Thursday, July 21, 2011

Too many tools

The Real Doctor and I have been involved in this violin-building project for a couple of years now. I now have a violin just about "in the white"--that is, pretty much ready to varnish and set up. The Real Doctor, over a year ago, purchased a violin in the white, varnished it and set it up. So, between the two of us, we have done everything required to go from wood to fiddle.

When my friend Dave found out about our efforts, he noted that lutherie, like any hobby, provides an excellent opportunity to buy many neat and nifty tools. This has been the case. Though we have borrowed a few tools, we've largely gotten this far with tools we've bought. Of course, everybody recommends this or that specific tool for the job, and since we're both complete noobs, we have to try them out. The result is something like our gouge collection:
You need a broad gouge for roughing out plates. Our best book, Courtenall and Johnson, says get a gouge like the one at top right. Our guru, Michael, says that's ridiculous, get one like the one immediately to its left. The amazing Ray Lee says psssssst, try this one out--so we get the last one with a handle on the top left. A few other gouges are needed, but probably not as many as we have. There's a lot of redundancy there, and we just have to see what works best--Stubai? Power Grip? Willow? Swiss steel, English, or Japanese? Will I like the same thing the Real Doctor does?

We have a similar situation with knives, with files and rasps, with planes (we have a box full of Stanley #102 planes bought on e-bay, in an effort to find a couple of good ones), finger plane blades, and so on.

Eventually, I hope, this will settle out. Some of the stuff will go back to e-bay, or somewhere where I don't have to worry about it. The goal is to be like Mike (or Stradivari) and just use a handful of tools. But for now, I hope we are nearing the top of this curve:


  1. We all fall into the same trap. Perhaps we should have a second hand tool sale at Claremona.

  2. Actually, if the last week of Claremona is supposed to be for beginners, that would be a really good idea.