I've been a little concerned about making the front and back plates. You have to carve them in an arch, you see. First you shape the outside, and then you hollow out the inside, and the thickness really matters. I always read as much as I can before trying something so scary. I've been doing a whole lot of reading about arching. It's an interesting subject. The main reason violins have arched tops and backs is because there is so much pressure from the bridge and the wood is so thin. If you want the violin to last for hundreds of years, you have to arch the front and back.
There are a lot of different techniques for getting the shape you want. Some people use templates. They rough it out with a gouge, then use a thumb plane while checking it against the template, then use a scraper to finish it.
Some people copy the templates from famous violins such as Stradivari, Amati, Guarneri, or whoever. Other people design their own. I read an interesting article a couple of nights ago that explained how people design their own arches. If you take a plastic lid or some plexiglass cut in a circle or something, poke a hole it in off center, put the lid against a straight edge, put the pencil through the hole, and role the lid along the straight edge, the pencil will draw an arch. And you can vary the size and shape of the arch by varying the size of the disc and how far off center the pencil hole is. Brilliant, I tell you!
But I did not want to design my own arch just yet. I'd rather copy another violin to ensure I get close to the ballpark. I searched the internet for arch templates I could print out, but I couldn't find anything. Bummer.
Then something great happened. Yesterday, I was helping my friend, Rachel, move. She had some posters with pictures of violins hanging on her walls that she was going to throw away. There was a poster of an Amati violin from 1766, a Guadagnini viola from 1785, a Gagliano cello from 1704, and a Rogeri violin from 1704. Yeah, they're all Italian. Here's the Amati:
I told her I'd be happy to take them off her hands, which she was agreeable to. I began to take them off the walls, and when I looked at the back of them, what to my wondering eyes should appear but detailed dimensions! They even had the arch drawn on different parts of the instruments, so it will be very easy to copy them. Check it out!
What are the chances of that happening? I had just been searching the night before I helped her move. It's providence, I tell ya!
It's been a long time, eh? As many of you know, I've been tool challenged. Remember those chisels and gouges I showed you on Page 1 that I was so happy to get for so cheap? Well, they were crap. I guess you get what you paid for. After going nearly three years without working on my violin, I decided to be bold. I spent $463.92 on some good chisels and gouges that just came in the mail today, so I'm going to continue this build-along.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking I could buy a student violin for $400, and it would probably be better than the one I'm making. But this is the way I look at it. These tools have good resale value, and if I don't continue after this one and make more violins, I can always sell them and get nearly what I paid for them. Besides, imagine my joy when I string up and play the violin I made with my own hands! And imagine the bragging rights I'll have! Maybe chicks will dig me.
Anywho, about two and a half years ago, I did do a little work that I haven't posted here. I glued the back plate up and cut it out. I'll show you some pictures and do my best to remember what I was thinking when these pictures were taken.
I started off with this piece of walnut that I originally acquired for the purpose of making bow laminations out of. This is what I decided to make the back of the violin out of. If memory serves me right, it's about 36" long.
I cut that in half and was going to glue the two pieces together, but there was a gap.
Professionals use a block plane to fix that gap, but I used a belt sander, trial and error method. Then I put some glue on it.
Then I used some cheap bar clamps I got at Big Lots to clamp it together.
The following day (I'm guessing), I traced out the shape using the ribs I already had glued up and a washer to create space. There's supposed to be an overhang on the edges, you see. I used a silver sharpy because it shows up better than a pencil on the dark Walnut.
Here it is all traced out.
I keep forgetting to mention this, but between all these steps, I got my camera out and took a picture. I usually leave that step out when I'm explaining things because then I'd have to take a picture of me taking a picture so I could show you, and that would be well nigh impossible. That is, unless I had two cameras, a tripod, and an automatic shutter feature on one of them.
Moving on...After I traced it out, I cut it out with the bandsaw, cleaned it up a bit, and this is where I'm at today.
The purpose of that lip is to glue the neck onto the body later. The top plate won't have that. I left those corners near the c-bouts kind of wide so that when I'm carving the plates, they won't chip off. I'll sharpen them up at the end.
This is where we've been for the last almost three years. Stay tuned because I've got the weekend to myself this weekend, and I plan to start carving this plate. I'll show you my new tools, too!
Just to show you that I am still working on the violin.