Archive for October, 2018

Two Plates

Please share with your friends!

Two Plates

Top Plates First

Not every violin maker follows exactly the same path. I not only make my front plates first; I install the front plate before I install the purfling…and install the neck and fingerboard before removing the form (or mold.) After removing the mold and leveling the back of the garland, including the neck-heel, I can install the back plate.

I used to install purfling before installing the plates, too, because I was taught to do it that way. But I consistently had trouble with the plate overhang not being even, around the perimeter of the instrument, and it finally occurred to me to try doing the purfling after installing the plates, and after having established the final shape of the plates, so that the purfling followed the final edge of the plate, rather than installing the purfling first, and later finding that the garland has changed shape slightly, so that the plate no longer fits perfectly, and I have no option to modify the plate, because the purfling has permanently determined where the edge is supposed to be. Ah, well…I am just a slow learner, I guess. 🙂

So, here is a sort of “after and before” picture: the one on the right has been arched close enough to correctly, that I will be ready lay out and incise the f-holes next. The one on the right has only been traced and cut out, so all the carving remains to be done.

 

“After and before”: one plate fully arched, the other ready to carve.

 

Arching the Top Plates

I derived my arching-plan from the “The Strad” magazine posters. On this particular pair of posters, there are not only the traditional photos and line drawings, but they actually printed out CT scan images so that one can see exactly the shape and thickness of all parts of the violins.

I first mark the edges at 4mm thickness, then plane down to the lines. Most makers use gouges for this part, but I prefer small finger planes. I am sure that there are many good reasons to use the gouges instead, not the least of which would be speed in making, and I have certainly carved plates that way…but I prefer the planes. So, here is the carving of the second plate:

Second plate beginnings.

Second plate beginnings.

 

Rough Arching

Rough Arching

 

I use shadow lines to check the actual shape of the cross-sectional arching.

Using shadow lines to check the actual shape of the cross-sectional arching.

 

Finally, I use sharp scrapers to renove any lines or dents left by the planes, and narrow bamds of shadow to check the actual cross-sectional shape of the archings. I may still make later improvements, as I add the f-holes and the bass-bar, and, of course, after I install the purfling. But the archings of the two top plates are very nearly complete, so, the next time I post, it will be about f-holes.

So, here are the two plates, ready for f-hole incision, before being carved from the inside to be exactly as thick as I require. Other than the F-holes, bass-bars and purfling they are nearly complete. 🙂

Two Plates, with completed arching.

Two Plates, with completed arching.

 

I will try to keep going on photos.

Thanks for looking

If you found this post helpful, please share with your friends!

Beginning Two New Violins

Please share with your friends!

Beginning Two New Violins

First Things First:

I began by making sure that I had appropriate wood for both instruments: I wanted a one-piece back for the Guarneri model instrument, with deep flames sloping downward from left to right, and I wanted a heavily flamed two-piece back for the Stradivari model…both of European Maple, with ribs to match them, and European spruce tops. I had them, all right, so I bookmatched the two spruce tops, and the back for the “Titian” Strad attempt, and left them to thoroughly dry. Afterward, I visited my son’s guitar shop and used his power planer to flatten the plates, and bring them each down to the thickness I wanted for the arching height.

Prepared plates: European Maple and Spruce

Prepared plates: European Maple and Spruce

 

Working Vacation

I took a week off from work, intending to “get a lot done” on the violins, but ended up sick for most of the week. Besides, Winter is coming on, and we needed to get firewood in, so Ann and I loaded and hauled and stacked firewood for a couple of days, and I got about two good days of work on the violins. During that time, I installed blocks in the molds, shaped them to receive the ribs, thinned and bent the ribs, and installed them. Last, I installed linings, to add stiffness to the edge of the rbs, and additional gluing surface. The ribs, like the back plates, are European Maple, but the blocks and linings are willow…not sure what variety. I like weeping willow the best, because it carves and bends so nicely, but other willows work well, too, sometimes.

Guarneri form with blocks and ribs.

Guarneri form with blocks and ribs.

 

Ribs shortened

Ribs shortened

 

Adding linings.

Adding linings.

 

Linings installed, glued, and clamped.

Linings installed, glued, and clamped.

 

Then, once I had the linings in place, I trimmed the rib corners to their final shapes, and flattened the front face of garlands, after which I used the garlands themselves to trace out the shape of the top plates. Finally, I cut out the top plates and shaped them to the exact outlines I wanted, and I was ready to begin arching. I will do the same thing for the back plates later.

All four plates, both garlands, with neck blocks.

All four plates, both garlands, with neck blocks. Strad model on the right, Guarneri on the left.

 

Slow Start

I didn’t get much of anything else done, this week, as I was at work, mostly, annnd, Thursday, some fellow failed to yield on a roundabout, and totalled my wife’s car, as she was coming home from the grocery store. The roads were very wet, which may have contributed to why he was unable to stop, and why the impact spun her car around, 180 degrees, and hurled it off the road, into a field, next to the roundabout.

Ironically, she had also just gone to DMV, and had paid $193 to renew the DEQ testing, and registration, as well as filling her gas tank, to the tune of $40. So all that was wasted, too, but she is completely unhurt, for which we are deeply grateful. Guess it is time for her to get a newer car. 🙂 There was also a dented can of beans, and two squashed bananas…but I ate the bananas, and tonight we ate the beans. No loss there. 🙂

This evening, however, I got home fairly early, and I got most of the arching done on the Stradivari-model top plate, so at least that feels better, in terms of productivity. I will try to complete it tomorrow and repeat the effort on the Guarneri top plate.

I will post more pictures later.

 

Thanks for looking

 

If you found this post helpful, please share with your friends!

A Change of Plans

Please share with your friends!

A Change of Plans:

No oversize Violas, no Violoncellos da Spalla…Just a couple of violins.

I visited with a well-established luthier recently, and he pointed out several small changes that I could adopt in my making, in order to improve my “serve”, so to speak. All of them were relatively small things, but with potential to make my instruments sound more powerful and to look more professional. I had been getting fairly discouraged, as, though I had been selling sporadically, for a number of years earlier, I had sold no new instruments for the last few years, and, with many other demands on my time, I was begining to feel like abandoning the making of instruments altogether. I was aware that part of the issue was due to the very unstable and depressed economy (several luthiers had told me their sales were extremely slow, too), and I tried to keep telling myself that things would turn around.

The economy has been improving, I think. I am not so much reading the stock-market reports as watching to see how many freight-cars are sitting idle on sidings: no shipping means no manufacturing, and the manufacture of durable goods, the building of homes, and shipping of lumber, oil, coal, and other things needed in a growing economy are things I can see. I don’t have to take some journalist’s or politician’s word for it.  In the last year or so, I have seen the sidings which were full of empty freight-cars disappearing, and moving, full loads of lumber and shipping containers seem to be taking their place. But I am afraid it may take time for people to regain confidence, and regain the conviction that music is important, and, perhaps, that good, handmade instruments are a good value. Visiting with my friend made me decide to push harder to improve what I have to offer, so that, hopefully, when the consumer confidence returns, I will be there, waiting, with top-quality instruments.

New Plan:

So: the idea is simple: I will make two violins, side-by-side: one a copy of the 1735 “Plowden” Guarneri del Gesu violin, and the other a copy of the 1715 “Titian” Antonio Stradivari violin, and attempt to put into practice the tips he gave me. I have good photographs of each original master instrument, along with accurate drawings, and measurements, courtesy of the “The Strad” posters. Also, I already have templates and forms made for each, although I will want to double-check my arching templates. Some people can trust their eyes to get it right, but when I use the templates, the arching always turns out better.

I have made “Plowden” copies before, with good results, so I feel pretty good about that one. I have never tried the “Titian,” technically, but, years ago, someone had given me a set of templates and measurements for the 1715 “Dolphin” Stradivari violin. At the time, I simply took it at face value, but later, when I discovered that there were no published dimensions, and very few good photographs of the “Dolphin,” I began to suspect that the information they had provided might not really be accurate. Still, about that time, I was told by the late Rene Morel that, in his opinion, the 1715 “Soil” Stradivari (currently played by Itzhak Perlman) was “the best violin in the world,” and that “the ‘Dolphin’ is exactly like it.” So; I looked for photographs of each, and, though there were not many available, I could see that the grain on the back was very similar, as if they had been made from billets side-by-side from the same tree. But there were no published dimensions for the “Soil”, either.

However: when I bought the “The Strad” poster of the 1715 “Titian” Stradivari violin, I saw that the grain on this instrument, too, was very similar, and that all three seemed to have been made on the same form. I guessed, then, that, with three instruments made by the same man, the same year, of the same wood, and on the same form, there is a good chance that the measurements will be similar. So: I took the templates I had been given years ago, and the measurements, and checked them carefully against the “Titian” poster:  they matched quite well! So, though I have no idea how or when someone lifted those values and patterns, so long ago, I am satisfied that they are relatively accurate. So accurate, in fact, that I will be using the old form, and templates, to make the new design, with the exception that, this time, I have better data to accompany the figures, and a great set of photographs to look at as I attempt to emulate the old masters.

New Violins on the Way

So, today, after double-checking all my forms, measurements, etc., I book-matched the European spruce tops for both violins, and the heavily-flamed, two-piece European Maple back for the “Titian” copy. The “Plowden” copy will have a heavily-flamed one-piece European Maple back; so, no book-matching necessary. Next, I cut corner-blocks, neck-blocks and end-blocks for both forms, and glued them in place. In the next few days I will shape the blocks, thin the ribs appropriately, and begin bending the ribs to install them on the two garlands.

The last violin I made, I completed about six months ago. I am glad to be “moving” again. Six months in the doldrums is a long time. This feels a lot more encouraging. 🙂

I will post pictures later.

Thanks for looking.

 

If you found this post helpful, please share with your friends!