' we are going Russian anyway. 

July 8, 2011 at 10:03 PM ·

Greg, To answer your question....what wood goes with ebony.....not sure how to answer other than the type of ebony used is Gaboon ebony, and can be found in hardwood specialty stores (Woodcraft and Rockler are chains that are all over the US), Also on-line it is available.


It is expensive, and not easy to work with. It is very hard, which also means its on the brittle side. So if you are going to make it yourself, it is a pain. if you are thinking of "building up" what you have, then that would be easier. Buy some small pieces, and then use wood glue (its a yellow glue that you can get at home depot) Titebond is a popular brand, Elmers also makes some. It would require clamping after gluing, and the surfaces must be smooth and fit together well. No glue fills cracks and provides strength. If you don't have clamps, you can get thicker cyanoacrylite glue (similar to crazy glue), that can work well also. This sort of thing is available at Woodcraft or Rockler's (in store or on-line).

Good luck

July 8, 2011 at 11:37 PM ·

Tanaeya, I am also interested in what you meant by the russian style of violin holding.

Arnie, what about rosewood, box wood or any other types of wood? From what I heard they don't make any difference in term of sound. I plan to raise the chinrest I have with probably ebony blocks. I also want to attempt to build one from scratch with softer wood. What wood would you recommend? I found a local exotic wood shop they seem to have a large collection of woods. I will check it out this evening.

July 9, 2011 at 02:13 AM ·


I don't personally have any experience with those woods. I'm sure that they are easier to work with than ebony, just because I can't imagine anything more difficult than ebony. I know rosewood is easier to find. I've never seen boxwood for sale anywhere. I was searching on line the other day, and couldn't find anything. Personally I think Rosewood is the best looking by far. Very dramatic grain. Putting on an oil finish (tung oil, watco oil), would bring out the grain further and provide a very nice satin non film finish.....

What I wasn't clear on is if you are planning on making a chinrest, or taking the ebony one that you have and adding to it. If you are adding to it, then using a different wood would look kind of funky. If you are making one, then you have alot of options......

July 9, 2011 at 02:43 AM ·


If you like, I can make you a taller "SAS" equivelent chinrest. I have a SAS myself, so I can make sure its compatible with the clamp, and screw that secures it to the clamp.  I can duplicate the shape. Just give me the height, I can quote you a reasonable price. I should be able to do rosewood, or I can do maple and stain it a little darker to match most boxwood. Let me know.....

July 9, 2011 at 02:44 AM ·

I just got back from the wood shop. I bought a bar of ebony, a decent size block of Hawaiian Koa, some E6000 glue, and a small set of carving knives.

Sorry I wasn't putting out my idea clear enough. I want to raise the existing Berber shoulder rest I have with ebony blocks and see how it goes. Then I will carve a one piece chinrest using the koa block.

I have zero experience in carpentry. I am planning to cut out the cork part of the chinrest, then flatten it with my dremel. Do the same thing to the block after it has been cut to the correct shape and height. I am not sure what type of knife I should use for large scale trimming. I have a finger length swiss army knife, will that do?

July 9, 2011 at 03:07 PM ·

Ok, I got it. For creating a flat surface, using a small hand tool like a dremel or chisel is difficult, unless you are quite the artist/craftsman. I would suggest you purchase some sandpaper sheets (Get "3X" sheets, I think they are made by 3M or Norton), and you can use a spray glue to attach it to something flat (a piece of MDF/particle board perhaps). For quick removal you may want to use like 80 to 100 grit, but for a smooth surface, you'll want 150 grit, and perhaps eventually 220.

Move the chinrest (or whatever needs a flat surface) on the sandpaper. It is slower than the dremel but you'll have a flat surface. You can try the dremel....BUT PRACTICE on a scrap piece of wood.

For carving a block, knives are not used. Perhaps you are thinking of "whittling", which I've never seen done outside of boyscout camp. For removing lots of wood, you need some "large" gouges.. see the following..


you would probably use something like a #3 or #4 gouge for alot of the work, and the piece you are carving needs to be secured to something. You'll also need a mallot. Get a book on carving, to see the hand motions used. You may be able to use your dremel to get the shape, not sure what bits you have and how big they are. Carving isn't difficult, but it takes time and practice (like playing a violin). Actually For making the chinrest from the KOA, I'd try the dremel first. My single best piece of advice.....Practice on some scrap wood, practive everything you will do.....wear safety glasses...keep your hands/fingers in back of any blade/tool. Tools will slip, anything in its way should be something you don't care about. Overall carving is a great hobby, doesn't require a woodshop, or alot of space, but it would take some practice to do a chinrest. Hope this helps........

July 9, 2011 at 04:02 PM ·

Greg if you want to carve a chin rest out of ebony with an army knife you are on mission impossible. I made a chin rest from rose wood which is less dense than ebony and after I cut out the rough shape with a band saw, I did the shaping with a grinder to which I attached a sanding disc. It was perfect for shaping the contours and I finished it off with filing and sanding. The arch in the center I did by clamping a piece of wood to the chin rest and drilled the hole.  

I do not know why you are going through all these extreme measures when a shoulder rest is the simplest solution.

July 9, 2011 at 06:53 PM ·

July 9, 2011 at 09:24 PM ·


can you please  tell me more about the "grinder and sanding disc combination"? Is this a hand held grinder, or bench mount? was the sanding disc simply a disc with pressure senstive (sticky back) circular sandpaper discs?

July 10, 2011 at 08:54 AM ·


I use a hand held grinder and the sanding disc has thick serrated sandpaper permanently attached to its surface. It is sturdy, works fast and I also use it to do the main hollowing out of the violin back plate. For the chin rest it seems to be ideal. 

I tried to upload a photo of the disc here without success. If you send me an email, I can send the photo to your email address. 

July 10, 2011 at 04:22 PM ·

Yes it is advisable to have a mask over your mouth and nose when using these high velocity grinders which have no outlet to catch the dust. I use a medical mask if it is a big job. Also goggles are advised, as the dust can get in your eyes.    

July 10, 2011 at 07:02 PM ·

 Would you post a picture of yourself with the violin in playing position? It's possible that your method of doing so is problematic. It would be easier to offer adequate suggestions if we could see what's going on.

July 10, 2011 at 08:35 PM ·

Before you go chopping up some wood, you might want to try this:


It's heavy, but gives a really good way to create a pattern for a wood chinrest.  In the meantime, you can use it for a while to see how it works.  You can always make adjustments -- way more easily than with wood.  Once you cut off wood, you can't put it back on.

However, before starting the endeavor, I'd second the recommendation for violinistinbalance.  I think having a good understanding of what you want when you're done will help you save prototype revisions.  They explain things like fitting and how to go for skeletal, rather muscular support.

July 11, 2011 at 04:45 PM ·

Thanks for everyone’s advices so far. I haven’t started the one-piece chinrest yet but I am on the final stages of raising my chinrest. I glued the extenders to the cup of the chinrest after sanding the original down for more contact. Now I’m waiting for it to dry. After that I will sand it a bit more to smooth out the edges. The most immediate concern of mine is the screw holes for the mounting brackets. How should I cover up the previous holes and more importantly how do I make new ones on the risers?


As for the gouge, is there anything cheaper I can buy? If not, which one on this page would be ideal for carving a chinrest?


I actually have read extensively into custom chinrest and violinistinbalance page prior to starting this thread. I will post a picture of myself when I get a chance.

July 11, 2011 at 05:03 PM ·

Instead of hand tools (gouge) you could also use a grinding die chucked into a drill. They come in an infinite variety of shapes and sizes.





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