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Michael Doran

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Everything posted by Michael Doran

  1. I saw my lining mortises out, and leave them at a rough 45* angle inside, instead of chopped out square. That way I just have to saw down my lines and chop out the waste. I used to make them square, but realized this was faster, just as strong, and also looks identical from the outside. The real trick is getting a chisel that is the right size. I bought one the right size for cello, and I made one for violin. M
  2. Hi Chris, I'm surprised to hear that the glass stones need flattening. I thought that was one of their advantages over traditional water stones. Michael
  3. Hi All, The King Japanese water stones I bought in violinmaking school are almost worn out, and I need to replace them. When I started to look into it I noticed there are several new options for sharpening stones that weren't available to me back then. I'm particularly curious about people's experience with other brands of water stone, like Norton or Naniwa, as well as the Shapton Glass "stones," which seem like an intersting concept. I've been using mostly a 1200 for initial honing and finishing almost all of my tools on a 4000. I like the 4000 grit because it seems course enough to remove a little metal, but fine enough to leave a mirror polish. I do finish my jointer plane on an 8000, but that one still has a lot of life left in it." Given how long the stones are likely to last me, I don't mind spending some money for quality. Any recommendations or experiences would be appreciated! Thanks, Michael
  4. I just received some chalk from Eternity Arts. I ordered their easel chalk in white. I followed up with an email to them explaining what I was using the chalk for, and they were familiar with violin makers using their chalk for fitting. I asked about "lecturer's chalk" and they said the only difference between that and what they sell now is the size. The chalk is sold in 1" square by 3" lengths @ $1.20 each, no minimum order. My initial impression was that it was heavy for chalk. Comparing it to my Pelikan chalk is seems like there must be less air in Eternity Art's mixture. The chalk looks and feels very fine, and I think it's going to be great for fitting. Michael
  5. From the description of Conte Crayons on DickBlick artists supply- "Contè crayons are waxier and much firmer than soft pastels, so they produce little dust and are easy to control." I question the wisdom of getting wax anywhere near a glue joint. M
  6. I prefer to build from mold or rib outlines directly. Especially on a Guarneri, where he was lackadaisical about matching the rib and outline anyway. If you're making a Strad then there are the actual molds that you can copy. But if I don't have either of those I think the next best thing is to get the most accurate photos you can and use the outlines. If the outline Is worn use your best judgement to draw what it might have been when new. Perhaps there are well preserved other examples from the maker you can look to. Then subtract the overhang and the rib thickness to get your mold measurements. I've used a rabbeting router bit with different size bearings to reduce my finished outline templates to mold size, and I use a flush cut bit to make my molds. When you have a good mood outline I think it makes sense to draw around it and see if the outline still looks good when you add the overhang and rib thickness back on. M
  7. Lol! Ulrich travels to sell Milo Stamm bridges and if you're a good customer sometimes he throws in a box of chalk. I have traveled with my own chalk on occasion, so that is not that far off. It's hard to change once you get used to a particular material. I did a little googling and I think the company that used to make the square chalk I liked has become Mercurius, and their product is called blackboard chalk. (They make round anti-dust stuff too, but I'm not sure what's in that to make it anti-dust) It's square, wrapped in paper, just like the stuff I used to have, and is the same composition as the round Pelikan chalk I'm using now. They sell it in multicolored and single colored boxes. Mercurius doesn't sell to the public, but I ordered a box of white from this site- littlehousearts.com to try it. The funny thing is that my wife ordered a box of Mercurius colored chalk years ago, and at the time I thought it looked a lot like my chalk. Unfortunately, her set doesn't have a white or I would steal it. It's a small thing, but I really liked the square form. it doesn't roll off the bench and was easy to shape to a chisel point for getting chalk right next to cleats. M
  8. I use this chalk made by Pelikan. It's just plain chalk, no additives. They use to make the sticks square, which Iiked, but round is fine. I was made aware of the chalk by Ulrich Holfter. Usually he carries a few boxes with him when he travels. For me, a box lasts a long time. +1 on staying away from colored chalk. White chalk is the professional standard. If you're having trouble seeing the mark, the trick is to get the right angle of light. When I was fitting big patches for repairs I also found that a fluorescent desk lamp was the best light to see faint chalk marks. I think the chalk 'fluoresces' a bit and that was helpful. M Sorry the picture is sideways. Not sure what's going on there.
  9. Occasionally, I do miss the challenge restoration presented, and the camaraderie of working with other makers. But I enjoy working for myself immensely. M
  10. I spend the vast majority of my time making. I would estimate 95% of my income comes from the sale of my own instruments. I do spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with some of the same details that Matthew mentioned, ordering supplies, emailing or meeting with customers, taxes, paying bills, shipping instruments. I'm very fortunate. I've always worked for myself at least part time, even when I worked at a big shop doing restoration. I've been on my own as a full-time maker since 2008. When I transitioned to my own business full-time I did a few restoration jobs now and then to get some cash flow, but that has ebbed over time. Michael
  11. I was told when we saw the instrumen in D.C that problem now with the Axlerod cello is that the varnish under the design has been protected from light, and so is a shade darker than the varnish under the clear part of the decal, and so removal and bringing instrument back to pre-condition would be very difficult. M
  12. I like the almost imperceptible crackle on the first scroll. Very nice. I also like the clever solution to holding the cello rib structure while working on it.
  13. I'm a big proponent of violin making schools. I think it's an unreasonable goal to learn to make a violin in a workshop setting. I think they can be places to improve on your skill, and I have benefitted gently from the Oberlin workshops. Blocks just aren't very important, so I take your point that workshop time should not be spent working on them. But if you are still struggling with making a block square how can you hope to make a decent center joint, or mortise a neck? I guess my point is that without a foundation of basic tool skills it's hard to move on to more interesting and important aspects.
  14. I agree very much with Julian. Having the skill to do something perfectly by hand gives you license to bend the rules.
  15. There is a fine line between burning the flames and 'singeing' them to add just a little more color and depth. M
  16. Michael Doran


    I use a #51 drill bit for all the peg holes on violins. That's 1.7 mm, and a little larger than 1/16". M
  17. No shop I have worked at has charged for estimates. I'm not aware of any shop that does.
  18. In my experience consignment rates are 25-30%. 25% being the norm. If you're wholesaling then the cut is more like 50%, but the advantage is that you get paid immediately. Every shop I've dealt with has covered the instrument under their insurance while it is on consignment. If they didn't have insurance or weren't willing to cover it that would be a red flag for me. Sometimes consignment can be a great deal for everyone. The shop gets inventory at low upfront cost, and if they sell it for you then they take the responsibility of minor maintenance and upkeep. Michael
  19. The tricky part about this forum for me is sifting out the really useful information. I read the forum quite a bit, but don't post often because I'd rather err on the side of only posting when I have something really useful to add. I skim a lot of posts, and there are others that I read thoroughly. I personally choose to post under my own name, but I don't have a problem with anonymity. I think that it's more important to show examples of your work. (Curious1 has done an excellent job of providing examples while remaining anonymous.) If someone brings in a new idea I think it is important to look at it within the context of thier body of work. The best piece of varnish advice I ever received was- "Don't take varnish advice from someone who's vanish you don't like." -Michael
  20. Nathan, Part of the idea behind the shape of my blades is that you can either pull or push them depending on how the grain is running. For maple it's not such a big deal, but it pays to be careful around the transition areas on the spruce. I really like that with a tool like this you can apply the force with your whole hand. I remember at school my index finger used to get so sore from cutting the channel with a knife, particularly on the maple. -Michael
  21. Hi Jim,I find that blade shape is really important for success cutting the channels to full depth with purfling markers. I taper my blades to a rounded point from four bevels. See the picture below. Tapering it in the width widens the channel slightly as you cut down to depth and prevents binding. Tapering it front to back, but not to a point, allows it to cut smoothly as you advance the groove. My markers are homemade from some hardware store square tubing with a couple of set screws for adjustment. The blade is an old power hacksaw blade. The blade is made from high-speed steel and very durable. It doesn't get quite as razor sharp as nice carbon steel, but it lasts longer and I think is quite good for this application. I can't remeber the last time I sharpened them.
  22. Gosh NT, what's not refined about that scroll? I think it's elegant. M
  23. I would not recommend you steam your bridge like this, or boil it in water. Global application of moisture and heat is unnecessary, and IMHO unwise. If you're going to steam a bridge the idea is to localize the stem to the area that needs relaxing. I use two thick aluminum pieces over a steaming pot of water. With a small gap between the plates, (1-2 mm) you can focus the steam on the compressed wood. Watch the bridge carefully, after a minute or so it should relax, then clamp it on a flat surface for a few hours, or overnight. Steaming a bridge is a reasonable measure to try and extend the life of the bridge, but it's not a permanent fix as the bridge will be more likely to warp in the future.
  24. Great article Matt! 5.5 mm is thicker than I'm used to for the sides of the fingerboard. What are your standard neck thicknesses? -Michael
  25. Most of my scroll carving is done with fairly flat gouges. I use my 3/12 mm or an idiot chisel for most of it. An idiot chisel is just a slightly rounded chisel with a round leading edge so the corners don't dig in. Think of it like a super shallow incannel gouge. When it starts to get tight around the second and third turn I use smaller gouges, but I still try to keep with as large and flat a curve as I can. I think this leaves better tool marks. I also try to use as few gouges as I can get away with. My goiges are Dastra brand, which I bought from Frank Mittermyer when I was in school. I've been very happy with them. -Michael
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