Posts Tagged ‘Sitka Spruce’

Bass Bar, Fingerboard and More

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Bass Bar, Fingerboard and More

Bass Bar Completion

When I last posted, I had installed the bass bar, and left it to dry overnight. (I did remove clamps too early one time…not good.) We needed to chauffeur a family member to the airport, in the morning, but before we left, I did get the clamps off and the bass bar completed. The rest of the day was occupied with other things.

Clamps removed: Bass bar still in raw condition.

Clamps removed: Bass bar still in raw condition.

 

Bass bar shape sketched

I sketched the general shape and size I wanted the bass bar to end up.

 

Bass bar profile planed.

Then I planed the profile shape, using an Ibex plane. Notice the Sitka  Spruce color is lightening up, as I plane away the older surface wood.

 

Bass bar complete, footprint view

Bass bar complete, footprint view; after planing and scraping.

 

Profile view of completed bass bar.

Profile view of completed bass bar.

 

Front Plate Preparation and Installation

Once the bass bar was completed, I rounded the inner edge of the front plate, all the way around, to about a 2mm radius. I checked everything one last time, and then carefully fitted the completed front plate to the completed garland, exactly where it was supposed to line up. I held it in place with six spool clamps: one at each block. Double-checked everything, then began removing a single clamp, one at a time, and inserting hot hide glue not only at that block, but as far in each direction as the blade would fit between the plate and garland. Then I re-tightened that clamp and added more spool clamps, side by side, repeating the operation umtil the whole perimeter was fully glued and clamped, like this:

Garland and front plate assembled.

The completed assembly of front plate and garland. (Remember, the mold is still in there, too!)

 

After I took the clamps off (several hours later,) the whole assembly looked like this with the back and neck:

Back, neck, garland and front plate.

Back, neck, garland and front plate.

 

More Scroll Work

While the glue dried between the garland and front plate, I completed the neck carving. There are still things to do: I have not carved the volute, yet, nor even the pegbox (usually I complete it before adding the fingerboard), but I was anxious to get the fingerboard installed, so that I could set the neck sometime soon.

Completing the neck and scroll.

Completing the neck and scroll. That gauge, with the cutouts, sizes the neck, top and bottom.

 

Fingerboard Preparation and Installation:

Once I was satisfied with the neck and scroll, I decided to begin the fingerboard. I first planed it until the edges were a consistent 5 mm thick. Then I  laid out the shape of the hollowed portion underneath the fingerboard, so that I could carve it out. I wanted the hollow to end just a few millimeters from the lower end of the neck, and be about 5mm thick all over.

 

Fingerboard prep

The hollow is laid out after the fingerboard has been planed to proper thickness.

 

More fingerboard prep

I carved, planed and scraped away the ebony until the hollow was the size and shape I wanted it to be.

 

Fingerboard temporarily attached to the neck.

Fingerboard temporarily attached to the neck, with three dots of hot hide glue.

 

Temporarily attaching the fingerboard allows me to complete the shaping of the handle portion of the neck and the fingerboard together, as a unit. I will then set the neck with the fingerboard still in place, but pop the fingerboard back off while I varnish the violin.

So…that is as far as I got today, but I feel relatively satisfied with the progress.

 

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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Progress on a 14-inch Viola

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Continuing on the 14-inch Viola

Arching and Graduation

The outside arching for the front plate is essentially complete, though there will be a lot of scraping, later on. I began the graduation (inside arching) of the front plate about the same time as I took off and “sprinted for the finish line” with the “Plowden” Guarneri-model violin (see recent posts), but all I accomplished was that the center of the plate is about the right thickness– everywhere else it was still way too thick.

So! Back to work! You can see (below) that the f-holes have been laid out and deeply incised, which allowed me to accomplish the last stage of the front arching (explained in an earlier post.) Now I need to carefully carve away the interior, until all the plate is the thickness I want it to be…which varies by region, all over the plate. I have to be very careful to check certain areas with a caliper before I begin to carve, or I may easily go too far and make the plate too thin. (Voice of sad experience….) The area around the lower ends of the f-holes are very likely victims of this error, so I try to check regularly, and avoid carving away too much in those areas, especially.

Outer arching small viola top

The outer arching of the small viola is complete, not counting the purfling channel.

 

Side view of small viola arching, before purfling and edgework.

Side view of the small viola’s arching, before purfling and edgework is done.

 

Inside arching of the small viola.

Inside arching of the small viola. The Graduation is complete. Next, I need to cut out the f-holes, and add the bass-bar. I do realize the corners are too long…I will trim them later.

 

Coffee Stain

One thing I decided on this instrument was that I should begin the coffee staining very early, so that, if there is any distortion, due to the wetting of the wood, I can correct it before the plates go on the garland. In this photo, it is hard to see how much the grain is raised, but, those wide summer grains of the Sitka Spruce are all swelled up like corduroy!

Accentuated grain lines, due to coffee stain.

Accentuated grain lines, due to coffee stain.

I will let it dry, and then gently scrape it smooth again. The issue, here, is that the summer grain swells more than the winter reeds, but when we scrape the wood, the summer reeds compress, while the winter reeds resist the blade and are cut away. The result is that the summer reeds are already raised, even before I wet it down and deliberately raise the grain, before leveling it again.

Things remaining:

When the plate is nearly perfect all over, I will finish cutting out the f-holes, and finish their edges as well as I can. I nearly always see something later that I have missed, so I just accept the fact that I will be making corrections right up until the time I begin varnishing. The same thing applies to the scroll. It will never be “perfect”, and I accept that.

I will lay out and fit the bass-bar, trying for an air-tight fit between the bass bar and the inside of the front plate. I install it using hot hide glue and clamps, but will trim it to the proper shape after the glue is dry.

After the bass-bar is fully completed, I round the inner edges of the front plate, so that it is ready to install on the garland.

Post Script:

All of the above was accomplished three weeks ago, before we left on vacation, so it should have been published then, too…but I kept thinking I would get a little more done before we left, so it simply did not happen.

We are back, and progress is once again happening, so I will post more in a day or two.

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More Fiddle Progress

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Progress on the Small (14-inch) Viola and the “Plowden” Guarneri model violin

Here are some photos of what is happening with these two fiddles. I decided to add a third instrument to the bench, so to speak, a 3/4-size violin (separate notes on separate thread), so it is slowing me down just a little.

Progress Checklist

Both the viola and the violin are moving along:

  • Arching is complete on the front plates of both instruments.
  • F-holes are laid out on both instruments, cut out and complete on the violin.
  • The bass bar has been fitted, installed and trimmed in the viola.
  • Graduation is nearly complete on the viola, complete on the violin.
  • The scrolls are partially carved…still a fair way to go.
  • The back plates are arched, but there is still some work to be done on each before I would call them absolutely complete.
  • The top plate has been installed on the violin, and purfling installed.
  • The violin top plate and rib garland are nearly complete…the edgework is done, but some refining will still happen.
  • You can see that I trimmed a couple of millimeters off the corners of the violin front plate. I will do the same on the other three plates as well.

Here are some photos:

July 3rd status of Guarneri-model violin.

July 3rd status of Guarneri-model violin. (Wood for back, sides and neck is European Maple. Wood for top is European Spruce.)

 

July 3rd status Guarneri-model violin back

July 3rd status Guarneri-model one-piece violin back. Arching and graduation are nearly complete.

 

July 3rd status of Oliver 14

July 3rd status of Oliver 14″ Viola.

 

July 3rd status Oliver 14 inch Viola front plate

July 3rd status Oliver 14 inch Viola front plate. Arching and graduation essentially complete. F-holes laid out and deeply incised. (Wood is Sitka Spruce.)

 

July 3rd status Oliver 14 inch Viola back plate

July 3rd status Oliver 14 inch Viola back plate. Arching and graduation nearly complete. (Wood is spalted, highly figured Big Leaf Maple, harvested about five miles from my house.)

 

July 3rd status Oliver 14 inch Viola scroll and neck.

July 3rd status Oliver 14 inch Viola scroll and neck. (Wood is spalted Big leaf maple…from the same log as the back plate.)

Prognosis:

So…you can see that progress is happening. Not at a very exciting pace, but I hope the wait will be worthwhile.

My goal is to produce three very good instruments this summer/fall:

  • the 14-inch viola,
  • the Guarneri-model violin, and
  • the 3/4-size violin,

and then show them, along with a larger viola, to orchestra directors and teachers in the Greater Portland Area.

My rationale is that good small violas are hard to find, and so are good fractional sized instruments. If I can demonstrate to the teachers that I can produce very good instruments in smaller sizes, as well as the larger sizes, then perhaps they will recommend their students to me.

All I can do is try….

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Current “State of the Fiddles” report.

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Slow Progress, But Moving Along!

Scroll-carving

I spent most of Saturday working on carving the viola scroll. I am not as fast as a lot of luthiers seem to be. It takes me more than eight hours to carve a scroll, and I can’t go at it for eight hours straight, anymore, anyway. So, between the heat and my other responsibilities, this is pretty much all I got done. It is still not complete, of course, but it is looking closer to complete, and it feels encouraging, to look at it.

This is a Big Leaf Maple scroll and back, on top of a Sitka Spruce top plate. It is interesting to carve domestic maple in close proximity to European maple. They are not the same at all. The big leaf maple is much softer, and feels almost fuzzy, under the scraper. Much lighter-weight, too, and has a different ring, when I tap it. European seemsto be  superior for violins, though domestic maples seem to work fime for larger instruments (or possibly it is the lower tones involved.) This instrument will be a good “experiment” in that regard. If  this instrument is very good, then the lower tone is the issue– if it is questionable, I may repeat the experiment immediately with European Maple and see if that corrects it. If it does, then the size of the instrument may be what is the problem.

But I suspect it will be a very good viola. I have made other very small (14-7/8″ on the body) violas using the same woods, before, and they were very good. This will be the smallest I have made, using domestic woods.

Partially completed scroll for the 14

Partially completed scroll for the 14″ viola

 

Planing and flattening the plates

Actually, come to think of it, I did do a little more– I went and used my son’s tools and planed the two violin plates to appropriate thicknesses to start working them.  I was shooting for about 17mm thick, to begin with, so that my finished arching will be close to that thickness, after everything else has been carved away. Then I laid-out the shapes of the plates by tracing them from the completed garland, and cut them out at home. So, here is what the whole pile looks like today. Last week, some of the plates were still square and flat, and very thick…this week they are all the correct thicknesses, and one scroll is nearing completion.

The lines on the right-hand maple plate (the viola back) are sketching in where the carving will happen on the inside of the plate: I will carve the outside first, to get the exact arching I have planned, then carve the inside to a similar shape, to get the exact thisknesses I hope to achieve (called “graduations” because the thickness is different in different areas, and changes gradually from area to area.) Both the arching and the graduations are critical to the final resulting sound. In my opinion,  the arching is probably more important, but I can’t prove it.

do know that when I accidentally arched some of my early violins the way (I later was taught) a viola is supposed to be arched, those violins sounded like violas, in spite of everything else about them being “violin.” It was very perplexing to me, at the time, as my ear was not well-enough trained to hear the difference, and all I knew is that it was a violin! And these crazy players kept telling me it sounded like a viola! They were right! The arching was the issue that decided the character of the sound. Good learning experience.

Current State of the Fiddles

Current State of the Fiddles

The wood on the left is European maple and spruce I bought from International Violin Co., in Baltimore, MD. I have used their wood before, and it has worked well. Both have linings and blocks made of weeping willow.

As you can see, both instruments have one-piece backs, and two-piece, book-matched fronts (sometimes referred to as tops, or bellies). In both cases the ribs and necks/scrolls are of  wood matching the back plate.

I will keep you all posted.

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Progress report on two new fiddles

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Progress Report on the 14″ Oliver Viola, and the Violin Modeled after the 1735 “Plowden” Guarneri.

“Life is what actually happens while you are making other plans.”

Well…company came and went, and the week didn’t happen exactly as I wanted it to; There were other things to do, and people to spend time with. My only daughter was here all week, which was nice– she flew in from Switzerland, with about a week’s notice. We went to the beach, Monday, and spent the day infiltrating all the art and clothing stores in Cannon Beach, then had fish and chips and headed home. 🙂

My younger brother dropped in for a surprise visit today, with my young neice. That was a nice visit. While they were here, a neighbor couple showed up, too. We ate and visited, and had a nice evening. Afterward, I helped Ann trim a hedge and haul the branches to the burning pile. All good things.

So! Progress report:

I am trying to keep the two instruments on parallel tracks for completion…hoping to keep them no more than a few hours apart in terms of progress.

Progress in building 14” Guarneri-model Viola and Violin:

(Hand-carved instruments begun on May 25th, 2016)

  1.  Cut and install the blocks. (May 25th)
  2. Prepare the ribs, by sanding (using a plywood jig I made to use with my spindle sander). (May 25th )
  3. Bend the ribs, using the bending iron, and install them on the blocks (several steps). (May 26th, 27th)
  4. Prepare, install and shape the front linings. (May 27th, 28th)
  5. Use the sanding board to flatten front of garland. (May 30th)
  6. Prepare the plate stock (book-match and flatten inner side) (Front only—one-piece backs on both fiddles.) (May 30th)
  7. Use the completed garland to establish the shape of the plates. (May 30th)
  8. Cut the front plate exactly to size, including filing and sanding. (Only got the viola cut out. I will cut out the violin tomorrow night if it isn’t too hot when I get home. )
  9. Lay out and cut out scroll and neck. (May 26th)

(Began carving both scrolls using gouges and small finger-planes—spent a good part of May 28th doing that, while waiting for bending irons to heat up, etc. More time as time and strength allow. That maple is tough stuff, and my hands tire quickly anymore.)

Here is the photo-evidence: Handmade in Oregon 🙂

two instruments in progress-viola and violin

May 30th Progress Report.

 

The instrument on the left is the 14″ viola, and is made of Oregon Big Leaf Maple, and Sitka Spruce. The one on the right is the violin, and is made of European Maple and Spruce. Both have blocks and linings of weeping willow.

I ran out of time and energy, so the cutting out of the violin plates will have to wait until later. Once they are cut out, I can begin arching the front plates, and get these things looking more like fiddles.

As you can see, I am trying corners that are a little longer, this time. I may end up shortening them after all, but I left extra in case I wanted them longer. Usually I make pretty short corners.

Vacation is Over– Back to Work!

That’s all I have to show, for today. I go back to work tomorrow. Classes are over for this term, but I still have to prepare certificates, and arrange make-up tests for those who need them.

(For those who don’t know, I teach Welding Supervision classes at Gunderson, Inc. where I have worked for the last nearly 30 years. I began there as a welder, but nowadays I mostly lecture. Print-reading classes, remedial Math classes, Welding Inspection classes, Safety, Metallurgy, etc. It is not as fun as making fiddles, but it is steady. :-))

Thanks for looking,

Chet

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New Instruments Beginning

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What’s New?

I had a fair amount of positive feedback on two particular instruments at the Maryhurst show: a “1735 Plowden” Guarneri model violin, and a 14″ Oliver viola that has pretty amazing sound. So I decided to see if I could repeat the successes, and am building a new one of each model.

1735 Plowden Guarneri model

This is a very powerful instrument, pretty classic Guarneri style and sound. I took my measurements from the Strad poster and technical drawings, and copied the archings from there, as well. The first one had a rich powerful tone from the day it was first strung up and playing. So, I hope the second try at the same instrument will be even better.

This one (like the first one, and, like the original) is European maple (one-piece back) and European spruce. I am using willow for blocks and linings. I am always impressed with the difference in how the European wood handles under the knife, gouge or plane. I have been told by all my mentors and teachers that, at least for violins, the European Maple is definitely superior in terms of tone. I am going to take their word for it…they are all very experienced makers who really ought to know. They did say, however, for violas, cellos, and basses, that domestic woods seem to work fine. Must have something to do with the higher-frequency sound or something like that. Although, that last five-string fiddle I made, of Myrtle and Port Orford Cedar, has very good high end tone, as well as good low notes…so I don’t know why one is better than another. The Myrtle is definitely harder, heavier wood…maybe that helped.

14-inch Oliver Viola

This will actually be off the same mold as the Guarneri violin (a duplicate of it), so it will have exactly the same “footprint”, but the arching and graduations, as well as the rib-height and other differences will definitely make it a viola, not a violin with viola strings. It is comparatively easy to make a large viola that sounds great, but much more difficult to make a very satifactory small viola. Fortunately, I fell into (quite by accident) an arching pattern that worked very well, and later had it confirmed by one of my teachers, so I had early (accidental) success with small violas, and have gotten better as I learned to understand what was happening with them.

I like the viola sound, and I am big enough to play my largest viola model (16-1/2 Guarneri model) comfortably, but I can see where a professional player could encounter some problems holding his/her arm out at that distance for hours of practice or orchestral performance. So, the small violas have a special attraction in terms of comfort…and if they can sound comparable to a larger instrument, so much the better. I also make a 14-7/8″ viola, but the 14″ viola is the smallest I have made.

This one is Big Leaf maple and Sitka spruce. Willow linings, same as the other new instrument.

Parallel Processes

I will be attempting to complete the two new instruments side by side, step by step, so that whatever stage I am at in one will be where I am on the other, as well (give or take an hour or two.) We’ll see how that plays out.

I’ll post pictures in a few days.

Thanks for reading.

Chet

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Building a Double Bass: Shaping the Blocks

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Shaping the Double Bass Blocks

Lots of Wood to Move!

As you may recall from the previous post, the blocks on this upright bass were pretty huge, compared to what they needed to be, so there was really a lot of wood to remove.

Mold with blocks and ribs

Mold with blocks and ribs. Blocks are still way oversized, and the ribs are still straight. Gotta change all that.

 

“Kutzall” Tool

So! A drastic need makes for drastic measures. Ordinarily, on a smaller instrument, I would use the bandsaw and oscillating spindle sander to shape the blocks, but this  mold is reeaaalllly heavy (over-built, I think…oh, well, it will be removed and the bass will be normal), even though it is a soloist bass, so I can’t see trying to manhandle it around on my big bandsaw. The saw could handle it, but the table for the saw is not big enough to hold the mold steady, and I am not strong enough to just hold it up there by sheer strength…. So… what to do?

This tool (carbide abrasive disc) is something my wife bought for me a year ago (Christmas), but I had never used it much. It is called a “Kutzall”, and it tears away wood incredibly rapidly, without loading up, and without burning the wood. So I used it to remove the large rough sections, then used the plane to remove the torn surface, and finally, to shape the blocks:

Kutzall disc, with 5

Kutzall disc, with 5″ DeWalt angle grinder: Not for the faint of heart! Absolutely wickedly effective, but not as dangerous as the Lancelot tool.

 

Stanley #100-1/2 Squirrel-tail Plane

It was about 37 degrees, F, outside, but the sun was bright, so I worked outside.

Smoothing and shaping the corner block

Smoothing and shaping the corner blocks, using a Stanley “Squirrel-tail” #100-1/2 hand-plane.

 

The little plane is somewhat hard to control, because the curvature of the sole is so extreme, but, if it is sharp and if the blade is set for a very shallow cut, it works well.

sharp plane

It does have to be sharp! (Time to sharpen….)

 

Stanley # 100-1/2 curved-sole plane

Stanley # 100-1/2 curved-sole plane…for those of you who are unfamiliar with it.

 

stanley plane

I was able to shape the blocks pretty close to finished shape with the little plane, but there are some irregularities. I have another tool for that problem.

 

The bottom block was planed entirely with a low-angle plane (also Stanley– can’t recall what number.) but it worked very well, and the bottom block was easy…I didn’t use the grinder at all on this one. So here are all the blocks, pretty close to finished:

Bottom block planed with a small, flat-sole, low-angle plane.

Bottom block planed with a small, flat-sole, low-angle plane.

 

And, here you can see the finished blocks, ready for sanding:

All the blocks, ready for coarse-sanding.

All the blocks, ready for coarse-sanding. The small plane leaves ripples. The sanding tool should remove them all.

 

Homemade PVC Sanding Tool

As I mentioned earlier, the oscillating spindle sander I have would not be tall enough for these blocks even if I could manhandle the mold up onto the machine. So, I made this little sanding tool out of re-claimed PVC fittings from the “Habitat for Humanity Re-Store”, and spent more on the little can of PVC cement from the hardware store than I did on all the other materials…about $2.50 at the Habitat store. I used PVC cement to affix the abrasive cloth to the pipe, too, and bound it up with strips of plastic bag until the solvent outgassed and the cement was set.

PVC sanding block

Sanding block fabricated from four PVC fittings and a 2″ section of 2″ PVC pipe, with a little piece of wood for the handle grip. Comfortable, efficient, and cheap.

 

The homemade sanding tool worked extremely well for the small corner blocks, and did very smooth work. On the neck block I used it cross-grain, holding the tool parallel to the “trough” of the curvature, and sliding it up and down the curve. It worked well, there, too, just not as perfectly as on the corner blocks. All in all, it is a very satisfying tool.

Sanding corner blocks.

Sanding the corner blocks.

 

Sanding the neck block,

Sanding the neck block, I kept the block parallel to the “trough” of the curve, and pushed it up and down, across the grain to get a smooth surface.

 

Change of Plans

You may have noticed that, though I had planned to use Willow for blocks and linings, those blocks are not willow: the corner blocks and end block are all Douglas Fir, and the neck block is laid up of three layers of clear, vertical grain Sitka Spruce. It was a matter of availability. I do have willow for the linings, and, as that in my preferred wood when I have a choice, that is what I will use. It cuts easily, bends easily, and is very pleasant to work with for both linings and blocks.

I have really felt that I was “spinning my wheels” on this project. It is large enough that I feel the necessity to work outdoors whenever possible, but the weather has not cooperated very well…it rained nearly every day for the last month. In addition, I have been struggling with a cold or some such virus. Today I was cold in the house when the thermometer read 75 degrees, so that is not normal. I finally felt a little better, this evening, and went outside for the few minutes it took me to sand the blocks, but it has been cold out, so I didn’t stay long.

Ah, well, that’s life. I’m grateful to be back on the project again.

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5 String Report #16: Adding the Fittings

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Five String Report: Adding Fittings

End pin

I failed to take any photos of this, but– it is pretty simple: I centered a hole on the center joint between the lower ribs, and centered between the plates. I drilled it first to 1/8″, then to 7/32″, and finally reamed it with a 1:30 tapered reamer… the same one I use for tuning pegs. I shaved the endpin blank to the correct size and taper using my peg-shaper, while gripping the endpin with a special homemade gripper. I shaved the endpin until it would just barely fit into the hole, leaving a little clearance between the collar and the rib surface. (There is a photo of it later on…)

 

Fingerboard:

In the photo below you can see some of the tools I used to fit the ebony fittings to the violin. Looking at the fingerboard, you can see the three “dots” of glue that secured it to the neck while I was shaping both the neck and the fingerboard. When I re-install the fingerboard, there will be glue on the whole faying surface. The carved out portion will help to lighten the fingerboard, and apparently helps tone.

Fittings waiting to be shaped and installed

Fittings waiting to be shaped and installed.

The black mechanism is the peg shaver I use. The block next to it is the gripper I use for end-pins. The endpin blank is right next to the shaper. The small ebony block between the shaper and fingerboard is the nut blank. The larger ebony block midway along the fingerboard is the saddle blank. The fingerboard has the shape laid out that I intend to carve away, and the gouges and scrapers on the right are the tools with which I did it.

So, one of the first things I did was to make sure my tools were sharp, then I went all around the edges of that trough shape, carving away small chips of ebony to produce a shallow trench all around the edge. Then I carved as best I could with the gouges, until I decided it was time to get the planes into the fight. The little Ibex plane worked well, but the little wooden homemade plane actually worked better, because it has a deeper curve in the sole. It was made of a small section of a broken hammer handle, a piece of scraper blade, and a threaded steel plate to adjust tension and hold the blade in place.

Fingerboard ready for installation.

Fingerboard ready for installation. This part took me about an hour. Ebony is hard stuff.

 

Saddle

Next I worked on the saddle: I cut my saddles with radiused front edges, so as to avoid saddle cracks, which are extrmely common in violin-family instruments…partly, I am convinced, because virtually everyone makes them with square corners, which adds a huge stress-riser to that location in the spruce. To me, that is asking for a crack. I try to avoid suich things.

Saddle footprint with curved front corners.

Saddle footprint with curved front corners.

Some luthiers try to avoid cracks by leaving a small gap on the ends…that makes good sense, too, but why not eliminate the “notch” altogether? Just my opinion…. Either way, you have to remove the wood of the violin front plate to receive the ebony saddle. I use a thin knife to slice through the spruce, and then a flat chisel to loosen the piece being removed. I set aside the piece in case it turns out I made an error of some kind, and need to put some back. It is a whole lot easier to match grain from the piece you just removed, rather than from some random piece of spruce.

Once the saddle fits the mortise perfectly, leaving a small gap on each end (about the thickness of a business card), I glue the saddle in place, and forget about it. Here is a photo of the finished saddle. I didn’t take photos while I was carving. I get pretty wrapped up in what I am doing and forget to take pictures.

Saddle and endpin

Saddle and endpin

 

saddle and endpin

Another view of the saddle and endpin. (Pretty ribs, huh?) Varnish touch-up still has to happen.

 

Pegs

The next issue was the pegs. I wanted them done before I installed the fingerboard, simply because I wanted to be able to set the instrument aside so that the glue under the fingerboard could dry, and not feel that I was being prevented from working.

I had earlier drilled pilot holes in the pegbox, so that I would have guides to help keep the holes perpendicular to the centerline. So I reamed out those holes, all to approximately the same size, using the same reamer (1:30 taper) as I used for the endpin.

Then I sliced a shallow groove next to the collar, on each peg, all the way around, using a very fine razor-saw, to avoid breaking off the collar. (Doesn’t always work, but it seems to help.) I shaved the pegs until they fit the holes, at nearly the right depth, then “greased ’em up” with peg dope, and worked them in, so that the holes and pegs fit perfectly. Later I trimmed off the excess length of each peg on the far side of the pegbox, domed and polished the cut ends, so they would look nice, and put the pegs back in place.

Saddle and pegs installed.

Saddle and pegs installed.

 

Fingerboard Installation

Last, I installed the fingerboard…I had marked ahead of time the exact location where the nut and fingerboard were to meet; so now, all I have to do is put the fingerboard exactly where it was before (against that line) and glue it in place. I positioned it using a single spring clamp and aligned the upper end as closely as I could, then aligned the lower end as well, and added a large spring clamp in that location. Finally, I re-adjusted the upper and lower clamps until both ends were perfect.

Then I removed the lower clamp, and, using a thin palette knife, I ladled hot hide glue into the space between the neck and fingerboard, sliding the blade up the neck as far as it would comfortably go, and replaced that clamp so that it squeezed out hot hide glue all around. I cleaned up the excess quickly, and double checked to make sure that the position was again perfect.

Then I removed the upper clamp, and repeated the gluing routine, but this time, as I cleaned up, I kept adding more clamps, removing a previous one, and wiping carefully, until I had four clamps in place and no glue drops where they did not belong.

Fingerboard installed with hot hide glue and spring clamps.

Fingerboard installed with hot hide glue and spring clamps.

That was pretty much the end of the day. My hands were tired and hurting, and I had other things that needed to be done. Much later, I got back and removed the clamps:

Side view with fittings.

Side view with fittings.

 

Back view with fittings.

Back view with fittings.

The nut will have to wait until the fingerboard has been planed and scraped to exactly the right curvature, and polished smooth. We call that “dressing” the fingerboard.

After that it will be “set-up” time.

My next post will show the finished fiddle, strings and all.

Thanks for looking.

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