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Hi all makers,

I don't understand how anyone can join two pieces of wood without a power tool only by hands..

(like the back of a violin) You need straight cuts of two pieces and clamp them, glue them.

Power tool will do wonder. Straight as an arrow as they say. Free hand,yes, but you

have ruined a hundred pieces of wood before you get one straight.

It puzzles me. Why people insist handmade.

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Yes, I have learnt something today. Thank you.

Now the peg hole, I would use a press drill (power,of course) one

motion of my arm, one hole done. I know you have reamer. It takes

too long to make a hole. You need a fast hand. (if you can get one right)

I know you have another solution.

Just amazing, you guys, are so good. I don't have any question.

A salute to you. Sir.

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Most makers use a hand plane because it's not all that difficult to make the job, and in general a power plane will not give a good joint as given by a good (and properly used) handplane. And with a handplane we can save our fingers for violin playing....

The hand plane is very difficult to tune, prepare, and use, I think it takes some years to master it.

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Just out of curiosity, let me ask this question.

Does it matter which tools are used to join the plates, if the job is done right?

If the surfaces mate well, and the glue is applied correctly, and the plates join and do not come apart, then, what difference does it make if a power tool is used or a hand tool was used to do the job?

Joining the plates, or cutting the purfling groove - using a hand tool or a power tool - if the result is the same, what does it matter which tool you use?

Does it matter?

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I once had the opportunity to use a nice electric plain (don't know the word in English. In Dutch: Vandiktebank). It took the operator more than two hours to get the sides of the back plate reasonably. At home I pressed them together (without glue) and vised against the light. The result showed some imperfections but I tried it. Thus, glued my tables together and after drying I inspected the result. In such circumstances you must be honest for yourself and I decided to separate them. After separation I took the long foot plain which is the old fashened method I always did before. The blade was razor sharp and after an hour I was satisfied with the result. After glueing a perfect seam!

Conclusion: not always the modern tools do the job better!

Maybe you are right ctviolins, but still I like the old handcrafted methods delivering real hand made instruments.

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As long as you achieve the desired result I don't see how it matters. When I started out I used the techniques described in Henry Strobel's books. I'm now working on violin #18 and have developed a lot of my own techniques along the way. So far I've been able to avoid the center joint issue by using one piece backs and tops. By the way CT, when/if I do have to plane for a center joint I will use the "dive right in" technique.

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The center joint requires one of the highest precision. If the maker tells you that he uses power jointer for center joint, you should run away as fast as you can.

The center joint has very little surface area, only a few mm wide all along the joint. The contact between the 2 surface has to be perfect within few 1/1000 of inch all along the joint.

The power jointer is a rotary device. There are 2 blades (or maybe just 1) on a drum that rotates. When you push the wood through it will cut the wood with the blades on the drum. The motion causes tiny little ripples all along the center joint. It would be impossible to get the kind of accuracy that required for a violin center joint. One can still use clamps on the 2 plate and joint them together. But in time, the joint will fail.

Some power tools may enhance the accuracy of the work. But some will do just the opposit. Drill press for one will give you a perfect angle for any holes, which may not be achieve by free hand. If really depends on which power tool.

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"Maybe you are right ctviolins, but still I like the old handcrafted methods delivering real hand made instruments."

You misunderstand my point.

I'm just asking a question.

I'm not for power tools and against hand tools, or visa versa. In fact, I use an antique 22" Baily (#7) joining plane and a shooting board to join my plates.

My question and my point here is that any method used correctly or that results in the job being done properly, is the correct method.

Mostly, the problem lies in understanding what "properly" means in regard to the quality or fit of the joint, doesn't it? And not in what tool was used to achieve it.

Even though I cannot do it using my cheap little power planer, I have a friend who has his power planer tuned so well that it actually flattens wood adequately for joining. My power plane only prepares my wood for the hand plane.

But, avoiding power tools because of some misguided romantic notion seems to be rampant in the violin making world when the proposition is taken on the level of a hobby, so, I always like to see what people are talking about.

Tackling violin making on a professional level is usualy enough to break people of such notions, but not always.

(I'm surprised that some makers condescend to use indoor plumbing because it wasn't available during Strad's time...)

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I use hand planes but I have a band saw and drill press in the shop. Something people overlook is what using power equipment does to the Luthier? Does using a power plane jangle your nerves, make your ears ring afterword, make you tense? For me using a quality tool like a properly tuned (!) sharp joiner plane is simply a pleasure. I feel good using it. Flattening the plates and joining them gives me my first impression about the qualities of the wood I'm working with, how flexible, the way the grain runs through it, how dry it is etc The shavings are beautiful to look at, I often inspect them. Working with a hand plane give you time to think, to listen to the blade slice through the wood-what a delicious sound it makes! For me Iit's important that I enjoy the process of making an instrument not just the end product.

Oded Kishony

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One of the posters made a comment that hand planes are difficult to master, and that it might takes years to learn how to properly set them up and use them. Man, if that was the case, I would have given up on them years ago. Personally, I think it takes a heck of a lot more time and energy to set up power equipment so that it cuts properly, and then you have to deal with the fact that no power tool will yield a finished product, the jointer in particular, as Isipirati correctly pointed out.

To me, violin making is a quiet and peaceful art. The last thing I want in my shop is a bunch of dust, noise, and danger. I can't re-state more eloquently what Oded stated above, so I'll simply say: re-read his post. There is a ton of merit to his argument.

It is absolutely true that there are any number of ways to achieve your end goal of making a beautiful (looking and sounding) violin. The truth of any one method is very subjective and yours to seek out.

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Originally posted by:

then you have to deal with the fact that no power tool will yield a finished product, the jointer in particular, as Isipirati correctly pointed out.

Have you ever learned to use a jointer? I have incredible success with mine. I'm glad I started using one before reading these misleading posts.

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I have been using power tools for more than 20 years. Generally speaking, I eschew them now in favor of the quieter/less dusty/less dangerous form of working with wood in general and making violins in particular. As I said: The truth of any one method is yours to discover. For me: I have yet to meet a powertool that will yield better results than I can get by hand full stop.

As for misleading posts, this is a forum on which users are encouraged to post their personal opinions and life experiences, is it not? My opinion that power jointers are inferior to hand jointers is just that: an opinion.

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While not misleading, I think the comments about a long apprenticeship to master the hand plane needs qualification. At the suggestion of some other group, I bought David Finck's _Making and Mastering Wood Planes_. Along with information for making a wooden plane, he first tells the reader how to set up, tune and sharpen a steel bodied hand plane [Maestronet sharpening suggestions are better, BTW]. It took a while, but I recently had a successful rub joint on a fiddle top cut with my yard sale Union 22" plane. My lutherie efforts are in stolen moments in the evening, so everything takes a long time, but if I had clocked myself, the learning curve would actually have come up quite steeply. I hope this gives some heart to newbies contemplating their first top joint.

Dave Gardner

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I'm not anti power tools at all and I have a few machines around the workshop, but I think it can get to a point quite quickly where the search to make life easier and production quicker can in fact slow work down and make things far more complicated.

I'm not sure how it works out for those who make instruments part time or as a hobby, but from my personal perspective as a full time professional maker it's a total misconception that a shop packed with power tools would save a load of time and enable me to produce far more work. Not only would I have to make an enormous investment in tools but I would also need far bigger premises to work from, both of which options are quite out of the question for me financially ......

...and I imagine for those making part time or as a hobby the act of using hand tools to produce something is a strong factor in their attraction to violin making.

Another point is that bench time is not the most time consuming part of being a violin maker in my experience, in fact those peaceful moments away from the phone, paperwork and other distractions when I can happily cut some wood are important therapy for running a small business and I'm not going to let a shop full of efficient engineering take that away from me!

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I still use some power tools, like a drill press with a sanding drum to get the corner-blocks shaped correctly and a router to do the purfling channel but I find I am enjoying doing more and more by hand nowdays. There is a sense of satisfaction that come with hand-work that cannot be put into words.

I own a biggish furniture factory and have serious machinery at my disposal and yet I am preferring to work by hand nowdays. I think a full understanding of correct hand methods combined with really sharp tools is neccessary though.

Last night I was carving a new front with a Tormek sharpened gouge. Heaven!

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Well, I did say I did use "some" power tools. I also said a full understanding of of correct hand methods is necessary - my hand sharpening skills are shocking so I must make use of "some" technology. If Mr. Stradivari had a Tormek, imagine what he could have done:-)

The gouge is most certainly a hand tool, is it not?

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Should we consider the gouge as the hand tool? or the Tormeck as the power tool? :-)


Yes, you've got the point - or perhaps the power tool was the chain saw that cut the tree down, or the the ups truck that brought the wood to your house. Maybe even the electric lights can be considered a power tool, after all, the only reason they're quiet is that there is a long wire separating you from the power generator - one could always make violins by candle light I suppose.

The point is that it doesn't MATTER which tool is used as long as the proper result is had. For all of those makers who prefer the quiet solitude of hand tools, there are perhaps other makers who prefer the noisy atmosphere of a busy shop.

So far we are not really discussing the various merits or attributes of these proclivities as they relate to violin making - we are discussing them as the relate to our personal preferences.

My point in this discussion is that no one can say, as the title suggests, "no power tools?" without looking at the fact of whether a power tool may be used as well as a hand tool in violin making.

The fact is that a tool is just a tool, either a power or a hand tool may be used to achieve the same result if the woodworker knows how to use the tool properly. The rest is merely personal preference.

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...and here was me thinking that the traditional way that most people who post to this board work was with planes, gouges, scrapers, knifes and the like.

Now there are murmourings of purfling channel routers, f-hole drill cutters, and (with the exception of the band saw and bench drill as these are, in my opinion, used in the preparation of the wood before making the fiddle) now...power planer/jointer to prepare and join the plates!

Are we to expect further revelations that, horror of horrors, people use power sanders and sandpaper too!

For many people, myself included, the size of their workshop limits what power tools they can have and therefore how they work and so, learning how to plane properly and use their tools is the best way by far.

As for the final product made with power tools compared to one made by traditional methods. I'd guess that the power jointer joint would be less stable for a start. Does wood become 'stressed' with the vibration of a sander? If so, then maybe the state of the finally prepared plates would suffer as a result. If you slip with a power tool then the mistake could be substantial.

To paraphrase a quote

"If Mr. Stradivari had a power planer, imagine what he could have done :-) "

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