Thursday, May 6, 2010

Catching up on violin building

I'm not a violinist or a violin-maker. However, I spend a half hour most days playing the violin, and I fill up a lot of my free time building a violin from scratch. Since I'm not a violinist, it's no surprise that most of the sounds I make on the violin are unmusical. Since I'm not a luthier, it's also no surprise that the violin I'm building won't be a Stradivarius. They say you learn from your mistakes--in building this violin, I am learning a lot. I've been working on this project for a couple of months now, so I have to backtrack a bit in order to begin at the beginning.

The shape of the instrument is determined by a mold—in my case, I am using the profile of a violin made by the seventeenth-century German maker Jacob Stainer. Why not Stradivarius? Stainer’s violins have a reputation for having a sweet sound, and I figure that could help me to sound less offensive.

Although the sides of the violin are shaped by the mold, they are held in place by just six blocks of spruce. These are attached to the mold by a little dab of glue. The blocks are leveled—the bottom is a millimeter or so higher than the top block.

Careful work with a gouge defines the curve of what are called the C-bouts. Now it's time for the sides to go on...

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