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Instrument Show May 4th and 5th

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The Northwest Handmade Musical Instrument Show will be this weekend, May 4th and 5th, at PCC Sylvania campus, from 12 noon to 5 PM, Saturday and Sunday.

My newest two violins will be there, to try out, along with about eight other violins, violas, five-string fiddles, and one cello.

I really hope to see you all there.

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Two for the Show!

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Two Fiddles for the Show

1735 “Plowden” copy finally completed

The varnish is still pretty soft (so players at the show will just have to be gentle); but the Plowden is finally complete, and playing well.

Completed Plowden Front

Completed “Plowden” copy front

 

Completed Plowden Back.

Completed “Plowden” copy back.

 

The 1715 “Titian” Stradivari copy and the 1735 “Plowden” Guarneri del Gesu copy will both be there at the Corvallis Hilton Hotel, for the “Violin-Tasting Event” hosted by Jon Franke, from 12PM to 5PM March 10th.

I’ve been playing them, to my best ability, to get them opened up and the strings settled in, a bit, but I hope that far better players will be there tomorrow at the show.

Playing them in.

Playing them in…sort of. I’m not a very good player at all.

 

Anyway, here they are (finally): completed, and ready for a lifetime of music.

Two for the Show!

Two for the Show!

 

I also expect to exhibit violas, five-string fiddles, and a cello.

 

Hope to see you there!

 

Thanks for looking.

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Plowden Nearly Completed

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Plowden Nearly Completed

Varnishing process nearly finished

I have been in a mad rush to complete this violin before the upcoming show (“Violin-Tasting Event”) this coming Sunday, at the Hilton hotel, in Corvallis, so I took very few photographs, but here are a few:

Varnished front, before pegs, saddle, or endpin.

Varnished front, before pegs, saddle, or endpin.

 

Varnished back, before pegs, saddle or endpin.

Varnished back, before pegs, saddle or endpin.

 

Once the varnish had hardened, I sanded it back very gently, installed the endpin, pegs and saddle, and then applied one more coat of varnish. It is very soft, now, so I scarcely dare touch it, to re-install the fingerboard, let alone set a bridge and add strings. I have it hanging up in our dining-room, where the woodstove is keeping things warm, in spite of the snowy weather we’ve been having. Hopefully it will be dry enough, by this evening, so that I can add the fingerboard and then complete the set-up tomorrow. I don’t want to rush things, but I am running out of time.

Anyway, here is how it looks right now:

Varnished front with pegs, endpin and saddle

Varnished front with pegs, endpin and saddle.

 

Varnished back with endpin, saddle and pegs.

Varnished back with endpin, saddle and pegs.

 

The instrument definitely still needs a rub-down, and I hope I will get to do all that before Sunday.

It looks and feels as though it will be a very good violin. Time will tell, of course.

 

Thanks for looking.

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More Plowden Progress

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More Plowden Progress

Graduation

Graduating hard maple can be a tough, laborious job. Besides, there is always the possibility of carving too deeply and ruining the plate. So, I try to cut the risks by creating a “map” by marking the thickness every few centimeters, and then carving the “dots” until each “dot” is about the thickness I want. Finally, I connect the “dots”, using planes and scrapers, checking for thickness as I progress.

Creating the dots.

Creating the dots. The circled numbers are already the correct thicknesses.

 

Checking thickness.

Checking thickness. Pretty thin plate!

 

Connecting the dots.

Connecting the dots.

 

Getting there!

Getting there!

 

Grafted Scroll and Neck-Set

Once the graduations are complete, and the inside of the back plate has been scraped completely smooth, I install the label and I am almost ready to close the corpus. In this case, however, I also had decided to use the scroll I had carved, but graft a new neck to the scroll, as the original neck was too thin: so there was a good deal more work involved. Here is the grafted neck, partially shaped, with the completed back plate:

Completed back plate with neck-grafted scroll.

Completed back plate with neck-grafted scroll. The heel was still not shaped.

I had been anxious to complete the back plate, and had not yet set the neck. So I completed the neck and installed the fingerboard.

Fingerboard installed.

Fingerboard installed.

 

Next I set the neck, so that the angles were all correct.

Neck-set, front view.

Neck-set, front view. The mold is still in place.

 

Neck-set, side view

Neck-set, side view. Notice that the neck heel has not been trimmed flush, yet.

 

Closing the Corpus

Then I removed the mold, and installed the inside linings on the back edge of the ribs, shaped the linings and the blocks, flattened the back of the garland, and installed the back plate. I use spool clamps and a single large spring-clamp to close the corpus. My wife thinks the spool-clamps look like old-fashioned hair-curlers.

Closed corpus with spool clamps and a spring-clamp.

Closed corpus with spool clamps and a spring-clamp.

 

Trimming the Button and Neck Heel

Once the glue was dry, I removed all the clamps, cleaned off any glue that had squeezed out of the joint, and trimmed the button and heel. The dimension from the juncture of the top edge of the front plate and the side of the neck heel (from each side) to the very center of the curve of the heel, should be right at 26 mm. You can see the two marks I laid out with a compass, testing that distance: it was still a little too high in the center of the curve, so the neck needed to be trimmed a little more.

Ready to trim the button and heel.

Ready to trim the button and heel.

 

Purfling the Back Plate

Once the neck-heel and button were trimmed, I still had to perfect the outline of the back plate, making certain that the overhang was even all around, as much as possible. Then I laid out the purfling slot, using a purfling marker, and began incising the outlines of the slot.

Incised purfling slot.

Incised purfling slot. It will be corrected, and fine-tuned as I work, and look good with the purfling.

 

Next I cut the slot out, using a small knife and a purfling pick, then dry-fit the purfling, after bending it on the bending iron. Finally I glue it in place, using hot hide-glue.

Purfling installed, and glued in place.

Purfling installed, and glued in place.

 

Edge-Work

I marked a crest-line, about 1.6 mm in from the outer edge, then used a gouge and scrapers to carve the channel, and fair it into the plate surface. The edges were all still quite rough,and crude, so I began shaping them, using a small plane, and a half-round file, then sandpaper to get a smooth edge all around. I don’t use sandpaper much, but this is one place where it is appropriate.

Trimmed purfling, smoothed channel, and edges taking shape.

Trimmed purfling, smoothed channel, and edges taking shape.

 

The front edges have to be finalized as well.

The front edges have to be finalized as well.

 

Finishing Process Begun

Once all the varnish preparation is complete, I brush a coat of coffee all over the instrument, to tan the wood a little, and raise the grain. When that is dry, I sand off most of the raised grain, using 400-grit sandpaper. This ensures that the grain will not raise too much during application of the spirit varnish, later. Afterward, I rub in a coat of gypsum in a coffee suspension, to fill the pores of the wood with particles of the mineral. This keeps the varnish from saturating the wood, and possibly dampening the sound.

Mineral ground drying.

Mineral ground drying. See how it obscures the wood? that goes away when the sealer is applied.

 

Back with sealer.

The sealer renders the mineral ground transparent, and it will never be visible again.

 

I expect that, by tomorrow, the sealer will dry sufficiently that I can begin varnishing. I am getting anxious, as the show is a week from tomorrow, and I am far from completing this instrument.

 

Thanks for looking.

 

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Completed Titian Copy

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Completed “Titian” Stradivarius Copy

Final work completed

I will probably polish it more, and make adjustments, here and there, but the violin is essentially done.

The photo below is not a good representation of the color– the flash made it look unnaturally bright. The back photo is pretty accurate, though:

flash changed the color.

Unnatural colors, here. Sorry. The previous photos were pretty accurate for color.

 

Better colors, here.

Better colors, here. I’m guessing the flash caused the problem above.

 

better colors

This is closer to the true colors. Maybe not as clear, however.

 

Anyhow, that is where it stands. I have a show in March, in Corvallis, as I announced earlier. I still hope to take this instrument as well as the “Plowden ” Guarneri del Gesu copy to that show, along with a few others: violas, five-string fiddles, and at least one cello.

Hope to see you there.

Thanks for looking.

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More Progress

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More Progress

Plowden Progress

Purfling and Graduation

While varnish was drying on the Titian model, I went back to the Plowden model, and began purfling the front plate and graduating the back plate:

Graduation about half done.

Graduation about half done. 

 

Graduation progress and purfling installed.

Graduation progress and purfling installed.

 

Also, I finalized the finishing process on the Titian model, and an ready to begin set-up. The pegs are trimmed, polished and drilled for strings. The nut is at the correct level and has been slotted for strings. The saddle is installed, too. The end button and soundpost were both installed quite some time ago. So, really, all that is left is the bridge and strings, and final adjustment. I don’t tend to count the tailpiece, but, as a matter of fact, it, too requires some adjustment. So does the chinrest, so I shouldn’t treat them as non-entities. The feet opf chinrests virtually never fit correctly as shipped. Tailpiece adjustment requires trial and error fitting, to get the ratio between vibrating string length and after-length (string between bridge and tailpiece fret) adjusted to a 6:1 ratio.

Anyway, here is where it currently stands. I could probably finish it tonight, but then I would be too tired to go to work in the morning…so, tomorrow will have to do. 🙂

Titian front, ready for set-up.

Titian front, ready for set-up.

 

Titian back, ready for set-up.

Titian back, ready for set-up.

 

Nut and pegs complete, ready for strings.

Nut and pegs complete, ready for strings.

 

Saddle installed, ready for set-up.

Saddle installed, ready for set-up.

 

So, I hope to take both of these instruments to the show in March (“Violin Tasting Event” at the Hilton Hotel, March 10th in Corvallis, OR), as well as the one in May (which used to be the Marylhurst show, but it will now be at Portland Community College, Sylvania campus: still called the Northwest handmade musical instrument show.) Anyway: lots of work left to do, in order to get ready.

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Instrument Show in Corvallis

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Instrument Show in Corvallis, Oregon

Violin-family Instrument-Makers from around the Pacific Northwest will be there.

I will be there, with Violins, Violas, Cello and five-string fiddles.

 

I hope to see you there.

 

Thanks for looking.

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Finishing the Finish

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Finishing the Finish

Color Coats

When I last posted, I had only the yellow, base coats of varnish in place, so the violin looked like this:

Yellow Varnish

Yellow varnish

 

I added a rapid series of color coats; very thin, deeply-tinted varnish, and then it looked like this:

Color coat front

Color coat, front; emulating the wear patterns on the original 1715 “Titian” Stradivarius violin.

 

Color Coat, Back.

Color coat, back. Sorry for the poor quality photo…I used the zoom on my phone. Bad choice.

 

After that coat was good and dry, I continued to build the color in the areas that needed more, and trying to leave it appropriately light in the areas where the Old Master instrument had the most severe wear. I also noticed that there was a “bump”–a ridge in the spruce, near the purfling, which I had not been able to see in the clean, fresh wood, but which, under a reflective layer, became quite apparent. (Sigh...) So, I used a sharp scraper to bring the ridge down flat, and then began rebuilding the varnish layers to match the rest of the area.

Corrective

Corrective “surgery”…removed a ridge in the spruce that I had missed earlier. Rebuilding the varnish, now.

 

The back was looking pretty nice, though:

Back nearly complete.

Back nearly complete.

 

And, today, I installed the soundpost, and then applied two coats of clear varnish. Afterward, I installed the end-pin, the tuning pegs, and the fingerboard. Here it is with the clamps still in place.

End-pin, fingerboard and pegs installed

End-pin, fingerboard and pegs installed; pegs still need to be trimmed to length.

 

Endpin

Endpin couldn’t be seem in the previous photo…here it is.

 

Violin front, prior to set-up

Violin front, prior to set-up.

 

Violin back, prior to set-up.

Violin back, prior to set-up.

 

So: That’s as far as I got, today. Next time; the saddle, the nut and final set-up. This violin is nearly completed!

 

Thanks for looking.

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Beginning the Finish

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Beginning the Finish

Pre-varnish Scraping and Shaping

Before any finish materials can be applied, the wood has to be about as perfect as I can make it: so I scrape it to its final shape, then dampen it with coffee, to simultaneously raise any fibers that had only been flattened by the scraper blades, but not smoothly sheared off, and, hopefully, add a slight “tan” to the wood, while doing no harm.

Thus, having removed the fingerboard (which had only temporarily been installed) and having applied two coats of coffee, allowing the wood to dry between coats, and having sanded lightly, all over, with 400-grit paper, to remove the raised fibers, and any excessive “corduroy” effect, the instrument went from looking like this:

Shaping complete, but wood un-treated.

Shaping complete, but wood un-treated.

 

To looking like this:

Coffee-stained, and sanded with 400-grit.

Coffee-stained, and sanded with 400-grit.

 

Then it is time to begin the real finish: I first coat the wood with a coffee-suspension of very fine, powdered gypsum, hoping to add more color as I fill the grain with the gypsum. I vigorously rub this suspension into the wood, hoping to encourage the tiny particles of gypsum to actually settle into the pores of the wood, so as to fill them, and to slow down the absorption of varnish. It is considered undesirable, in general, to have the varnish really soak into the wood, as it tends to dampen the vibrations that make the sound. Some varnishes are more detrimental than others, but this is something I learned by reading Roger Hargrave’s notes. He is a world-class expert, so I tend to believe him that this is a good idea. I try to remove as much as I can of the excess mineral “ground” before it completely dries, rubbing hard, with a rag, but any that has settled into grain irregularities, I simply skim over, and leave it there.

So, after the gypsum has been applied, it looks more like this:

Mineral ground applied, front view.

Mineral ground applied, front view. A little darker color, and the grain is more obscure.

 

Back grain quite obscured by the gypsum.

Back grain quite obscured by the gypsum. That will clear up entirely, with the application of the sealer.

 

The sealer locks the gypsum into wherever it has been lodged, and clears the obscurity, making the gypsum completely invisible. The sealer I am using now is a concoction of pine resin, turpentine, and alcohol, with a little yellow tinting. The turpentine and alcohol evaporate, leaving the resin in the wood.

Sealed Front.

Sealed Front.

 

Sealed side.

Sealed Side.

 

Sealed Back.

Sealed Back.

 

After the sealer dries (a day or so), I begin applying the various coats of varnish: the first two or three coats are fairly yellow varnish, but after that, I begin adding the colors that will characterize the finished instrument.

Front with yellow varnish.

Front with yellow varnish.

 

Back with yellow varnish.

Back with yellow varnish.

 

From this point, forward, the instrument will become increasingly darker, leaning toward reds and browns. Ultimately, I will try to emulate the look of the 1715 “Titian” Stradivarius violin, after which this insrument is supposedly modeled. We will see how it turns out.

 

Thanks for looking.

 

 

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