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Michael Darnton

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After looking at these pictures, many people would probably think that it is so simple to

make a violin or a viola. Those of us laymen or amateurs who had ever assembled a few

violins would know it's not all that simple: a few photo sessions later, a beautiful

viola is created. To make a good instrument such as Michael's, many many years experience

plus special talent are required. In the 400 years or so of the violin history, one could

easily count with the fingers how many good makers were there in each generation.

The critical areas which are not shown in these photo sessions are: 1. How to arrive at

the final arch shape. 2. The distribution of thickness/stiffness. 3. The varnishing, which

has very delicate influence on the tone.

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Michael, why don't you tilt the top plate a little so the drill will be perpendicular to the arch. It probably won't make much difference because these areas are quite thin. The old makers did not use drill bits that's why the hole is perpendicular to the arch. BTW, Lee Valley has the best brad point drills made from the best American twist drills.

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What do you think of Forstner bits? they can be sharpened with care....... They also have a nearly full-round quasi-knive which can be sharpened reasonably well.

Also, do you at any stage put water to the wood surfaces, especially at the f-hole edges? If so, what method do you use to finally trim any raised grain etc ....?

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I feel like Forstner bits need a bit too much pressure to cut to keep me happy--at least the one's I've used. Also, standard drill bits are available in a wider range of sizes.

I like to not use too much water. It can make things easier--carving f-holes, for instance, as you suggest--but I sometimes run into problems with surface cracks if I'm not careful with it.A few cycles of wetting and drying can stabilize a plate, if they don't wreck it first.

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"" I like to not use too much water. It can make things easier--carving f-holes, for instance, as you suggest--but I sometimes run into problems with surface cracks ""

I meant coating the edges of the f-holes with a thin glue or other sealer for the final cut. If this raises the grain of your drilled hole, what do you do here?

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"" Oh, then I go back at the very end, and recut, after it's varnished. I have a tendency to cut the fs too small, anyway, and only realize it later. ""

Thanks, it confirms what I have always felt and done. Converge on a proper solution and leave yourself some room to modify. As in the traditional Cremona practice of gluing up the body and THEN trimming edges, marking purfling and forming the final arching of the edge. The modern approach of an attempt to make interchangable parts has made this practice dissapear.

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Eight new pix today, but the particular reason I'm writing this is because today was the day I pulled out the mold, and some people mentioned they were waiting for that. I shot three pictures of that, but I don't know if they really give the right feel for how it's done.

I changed some stuff around, and the best way to get to the viola story now is via a link on the site's front page, but this link will take you directly to the page the new photos are on.

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Yes. If you think that the tension of the bar is important, you'd better have a way to force the plate edges to be where they are on the ribs. I did once put a bar in a violin with a warp to the ribs which put the bar in negative tension, and I had to redo the bar, which made quite a difference, so I do think this is something that's worth at least thinking about. The frame is used throughout the entire fitting process.

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That's an interesting tab on the end of the bar. Do you leave it there? And what's its purpose?

I see you're chiseling away most of the corner blocks before taking the ribs off. I ended up having to do that on my first one in order to be able to get some slack towards the ends so I could get the upper and lower ends off the mould. I thought it was unfortunate that I had to carve the blocks off while still on the mould, now I see that's how it's done.

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Yes, I get most of the corner blocks out of the way before I start, with one split, just as you see in the photo. When you do it that way, instead of chewing it off a bit at a time and having to dig for it, the whole unwanted piece pops right off.

The tab is just the way I was taught to do it. I've heard two explanations. The first is that it's because the very end of the bar is hard to fit, so doing it that way takes the stress off of a potential failure point. The second is that you really don't want to put a fresh cut down into the top of a valuable old violin when cutting the beveled end of the bar, so cutting it off that way prevents damage. I don't know which is true--they both sound possible. I just like the way it looks, really. :-)

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Great Pics! I wish I had those to look at 6 or so years ago.

Some of the photos with your hands in them are very telling. I remember my frustration when I started making in not knowing how to hold the tool for certain cuts. My instructor would say "cut that with a knife!" Were as when you see HOW to hold the knife, and execute the cut, it makes a diferance, atleast it did for me. Nice job.

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