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Picking up where I left off...


Tim McTigue
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Well, it's been a while, but I think I'm finally ready to get back to making a violin. Here's a picture of where I got to last April, just before going through a bit of medical drama - nothing too serious, but I was in hospital twice within 2 weeks, and then had a nice convalescence, and it was a couple months before I was physically able to get back to the workshop, but took until now to get the motivation back. Meantime, I haven't been posting, as I've had nothing to contribute. Hopefully that will change.

Spent some time this weekend reviewing what I'd learned about sharpening, and looking over some videos that were kindly lent to me a while ago, then spent some time in the shop, sharpening the plane, and getting back to work on the back joint. Still being stubborn, but hopefully I'll get it done in the next week so I can begin to move on. Glad to see most of the familiar faces, although I have done enough lurking to know that CT is taking an extended break from the forum, so he can get some serious work done. Anyway, just thought I'd poke my head in and say "Hi"...

feb2008.jpg

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Howdy Tim, good to see you back and taking up your violin project again. Sorry to hear about your medical drama, but I'm happy it's worked out.

I did some more plate jointing recently myself, doing two sets of violin wood, and the top so far for my cello project, so I understand the challenge and the frustrations involved in that. If I might offer a suggestion, it would be to examine your maple carefully to see what irregularities in the surfaces you're clamping while doing the planing might cause the board to twist a little bit, so that you plane a nice flat edge on the plate, then unclamp it and it distorts back to non-flat. That's a real killer. In the case of my cello top I had to be really careful of that, and of how I clamped it while planing it on my shooting board.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Yeah, it feels really good to be at the point where something that kinda looks violin-like is starting to emerge. This back should look quite nice, if I manage not to bugger it up. At least I remembered not to cut the button off...

I made an effort to line up the rays in a pleasing fashion, but truthfully, I ended up planing away a significant amount of wood trying to get the joint right, so it probably won't be as nice as it could have been, but it's hard to predict anyway until the arching is under way, since the curls do wander a bit inside...

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Wow, it's hard to believe it's only been 2 weeks since I started this thread. Here's where I got to today - worked most of the weekend on it. Not as fast as many, I'm sure, but I'm kind of impressing myself. That, of course, isn't too hard...

The cradle I made is working pretty well, and only needed a couple of small adjustments. I have to admit I was pretty nervous beginning the longitudinal arch, but it's a good thing a gouge is a very slow tool. I made my arching models based on those in Strobel's book, after comparing them to the Kruse poster I have and noticing how similar they are. Much easier to use Strobel's guides rather than come up with my own at this point...

feb24.jpg

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Okay, time for another update. Today I started cutting the purfling groove. Got a good start on it, but I think there's still a fair bit of work, as I think the blades of the purfling marker were a little too close together, so I'll have to widen it a bit (carefully, and on the inside). I made a purfling picker for cleaning out the groove, it's in the picture. It works okay, but it sure would be nice to have a commercial one. That'll be one of the things I get for next time. By now, I'm certain that no matter how well I do with everything else, the purfling will shout "Newbie fiddle!". I think I didn't do a horrible job, so far, but I'm definitely not pleased with the upper left corner - I think I botched that one. Of course, there are probably at least a couple dozen mistakes immediately visible to those with training and experience, but regardless, I'm pretty proud of what I've managed to accomplish so far, and I'm starting to get excited with the anticipation of what the whole instrument will look like. I think it'll be pretty awesome for all its flaws - easily the finest thing I've ever done, aside from make and raise three kids, which I've done a pretty fair job of, if the compliments I get on a regular basis are anything to go by. One thing's for sure, I will never again look at a violin the same way...

mar02.jpg

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You'll probably want to hold and examine closely every violin you encounter from now on, just looking at the arching, the corners, the ribs, the scroll, etc. just to see it and get a feel for how it was done, and to compare it mentally with what you've learned now. Grats on doing your purfling groove by hand, too. I've done both of mine, and plan to continue doing them, with a dremel tool.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Seth_Leigh

I've done both of mine, and plan to continue doing them, with a dremel tool.

Seth, I definitely found myself wishing I had the courage to make a dremel attachment like the one Michael D made, and use it, but at this point I'm deadly afraid that use of any power tool would enable me to destroy the thing much more quickly. Besides, the corners and button area still have to be done by hand. If I were making 5 violins, I would definitely take the time to learn how to do the dremel thing.

quote:


Originally posted by:
JohnCee

Tim, I might be wrong, but it looks like your groove might be a bit too shallow in places.

Definitely, John, which is why I said I "got a good start" - there's still a fair bit of work to do before the purfling goes in. I hope to get the purfling done by the end of this week...

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Tim, rather than a Dremel, I use an end-mill held in a desk-top drill press. The end mill is a spiral upcutting bit, similar to a router bit, and makes a 1.25 mm groove just as clean as can be. I mount a formica coated piece of maple to the table of the drill press that has piece of 0.125 inch brass rod sticking up --- the violin plate slides against this brass piece and keeps the groove a constant 4.5 mm away from the edge. I set up the drill press so that the bit is in the 'down' position (held down with a bungee cord on the handle) and raise it temporarily when I approach a corner.

And yeah, the corners need to be completed by hand, but it still takes less than an hour, start to finish, for me to make a virtually flawless groove --- and I'm a rank amateur.

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Yes, I have to admit that cutting that groove was quite the most nerve-wracking thing I've done in a LONG time! It's pretty much done now, I'm hoping to bend the purfling this evening and get it dry-fit, there will probably be a few spots that need to be a little deeper - I'm being careful not to go too deep. This being my first fiddle, I'm now recognizing that probably my biggest challenge to overcome is a tendency to not go quite far enough for fear of going too far, but having recognized that is the first step to overcoming it. Carving the insides of the plates will be a big test of this, I'm sure. Looking forward to seeing what this back looks like when the arching is finalized...

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Another week, more progress. Managed to get the purfling in, and starting to approach final arching. As for the purfling: Wow, that was difficult. I don't have a bending iron, in fact I bent the sides using MDF forms and water, but when I tried using the same forms to bend the purfling, I discovered I didn't have much control over the shape of the corner bend. I spent the better part of the week, and 1.5 lengths of purfling trying to get it sorted out. Finally found a method that worked, sort of. Yes, the corners are crappy on this back. It's the first time I've ever tried this. I may decide to dig them out and fix them, but I may equally decide to leave them to remind myself what it was like the first time. I already know what I'll do differently next time, so hopefully the belly purfling will be better.

Meantime, I bought myself an early birthday present this weekend, in the face of a gathering winter storm on Friday evening. Got out to Lee Valley and bought myself a 25mm Ibex instrument plane. Glad I did! I've already made good use of it.

mar09.jpg

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Hi Tim,

Nice work. Purfling is somewhat daunting the first time. Say, you said you don't have a bending iron. Neither do I. I use a $7 soldering iron from Radio Shack with a damp paper towel. It works like a charm once you figure just how high up the iron you can go before you scorch the wood. Other than that annoyance, I can't complain about it. Just thought I would mention it to you. It works especially well on purfling because it is so much finer that ribs or linings. Anyway, keep up the good work!

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Hi Tim,

Great progress! I too am working from a Kruse poster. I am just bending the ribs tonight and probably gluing them tomorrow. Your maple back has nice very nice flame. Is it local maple or imported European maple? I have some local red maple that has a lot of flame but it a bit too dense for my liking... It will be hard to get the back down to 110 gm and maintain the proper graduations.

You mentioned that you went to Lee Valley ... What part of Ontario are you from?

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I don't want to hijack the thread but for whatever reason I can't send a PM. Catnip - do you get your red maple from a supplier in Ontario or is it something you cut? If it is a supplier, could I ask who it is? I'll try doing a PM on my work computer tomorrow in case you don't check back on this thread. Again, sorry for slipping this in but I had to ask.

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Kubasa, thanks for the compliment! Don't worry about highjacking the thread, you didn't. Yet, anyway. Thanks also for the tip on the soldering iron. I also build model airplanes, and have a small covering iron, and I tried that also, and even in conjunction with my flat iron (pressing on one with the other, with the purfling in between), as well as doing what you suggested on the side of it, but to no avail. These irons on high can get to ~250-300F, but next time I'll try the soldering iron and see how that works. I'll have to do this again for the belly purfling, and I'll also have to bend the linings at some point, so by the end of it all, I'll have lots of practice.

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Hi Tim,

I wish I could tell you more about my soldering iron. It's fairly large, as far as soldering irons are concerned, and has in-wound threads at the end of it so I can change soldering tips if I wanted to. Course, I don't have any tip on it because I'm not using it like that. I wish I could tell you how hot it gets but I can't other than the fact that I can scorch a piece of wood if I'm not careful but it does the trick and it was cheap! I hope to cut out my next back this weekend and get caught up. You're making good progress. At least one of us is......

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Tim McTigue

...

and even in conjunction with my flat iron (pressing on one with the other, with the purfling in between), as well as doing what you suggested on the side of it, but to no avail. These irons on high can get to ~250-300F, but next time I'll try the soldering iron and see how that works. I'll have to do this again for the belly purfling, and I'll also have to bend the linings at some point, so by the end of it all, I'll have lots of practice.

Hi Tim and all:

I'm not up to speed on all this but it looks nice.

I've only bent large thick pieces of wood using either steam box,PVC pipe, or local application.

When my guitar was being built I got to see the sides getting bent by hand and then checked against a form. The heating tool interested me so asked about it. It was oval shaped stainless steel sheet metal maybe 3"x5" x 8" or 9" tall. Now this will get you, the heating element AND control were from a common iron for clothes that he had stripped all the needed parts from. These were mounted on a 2x10 12" long, which was attached to a wooden crate with weights so it didn't slip while he worked it back and forth. No need to buy expensive, check out local thrift store for irons, finding the stainless steel may prove to be a problem. However I might suggest a fireplace store or even a good hardware store for "stove pipe" in stainless. Might find sheet metal at Home Depot, might find a stove hood and cut parts from it. DO NOT USE regular iron stove pipe unless it has maybe teflon coating. I spoiled several hundred dollars inside of 10 minutes when first trying to steam bend and used a piece of cast iron pipe. The pipe and steam instantly turned the wood black and was good for cleat stock. That's when I found PVC pipe, I would be careful using ABS (black) for it has a much lower melting point if you need to ever steam large pieces of wood.

I will only speak in generalities for other tasks. For wood dents dents I have used a heavy duty Weller type soldering gun. I would then buy spare tips and silver solder washers, pennies, dimes and quarters to various tips. I think my best was a washer with about a 3/8" hole, then using someting like an old cotton T shirt cut swatches 3" square I could then steam the dents out by pressing the washer with a little water in a corner and rub, the hole allowed the steam to escape while working the dent out. You can use another corner to speed up drying. Repeat 3 or more times, it requires using the trigger to regulate temp but the washer holds the heat well.

A soldering iron gets hot and usually in the range of 15-35 watts, some have replaceable tips which again you might be able to silver solder some brass U channel or curve shape to the tip for the purfling. You will just have to guess at how much a heat sink mass you will need to keep from damaging anything. The silver solder will need a pencil or larger butane torch, it likes clean fresh surfaces surfaces or you won't get a good joint. You probably have to buy special flux even if if it has a core of flux. 600-900 degree melt should work though they have lower but you don't want your custom tool to fall off.

I should mention that the soldering guns today have duty cycles so get the longest on time you can afford or try not to overheat.

Cheers,

gtm

but you might also have some luck for smaller application

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Tim, I found that it was easier for me to use just ONE purfling marker blade. I scribed the inside line, cut with my knife, correcting any bits where the grain sent me warnings, and reset the blade for the second line. I don't know why I prefer this method. it just seems I have better control over one cutter than trying to manage two at once. Then end result is the same.

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I use the single blade method for the initial scribing as well. After the first line is done (the outside line), I trace around that line using a double blade Japanese marking knife (Shirabiki) that I ground down so that it works for narrow channels. After that, I use a sharp knife to get to depth.

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