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1st Cello Build; (Modelled after the 1712 "Davidov" Strad)


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I am leery of beginning such a thread, but will attempt to carry through to the end. I frequently forget to take photos, but will try to remember, so as not to leave gaps.

I began the project in Mid-May...chose the Davidov out of ignorance, mostly. I had heard that Yo Yo Ma uses the original, so I figured it couldn't be too bad a choice. :)

I bought my wood from the Wood Well in Washington, mostly-- Sitka and Bigleaf. The willow for linings and blocks I got from Elon Howe, in Michigan.

I took the mold and neck templates off of the Strad poster for the Davidov. I will get the arching templates later.


The mold is made of scrap plywood that was sitting in my shed, left over from other projects. It is full height, to avoid rib warping, but the front and back are removable to allow access for installation of linings.



The blocks are held in place with drywall or deck screws so that they can be easily detached from the mold when the time comes.


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I used the mold template not only to establish the outline of the mold itself, but also to establish the shapes of the blocks.



I then used a bandsaw, planes and drum-sander to shape the blocks.




I failed to take pictures of the bending process, but I used the standard bending iron that everyone uses, this time, instead of my trusty goodwill clothes iron. I installed the C-bout ribs first, then the upper bout ribs, and finally the lower ones. About that time I remembered the camera. (sigh...) I wasn't real happy with the fit of the lower ribs, and ended up having to remove them and re-fit them.


They are OK now.

I also had a hard time with the center joints of the plates. It took me three tries on the Spruce, and two on the maple, but I am satisfied with it, now.



I also cut out and began shaping the neck--forgot to take pictures again...


So that is the current state of the cello.


I have bent the linings but have not installed them...hope to get that done this week.

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Cute. :)

No, I needed a place that I could reach with a 3" clamp, and get a stable pressure. Those little shelves did the trick. On the spruce I cut an additional step in the middle, where I could fit a bar clamp. (I assume you actually knew this and were making a joke.)

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Cute. :)

No, I needed a place that I could reach with a 3" clamp, and get a stable pressure. Those little shelves did the trick. On the spruce I cut an additional step in the middle, where I could fit a bar clamp. (I assume you actually knew this and were making a joke.)

Aah Chet - and here was I - one of the band of merry aspirants who have cut off their first instrument's button - thinking "What a brilliant method - leave buttons on all ends. No chance of making a mistake".

Mind you using them for clamps is twice as brilliant - I salute you.

cheers edi

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Thank you for this post. It is already inspiring me to finally get started on a cello as well.

Also, I've been using wood well wood on my last few and it seems to be working pretty well. My recent violin from their wood sounds great.


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It has not been a very productive week, but I did accomplish a little this evening: I followed Matthew Tucker's and Michael Darnton's recommendation and did NOT mortise deeply for every lining, but only on the c-bout linings, as they would otherwise want to spring away from the rib. Here are the linings before gluing:




and after:




Those little green clamps are really handy. They are stronger than clothespins, and have plastic coating the tips so they seldom stick to glue (they will stick to superglue, but not hide glue, which is what I use...). They were 37 cents apiece at Home Depot, so I bought all they had...about 110 of them. And it was barely enough. I think I had about five or six unused, when all the linings were glued and clamped.

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While waiting for the front linings' glue to set up firmly and dry a little, I cut out the plates, leaving lots of room. The problem is that they are too big to fit easily into my bandsaw, so I used a big flat-washer to trace around the mold template, and make an oversized margin, then cut well outside of that line, so I know I have at minimum 6mm extra all around the eventual final perimeter. I used my old saber saw for the job. My wife bought me that saw, when we were young and poor and I wanted to build a boat. It has really done a lot of work in the last 27 years. Our eldest was just over two years old when she got it for me, and he just turned 29.


Sometimes I had to stop and let the saw cool a little, when cutting the maple. The Spruce wasn't so bad.


But eventually they were both done.


I also spent some time working on the scroll--but not much...it was starting to get dark, and acting as if it was going to rain.




Tomorrow Ann and I will be attending a wedding in the afternoon, but I hope to get up early enough to finish installing linings on the back side, and level the front side.

(edited to correct confusion as to front and back--they look just alike to me...)

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Nesplin, since you are familiar with the Wood Well, FYI, this is their "High-Figure Cello Kit with Sitka top". It came with a bassbar, though I had been worried about that, as there was nothing said on the website, and I had not thought to ask about it. I live about four hours away, and have been there once, but this time I just ordered online, and then called the next day and asked for a specific grain-count on the spruce. They came pretty close to what I asked for.

Good luck on your project.

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It looked as though I would have an assistant, for a bit, but he resigned in a huff when I made a chance comment on his lack of opposable thumbs.


Yesterday's work (side one...the front) turned out to have a couple of separations. I worked water down into the gaps, then warmed it with my Goodwill clothes-iron, and clamped with spring clamps. The green guys were good, but these have a little more authority, when things get tough.


Here is side two--the back--after removing the faceplate. Just enough room for the linings.


And the completed linings. One C-bout was a little stubborn about closing up tight, so the orange clamps were called in again.


By the time Ann and I got home from that wedding, we were both pretty tired, and it was getting late anyway. So that was all for Saturday.

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This evening I flattened the garland (both sides) using a low-angle stanley plane. I used the plates themselves for the flat check surface, and marked the high spots with a pencil then planed them down and checked again. It went pretty quickly. Initially I forgot all about pictures; then, when I remembered, it turned out my youngest had absconded with the camera. I called him, and had it back pretty quickly, though..he was only a couple miles away. :)

I will add the photos a little later-- I did trace out the plates, and lay out the corners, using the two circles deal. Nothing fancy-- the bottom of my glue jar provided the circles. Got the plates cut out and partially finished the edges. I'll have to complete that tomorrow. It's getting late.

Tomorrow I will need to make a work-cradle and get going on arching...getting the edges to the right thickness, anyway.

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Here is the garland with the faces flattened (planed, not sanded...I may do that later, as well) and the shapes of the blocks laid out. Again, nothing fancy-- the end blocks were traced off a 1-quart paint can, and the corners were traced off a scrap left over from making the mold.


I traced around the garland onto the plates, using a 1/4" slice of aluminum pipe. The pipe is about 3/4" inside diameter, with walls 1/8" thick, so I got about a 4mm border, using that for the washer. The advantage of using that (instead of the washer I usually use) is that if there is a small gap, the washer would slide under the rib, and the pipe will not.

Then, using a glue-bottle for my circles, I laid out the corners, using Mr. Denis' method to get the angles about right. I am sure I will refine the corners some more, later.


I cut out the plates on the band saw, then cleaned them up as best I could on the drum-sander, but I will finish them with a file, tomorrow.


I don't know why photobucket rotated that photo-- it was upright.

And, here are the two plates, ready for final shaping, and then arching. The black streaks are just dirt-- they will be gone after I begin arching.


Hope no one is getting too bored. The most fun parts are definitely yet to come.

Thanks for looking.

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So. The first thing this evening was to make a cradle. I used a quarter sheet of 3/4" plywood, backed it with 2 x 4 scraps, and cut a guitar-shaped hole in it, to permit the cello plates to nestle in it when I do the inside arching. Then I cut scraps of 1/4" plywood to snug against the plates, and glued and screwed them in place.


Then I used a marking gauge to scribe a mark 5mm from the flat side of the plates. The plywood stops are just a little taller than the scribe lines. I would rather they had been exactly the same, but that is simply the material I had available. It works OK.



The fun has begun! Gouges, planes and sweat. All I am hoping to accomplish today is the preliminary arching...and only the spruce.


No idea why the pictures keep flipping over...and now it is upright again. (!)


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The goal was to have the edges of the spruce plate pretty much ready for purfling. They aren't perfect, but it was time to quit for the night. My hands were becoming rebellious about hanging onto the tools. Time for rest. I can spend some more time tomorrow.



The maple will be a lot more work. :)


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