Posts Tagged ‘gouges’

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.

Thanks for looking

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5-String Fiddle Progress Report #5: F-holes and Bass-Bar

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F-holes and Bass-bar

F-hole Drill

We had just completed the graduation in the last post; Usually, by this point, I am beginning to see the interior of the f-holes, too, because, as you may recall, I had incised them pretty deeply. In this particular case, I could just barely see some portions. I guess they were not as deep as I thought they were.

Once the inside is complete, I finish cutting the f-holes. Many people use a jeweler’s saw, a fretsaw, or a coping saw to cut out the f-holes. I generally just use the knife, except that I do have a special tool for cutting the round upper and lower eyes. I didn’t take any photos of it this time…here is one from an earlier instrument:

f-hole drill

F-hole drill being used to cut the lower eyes on a cello.

f-hole drill and holes

F-hole drill with completed eyes and cut-out plugs.

F-holes Completed and Clean

Just getting the f-holes cut is only part of the job…they need to be clean, and smooth, and relatively symmetrical. I will keep touching them up and tweaking them until the day I begin the varnish, most likely, but here they are; close to being complete, if not completely done.

f-holes

F-holes essentially complete.

By the way, you may have noticed that on this instrument (and the last one) I purfled after installing the plates. I was taught to purfle early, but I always had trouble getting my overhang even, and my purfling parallel to the ribs. So I tried purfling after closing…works fine and looks better. Diff’rent strokes, I guess….

Bass Bar

When the f-holes are complete, and clean, I can fit the bass-bar. The bass-bar is a spruce brace supporting the bass-side of the bridge, and providing for a good sound on the low strings.

I lay out the location of the bassbar, 1/14th of the width off center, at both upper and lower bouts. It usually ends up about 15 mm off center at the lower bout and 12 mm off center at the upper bout. (Those were the exact measurements this time: the upper bout was 168mm wide and the lower was 210 mm wide. So 1/14th of each was 12mm and 15mm respectively.) When I lay the bass-bar blank along that line, the side of the blank should just about “kiss” the upper eye on the bass side. I make slight adjustments as needed to make sure it does not obstruct the f-hole at all, then scribe the line in with a flexible steel ruler and a soft pencil. The line ends 40mm from each end of the plate, so the bassbar is just under 11″ long, (and about 7mm thick where it contacts the plate, tapering to 5mm along the free edge.)

bass-bar layout

Bass-bar layout lines complete.

Chalk-Fit Trick

Then I do something a little unusual: lots of luthiers chalk-fit bass-bars…in fact, probably most of them do. I have only known one or two who can successfully “eye-ball” the thing in. But I do not like the looks of chalk-residue mixed with hide-glue, either. I can’t see the white chalk clearly enough to use it, and the others leave an ugly residue– expecially the green or blue chalks.

So… what to do? Someone, years ago (can’t recall who…probably my friend Jake Jelley), pointed out that the paper gauze tape sold in pharmacies will stick securely, you can see the line through the tape, and it holds the chalk very well. The tape (3M Micropore) is so thin and fragile that you get a very good fit, but when you take the tape off after the fit is perfect, all the chalk comes off with it. (Careful! It can pull splinters off, too!) Hey, Presto! Clean wood, and you are ready to glue in the bass bar!

Pre-Fitting the Bar

I pre-fit the bass-bar by eye, using a compass to mark the contour from both sides, then trimming with knife and plane until the fit is close.

Bass-bar pre-fit.

Bass-bar pre-fit by eye, using a knife and plane to trim the wood to a close fit. Chalk-fitting is next.

Then I apply the paper tape, darken the line on the tape as needed, and begin the chalk-fit process. It is important to learn to JUST plane or scrape away the portion of the bass bar with chalk on it, on each try. Don’t plane off whole sections…it is possible that only that one little place with the chalk was high.

paper tape for chalk fit.

There is the paper tape…you can still see my layout lines.

chalk-fitting bass-bar

Beginning chalk-fit.

chalk-fit complete

Chalk-fit complete, and tape removed. Notice the arrow on the upper end of the bar: that is to keep me from forgetting which end is which.

Final Check and Installation

I check the fit by clamping the bar in place, dry.

bass-bar dry fit

Dry fit and clamped for final check. Seems to fit acceptably…

Then I remove the clamps, and slather on the hot hide glue–carefully. I quickly re-position the bar and clamp it securely, then clean up, using hot water and a brush. The small amount of watered-down glue soaking into the wood around the bar doesn’t seem to hurt anything, so I don’t worry about it.

bass-bar glued and clamped

Bass-bar glued, clamped and brushed down with hot water.

Shaping the Bass Bar

When the glue is completely dry, I remove the clamps and shape the bar…”just so”.

sketched shape of bass-bar

The glue is dry… see the sketched-in proposed shape of the finished bass-bar. The dark area beside the bar is just a shadow, not glue.

I do not have a “scheme”, here, and I do not measure it beyond occasionally checking the center height. I am just going by feel, by eye, and by experience. I know if the bass bar is too weak, it will affect the sound of the bass string…so I err on the side of a tall bar. I am certain that many will frown upon this. I am not telling you how you should cut a bass-bar; just sharing how I handle mine.

So; I use gouges and finger-planes initially, to shape the bar, finishing up with scrapers, files, and even sandpaper. (Yes, I know…but it’s OK, honest!)

And…there’s the plate, completed and ready to install! Well…sort of….

The glue was a little too thin on one end of the bar and it popped off for about a 2″ section. So it has been re-glued and is drying.

bass-bar nearly complete

Bass-bar nearly complete. One end popped loose, and needed re-gluing.I will do a little final shaping before calling it done.

Besides, the inner edges of the plate will have to be rounded and smoothed before I can actually install it. But there are probably less than 30 minutes of work left before I can glue the front plate in place. So it’s almost done. I hope to install it tomorrow, but I have some other things to do, as well.

Some of you may wonder why I install the front plate first; I was actually taught to do the back plate first, and to install the neck last, but it finally occurred to me that I could fit the neck before installing the back plate, and before removing the mold, and get a perfect neck-set, then trim the back of the heel flush with the rib plane, and install the back last, after removing the mold and cleaning up the interior. It worked very well, so I have continued the practice. Again; different ways of doing things result from different skill-sets and different problem-solving methods. There is nothing wrong with either way. (I even knew of a fellow who set the neck before installing either plate…but I can’t see that one. On the other hand, that guy made over 1000 instruments before he died, and sold every one of them; he must have been doing something right.)

So, the next post will involve completeing the neck and fingerboard assembly, installing the front plate, and setting the neck. Could be a week away; I am going to be working a lot of overtime on my day-job, for the next several months it seems.

Later the same evening:

finished bassbar 1

Bassbar is finally complete!

bass bar side view

Side view…lighting is difficult, but you can see the profile.

Thanks for looking.

Chet

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Five-String Fiddle Progress Report #4: Graduation

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5-String Progress Report #4

Graduation

Graduation begins with measuring in the spots where it already feels a little thin, so as not to make a fatal mistake and carve right through the plate. (It happens!)

Once I know where I am free to carve, and where I need to take it easy, I begin by carving cross-grain with a medium-large gouge. I check periodically with a caliper. When it begins looking closer to the right shape inside, I measure again, and double check those special spots.

carving inside violin front plate

Beginning graduation, using a gouge.

Then I go after it with a toothed finger-plane. This is really just an Ibex 18 mm finger-plane with a toothed blade, and a wooden handle added to save my fingers. I originally added that handle to keep from blistering my forefinger and thumb, as I had done so on every single instrument up to that point. (That was my #16 instrument– a cello.) I was surprised to discover that it also gave me much more power and control so that I was able to set the blade deeper and carve much more aggressively, taking off much thicker shavings.

Toothed plane use

Using a Toothed Finger Plane to further the Graduation process.

Once it is smooth inside, and within a millimeter or so of completion, I switch to a smaller finger plane and cut more gingerly, until it is all within a few tenths of a millimeter of the goal thicknesses, and then I finish with scrapers. Here is how the plate looks at that point:

graduation...inner arching.

Graduation nearly completed– the skewers are only there to create shadows so that the contiour will show in the photograph.

inner arching.

Another view, at a lower angle. There are still a few lumps to smooth out, but the graduation is essentially complete.

Usually, by that point, I am beginning to see the interior of the f-holes, too, because, as you may recall, I had incised them pretty deeply. Once the inside is complete, I finish cutting the f-holes. Many people use a jeweler’s saw, a fretsaw, or a coping saw to cut out the f-holes. I generally just use the knife, except that I do have a special tool for cutting the round upper and lower eyes.

And that is what I will show in the next post…which, hopefully will be sooner this time.

Thanks for looking,

Chet

 

 

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Channel cut and final arching begun

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Purfling channel and recurve begun, with final arching on the way.

Mark the crest, first

There are several ways to do this, but I used a compass, with the pencil withdrawn a few millimeters. I wanted to establish the crest of the edge about 40% of the way in from the outer edge of the plate to the edge of the purfling. In this particular case, the purfling is 5mm from the outer edge, so I set the compass for 2mm, and carefully traced all the way around the plate, so that I had a visible guide to follow with the gouge as I carved out the channel.

What gouge?

I used three different gouges: two have a curvature about like the ball of my thumb…no idea what specific sweep…one with a long handle, the other quite short. The third is a much smaller gouge I used specifically in the corners. Every few minutes I stopped and honed the gouges, or at least stropped them. You have to work very carefully to avoid tear-out in carving the channel on very curly maple. I used a rotating motion with the gouges, so that the wood and purfling was being sliced away, and was less likely to split.

What plane?

Once I had the channel cut all the way around, I switched to Ibex planes and began fairing the curve from the bottom of the channel up onto the highest areas of the plate. Occasionally I switched to a tiny flat Stanley plane to smooth out the ridges left by the curved sole Ibex planes.

It is still pretty bulgy, but looking better. All still quite rough…at this point I am more anxious to move a lot of wood than to move it smoothly. As I get closer to the final shape, I will take pains to make sure everything is smooth.

Here are a couple of pictures…not terribly clear, but I think you can see the progress.

channel and recurve cut...final arching begun

Still too high all over, but the channel is cut, and the final arching is begun.

Cello corner with channel cut and final arching begun

Same corner as before, with channel cut and final arching begun

I was getting pretty tired, so I am going to call it a night. I hope to get more done tomorrow night.

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