Archive for the ‘New Instruments–either completed or not’ Category

Closure and Final Scraping

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Closure and Final Scraping

Graduation complete

When I last posted, I was beginning the graduation process for the back plate of the Titian copy. I had a pretty busy week, but this is where it went:

Completing the graduation of the Back plate on the Titian Strad copy.

Completing the graduation of the Back plate on the Titian Strad copy.

 

Once the graduation was complete, I removed the interior form (sometimes called the “mold”) from the garland, and trimmed the blocks and linings, so that the garland and back plate could be joined. I had already flattened the back of the garland, so this was a pretty simple step.

 

Graduation complete: ready to close!

Graduation complete: ready to close!

I aligned the plate on the garland as closely as I could, drythen began applying clamps to hold it. I adjusted the position slightly as I progressed, so that when I finally had clamps on all corners, and in the center of each bout, the position was exactly what I wanted. Then I began removing two or three clamps at a time, and slipping hot hide glue between the plate and the garland, using a thin palette knife. I quickly replaced the few clamps I had removed, and more clamps between them, so that the section was securely attached. Then I moved to the next section and repeated the process, until there was glue and clamps all the way around. I saved the neck block for last, because I intended to add that larger clamp, and it would have been cumbersome, had I used it early in the procedure.

 

Closed, clamped, and resting overnight.

Closed, clamped, and resting overnight.

I allowed the glue to dry overnight, and, in the morning, I removed the clamps and began carving the heel, and working on the edges of the back.

Closed, but a long way from done.

Closed, but a long way from done.

 

Shaping and scraping the heel.

Shaping and scraping the heel.

Finally, all the surfaces looked right, and the next step will be to remove the fingerboard, and prep the entire corpus for the varnighing process. The Guarneri copy is side-lined for the moment, which is what usually happens when I attempt to make more than one instrument at the same time. I usually get to a certain point on all of them, and then run with one to the finish, and come back for the rest. (Ah, well…at least they do get done.)

Ready for varnish prep. Front view.

Ready for varnish prep. Front view.

 

Ready for varnish prep. Back view.

Ready for varnish prep. Back view.

 

Full Front view: ready for varnish prep.

Full Front view: ready for varnish prep.

 

Full Back view: ready for varnish prep.

Full Back view: ready for varnish prep.

 

Next time, I will either talk about the varnishing preparation process, or I will follow the work on the Guarneri. Probably the varnish-prep. 🙂

 

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Purfling and graduating the back plate

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Purfling and Graduating the Back Plate

Purfling came first, this time.

I decided that I would prefer to purfle first, then graduate, on this plate. Maple is much tougher than spruce, and I wanted maximum mobility as I cut the purfling slot, as well as avoiding any danger to the rest of the indtrument when forcing the purfling into the glue-filled slot. It can require a great deal of pressure.

 

I used the purfling marker to trace out the location of the purfling slot.

I used the purfling marker to trace out the location of the purfling slot.

 

Then I began incising the sides of the slot, and removing the waste wood.

Then I began incising the sides of the slot, and removing the waste wood, with a purfling pick.

I always forget, between instruments, just how tough the European maple is. I always find that I have to take breaks once in a while, and allow my hands to rest.

 

Back purfling slot.

I always find the back purfling to be physically difficult, but it is easier to do clean work.

 

Back purfling slot complete.

Back purfling slot complete.

 

After cutting the slot and removing the waste wood, I double-check the width ans depth of the slot by inserting a scrap of purfling into the slot, and dragging it around the entire slot, so that I know the purfling will fit cleanly.

Then I use a bending iron to bend the purfling, I cut the miters for the “Bee-stings”, and I insert the purfling, dry, to get a perfect fit.

 

Purfling installed dry.

Purfling installed dry.

 

Before I start gluing, I also take time to mark the edge of what will be the “crest” of the edgework, so that I don’t gouge too deeply or too wide, when cutting the channel. After gluing, it is difficult to get the pencil to mark on the wood, if it is either damp or glue-coated.

pencilled-in crest marks.

If you look closely, you can see the pencilled-in crest marks.

 

Finally, I lift out each purfling segment, one at a time, and slip hot hide glue under the purfling, then quickly press the purfling back down into the slot. I use a hard plastic roller to help force the purfling deeply into the slot.

 

The purfling is glued in place

The purfling is glued in place, and I can cut the channel now.

In this case, I chose to work on the graduation, next. I did not get it done, but I am within an hour of completion. Then I can conplete the plate, add the label, remove the mold, and close the corpus.

 

 

Graduation in progress.

Graduation in progress.

I will also complete the channel and the inner edgework, before removing the mold and installing the plate. But it is getting there…

Vacation is a hard time to get things done, because the people take higher priority, and everything eats up the time. (Ah, well…always good to spend time with family.)

 

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Purfling and Neck-set

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Purfling and Neck-set

Purfling the Front plate

It is a lot easier to purfle the front plate before the neck is installed. But I have found that I can get better results purfling after installing the plates, than before, though I was taught to purfle the plates very early, before even completing the arching. But what consistently resulted was that I could not reliably produce even-looking edge-overhangs when I purfled before plate installation.

So…beginning purfling, here:

I have scribed the lines, and am beginning to incise them.

I have scribed in the lines, using a purfling-marker, and am beginning to incise them.

 

Removing the waste wood fromn the slot.

Removing the waste wood from the slot, using a “purfling pick.”

 

Slot beginning to develop.

The slot is beginning to develop. I use the piece of purfling to check the fit of the slot.

 

Purfling slot is complete: ready for purfling.

The purfling slot is complete: ready for purfling. A knife, two purfling picks and the purfling marker are in view.

 

Purfling installed, but not trimmed: channel is next.

The purfling is installed, but not trimmed: the channel is next. I used the roller to press the purfling deep into the slot.

 

Neck Setting

I did not take as many photos as would have been ideal. I was concentrating on the work, and not thinking about pictures. Sorry.

The heel-end of the neck had to be as close to exactly the final shape as possible before I laid out the neck mortise. As it turned out, I had set the taper incorrectly, forgetting that I had deliberately left the heel long, so I had to re-shape the neck-heel. Fortunately, I caught it early, and was able to make the correction.

 

Neck ready to install.

 

When setting the neck, I make no further changes to the neck-heel, but rather, I carefully shape the mortise to receive the neck-heel.

Five factors have to come together for a good neck-set:

  • The angle of the fingerboard to the front,
  • The height of the fingerboard above the front plate edge,
  • The transverse angle of the neck,
  • The transverse “roll angle”, and
  • The distance from the upper end of the fingerboard to the upper edge of the front plate. (130 mm)

All five really must be perfect. Sometimes I can get it quite quickly. This was NOT one of those times. (sigh…)

But the end result was quite satisfactory: all five were correct, and the fit was tight. I slathered in the hot hide-glue, and rammed the neck home one last time: no clamps were needed.

 

Neck Set Complete.

Neck Set Complete.

 

Next, I will check the back-plate fit, complete the back-plate graduations, install the label, remove the mold, clean up the interior, and install the back plate. This is the “Titian” Stradivari model. I decided to include a scroll-graft and an ebony “button crown” on the “Plowden” Guarneri del Gesu model. So there will definitely be some additional steps to completion, there. I will try to remember to take more pictures.

 

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More Scroll Progress

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More Scroll Progress

Final carving tasks

I had removed most of the rough wood, in the last post, and had smoothed the outside of the turns of the scroll.

Now it is time to undercut the turns of the scroll so that they have a more delicate look, and are physically a little lighter.

Carving the volutes.

Carving the volute and neck.

 

Completing the volute and pegbox.

Completing the volute and pegbox.

 

So, at this point the one scroll is essentially done, and the other will soon be done as well. I will complete the purfling on the two instruments before setting the necks, so that is next.

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Scroll Carving

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Scroll Carving

Rough wood removal

In the last post, I demonstrated how I use a thin saw, to cut to the layout lines, so as to facilitate removal of the rough wood, preparing to carve.

Now I complete the removal of the rough wood and begin to carve.

Removal of remaining rough wood.

Removal of remaining rough wood was quite easy, because of all the saw-cuts.

Scroll-Carving

I begin to incise the outline of the eye, and carve to volute to size.

Next, I begin to incise the outline of the eye, and to carve the volute to size.

 

Trimming the scroll to the layout lines, before beginning to undercut the turns of the scroll.

Trimming the scroll to the layout lines, before beginning to undercut the turns of the scroll.

 

Starting to look like a scroll...barely.

Starting to look like a scroll…barely. I planed the cheeks of the scroll to the layout lines.

 

It is always nore encouraging when the scroll begins to take shape.

It is always nore encouraging when the scroll begins to take shape.

 

I want to complete the two instruments side by side. I have to stop and work on the other scroll.

I want to complete the two instruments side by side. I have to stop and work on the other scroll.

 

Carving the pegbox.

Carving the pegbox.

 

One scroll is nearing completion, the other is just begun.

One scroll is nearing completion, the other has just begun to take shape.

 

The next web-log post should include two completed scrolls, the installation of two fingerboards, and the setting of two necks. But perhaps that is too ambitious. The holidays seem to be a difficult time during which to get things done. (sigh…)

However, along with the graduation of both back plates, removal of the inside forms (molds) and the final assembly of the instruments, that is pretty much all that is left to do. Oh, yes, and purfling both plates on both instruments. I used to install purfling before completing the arching of the plates, but it frequently resulted in uneven plate overhang (with which I was quite disappointed) just because the purling had locked in the shape of the plates, and so, if the rib garland had changed shape at all, I was stuck. When I began purfling after assembly, the overhang problems pretty much went away.

Anyhow, that is how the project is progressing.

 

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Back Plates and Scrolls

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Back Plates and Scrolls

Progress

Here are the back plates: the arching is complete, but the graduations are not begun…inside surface is still flat. The two scrolls have only been cut out, for the rough profile. I did lay out and drill pilot holes for the tuning pegs. That will make it easier than trying to drill them after the outer shape is completed. At this point the sides are relatively flat.

Two back plates, nearly complete: two scrolls, just begun.

Two back plates, nearly complete: two scrolls, just begun.

 

Then I began cutting out all the rough outlines of the two scrolls, using a saw:

Beginning to cut out the neck/scroll combination, using a saw.

Beginning to cut out the neck/scroll combination, using a saw.

 

Removing the excess wood from the sides.

Removing the excess wood from the sides.

 

Cutting to the layout lines, all around the scroll, from both sides.

Cutting to the layout lines, all around the scroll, from both sides.

 

Continuing around the first turn of the scroll.

Continuing around the first turn of the scroll.

 

Cuts completed around the first turn.

Cuts completed around the first turn of both scrolls.

 

Excess wood removed from first turn on both scrolls.

Excess wood removed from first turn on both scrolls.

 

Back view with first turn wood removed.

Back view with first turn wood removed.

 

 

Completing the scond turn of the scroll, using a fine-toothed pull-saw.

Completing the scond turn of the scroll, using a fine-toothed pull-saw.

 

Second turn cuts completed.

Second turn cuts completed.

 

The remaining wood will be removed using gouges, planes and scrapers, There is still a long way to go, but it does look more encouraging, this way.

Next time we will be carving the pegboxes and scrolls.

 

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Beginning The Back Plates

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Beginning The Back Plates

Planing the Plates to Proper Profiles

Maple is a lot tougher to carve than Spruce is, and European Maple is tougher than the domestic maples. But it has to be done, so, we get going on it. I chose to carve the back plate for the Titian model violin, first.

Beginning Planing, using a toothed plane.

Beginning Planing, using a toothed plane.

Later, as I came nearer to having the plate correctly shaped, I switched to a smooth, curved-sole finger plane. I have two main toothed planes, to which I have affixed wooden handles, so as to distribute the force across my palm, instead of concentrating it on my fingers and thumb. I don’t need the handles as much, using the smooth planes, because I am usually making shallower cuts.

 

Checking relative curvature with a straight bar.

Checking relative curvature with a straight bar.

The arching is still pretty rough, but it is beginning to take shape.

The arching is still pretty rough, but it is beginning to take shape.

After the shape is nearly complete, I switch to scrapers, and try to accurately match my arching templates. Finally, I use a flexible scraper with which to smooth all transitions, and leave a finished surface.

Arching is nearly finished.

Arching is nearly finished.

 

Completed Titian back plate with Plowden plate just begun.

Completed Titian back plate with Plowden plate just begun. (Using a smaller toothed plane.)

It is interesting to see the different wood colors. I bought both from the same source, but they are certainly not from the same tree. That is OK. Both are good European Maple, and will work very well.

Both plates nearly complete--Plowden still needs work.

Both plates nearly complete–the Plowden plate still needs work.

 

I was getting too tired to go further this evening. My hands were beginning to hurt, so it was time to call it a day. After I finish the scraping and shaping of the Plowden back plate, it will be time to begin the interior arching (graduation). Also, I ordered a different pair of neck blocks, because I realized that the pair of neck blocks I had were actually Viola neck blocks, and I hated to waste them. So, when the new blocks arrive, I will also lay out and begin carving the two necks and scrolls.

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Two Bass Bars

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Two Bass Bars

How I install bass bars:

The bass bar in a violin-family instrument serves to support the bass-foot of the bridge, and the bass-side of the front plate (also called the “table” or, the “soundboard.”) Without adequate support in the proper place anong that side, the bass tones will sound quite flabby and unconvincing. The following is only a description of how install the bass-bar, not telling anyone else how it ought to be done.

We always make the bass bar of European spruce, with the grain vertical to the plate; thus, flat-sawn to the bass-bar, itself. I begin by laying out two locations, one seventh of the distance from the center seam to the widest part of the bass-side edge at both upper and lower bout. That usually translates into about 15 mm off the center, at the widest point of the lower bout and 12 mm off center for the same place in the upper bout. I strike a line through those points , checking to see if it is far enough away from the inner eye of the bass-side f-hole to actually accommodate the completed bass-bar If it is not, then I move the line over a couple of millimeters, as needed, to gain clearance at the f-hole. Then I measure 40 mm inboard along the line from the upper and lower edges of the plate, to designate the end locations for the bass bar.

I cut the bass-bar blank to length, and plane it to the appropriate thickness, then hold it on the lines I have laid out, essentially perpendicular to what will be the plane of the ribs. I use a compass, set to the maximum gap at the bottom center of the bassbar, to scribe the contour of the plate onto each side of the bass bar. (Notice that, due to the compound curves of the violin plate, the two marks will not be the same. This is important.) Once I have both sides traced in accurately, I carve away the excess wood outside the line, to follow the line as closely as I can manage. I try to achieve a straight line between the two, regardless of where the two lines go, because that will follow the complex curves of the plate.

I double-check the bass-bar against the plate, and usually it is surprisingly close to fitting, at this point. So I use a strip of the paper-gauze tape available in pharmacies, about an inch wide, to cover the layout lines I had scribed into the plate, and then proceed to chalk-fit the bass-bar on top of that tape. The tape is very thin, so that I can see the lines through it (although I do trace them again onto the tape, to make them even easier to see.) But the tape is also so thin that, if I can get a perfect fit on the tape, when I remove the tape, I will have a perfect fit on the plate, as well, and no chalk residue to remove.

The hardest thing for me to learn in chalk-fitting, was to only remove the transferred chalk and the wood immediately under it, not the whole area. Frequently the culprit in an imperfect fit is actually quite a small area, so it is counter-productive to remove too much wood.

I chalk the tape, along the layout lines, and then press the bar into place, sliding it lengthwise a few milimeters back and forth to pick up some chalk;. I plane or scrape off the high spots where the chalk transferred, then try again. When I get a more or less full transfer of chalk from tape to bass-bar, I know the fit is acceptable. Then I carefully remove the tape, and (finally) glue and clamp the bar into place. Usually, I trim the bar a little, first, so it is nearly the correct shape on the top surface, so the clamps will fit more easily.

One bass bar is complete: the other has only been trimmed to make it easier to clamp.

One bass bar is complete: the other has only been trimmed to make it easier to clamp.

 

After the glue has dried and the bar is rigidly secured, I use finger-planes to trim the bar to the size and shape I want.

Beginning with a medium-sized finger-plane.

Beginning with a medium-sized finger-plane.

 

Finishing with a small finger-plane.

Finishing with a small finger-plane.

 

Final touch-up with small plane and scrapers.

Final touch-up with small plane and scrapers. The camera angle is what is making the two bars look so different.

 

Installing the top plates

So, the next task is to complete the inner edgework, and then install the top plates on the rib garlands. I plane a tiny bevel around the edge of the plate that will face the ribs; then file it to a curve, nearly quarter-round, flush with the outer rim of the plates. Then I position the plate on the garland as precisely as possible (sometimes things seem to have moved a bit, so I have to compromise a little.) Finally, I loosen a few of the spool clamps at a time and slip hot hide glue into the joint, using a thin palette knife. I clean up all around, so as to not leave glue on the outside of the violin.

Spool-clamps.

Spool clamps can look like these, or even more simple: sections of closet rod with all-thread bolts. There are a lot of possible options.

 

Finally, the plate is fully glued and clamped, and I wait for it to dry.

Guarneri copy top plate installed with hot hide glue and spool clamps.

Guarneri copy top plate installed with hot hide glue and spool clamps.

After the top plates are installed, I trace the European Maple back plates and cut them out. Here are the two garlands with the top plates installed and the back plates cut out:

Completed Garlands with plates.

Completed Garlands with plates.

 

Next stop will be arching the back plates.

 

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F-Holes and Graduations

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F-Holes and Graduations

F-hole Incision and Final Arching

In my last post, I told you I would “talk about F-holes, next time”…and we are doing so. But final arching, as well as graduation have to be completed before we actually cut out the f-holes, so, first things first:

I lay out and incise the f-holes after the arching is (mostly) completed, but before beginning any graduations. (I had a few mishaps years ago, when I graduated first, and subsequently discovered that my plates were actually too thin where the f-holes were to be laid out. I learned from the error, and I check the thicknesses around my already-in-place f-hole incisions, before beginning graduation, now.)

I laid out the distance from the upper edge of each plate to where the bridge would go. That is where the inner “nicks” of the f-holes will go. I measured back from there to find where the inner edges of the upper eyes of the f-holes would go, and laid out not only that longitudinal position, but the lateral distance off center, to the inner edge of each eye. Then I repeated that process for the inner edges of the lower f-hole eyes, and I was ready to use a template to scribe in the actual perimeters of the f-holes. I simply aligned the clear plastic template (traced off the full-size photos of the original instruments) so that the inner nicks were on the bridge line, and the inner sides of both upper and lower eyes were at their correct locations. I pressed the template firmly, so that it followed the curvature of the plate, and traced with a very sharp pencil.

I try to bear in mind that the pencil line will actually be “inside” the actual footprint of the f-hole, and I will remember to adjust it later. For now, however, I incise the perimeter of both f-holes fairly deeply, so that the marks will not disappear as I complete the final arching. (In the photo below, I had also traced around the incision with a very sharp pencil, to highlight the cut, so I could see it from any angle. Otherwise it can be hard to see.)

F-hole layout and incision

F-holes laid-out and incised.

 

Final Arching

I have learned that arching is one of the most important factors in violin sound. I use two “markers” for determining the final arching.

The first: I can see that, when viewed from the side of the instrument (at least, the ones I am concerned with), the f-holes on the old master instruments appear to have the main stem nearly parallel with the plane of the ribs. I have no idea whether that is truly important as far as aesthetics, but, I have also observed that, when left to my own instinct (or lack thereof) as to proper arching, my f-holes invariably end up resembling an “S” laid on its side. So, it is a “marker” that tells me my arching is a bit “off”, if nothing else. That is why I incise the f-hole perimeters deeply enough so that I can adjust the arching to get the stems of the f-holes parallel to the rib-plane, and be fairly sure that, at least that part is better than it was before.

The second “marker” is even more mundane: I made “arching templates,” traced from the posters, so that I can actually check and see that my arching closely follows that of the old masters. It is fascinating to me, to see them drop into place, one by one, as I carefully plane and scrape away the last few “humps”. I know that many makers are convinced they do not need such a “crutch”, but I see it as only a tool. I would never claim to be able to draw a perfectly straight line by eye and hand alone, and I shamelessly use a straight-edge for such a task. Arching templates are the same thing, in my estimation. Whenever I use them, even on a plate that I thought to be very close to correct, I invariably discover that it was not as good as I thought it was.

Using arching templates and scrapers to perfect the arching contours

Using arching templates and scrapers to perfect the arching contours

 

The truly-completed arching is not terribly different than the rough-arching I had completed before incising the f-holes, but that sort of difference can make the difference between “acceptable” and “extraordinary” sound. When I first began using such templates, I immediately got a different response from players. They said, “This one is different! Whatever you did on this one, do it again!” (Okay…will do!) So…now I do it on every single instrument, and try to make each one better than the one before.

 

Graduation

What we call “graduation” is simply the process (and results) of carefully carving the inside arch to match the outside arch, leaving a specified thickness between, which could all be the same, or they could vary according to some sort of deliberate scheme designed to project well, or to give superior sound in some other way. Or it could be following a “general plan,” but, beyond that, be fairly random. There are all sorts of patterns and plans.

In this case I attempted (at least in a general way) to mimic the graduations of the original old master instruments whose pattern I was attempting to follow. (In case you have not read the previous installments, these two are to be modeled after the 1715 “Titian” Stradivari instrument and the 1735 “Plowden” Guarneri del Gesu instrument, respectively.) Their graduations are pretty thin, so this is a little scary, to me. I hope it works well.

I use a gouge to rapidly carve out the rough wood, until I am approaching the proper thicknesses, but then I switch to a toothed finger-plane for rapid, but controlled, wood removal. When I am getting close enough that I am fearful of going too far, I switch to a non-toothed curved-sole finger plane and carefully bring the thicknesses down to my target measurements.

Carving rough graduations

Carving rough graduations

 

Planing rough graduations, using toothed finger-plane

Planing rough graduations, using toothed finger-plane

 

Checking graduation using shadow-lines.

Checking graduation using shadow-lines.

 

Final check of graduations.

Final check of graduations.

 

Two plates with graduation completes.

Two plates with graduation completed.

 

 

 

F-Holes

The F-holes are pretty much “locked-in,” now; the only thing remaining is to actually remove the wood inside the f-hole lines. The first order of business is to remove the circular portions at the upper and lower eyes of each f-hole. For this, I use a tool called an “f-hole drill”, which my grown children purchased for me a few years ago. It  makes perfectly round holes, ranging in size from 5.5 mm up tp 10 mm in diameter, in 1/2 mm increments. I center a 3/32″ diameter hole in the center of the round portion of each eye, and then, using the correct bit, I insert the guide pin into that hole and gently rotate the tool to incise the hole, forst from the outside, and then from the inside, to prevent splintering, but completing the cut from the outside, so that in case any splintering does occur, it will be on the inside.

F-hole drill with cut-out plug from lower f-hole eye

F-hole drill with cut-out plug from lower f-hole eye.

 

All f-hole eyes cut: ready to remove remaining wood.

All f-hole eyes cut: ready to remove remaining wood.

 

Then I use a very thin, sharp knife to complete the incisions around the perimeter until the wood pops out cleanly.

Final f-hole wood removal.

Final f-hole wood removal.

 

Completed f-holes, ready for cleanup and final shaping.

Completed f-holes, ready for cleanup and final shaping.

 

I will continue to fine-tune the shape of the f-holes up until I begin varnishing, but, for now, they are complete.

The next thing will be the bass-bar in each top plate. The bass-bar supports the bass-side foot of the bridge, and the bass side of the plate. It is necessary in order to achieve the rich deep tones on the bass side of the violin range. So…next time: bass-bars!

 

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