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Hello everyone!

I stumbled across this forum a few weeks back when looking for information about making a violin. As the thread title would suggest I am a novice and have a few questions. Before I get to that, though, I'll try and explain my situation.

I have a copy of "The Art of Violin Making" by Johnson and Courtnall as well as "Violin Making" by Bruce Ossman. I've read through Ossman's book and am working my way through the Johnson/Courtnall book. I have a few woodcarving tools (chisels and gouges as well as a single sharp knife) but I don't have any planes, rasps, or files. Lastly, I have a copy of the Strad poster of the "Viotti" Stradivarius.

My questions are as follows:

1. After searching the forum a bit it seems like the Viotti Strad isn't necessarily the best violin to make a copy of for a novice. I'm not too sure I understood the conversation I read but it seems like the arching and thickness are somewhat unusual. Also, if I read correctly, the Viotti isn't symmetrical which can cause a bit of confusion for a novice. Is this all correct? Should I perhaps look elsewhere for an instrument to copy? It's not too big of a deal since I might be getting the Titian Strad poster for Christmas.

2. I was originally planning on starting from scratch but it seems that a common piece of advice is to build a first instrument from a kit. I'm hesitant to do this as I feel that it would be more "fun" ("fun" being challenging) to make an instrument from scratch. It feels like I'd be merely assembling an instrument someone else made and might not learn as much from doing so. That being said, selling an instrument I made from a kit might be a neat way to make the money I'd need for an electric bending iron, fancy-pants calipers, or any other fancy tools I might feel like getting. Is it even possible to sell a kit-built instrument though?

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"selling an instrument I made from a kit might be a neat way to make the money I'd need for an electric bending iron, fancy-pants calipers, or any other fancy tools I might feel like getting. Is it even possible to sell a kit-built instrument though?"

If you figure out how to sell one, let me know. I built one many years ago and recently refinished it. Tried to sell it on ebay but no bidders

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Figure a kit violin as an expense... it will cost more than you could possibly sell it for (unless you happen to be Sam Zygmuntowicz). You might want to go this route, though, just to see what it's like first, before committing to the from-scratch project.

The Titian definitely makes more sense than the Viotti, unless you know exactly what you're getting into.

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The best thing to do is just jump in and get the tools you need as you go.

That model is as good a place to start as any.

Making a nice mold, attaching and shaping the blocks, and prepping the ribs ought to occupy your time for awhile.

Just get a reasonable bending iron to start.

I've always thought that over thinking your first violin is a little counter-productive.

You are learning new skills, training your eye, developing muscle memory etc. and the only way to do that is by actually working.

One of my teachers was fond of saying, as I sat and fussed over this or that, "Let's go! We're making violins, not watches!"

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The best thing to do is just jump in and get the tools you need as you go.

That model is as good a place to start as any.

Making a nice mold, attaching and shaping the blocks, and prepping the ribs ought to occupy your time for awhile.

Just get a reasonable bending iron to start.

I've always thought that over thinking your first violin is a little counter-productive.

You are learning new skills, training your eye, developing muscle memory etc. and the only way to do that is by actually working.

One of my teachers was fond of saying, as I sat and fussed over this or that, "Let's go! We're making violins, not watches!"

I agree... I also just started a year ago. Johnson and Courtnall is pretty much all I used and it is GREAT! I just bought some nice gouges from Woodcraft, "decent" wood from a tonewood supplier (I use Metorpolitan Music www.metmusic.com) and lots of questions on Maestronet. And I ended up with a violin which I am very happy with.

I also spent about 10 months buying and repairing flea market finds and violins I found on Ebay until I was familiar enough with the construction and brave enough to start building one from scratch. Its always good to have seen a violin completely gutted and disassembled to get a good feel for how everything fits together and works.

The right tools are a BIG investment. But if you don't get the right tools for the particular aspect of the job like carving the scroll, or f-holes, it makes life very difficult. If you're serious about violin making, the investment in the tools and the time you put in, and experience you gain is very rewarding. I'm hooked.

:rolleyes:

Joe

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..........I have a copy of "The Art of Violin Making" by Johnson and Courtnall as well as "Violin Making" by Bruce Ossman........

Put Ossman's book in the trash bin before you regret to follow any of his procedures. That is the best advice I can give you.

If you want to follow a decent model for your first, get Strobel's books (they are cheap and useful).

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Jim ll,

Welcome.

Since you seem rather enterprising and have the C. and J., I think you should go for it and start from scratch. After all, if you continue to make, sooner or later you have to do that. And If you only make one, and it's from a kit, the rest of your life you'll wish you had made one from scratch, just to know what it was like.

If you can attend even one week of one of the classes offered around the country, it would help you immensely. Since everyone in a class is at a different stage, you can see the whole process up close and get great little bits of advice that don't show up in books. And you can get a much better grasp of what tools work and how they are used.

As to copying, I'm not familiar with the Viotti poster, but IMO no matter what great violin you copy, in the process of making the mold you'll most likely not be exact and might even intentionally take out some of the asymmetries anyway. And it certainly is NOT a good idea to copy old arches exactly. BTW, most likely none of the posters will give you a symmetric example.

At the beginning, selling a violin is most likely going to be harder than making it, out of a kit or otherwise; unless you sell it for peanuts.

I just read Nicholas's post and agree re Strobel. "Useful measurements" is a must, IMO.

If you haven't found "Pest's" posts on Maestronet, I think you'd benefit from seeing what a very serious and talented guy can do making a first violin. Lots of good photos. Good luck, we're rooting for you!

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Guess I'll be skipping the kit and jump right into the scratch-built instrument then.

I did notice that I will have to shrink the outline provided on the back of the Viotti poster about 4mm to make the outline for the mold. How do you do that? I know enlarging something is as simple as tracing around it with a washer but the only idea I had so far for shrinking it was to use a compass (with the point going along the line I intend to trace and the pencil set at a 4mm distance).

Another question I have is about tonewood. After searching around a bit I came across tonewood.ch aka Florinett AG which it seems a few people on here have used and are happy with. They seem to specialize in spruce but they mention on their website that they also have maple for the back, ribs, and neck. Does anyone have pictures of tonewood from this supplier? On that note, is there any difference (besides looks, availability, and cost) between a single piece back or split back?

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If you don't feel confident enough with your skills for the first instrument you can buy pre carved wood for your top and back. I did that for my #1 and don't regret. Pre carved does not mean finished you will have to cut it into proper shape, do your corners according to your form, do the purling, sound holes and graduate. Funny enough for the first one.

And.....watch out for the button!!

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re The last few posts, all good advice, particularly the link to MD's book.

As to wood, if you do want to get roughly routed tops and backs I assume International Violin still sells them. For those, or just for wood, they seem to have decent enough stuff, supposedly aged sufficiently to work right away. It would be a good idea to establish a relationship with them and other companies like Howard Core that supply in a general fashion.

Those "pre-carved" can be pretty good. I've never used them but a friend has produced some nice violins with them. The only thing is they may limit the height of your arch, and it won't be the most striking wood. But then why use spectacular wood on your first, IMO?

As for making your mold, use the purfling as your guide, and don't work backward from the outline.

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I'm not actually too worried about the arching or thicknessing part of the process. I'm a bit more worried about bending the ribs, f-holes, and adding the purfling. The only reason I asked about doing thicknessing and arching was because I've read that the particular instrument I wanted to copy is a bit of an oddball in those areas. I think I may simply use the outline of the Viotti and just use some "generic" arching and thicknessing,

I've actually been reading through PeSt's threads (OPUS 1 and 2) and have learned quite a bit from that. I look forward to seeing what OPUS looks/sounds like when finished.

As for the tools, I was planning on buying them one or two at a time a month or so in advance of the step I need them for. I also plan to play around with the tools on bits of scrap wood so I can learn how they handle and so on. I think it would also be worthwhile for me to learn how to sharpen tools correctly (not that new tools would need to be sharpened).

The reason I like the Ossman book is because he lays everything out in pictures, step by step, which makes it easy to follow the process. I plan to more or less only use his book for that purpose and stick with the C&J book for the actual methods and techniques. In other words: I'm going to use the pretty picture book to follow the steps and use the wall-of-text book for the actual instructions.

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After poking about the forum for a few days I've come up with this list of tools I may want/need to get:

Gouges

#3 sweep, 1-1.5 inch width

#3 or #5 sweep, 1/2 - 5/8 inch width

#2 sweep, 1/2 inch

#6 sweep, 3/8 inch

Planes

8mm finger plane

10mm finger plane

block plane

Other

thicknessing calipers (can be home-made but I have yet to find a thread that has instructions, just talk about how it can be done + links to the harbor freight website where one can purchase a machinist dial indicator)

purfling cutter/Veritas Wheel marking gauge (for marking where the purfling groove will be)

woodworking knife

Does this list look about right for someone just getting started?

For the planes, would it be possible to substitute the Lee Valley miniature block plane for the two finger planes? (http://www.leevalley.com/en/wood/page.aspx?p=50232&cat=1,230,41182)

Is it possible to find a decent block plane for $30 or less?

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file:///Users/natalieryan/Desktop/James'%20/IMGP1451.jpg

Here is an easy to build thickness caliper.

I just bought a Veritas mini block plane and while very cute is too small for most operations. I bought it for the outside arch work that follows the gouge.

I hope this helps, James

dude ....I've been wondering where mine went....
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Thanks for the picture James. Unfortunately I can't seem to be able to enlarge it though. I *think* I can see what you did there from the thumbnail, though. Looks a bit like the Stradivarius thickness marking tool except instead of a metal spike you've got the dial indicator.

I'm just about to take the plunge and order my tonewood from Florinett AG in Switzerland. I'm not too sure it is wise of me to get fancy-pants expensive tonewood for a first violin but I suppose using better quality materials will possibly produce better results in the end. Also, if the fiddle ends up not being so hot I'll be able to know that it was something on my end as opposed to the quality of the materials I used. After a bit of searching on the forums I learned that it was best to avoid getting maple that was too flamed as that is somewhat difficult to work with for a novice. I also tried to shy away from a split top or split back. I'm quite happy with Florinett AG's service so far. They were willing to hunt down single piece maple backs from their inventory and send me pictures to pick out which one I liked the best. I picked this one because it looked quite nice without being too fancy.

P1020006.jpg

P1020004.jpg

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Gouges

#3 sweep, 1-1.5 inch width

#3 or #5 sweep, 1/2 - 5/8 inch width

#2 sweep, 1/2 inch

#6 sweep, 3/8 inch

These look awfully shallow to me. Most of my stuff is #7, although I do have a #5x20mm that I use a lot.

I wouldn't want to try gouging out a top (the inside) with anything shallower than #7.

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After looking up a chart with the various sizes of gouges I am inclined to agree that they're too shallow. I more or less copied the recommendations someone else gave in a different thread. I guess it might be helpful to have one or two shallow gouges though.

My tonewood is on the way from Switzerland and should be here around the new year. Aside from the corners (already found plenty of good info on that) can anyone tell me what common trouble areas are for beginners? It seems like some people have trouble cutting clean purfling channels.

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This is a very helpful thread, as I'm in about the same place Jim is. I bought the tonewood, and then kind of chickened out, and bought a kit. I really don't know if my wood is very good or not. I thought the kit might allow my daughter to learn along with me more easily, but maybe that's not true. I don't have any gouges yet--well, a couple of cheap small ones is all. I'll be interested in what you come up with, Jim. After reading a lot of threads here about scrapers, I just bought some raw stock through Amazon, and plan to cut my own. Wow! Switzerland! Hope it's nice wood! I probably should have shopped there this summer during our vacation. My trouble is that I'm a bit A.D.D., and tend to have too many interests at once. I'm trying to learn bow rehairing, too.

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My tonewood is on the way from Switzerland and should be here around the new year. Aside from the corners (already found plenty of good info on that) can anyone tell me what common trouble areas are for beginners? It seems like some people have trouble cutting clean purfling channels.

Generally ,Doing things the dumb way, Violins are complicated structures with lots of places to mess up. There is a balance needed between the ego, that says "I can ", enabling the start, and the humility needed to learn the skills to finish. Go slow,ask questions .practice straight,flat, square, curved and round. Be as precise as you can, and don't be afraid of patterns. If it's your first project in wood ????? Be prepared for a steep learning curve.

There is almost no benefit to making one violin, practice on lesser quality wood....Not bottom of the barrel stuff ...but not really high end either,your ,probably gonna need cash for tools....there not cheap , always get the best tools you can afford. If your good, you will only get better with time.

Don't cut the button off!

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going too fast or working when you are not sure that you are doing the right thing, ends up with irreversible mistakes. it helps if you read and re-read or think and re-think about what you are about to do. Takes breaks. I agree that you will probably want to make more than one. you might even save the swiss wood for later. Once you go through the process you will learn so much about how to do it, and keep learning . I think most people do much better on the ones after the first. Although there are a few wise guys here that can make a perfect violin the first time out, a special breed. good luck

I suggest orca island tone woods, give them a try.

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