Posts Tagged ‘carving’

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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Two Plates

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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.

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Scroll, pegbox and Neck-set

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Scroll and Pegbox completion: and Neck-set

Scroll and Pegbox Completion:

When I last posted, I had just temporarily attached the fingerboard to the neck, but had not carved the pegbox, nor the fluting on the back and top of the scroll. In the past I have completed those before attaching the fingerboard, but this time I was anxious to get going, and it seemed a good idea at the time….

So…I first shaved the fingerboard sides to fairly closely match the handle portion of the neck, and then began carving the pegbox.

Carving the pegbox.

Carving the pegbox.

 

Carving complete: scraping and filing to follow.

Carving complete: scraping and filing to follow.

 

Then I could complete the outside of the pegbox, finish tapering and scraping the handle portion of the neck, and carve the fluting on the scroll. I still had the centerline I had scribed when I first cut out the scroll, so I worked from there, and tried to “color inside the lines.”

Nearing completion.

Neck is nearing completion, outside and inside of Pegbox are pretty much complete. No fluting yet.

 

Fluting nearing completion...back view.

Fluting nearing completion…back view.

 

Fluting nearing completion: front view.

Fluting nearing completion: front view. Lots of scraping left to do.

 

Neck Mortise

Before I can set the neck, I have to lay out the exact footprint of the neck heel on the centerline of the corpus, where I will cut the mortise through the ribs and into the neck-block. I have deliberately left the heel long, so that I can set it through the neck-block, and not have to worry about fitting against the back button, because I haven’t installed the back plate yet. I will trim the heel afterward, and, when I level the back of the corpus, just before installing the back plate, I will level the heel right along with the linings and blocks.

So here is how the neck mortise went:

Mortise layout

The mortise is laid out off the centerline, which you can barely see in this photo, because one top rib nearly obscured it.

 

mortise beginning

First, I removed the rib ends, and double-checked my layout lines.

 

Front plate cut out.

Then I removed the waste wood from the edge of the front plate.

 

Mortise carving

Then I began chiseling away the block wood, to open the mortise.

 

Neck-set

The mortise has to fit the neck in every respect: It has to be the right width and shape, so that the neck goes to the correct depth. (I wanted a 6mm overstand at the edge of the front plate.) It has to be the right depth so that the distance from the front edge of the nut, to the top of the front plate will be exactly 130mm. The sole of the mortise has to be flat, so as to fit tightly against the end of the neck, but at the correct angles, both laterally and fore-and-aft, so that the neck is not twisted in relation to the corpus, the centerline of the neck is in line with the centerline of the corpus, and the projection angle is either exactly right or just a shade high. I have had instruments change fairly rapidly after they have been strung at tension for a while, due to the top bulging a little as it is compressed by the string pressure, so, I deliberately set the projection angle just a tiny bit high, anticipating that it will change a bit under string tension.

Dry-fit neck-set.

Dry-fit neck-set. No glue, yet. Just the final check of all measurements and angles.

 

Dry-fit check of overstand mark and neck length mark.

Dry-fit check of overstand mark and neck length mark. Both are correct.

 

When I am finally satisfied that all is correct, I remove the neck one last time, slather the hot hide glue into the mortise, and shove the neck home for good. I quickly check all measurements, to make sure I got it in correctly. I only have a few seconds before that glue sets up permanently. Fortunately, all was still good, and I applied a single clamp to hold it until the glue dries.

Neck-set, glued, and clamped.

Neck-set, glued, and clamped.

 

What’s Next?

You can see that I have about 10mm of extra heel hanging out behind the back of the neck block. I will saw that off, nearly flush, plane it as close to flush as I dare, then, after removing the mold, installing the back linings, and trimming the linings and blocks, I will level the entire back of the corpus, including the heel, on a “sanding board.” When all is perfectly flat, I will install the back plate, and the violin will begin to take on a life of its own.

For some reason, after I close the corpus, or thereabouts, I cease to see the instruments I make as a “project I am building”, and simply see them as an instrument I am working on. I am working on a violin, at that point, not just something that will become a violin. It is a strange feeling, but it has happened on every instrument.  A student, who built his first instrument under my guidance, put it another way: as the instrument came together, he suddenly said, “This is getting real!” I knew exactly what he meant.

Next time I will remove the mold, install the back linings, shape the blocks, and maybe get this thing closed up!

 

Thanks for looking.

 

 

 

 

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More Progress: Plates and Scroll.

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More Progress: Plates and Scroll.

Completing the Back Plate

I continued planing away wood from the inside of the back plate until it was very nearly correct, then switched to scrapers, and completed the inside surface, so that it looks to be a smooth continuum of curves, transitioning without a ripple. The  plate will require no further attention until I am ready to install it. Unlike the front plate, I intend to install the purfling later, after I am completely sure how the garland will respond to having the mold removed (sometimes they can move, and change shape a little.)

Back Plate Graduation complete.

Back Plate Graduation complete.

 

Scroll Progress

I also continued working on the scroll. My hands were getting pretty tired, so I took a break from that. It is still quite rough, but, here’s how it looked at break time:

scroll beginning

Long way to go.

 

scroll progress

On the right path, but “miles to go before I sleep.”

 

Bass Bar Fitting

To fit a bass bar, I begin with a completed front plate, and lay out the position of the bass bar, so that the distance from the center to the bar, level with upper and lower bouts at maximum width, is 1/7th the full distance from centerline to the edge at those respective points. Usually, that means that the lower point will be about 15mm from the centerline and the upper one about 12mm (as it is in this case.) I lay out a line through those two points, and observe where it is, nearest to the bass-side f-hole. If it is too close, I “fudge” it away, a bit, trying not to change the angle. (The bass bar has to clear the f-hole.) Then I mark the two ends, 40mm away from the ends of the plate, and that is the place to fit the bass bar: the “footprint”, so to speak.

Bass bar position laid out.

Bass bar position laid out.

 

I use chalk to fit my bass-bars. I have never had a good enough eye, and a sure enough knife-hand to accurately fit a bass-bar without the use of chalk, though I have known master makers who regularly did so…perfectly. (Sorry… I’m not good enough for that.) On the other hand, I have had some nasty experiences with the residue of blue chalk mingling with the yellowish hide glue when installing a bass bar: it left a very ugly green stain…and it never completely came out. So…what to do? In the first place, I switched to pink chalk. If a little chalk is left, the glue will simply make it look a bit orange. (No problem.) But, I really don’t want chalk residue at all.

A friend showed me the paper “gauze” tape available in pharmacies. It is thin enough to completely conform to the surface of the plate, and  produce a good fit, and, it is slightly translucent, so I can see my layout lines through the tape, and keep the chalk on just the path of the bass bar. I first use a compass to mark the general shape of the bottom of the bass bar, and then trim it with a knife and a small plane. That gets me “in the ball-park,” so to speak. After that, it is chalk-fitting time.

The front plate is made of European spruce, but I chose Sitka spruce for the bass bar. There is quite a contrast in color between relatively fresh European spruce, and well-aged Sitka spruce. It actually made it a little difficult to see the pink chalk against the dark wood. But it worked.

Bass bar blank, knife-trimmed after tracing the shape with a compass.

Bass bar blank, knife-trimmed after tracing the shape with a compass.

 

paper gauze tape

This is the paper gauze tape I use for chalk-fitting.

 

Paper gauze tape and pink chalk

Paper gauze tape and pink chalk, ready to begin chalk-fitting.

 

Layout lines visible through the tape.

Layout lines visible through the tape.

 

Layout lines traced over on the tape, to make them more visible.

Layout lines traced over on the tape, in pencil, to make them even more visible.

 

Chalk on tape.

Chalk on tape.

 

Chalk transferred to bass bar

Chalk transferred to bass bar

 

The idea, in any chalk-fitting procedure, is to press the fitted part (being fitted) into the chalked surface to which it is being fit, then trim away only the portions where the chalk transferred. So, in the case of the bass bar, I need to press it into the chalked top plate, and then check the bottom of the bass bar blank, to see where to cut. I trim off the obvious spots, and try again. Ideally, every time I try, I will get a broader transfer of chalk. When the whole area gets a light dusting of chalk at one time, the fit is as close to perfect as I can get it. I remove the tape, wipe off any chalk residue, slather the hot hide glue onto the bottom of the bass bar, and clamp it home. On a good day, it takes me a half-hour. On a bad day? Don’t ask… 🙂  This time wasn’t bad, though.

Chalk-fitting complete; Dry-clamped to check fit.

Chalk-fitting complete; Dry-clamped to check the fit.

 

Tight fit

The fit is good!

 

Glued and clamped

Glued and clamped. 

More Scroll Progress

While the glue was drying on the bass bar, I went back to work on the scroll. It was looking verrry rough when I had to take a break, so it is nice to see it progressing better, now. There is still a lot to do. I have to excavate the pegbox, and cut the fluting in the volute. But this is as far as I am going tonight. I am glad to call it a night, and let my hands rest.

More scroll progress

More scroll progress: there is still a long way to go, but it is looking better.

 

Scroll partly complete.

Final status for tonight. Looking a lot better, and more encouraging to see.

 

I have other things to do tomorrow, so I may or may not get to work on the violin. At the very least, I expect I will be able to trim the bass bar to the shape I want it, but beyond that, I don’t know.

 

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The Plates

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The Plates

Shaping the linings

Last time, I had the Garland complete, except for trimming (shaping) the linings, and levelling the front of the garland so I could trace the shape of the plates from the completed garland. I shaped the linings, using a small sharp knife and a scraper:

Shaped linings

The linings are shaped using a small sharp knife to cut the taper, and then scraped smooth, using a scraper.

 

Leveling the Garland and Tracing the Plates

I leveled the garland by rubbing it on a sanding board (coarse abrasive cloth glued to a flat aluminum plate, in this case), and then used a washer to trace the shape onto the front plate. The washer adds 3 millimeters around the perimeter of the garland, to allow for the plate overhang on the finished instrument. I still have to shape the corners separately, as the washer simply makes them round:

Tracing the plate perimeter

Tracing the plate perimeter, using a washer and a ball-point pen.

 

The Front plate perimeter as initially traced: notice the round corners.

The front plate perimeter as it was initially traced: notice the round corners.

 

Corrected corner shapes.

Now the corners have been refined and corrected. I am deliberately leaving them on the long side; I will trim them later.

 

Cutting out the Plates

I used a bandsaw to cut out the plates, as close to the lines as I could, without touching them. Then I used a spindle sander to bring the perimeter exactly to the lines, and, finally, I used files to smooth out any ripples left by the sander. I am really not comfortable looking at these extra-long corners, but, once the garland is glued to the plate, it is very easy to trim them to the exact length I want; and much more difficult to put wood back, if I remove too much.

Front plate cut out.

Front plate interior, cut, refined, and ready for carving. The lines show the margins, and the corner and end-blocks’ shapes.

 

I am deliberately leaving my corners abnormally long, as one of the problems noted by my teacher is that I have had a pattern of making rather short corners. (Ironically, I had only done so as an over-correction to an early tendency to make my corners too long. Sigh…)

I handled the back plate in similar fashion to the front, and completed it next. It was very important that I remember to trace the front plate off the front of the garland, and the back plate off the back. The two look very similar, and will match very well when complete, but they are not precisely symmetrical about the centerline, so; if I forget and trace them both from the same side, then one of them will definitely not fit. (Ask me how I know….)

Now I am ready to begin plate-carving. I will begin with the front plate, simply because it is easier on my hands. Furthermore, the pattern of building I follow requires that the front plate be completed first anyway. But, honestly, the older I get, the more it stresses my hands to carve the maple, so it is nice to have the front plate completely done, and to feel good about that while I begin to tackle the back plate.

Both plates, along with the completed garland.

Both plates, along with the completed garland. Looking at the interior of each plate, and the front side of the garland.

 

To you sharp-eyed observers, the reason the slant of the “flame” on the back is going up from left to right, instead of down from left to right, is that you are looking at the inside of the plate. When I turn it over and carve the outside, you will see that it slopes the same way as the one in the poster.

Over the next few days, I will move toward completing the carving of the front plate. Then…well, you can follow along and see. 🙂

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Graduation Progress

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Carving the Inside of the Front Cello Plate

 

All with planes, this time.

I probably should have used gouges, but the planes are so easy to control and the spruce is so easy to carve, that I chose to use these three planes: (I may still use gouges to get the areas around the end block platforms correct.)

Carving inside of cello top plate

Carving inside of cello top plate: Two hours work, and not done.

As you can see, the plate is not yet done, but I was pretty tired to start with, today, and now I am even more so.

Cello front plate with tools

Cello front plate with tools

Keeping the Goal in View

Here is how deep the graduations are, so far. I hope to have the thickness of the whole center area at about 5.5mm, fading to 4mm up the center on both ends, and 3mm on the upper and lower “flanks”, for lack of better word.  Right now the center is 6mm, and the areas up the center are still about 7mm…the areas out in the skirts are way too thick, still: 10-12mm. It takes a fair amount of care, graduating a cello plate: I have to stop every few minutes and check the thickness with a dial caliper, to avoid making the plate too thin.

Depth of partial graduation--correct in center; unfinished elsewhere.

Depth of partial graduation–correct in center; unfinished elsewhere.

Perhaps I will have it finished and ready for the bass bar by Tuesday. Tomorrow is busy, and I will work late Monday, so…probably Tuesday. That’s OK: it will give my hands time to recuperate.  They are pretty worn out…and that one-piece maple cello back will be much tougher to carve.

I did, however, complete the refinishing of the viola I built back in November. It looks pretty nice, now. So I will have that for the show, as well.

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