3/4-Size Violin Neck-Set

Please share with your friends!

3/4-Size Violin in Progress. Purfling and Neck-Set

Purfling first, then Neck-set

When I last posted, the fiddle looked like this:

Purfling Slot Incised
Purfling Slot incised, but not completed.


Installing Purfling

This next step was to go back over the incisions, cutting them to the correct depth. Then I used a purfling pick (there are many different types) to shave out the waste wood from between the incisions. The last thing I do, before installing the purfling, is to go all the way around the slot, checking the width and depth with a scrap of dry purfling. I want the fit to be snug but not tight, and deep enough that the purfling will be flush with the surface of the plate. Here is the completed slot:

Purfling slot completed
Purfling slot completed


I used a bending iron to shape the sections of purfling, installing the Center bout sections first, and mitering the corners to form the desired “bee-stings.” As I cut the ends of the upper and lower bout sections, I have to check and be sure that the two mating miters will form a single sharp point, shaped exactly the way I want. This takes a good deal of practice. As one of my teachers told me, “Sure, this is tough! If it was easy, everyone would be good at it!” (Funny, that seems to be true in most walks of life…) Once the purfling is all in place, dry, I can begin gluing. Here is the dry fit:

Purfling Dry-Fit
Purfling Dry-Fit


Next I pry up the center of each of the center-bout strips, and, using a thin palette knife, I slip hot hide glue in under the lifted purfling, then, working quickly, I push the purfling back into the slot, and drive it home using a special tool. I start at the center ans work toward both ends, so that the glue being forced from under the purfling is driven along toward the ends of the center bout purfling strips, into the mitered corners, so that it glues the ends of the upper and lower purfling strips in place, as well.

Here is the freshly glued purfling, driven as deeply as I could manage, into the slot:

Freshly Glued Purfling
Freshly Glued Purfling


Freshly glued Purfling Detail
Freshly glued Purfling Detail


The next step is to sketch in a line 40% of the distance in from the outer edge, toward the purfling. It is a faint pencil line, but it serves as a guide to show me the limits to the channel…the broad trough around the edge of the violin:

Edge Crest boundaries inscribed
Edge Crest boundaries inscribed…it’s a blurry photo, but you can see the penciled lines.


Then I begin cutting the channel: a trough whose outer edge is the line I just inscribed, but which cuts only as deep as is necessary.

Beginning of the channel. The Edge crest is still visible.
Beginning of the channel. The Edge crest is still visible. I have just begun to cut the channel.


Purfling Channel Completed
Purfling Channel Completed


Purfling channel Detail
Purfling channel Detail



I laid out the neck mortise, using pencil and straightedge. Then I cut the edges of the mortise, using a razor-saw, and carved the wood away to form the mortise. It is somewhat tricky (like all the jobs in lutherie), but I got it done. Once everything was perfect, I glued the neck heel into the mortise, using hot hide glue:


Neck-Set Front
Neck-Set Front


Neck-Set Side
Neck-Set Side


That was all I did that day. 🙂

The next step will be to remove the mold and install the back linings to the ribs.

Thanks for looking.



If you found this post helpful, please share with your friends!

3/4-Size Violin Progress

Please share with your friends!

3/4-Size Violin Still in Progress

Last time… if you remember… it looked like this:

Progress as of January 2nd.
Progress as of January 2nd.

F-holes and Bassbar

So, I went ahead and cut out those f-holes, using an f-hole “drill” my children bought for me, and an X-acto knife.

F-holes cut out and ready for the bassbar…outside view. They still will require a good deal of refinement.


Then I chalk-fit a bassbar blank, and glued it in place, using special clamps made by Jake Jelley, the friend who encouraged me to continue building instruments.

Bassbar blank with clamps.
Bassbar blank with clamps. You can see the f-holes cut out…they still need more trimming.


Shaping the Bassbar

I carved and planed and scraped the bassbar into what I judged to be an appropriate shape for this instrument. Both it and the f-holes will receive a bit more scraping and shaping before they are varnished. The whole instrument, actually, is fair game for tweaking, refining, and perfecting, until the varnishing begins.

F-holes, bassbar and graduations
F-holes, bassbar and graduations nearly complete. Outer edges have been rounded to approximate their final shape.

Installing the Front Plate

I aligned the front plate as closely as I could with the rib garland, and applied six spool clamps–one for each inner block. Then I loosened one clamp at a time, and, using a thin palette knife, I slipped hot hide glue between the plate and the blocks and linings. I rinsed the edge, overhang and rib quickly with hot water, and wiped it with a rag, then re-tightened the clamp, and added more clamps between that clamp and the next, repeating the procedure untill all the edges and especially all the blocks were securely glued and clamped, and relatively clean.

Front plate installed, using spool clamps.
Front plate installed, using spool clamps. Ann thinks these look like hair-curlers. 🙂


Back view of mold with front plate installed, and spool clamps.
Back view of mold with front plate installed, and spool clamps. The mold will be removed after the neck is set.


Purfling Comes Next

Not everyone does things in the same order. I have had trouble, in the past, getting my edge overhangs even all the way around. If I install the purfling first, then I am locked in, so to speak, and if the overhang is uneven, there is nothing much I can do. But if I purfle after installing the plate, I can take time first to adjust that overhang, using files and scrapers, until I am satisfied that it is the way I want it, and then purfle, following my adjusted edge shape.

Installed front plate, from the mold side, showing the overhang.
Installed front plate, from the mold side, showing the overhang. Notice that there are no back linings, yet.


Purfling laid out and lightly incised.
Purfling laid out and lightly incised. (The shadow is my head– I was too close to the plate.)


The idea at this point is to just deepen the lines a bit, not to try to cut the full depth of the purfling slot. You can see that, in some places, the waste wood begins to pop out on its own. Most will have to be removed using a purfling pick. Here is a closer photo of the incised purfling lines:

Close-up of the incised purfling lines.
Close-up of the incised purfling lines. That corner will still undergo significant shaping and refining.


So…next time, I will show the completed purfling, and the neck-set– I hope. 🙂


Thanks for looking


If you found this post helpful, please share with your friends!

Fractional Violin Progress

Please share with your friends!

3/4-size Violin

3/4-size Violin Coming Along Slowly

Holidays are a hard time to be Productive. (No excuse; just a fact.)

I took off from work from the 21st of December through the 8th of January, partly because my daughter was going to be in town for that period of time, and partly because I hoped to get some work done at home. However, a couple of days ago  (12/29 and 30, 2016) were the first days I had occasion to work (almost) uninterrupted. It was quite a luxury. I had one more such day today (1/2/17), but I have not seemed to have much of my former stamina lately, so I did not accomplish as much as I had hoped. However, I did manage to:

  • Complete the Red Maple scroll,
  • Complete (and temporarily install) the Ebony fingerboard,
  • Complete the neck/fingerboard combination,
  • Dress the fingerboard (still a little more to do),
  • Complete the preliminary arching of the European Spruce front plate (still a little more to do, after purfling),
  • Trim the front linings and shape them, using a knife and scraper,
  • Layout and incise the f-holes (which facilitated the final correction of the arching), and
  • Begin the graduation of the front plate (inner arching).

Wood Choices

The back, neck, scroll and ribs are Michigan Red Maple, which I bought from Elon Howe, years ago: really nice stuff. The belly is European spruce, and feels quite crisp under the blade, as well as possessing a very clear bell-like ring, when tapped. It is certainly interesting to observe the differences in how one type of maple or spruce behaves as compared to another.

3/4-size scroll
The 3/4-size scroll as of January 2nd.


Arching and f-hole layout
Arching and f-hole layout.


Beginnings of Graduations
Beginnings of Graduations


Overall Project Progress as of January 2nd.
Overall Project Progress as of January 2nd.


Remaining Operations

Next, I hope to complete the graduations, cut out the f-holes, and install the bassbar. Then I will really be “on the home stretch”…or I will feel that way at least. I can install the front plate either before or after purfling it, then set the neck and remove the mold.

After that, I will install the back linings, shape them and the blocks, and complete the back plate.

Potential for Trouble

I accidentally left my gluepot turned on a couple of nights ago. Fortunately, all I lost was the glue. No damage to the pot or the glue jar, and no collateral damage. I’m still sort of kicking myself, though…it is a potentially dangerous mistake. My glue warmer only gets to about 145 or 150 degrees Fahrenheit, so there isn’t musch danger of a fire, but still….

I guess if that is my worst mishap for this violin, I will be doing well. No major setbacks, and no injuries, so far. (It doesn’t happen often, but when one works with razor-sharp hand-tools often enough, it is easy to have a “senior moment”, and nick oneself. Gotta be careful.) I have heard horror stories of serious injuries from other luthiers. So far, I have only needed stitches once, from a “slip” when carving the scroll to my #20 instrument, if I remember correctly. 🙂

Other Projects

During one of the several “hiatus occasions”, during the last two weeks, my wife and I built and installed a storm window in the utility room (we are expecting very cold weather, soon), and we hung curtains, too, among other things. Lots of visiting with family members and friends, of course. I did make a bentwood box for my daughter, too, but I already told about that project, of course. 🙂

As I said, holidays are not an easy time to get a lot of work done. But we keep trying. 🙂

Thanks for looking.

If you found this post helpful, please share with your friends!