How I carve a Scroll

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Cello Scroll Carving Made Simple 🙂

There is nothing special about the way I carve scrolls. As far as I know, this is how everyone else does it, too, more or less. I am only sharing how I do it.

Start by tracing and sawing out the profile of the whole neck.

I don’t have a photo of the scroll as a simple profile, but I begin with the billet (About 6″ x 3″ x 20″), and trace my template onto it, then use a bandsaw to cut the shape of the profile. I use a oscillating spindle sander to remove the saw marks, and perfect the profile right to the line. While the profiled block is still “square”–that is, while the sides are still parallel, I lay out the peg hole locations and use a drill press to make 1/8″ diameter pilot holes where each peg will be. I drill all the way through, so that the holes are clearly marked, and are perpendicular to the center plane of the neck.

Next cut out the pegbox and at least a few inches of the neck

I hollow out the pegbox before carving the scroll proper. Some people use a drill to get started. I have done it this way, but it seems a little risky, unless you put some sort of limiter on the drill, to avoid going too deep– and even then it is easy to go out of bounds. I use a narrow chisel to remove most of the rough wood, then a wider chisel to smooth the inside cheeks of the pegbox. I also saw off the excess wood on the outside of the pegbox, and plane those faces flat.

Then draw the shape of the scroll itself.

Usually we use a template for this, as well. Some people plot out each scroll with a straight-edge and compass. I have neither the time nor the inclination. In this case, my templates came from a poster of the 1712  “Davidov” Stradivarius cello, now being played by Yo Yo Ma. Some information was lacking, and I filled that in from Henry Strobel’s book on cello making.

And begin cutting:

Once the scroll is drawn out, I clamp the neck to my workbench and, using a Japanese-style pull-saw, I begin cutting slots nearly to the layout lines of the volute. I rotate my position a few degrees, and make another cut. I have to be careful to avoid cutting too deeply, but this method allows me to chip away the waste wood rapidly, and the scroll begins looking like a scroll rather quickly.

Beginning the scroll, proper.

Pegbox is complete, volute partially carved. The cut lines are visible on the portion of the volute that has already been carved. Now we will carve the scroll, proper.

Cutting more kerfs to remove wood.

Care must be taken to avoid drifting across the line into the turns of the volute.

Cutting a series of kerfs for wood removal in carving a scroll.

You can see the direction this is going…I will continue to slice down nearly to the line, rotating a little each time, until I have gone all the way around.

Using a gouge to outline the eye of the scroll.

Once the kerfs are all in place, and to the correct depths, I use a gouge to outline the eye of the scroll, so as not to damage it with the saw.

Kerfs in place, and eye of scroll deeply incised. Carving can begin.

All the kerfs are complete, and the eye is deeply incised with the gouge–I am ready to start carving.

Use a flat chisel to remove the waste wood, and the scroll begins to emerge.

I use a flat chisel to remove the waste wood, and the scroll begins to emerge.

Once the waste wood is completely gone the

Once the waste wood is completely gone the “undercut” carving can begin.

Bi-lateral symmetry

I try to make sure the two sides match symmetrically, before beginning undercut. I do the outside fluting last, to avoid damaging it while carving other parts of the scroll.

Bass side of cello scroll, nearly complete.

Here is the bass side of the scroll, nearly complete.

Treble side of cello scroll, nearly complete.

And, here is the treble side.

Cello neck and scroll, nearly complete.

The neck and scroll are nearly complete. I will continue to fine-tune and scrape the scroll, perfecting it as best I can, right up to the day I begin varnishing.

Fingerboard installed on Cello neck, with hide glue and clamps.

I have prepared the fingerboard, and now I have installed it, using hot hide glue and clamps.

So– that was entirely enough for today. Tomorrow I will continue to refine the scroll and neck, and try to get the neck set. If I succeed, then I can remove the mold and install the back plate.

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