Me making a violin

By Sam Harper

June 3, 2009

Yup. I put another thin lamination of walnut on those c-bouts since they were so thin. They should be good and sturdy now.

Meanwhile, I discovered a new solution to bending the wood for my c-bouts. You see, professional violin makers (and even non-professionals) use a bending iron. I looked all over ebay and elsewhere, and they cost about $150. I think the cheapest one I saw was $125. So I googled home made bending irons, and what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a bending iron made out of steal pipe. So I made one. Here it is.

I got the steal pipe at Ace Hardware for $12.57! That's all the whole thing cost me. I already had the heat gun and the scrap wood. Don't you just love saving money? I posted a video on youtube in case you want to see my new bending iron in action.

Pretty cool, huh? For those who skipped the video, basically, the heat gun blows heat through the pipe making it hot enough to boil water quickly. Then you wet your wood (or you can wet a piece of cloth and lay it over the wood) and bend it with a leather belt or whatever on the back. The water will turn to steam, work its way through the wood, and make it bend. Then you can check it against the mould and tweak it on the bending iron until it fits perfectly. That way the wood won't be under any stress when you glue it on. This bending iron works a whole lot better than the way I was doing it before, and I can bend thicker pieces of wood.

Anywho, today, I prepared the the blocks to put on the rest of the ribs. Here's a picture of one of the corners with the c-bouts glued on.

To prepare the corner for the rest of the ribs, I use the band saw and then my sanding drum attached to the drill press.

And here's what it looks like ready for the rest of the ribs.

Traditional violin makers use gouges to do this, but that sanding drum is just too convenient to resist.

July 8, 2009

Yeah, I know. Hurry up. Well, I'm not in a hurry, so deal with it!

The next thing I did was bend the wood for the rest of the ribs. The bending iron worked beautifully.

Then I glued them on using form-fitted blocks of wood to clamp with.

I only had five of those clamps, so I couldn't clamp both ends up at the same time. I was short one clamp.

I intentionally made the ribs wider than the blocks so I can shave them down flush later. First, I used a thumb plane to get them close.

I also cut those hanging pieces off, then used a file to get them flush with the pointy end of the c-bout.

Then, I used some double-sided tape to tape two sheets of sandpaper to my work bench. It worked pretty well. I set the violin down on the sand paper and rubbed it back and forth until the ribs were flush with the blocks. I did this on both sides.

Sorry the picture is blurry. I accidentally had it set on close-up. Anyway, sanding it on a flat surface like that will give me a good glue joint later when I glue the back and front onto the ribs.

But before gluing the front and back on the ribs, I cut some thin strips of bamboo from my scrap pile and made some linings. The linings will do two things for me--give me a better gluing surface for the front and back plates, and make the violin a little more sturdy. Again, I used the bending iron to bend them into shape first.

Do you like my little wooden clamps? People used to call those "clothes pins." You might be wondering how I got those linings in there without gluing them to the form. I mean what about the glue that gets squeezed out, right? Well, I was just careful not to put too much glue on them. Also, I only put the linings on one side. Otherwise, I'd never get the ribs off the form. I've got to break the form out of there later, you see. But first, I'm going to glue on the front.

Professional violin makers cut grooves into the corner blocks and insert part of the lining. That gives it extra strength and stability. But I'm not a professional, and I thought I'd just simplify things and not do that.

In the next step, I'll either work on the front, the back, or the scroll. I think doing the front and back will be the hard part, so don't expect another update for a while. I may have to practice on some pine or something.

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