Monday, May 10, 2010

Starting the top and back

The top of this violin is made from red pine—like the sides and back, recovered old-growth timber that has been soaking in the Great Lakes for a century. A single piece of wood is sawed in half in the most difficult direction, and the two halves are opened like opening a book. They will be joined to make a single, wide plank that is symmetrical about its center, or in wood jargon, bookended. The back is made from birch treated the same way.

The glue joint that holds together the bookended pieces must be absolutely precise. We tried using a friend's extremely fancy power joiner to do this. It was promised to deliver a perfect product in ten minutes, but it was about a tenth of a millimeter out of alignment, so we used hand tools--an extra-long joining plane, which makes extra-nice shavings.

Gluing together the two halves of the front and the back is very challenging. Professionals make it look easy; the glue tends to create a sort of suction between the two pieces of wood, so they simply drop them onto each other, rub them around for a few seconds, and then let them grab on to each other. I tried doing this, and it failed. I tried it again, and two more times, then went back to using clamps. The move of an amateur, but at least it worked.

Once the halves are together, one face must be planed absolutely flat.

Then, it's time to start removing all the wood that isn't part of the violin.


  1. very cool project - Liam is becoming quite the fiddler so even more than perhaps in the past fiddles are near and dear to my heart - Dave

  2. Good to hear about Liam. We probably won't stop with just one fiddle, since we now have all the tools and piles of tonewood. Should we put him in the queue for a 3/4 fiddle?