Building a Cello–Step #1: Pick a pattern! What kind of cello do you hope to build?

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Step #1– Choosing a Model

Ruggieri, Montagnana, Stradivari, Amati, Maggini, Guarneri, Gofriller, Gasparo da Salo, Strobel, etc.

What Cello should I build?

There are almost as many different models of cello as there are of violins. Stradivari made them, as, apparently, did Giuseppe Guarneri, as well as those before and after them. Both Andreas Amati and his illustrious grandson, Nicolo Amati, made celli. Franscesco Ruggieri, Andrea Guarneri, Gasparo da Salo, Giovanni Maggini, Matteo Gofriller, and Domenico Montagnana are other makers famous for celli. But I really was going to choose between only three possibilities:

1. Someone had given me a plan for the Montagnana “Sleeping Beauty”, which has a good reputation for a big sound.

2. There are two complete sets of plans in Henry Strobel’s book, Cello-Making, Step-by-Step–one a full-size model, and the other a 7/8 size.

3. I had bought a poster from The Strad Magazine, with a detailed drawing of the 1712 Stradivarius known as  The Davidov.

The Davidov was being played by Yo Yo Ma, a world-class cellist. I really liked the looks of it (the Sleeping beauty is kinda chunky), and it is a known entity (those in Henry Strobel’s book are lesser known). So, with all that (and the fact that Paul Schuback assured me it was a good choice) I settled on the Davidov. Nothing arcane about it– I just grabbed the one I liked, really.

One thing that had been a vote in favor of Henry Strobel’s plans is that the plans were already drawn, including the lines for the mold. The poster gave all the information for the original instrument, but I had to come up with the mold template myself. That was OK, but I ended up a few millimeters oversize. My fault.

Photo-Essay of my first cello-build

In case anyone wants to see this whole series at once, here is a link to the original blow-by-blow photo-essay on Maestronet. It took 13 weeks of spare time work from start to finish–between 250 and 300 hours, I would guess.

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4 Replies to “Building a Cello–Step #1: Pick a pattern! What kind of cello do you hope to build?”

  1. Hello Chet,
    I was wondering if you are still building cellos. I know your maestronet project was a few year ago, and you said you might build another cello and fiddle – just wondering if you are still building. I have looked at your range of violins on the net. I was interested in (the hands etc.) (I’m 73 and know a few of the problems).

    I was very interested in your 1st Cello Build; (Modelled after the 1712 “Davidov” Strad) posting and all the photos and comments which I found extremely interesting and helpful through the series. I have ordered the Henry Strobel’s Cello – step by step book and am awaiting its arrival with anticipation from the US. (I live in Australia).
    I have built a few violins and an acoustic guitar, but always want to “tackle” a cello, for I love it tone and range (I’m not a player either), and yes I know you can go an buy one – but that’s not the point – so I was amazed and appreciated your posts and photo diary that went with the project.

    I hope you are still working on the development of the skills and I am sure that your skills and teaching style are appreciated by all who have viewed the project.
    Bruce Mortlock
    Blakney Creek, NSW Australia (near Canberra the Capital)

    1. Hello, Mr. Bruce!
      I was actually near you last August (I visited in Sydney for a few says with my wife and a couple of friends.) I wish I could have net you! I have only built two cellos so far, (here is the second: I do plan to build more but there are some other things in line at the moment.

      Feel free to contact me at my e-mail (on my website contact page). I’ll be happy to encourage you in your lutherie-madness. 🙂


      Chet Bishop

  2. Hi Chet,

    I wish to built two Strad model cellos. One is 1700 year model, the other is 1730 one.
    How can I get blueprint?


    Sherman Shen

    1. The only place I know of, where drawings are available (of decent quality) is “The Strad” magazine. If you google-search “posters from the Strad”, you should be able to locate quite a long list of available posters of a variety of instruments, including several cellos.
      Beyond that I have no idea.


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