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Mike Atkins

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About Mike Atkins

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    Elkhorn, WI

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  1. I also read the article and found it quite interesting, with my limited understanding of varnish or anything else for that matter... What I wonder though is if pumice is detected because it was incorporated directly into the varnish, or would it be the remains of polishing or smoothing layers before applying the next?
  2. So I was well on my way to having the first rib structure done, but as usual I ended up breaking one. Not when bending but when clamping. So I ordered another set of ribs, put in new blocks and spent the weekend prepping the corner blocks on all 3 moulds, and thicknessing a ton of rib stock. I'm really taking my time and trying to get them all to a perfect, even 1.1 mm thick. I still want to make sure I have room to scrape them after they're done so I'm hesitant to go straight to 1mm. It feels like things are going super slow, but it's good for me as I tend to try and blaze through everything and that's when the most of my mistakes happen. I really want to do well with these violins so it's worth working carefully and taking my time. Hopefully by this time next week I'll have all the C's bent and glued and be ready to shape the blocks for the bouts. We'll see how it goes though, the weekdays it's really hard for me to get in the shop. I also took my puppy Mika out for a play date with other dogs today since she's kind of bored watching me trying to build violins... she needed it. She's almost 1yr old so I'm not sure how much longer I can really continue to call her a puppy. There's seemingly not as much progress as I'd like on the violins, but I'm determined!
  3. 22" should be a #7 jointer plane, that's a heavy plane and difficult to use if someone is inexperienced, it's also wide and can easily go out of square throughout the cut on narrow wood. I use a #4 "smoothing" plane for almost everything, it's so nice and light and easy to use. If you have a shorter plane I might try that. Also if it's not sharp enough or the cut is too aggressive and requires excessive force you're going to have a super hard time with any plane. Also you can use the fingers as sort of a "fence" at the front of the plane to help, and the palm on the back of the plane behind the tote on a long #7 plane.
  4. I'm not particularly experienced at making violins, but woodworking I have significantly more experience. A "sprung" joint with a slight gap in it is generally fine on a piece of furniture. On a violin, particularly when the ends of the wood are cut away when cutting the outline, a perfect joint seems a far better approach than a sprung joint IMO. Particularly because that joint is generally going to be under stress. 1-2mm is quite a big gap I would think, and even if you're ok with a sprung joint, that seems like a big gap to me. If you're using a hand plane (which you should do even if it's just finishing from an electric planer), it's relatively common to have gaps if there's not a proper planing technique. If you're using a 22" hand plane, you could get a great joint, but if you're relatively inexperienced, I personally think a smaller, lighter weight plane would give you more control... unless you are using a wooden hand plane which is going to be lighter. A short #4 hand plane can give you a perfect joint on any length of wood just as well as a longer "jointer" plane can with proper technique. Also taking your time with shallow cuts and checking for square and flatness regularly will help you see how and when you might need to make a correction during the cut. Something small like violin wood definitely shouldn't require a longer plane. If you're hand planing I would recommend searching YouTube for Paul Sellers videos, he's a very experienced, master hand tool woodworker and has tons of information available about this particular topic, as well as more general information about sharpening, setting up and using hand planes. But generally it's important to make sure you're using the front "Knob" to stabilize and square the plane to the wood, and the rear "Tote" to push forward (not down). Pressure should be gradually shifted from front, to back during the cut, sort of like a slight scooping motion. This is because the plane blade extends beyond the sole no matter how flat the sole is, so it sort of "teeter totters" on the blade. Also a lightly oiled or waxed plane sole (on a metal plane) is super helpful. If you're using an electric joiner... I'm not sure, but you may need to make sure the jointer is set up properly as stated above. And finish with a hand plane.
  5. Thanks for the details! Yes I'm currently having to clamp pretty hard... I need to keep practicing.
  6. Thanks for sharing your advice! I've heard some people recommending 165° - 170°C others 200°C... and I'm not sure how accurate the readout on my iron is, so I've sort of split the difference, and there hasn't really been any scorching. I do think maybe I could go 1.05mm and still have a little room for final scraping once the ribs are assembled, and maybe 185° - 190°C as well. I have been able to bend them fairly well, it seems my biggest issue is when I'm trying to refine it or re-bend areas because it wasn't square or something, maybe I also need to go a bit slower too, though if I increase the heat I'll have to pay attention to make sure I don't start burning them.
  7. They’re 1.2mm. I figured it would be good to have a bit to sand/scrape later. I’m also bending at 180 degrees C. Maybe slightly thinner and slightly hotter would be better.
  8. I guess I spoke a bit soon about getting the hang of bending... more broken C's again this morning. Glad I had some extra. Anyway I think I understand when/why the breaking is happening. I have to use quite a lot of pulling to make sure the strap/rib/iron are in solid contact the whole time. It's a bit challenging to move the rib deeper into the curve while doing that... but alas it appears I have gotten them bent and ready for gluing. I may try and bend a couple more today just in case before I move on to the other two instruments. I really need to get it down since I only have so much rib stock and I can't keep wasting it. Violin making is a challenge with every step, but I'm excited to improve and to get these instruments built. I do think that building 3 at a time is really going to help me get the hang of each task as I'm repeating it over and over.
  9. After checking out the forma PG and forma P it doesn't quite seem to relate, either way it seems more plausible to me than the block height theory.
  10. So now that it's the weekend and I don't have 'real' work in my way, I'm back at it. I have pretty much everything ready, and I've started bending. Unfortunately I cleaned up my bending iron, and it seems that the freshly cleaned iron left (aluminum I'm guessing) marks on the wood. Also I had the curves bent nicely and then tried to refine the bottom curve without the bending strap... and of course it broke. the second went really well and was done very quickly. Unfortunately I'm not sure I have enough rib material to replace the breakage from this wood, but fortunately I had purchased an extra set so if I need to I can start over. After really carefully watching videos of people bending ribs I think I'm getting the hang of it (other than the broken one of course). Incidentally... I've never quite been on board with the whole idea of Strad's arcs on his moulds being related to block height, mostly because the block heights don't seem to correspond whatsoever to the arcs. I did however notice that when using a compass from the centerline to the bottom blocks to check for symmetry in the corners, the first arc was made, putting the compass point on the lower intersection of lines between the bottom corner blocks and the center, then moving the compass up just about 30mm below the arcs, I could check the top corners as well without adjusting the compass. Also, I have full size photos of all the forms and there are several compass points along the center line... A note, the treble side c-bout on many Strads seems shifted slightly upward, and the treble side lower corner matches with the top arc, the bass side, the bottom arc. It could also be for checking before and after the c-bout ribs are in place and the arc would be about 1mm larger I'm guessing. Not sure if this makes sense, but it does in my crazy head.
  11. Had a bit of a glitch, I noticed that one of the top's joints was slightly opened from clamping pressure on a thin, non-square edge... I had to re-re-saw it, plane it again and reglue it. This time I did more of a rubbed joint with very, very light clamping after squaring the thin edge as well and it came out nice. I can see why some people cut notches in the pieces before clamping plates, but I haven't done that. I've got the blocks glued into all of the forms, and started making 'clamping' blocks as well. I'll need to make quite a few more, plus the block templates, and dowels for what seems to work best for me, tying vs. clamping the ribs. Lots to do yet, but progress is being made. Then I'll be thicknessing all of the ribs, making linings from a large willow block I have and it'll be time to start bending (hopefully not breaking)!
  12. Day two and the intensity of the yellow has simmered a bit. It remains definitely yellow, but more golden. I haven't kept this in a light box, but I wonder if I should try it. The heavier treatment of pigment seems to have slightly obscured things and I'm definitely leaning towards dismissing it altogether as, other than not having any idea what I'm doing, I'm sure it's not the way... The potash/casein ground does seem to give the wood a bit of a shine too in certain light. Once again, the original photo and my attempt at adjusting it in Photoshop. The adjustment seems pretty true to the real thing.
  13. Got my second top re-sawn and joined this morning. With a bit more care the result was much cleaner than the last one, which is good because it seems each billet is slightly thinner than the previous. Maybe I need to start ordering Viola wood? I see videos of people working with really thick pieces of wood... where the heck do they get that stuff? My third top is only 40mm thick so I'm going to have to be very precise with my hand saw to ensure I end up with something useable. If I waiver at all from a straight line I could end up with a lower arch than intended. But I'm up for the challenge. For the P mould I've decided to use the Gibson/Huberman Strad poster as a reference. I'm not sure about the PG, the only poster I have that presumably is built on the PG mould is the Messiah. Maybe that's the one I'll reference but I'd like to try something else. For the A "Frankinmould" I'm not sure but maybe I'll just make some arching templates from the Huberman poster and use them for all? I've also been working on thicknessing my hand cut ribs... they're over 2mm thick so it's taking some doing especially getting the thickness even, but so far so good and I got 6 slices roughly 300mm long so there's even room for my inevitable mistakes. It seems to be slow just getting everything prepped for building 3 violins and I still have more to do, like making clamping blocks for each of the moulds, prepping the neck blocks, etc. But hopefully taking my time and not getting in too big of a rush (my usual issue) is going to help make this project a success!
  14. I'm probably going to skip the attempt at using pigments, I clearly have no idea what I'm doing. But the potash/casein does mellow out a bit after a couple of days and isn't quite so bright anymore.
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