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I have a question, but first I don't want anybody to think I am suggesting anything other than an immense amount of expertise is required to craft a violin.

But I am somewhat interested to see what I could make - even if it is a verified brick.

Is this something that could be self-taught?

I certainly don't have the time to attend a school devoted to the art.

Has anybody tried this? Any suggestions for information to start....

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It's a difficult quesiton. Could you make something that would satisfy a professional shop? Probably not, and maybe not ever, unless you were particularly devoted. Could you make something which would satisfy yourself, and make a better one the next time, and a better one after that? Probably. My personal opinion is that making the perfect violin is such an impossiblility that this is what keeps it interesting. . . and certainly you've got to start somewhere.

The first thing I would do is buy the Johnson and Courtnall book "Art of Violin Making" which, though expensive, is the best book yet written on the subject, and should tell you almost everything you need for the first one. Then ask a lot of questions, and take your first violin around for makers to see and LISTEN TO WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY ABOUT IT.

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I`m self-taught and we do have lots of makers today and in the past that were too. Michael, give a look in the 3 volumes of Eric Blot`s book and you will see lots of very important past and modern italians that were self taught (among than franciscan monks, gentlemen, etc).

Spatten: your first violin will not be good, but by the 10th you may be making good instruments. Try it!

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I call myself self-taught, though I had help from another self taught maker.


He did show me many tricks that were not in the books I read that saved time, and made some of the more difficult parts easier.


I say do it. I loved it. I am still getting better. Even some rough creations have turned out enjoyable to me.


I have one particular one that sounded muted when I finished. I put a homemade pickup on it, and the muted nature of it being played acoustic took the harshness out of it playing electric. It's ugly as heck, but it is my favorite electric fiddle.

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Be careful into what kind of "hobby" you launch yourself.

I have a friend who decided in his late 40s, almost 15 years ago, that he could probably make violins better than he could play them (he was taking violin lessons at the time from a teenage girl). He is self-taught but has also attended seminars and workshops along the way.

By now he is completing violin #56, and has also made 8 violas and 3 cellos. Poor man doesn't have an instrument of his own, they keep getting bought. Right now his list of waiting customers is two years long.

I have bought his violins #11 and #54 and viola #6.

Yes he keeps getting better (at least up to violin #11 (or maybe it was a fluke) but he has found that with good wood you get a good result (so he tells me).

Ah, yes! I should add that he even added a very nice room on to his house - with it's own little parking lot and a sign over the door with a violin on it that says " _ _ _ _ violin Shop" and that's where he makes instruments, does repairs, and sees customers.

Good luck!


[This message has been edited by Andrew Victor (edited 03-03-2001).]

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Spatten. Try it!!! I made my 1st violin appx 2 yrs ago using books by Bruce Ossman and Henry Stroble as references. It was a bit rough and sounded thin. My 2nd and 3rd attempts came out MUCH better. Two of the top violinists in the Portland Symphony (Maine) were kind enough to critique the instruments for me. They were impressed by the sound, playability, and appearance and said that they wouldn't hesitate to buy one (money wasn't discussed). They asked what master I studied under. I don't know if they believed me when I said that I used the two books and a bit of stubborn determination.

That meeting with the violinists was the week before Christmas and I still haven't come down from that high.

It takes me appx 125 hours to make a violin using basic hand tools. I'm workin on #4 now. I absolutely love making them.

Oh, did I mention that I don't use the traditional woods? I use straight, tight grained fir for the tops, and have used mahogany, blood wood, and walnut for the backs and sides, and purple heart for one of the necks. I don't use any stain.

There's plenty of very talented people on this site who are willing to share their knowledge with you if you get stuck.

Good luck,


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You people are certified wizards...I can't imagine trying to build a fiddle, or doing ANYTHING to one other than tuning and playing it.

I would feel more comfortable building or repairing an atomic bomb, and would probably do less damage in the process.

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I would also like to give making a violin a shot. I currently only have a copy of Violin Making As It Was And Is, but my brother mentioned he saw a set of three videos somewhere and offered to get them for me for my birthday. I guess I then need to start collecting the required tools. I have some hand chisels I use for woodcarving, but I imagine they aren't what I would need to build a violin. Any suggestions on the tools I need to start getting and other things as well?

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I'm currently setting up my workshop to build a first violin. I'm going from ground zero. No bandsaw (using a coping saw and japanese joint saw), no drill press (using a hand drill), no workbench, ect..

Here is what I'm doing.

1. I'm ordering four gouges

(1/4 7sweep)

(3/8 7sweep)

(1inch 3sweep)

(3/4 9sweep)

I'm also ordering a knife, burnisher (for scrapers) and two chisels (1/4 and 3/4)

All the above is through www.japanwoodworker.com. You can find stuff cheaper, but I dont want to use a mallet alot. These are hardened at 64c hardness. Cheaper gouges can be had but are in the 58c hardness range. From what I've heard and read, the harder tools take and hold a sharper edge. Since these are the "main" tools, I don't want to go the cheaper route.

I'm going to spend about $650 at www.internationalviolin.com. Peg shaper, bending iron,clamps, scraper set, sound post tools, caliper, purfering marker, varnish, brush, bridges, pegs, end piece, ect...

My main wood, linings, purferling, ect.. is coming from www.tonewood.sk. The top will be $19.00. The back 16.00 (unflamed maple). The neck block is only $5.00 (I'm buying 3 so I can screw the first two up).

This isn't including the $30 at www.thestrad.com for 4 posters. They have plans on the back. I'm using a few strobel books that cost $50.00. I'm buying a 8x4 piece of birch plywood for the molds and cutting boards. I put in a sidewalk last year, so I'm using the 2x4's to build the workbench.

All in all, you can scrimp buy with $1100.00. If you use cheaper gouges, $1000. Rats, I need someway to shapen the gouges and chisels. It just keeps piling up. Good luck. Fred

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Don't underestimate the power of a little bit of ingenuity. An old bastard file can be ground to make an excellent, custom shaped scraper...

My main tools are:

2 spoke shaves

file converted into scraper

dremel with very fine bit (for purfling)

hand purfling cutter

mini benchtop bandsaw

one gouge

many screw and dowel type luthier clamps

one half round rasp

coping saw

hand drill

small vise

lots of elbow

With these tools the only thing I haven't made are the strings and chin rests.

[This message has been edited by wolfnote (edited 03-04-2001).]

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Imagine a big pliers with a stop at the handle end to keep the handles from closing, put a point (I used a needle file, sharpened) on one leg that meets a post (I used a carriage bolt) on the other. Set the distance between post and point (twist the bolt in or out), and punch holes on the inside of the instrument indicating when to stop graduating. Make sense?

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Now you've got me thinking of the minimum I could use to build a violin:

bow saw

Stanley Jack plane

Stanley 102 plane

13mm wide round bottom fingerplane

8mm flat bottom fingerplane

one inch #3 gouge

3/4 inch #5

1/2 inch #2

3/8 inch #6

1/2 inch chisel

cheap dividers reshaped to mark purfling

3mm knife

10mm knife

18mm knife

8" rasp, half round

8" wood file, half round

6" flat fine cut file

steel shim stock for scrapers

(screwdriver for burnishing)

needle file

set of spool closing clamps

a couple of c-clamps (Garrett-Wade sells a nice cheap 3" sliding bar clamp in sets of 4 for about $5 each)

peg reamer and shaper

simple plastic caliper in mm

30cm flexible rule

drill and some bits

antique hand grinder

1000 and 6000 grit Japanese stone

one brush

materials, and a lot of scrap to make some tools and jigs.

a model (yes, the STRAD posters are best--good idea.)

I think I could just about get the job done with the above list, though I'd certainly find it convenient to add a few other tools, mostly a few more fingerplanes, knives, and clamps, and a bench and vise. Though I use a fancy graduation caliper, it would be one of the first things I'd not buy, given the utility vs cost (I'd make a graduation punch like Strad used--in fact that's what I mostly use now, not the caliper). I have a purfling cutter, but prefer one I made by taking a cheap Sears divider and cutting off one leg a bit shorter than the other and sharpening it.

Adding it up in my mind, with careful buying, I might get all the above stuff for $600-700, I think.

[This message has been edited by Michael Darnton (edited 03-04-2001).]

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Though not a shop essential, I find a 'center finding ruler' most helpful in violin making. With it there's no need to do any math to find the centers of various parts. It's very helpful for: bassbars, F holes, necks and scrolls, fingerboards, centerlines of one-piece backs. It's so easy to use that it's "idiot proof". It looks sort of like this:


I forget where I got mine. If anyone's interested e-mail me and I'll get the information.

[This message has been edited by Barry J. Griffiths (edited 03-04-2001).]

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I think that all of the information provided so far by the responses to your post make sense. Henry Strobel's books and videos are excellent. I started doing this kind of work late in life but it has worked out. You may want to start by refurbishing old "shop fiddles". Many of the German made instruments from about 1890 through 1930 provide good material for experimentation and training.

Using Strobel's references as a guide (knowing someone who is in the business to help when things get confusing does help) by measuring the instrument and making comparisons to the dimensions and angles shown in "Useful Measurements For Violin Makers" by Strobel.

Thoroughly review Strobel's book and video "Violin Making Step by Step" and understand them the best you can, again outside help may be of benefit. Stroble also provides you with a list of useful tools to get started.

It may be best to have someone show you how to remove the front (Strobel uses the terms "front" and "back") of the violin. Most old German shop fiddles will have a roughly gouged top, no corner blocks and an "integral" (i.e. carved in not glued in)bass bar. Again compare the thickness graduations and general internal construction to what Strobel shows for the case study he uses in his "Violin Making Step by Step".

Keep a notebook and make notations of all you observe.

Experiment with each phase of construction by making adjustments to your inexpensive shop fiddle by making each component (front, back, neck blocks, liners etc.) reasonably conform to the finished component in each phase of construction of the new violin shown in "Violin Making Step by Step".

Obviously there are many things to learn as you go along this path.

This is the approach that I used for better or worse. The help of a friend whose avocation is violin making and the repair of almost anything with strings has been invaluable.

I very much agree with Mr. Victor's assessment of his friends efforts.

I wish you the best.

J. Blase

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