Building a Cello–Step #2: Making cello templates for molds, scroll, and arching

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Step #2–Making Templates

Mold template, scroll template, arching template

How do I transfer those lines?

Having chosen to use the 1712 Davidov Stradivarius cello as my pattern, I went to a copy shop, and had them make a photocopy of the drawing on the back of the poster. They made three copies, as I intended to cut the copies up in making the templates. I pasted the cut up photocopies to thin plywood (“door-skin”), and then cut out the shapes seen in the photos below. An even better material for templates, produced in exactly the same way, is 1.5mm Aluminum.

Still another way, which I use on smaller instruments, is to use clear, 3mm plastic (lucite, plexiglas, whatever you call it) and trace with a scribe, directly over the original drawing. The resulting template is accurate, transparent, and does not warp with a change in humidity. Your choice…

How Templates are used:

The idea behind the templates is that I should have a flat pattern to trace around when determining the shape of the mold and a curve to match the shape of the archings as I carve the topography of the plates. Photos below:

Here is the mold template and neck/scroll template:

Mold and scroll templates, with drawings
Here are the mold and scroll templates, taken from the Davidov poster.

The Mold template is taken from the drawing as the inside of the rib outline…that is, it is a line that is interior to the outer rib outline by the thickness of the ribs. It will be used to establish the shapes of both the mold (next article) and the blocks (‘nother article, yet). The neck template will be used to establish the initial shape of the scroll.

Here is the front longitudunal arching template, in use:

Front longitudinal Arch in use.
Mark the places where the arch-template touches, then plane those areas away, until it all touches at once.

And here are some of the cross-arching templates:

How to use cross-arching templates.
Cross-arching templates allow the luthier to make the arching the same way every time the pattern is used.

The arching templates are handy, because they allow me to make my arching the same shape every time…if that is a good thing. If I want to change something, I can do anything I want–but in this case I wanted to match the original as closely as I could.


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3 Replies to “Building a Cello–Step #2: Making cello templates for molds, scroll, and arching”

  1. Hello Chet,

    great web site!
    Can you help me find your poster of the Davidov cello. The Strad Library doesn’t have it any more. If need be I would even make do with a copy, if you have an idea how I can get it. Of course I shall pay.
    Thanks for trying to assist.

    1. Good day, Tom;

      Thanks for the vote of confidence on my website, but you will have to settle for a different cello model, I’m afraid. There are a number of them at this address: I think the Servais, or the Saveuse would be good choices. There are also other (very popular) makers, besides A. Stradivari: Ruggeri, and Montagnana come to mind, among others.

      To my eye, the pattern in the Henry Strobel book “Cello Making, Step-by-step” is very close to the Davidov, and it is still available here: Please be aware that the cello-making book is keyed to the Violin making book, so you need both, if you are not an experienced luthier.

      As I understand it, the posters were each made as “limited edition” publications. The man who drew the mechanical drawings is Roger Hargraves. I think a man named John (?) Dilworth was also involved, but I am not sure. Either way, they are copyrighted material.

      If I may be of assistance in any other way, I am happy to do so. Perhaps if you bought another cello poster, say, the Saveuse, and only needed specific measurements from the Davidov poster, so that you could make adjustments to your pattern? I can do that.

      Good luck, and best wishes.

      Chet Bishop

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