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Gleo

Looking for hands on help building my first cello.

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My name is Keenan Goldsmith. I live in Louisiana and have been playing the cello since the age of 15. At 33 years old I have decided to follow my dream of making violins and cellos. I have made my own varnish and am currently working on the cello. I need some help. I have been working on planing the top where the center joint will be and am not having much success getting the parts to fit flush. I can still see light passing between the joint. Before I go any further and ruin a good piece of spruce I wanted to post this message.
I am looking for a violin maker that would be interested in working with me on building this cello for a week sometime this summer. I can travel to you and stay at a hotel nearby. All that I am looking for is someone to observe what I'm doing and give me some pointers. I have asked for help from the local luthiers who apparently see me as competition. No help there. I appreciate any help or advice that you all can provide.

Edited by Gleo

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Hi Keenan. I'm also from Louisiana and if I may, I'd like to share some advice based on my experience in learning the trade.

What you are looking for may not be as reasonable a request as you believe. I have seen many beginners attend week long / two week long workshops for violin making and most are lucky if they have completed the rib structure within that time. Sure, there are multiple students present, but having a 1 to 1 teacher student ratio isn't going to make a huge difference when you are still unfamiliar with the handling the tools and the other skills necessary. I can't think of a single student at the violin making school I attended who was able to finish their 1st instrument in the white in 1 semester - and that is allowing them alot more time, and alot less wood to deal with than a cello.

Asking for one continuous week of instruction from a professional is also unrealistic. Time is money, and if you are behind on customer work having a student for a solid week around the shop definitely will not help. Any professional who is asked to provide instruction for a continuous week will probably wonder why you aren't just signing up for week-long beginner violin-making workshops with instructors who have already set aside their time to instruct beginners. If you are willing to pay, why not pay the professional who is already teaching workshops - if you aren't willing to pay, then don't expect them to rollover and accept that their time is less valuable than the workshop instructor's time.

I got my start learning from a talented luthier in the Lafayette area. I showed up once a week (sometimes every other week) at her shop and worked a 1/2 day or occasionally a full day, and my schedule was completely at the her discretion. After attending violin school for 3 yrs, and working as a luthier for the following 3 yrs, I still consider myself lucky in that I once again have a mentor in my field who offers me instruction. My schedule is still entirely up to him, and he also prefers that I show up only once a week, I think that the respect I have shown towards these professionals for their time and their knowledge has been a big part of why they are willing to instruct me.

So, if you can take a week long / two week long violin-making workshop do. No, you won't be working on your cello, but when you get home you can repeat the same steps your practiced at the workshop on your cello. Above all, stay in touch with any luthiers that are local to you, but find out how they would prefer you to stay in touch (Nobody likes a phone call from a non-customer during a glue job - they might prefer that you email them). Making your 1st instrument is a long term process, and a yearly workshop will not get you very far unless you can also get help close to home. Allow them time to get to know you, and to know that you will not be a huge waste of their time. Maybe they will be ok with you stopping by for 15-30 minutes to get some advice on how to proceed on your cello in person. If everything goes well, if you are good company, and if they can spare the time, maybe you will eventually be invited to stay . . . 

If this sounds like a slow, drawn out process then don't even try to imagine what it is like to achieve some master level skill as a luthier.

All I have to say is that if someone refuses to teach you (a beginner) because you may become a competitor, then you probably don't want to learn from them anyway. The talented practitioners in this field are so far ahead of a beginner that its like comparing a modern space shuttle to guy with construction paper feathers taped to his arms.

Hope this helped,
Joel

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The first thing you need to learn is how to sharpen tools. I can help you with that.

 

Maestronet private mail does not work with your account yet.

 

email me:  jpschmidt44[atsign]gmail.com

 

John Schmidt

Laurinburg, NC

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Thank you all for your feedback. In retrospect I probably should have practiced on scrap wood before attempting to plane the top to form the center joint. I will be heading out tomorrow to get some scrap wood.

 

As far as local help goes there is none. I  believe that I have a good relationship with both luthiers in my area. I have given them a good deal of business over the past 8 years and  referred other musicians to them. I have always been understanding when they had to take more time than promised on my cellos/violins. It was only when I expressed my interest in violin making that their feathers were ruffled. Again, thank you all for your feedback. I will keep you posted on my progress.

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I agree with cap strongly ...don't make a cello.... make joints and chips.....

   What experience with wood working do you have?

This is my first time doing any form of wood work.

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My name is Keenan Goldsmith. I live in Louisiana and have been playing the cello since the age of 15. At 33 years old I have decided to follow my dream of making violins and cellos. I have made my own varnish and am currently working on the cello. I need some help. I have been working on planing the top where the center joint will be and am not having much success getting the parts to fit flush. I can still see light passing between the joint. Before I go any further and ruin a good piece of spruce I wanted to post this message.

I am looking for a violin maker that would be interested in working with me on building this cello for a week sometime this summer. I can travel to you and stay at a hotel nearby. All that I am looking for is someone to observe what I'm doing and give me some pointers. I have asked for help from the local luthiers who apparently see me as competition. No help there. I appreciate any hepp or advice that you all can provide.

Keenan,

Dreams are powerful. Let them be your inspiration. You can do it. Start with the first step and just focus on that. For me, a lot depends on the simple act of cutting wood. My hands just like to do it. Really. Maybe yours do too. But like I said, you need a sharp knife to get that simple good feeling of cutting wood.

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"I have asked for help from the local luthiers who apparently see me as competition. No help there. I appreciate any hepp or advice that you all can provide."

=======================================================================================================================

I think that you will find this to be a universal problem.

 

The problem that I find with giving locals, or anyone for that matter, help, especially for a short time, is that they have access to my shop, and my notes, so someone who innocently looks like they are a beginner, may actually be in fact taking lessons to only collect information for my competition.  So most makers are more prone to teaching apprentices, since they are there for the long run.  

There usually is a legal clause or agreement that that person, when they strike out on their own, will not settle in the immediate area.  Also an apprentice will not tie-up my shop for a week or so where I am not producing, only teaching solely.

 

I would consider instead attending one of the workshops given by people such as Michael Darnton and Jim Brown.

 

Expect though to spend more than a week, since cellos are big things, and you will be in a class of 20 or 30 students.

 

Another possibility ...

The Violin Craftsmanship Institute

 

In the meantime, collecting information from the web, and gathering tools and the such will put you in good stead until classes start.

 

I am thinking that someone who teaches a class every month or so will allow you to make your cello, and learn the next steps, fastest.

So for example, if you learn to arch a top, then on your break, you can with the correct information arch a back, then have another class, so on and so on.

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Keenan,

 

Welcome to the fray.  If you equate making to your learning to play, I'm sure you understand that "Rome isn't built in a day."  I remember how impatient I was at first.  We have to back off and become more like a wild life photographer—willing to wait for weeks and months.  Waiting for books, tools, or wood to arrive.  Waiting for a class to come available.  Waiting, and patience.

 

If I had to do just one week, I'd do it at the Michael Darnton class or the class at the U. of New Hampshire.  If you go to "just some guy" you don't know what level of teaching or skills you'll be getting;  they might be great, but they could also just be a lot of "stuff."  I once visited an ex-butcher who was dying to teach me, but he was an amateur and spent a whole morning teaching me to tie a "butcher's knot" as if it was the most important factor in all of making.

 

And, as Joel points out, production-wise, at the end of a week you'd probably not even have a garland of ribs done.  If I went to one of these classes (considering your particular situation), I'd spend the whole time with familiarization with what tools for what procedure, and sharpening.  The nice thing about a class is that among the ten or so students you'll be able to see up close most or all of the different areas.  You can see what problems there are with lining-mortises, fitting bass-bars, jointing plates, etc.  And you can get a much better feel for what you have to do when you get back home.  In short, try to get an over-view of the whole.  MO

 

BTW, at the SCAVM class in Claremont, Jim Brown has added a class for "true beginners" but you can still see what the more advanced people are doing.  Sounds like the best of all possible worlds, to me. 

 

Best of luck, and we're all rooting for you.

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I'm still here. I have ordered a 24" no. 8 jointers plane to work on the center joint. I appreciate all of the advise. I am actually in touch with two members of Maestronet through email. They have been very helpful. Still here and enjoying the process...:-)

Looks like our friend has picked up his toys and moved on?

:)

 

Oded

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I'm still here. I have ordered a 24" no. 8 jointers plane to work on the center joint. I appreciate all of the advise. I am actually in touch with two members of Maestronet through email. They have been very helpful. Still here and enjoying the process...:-)

Keenan,

 

Ok, now you are showing you are serious. Did you order a new one? If so, I am jealous. What brand?

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Keenan,

 

Ok, now you are showing you are serious. Did you order a new one? If so, I am jealous. What brand?

The brand is Lie-Nielsen. Can't wait to get it. My birthday is tomorrow and I will be 33. The jointers plane is my gift to myself.

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Gleo,

 

It's good to see that you are back. 

 

I have an old Stanly- Bailey 24" that I found at a flea market.  Once I got the rust off of it and got the blade good and sharp, it worked great.  I am sure the you will find your new plane a joy to use.  Set the blade depth so that the shavings are like paper....or maybe just a bit thinner.

 

Mac

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I haven't gone away. I've been working on clearing some land in northern Louisiana that I bought last October. I've been checking MN posts from you all on my phone between breaks clearing brush. Whoever thought planting Chinese privet in the U.S. was a good idea was wrong. Lol. It's very invasive. I have two more trails to clear before the surveyor and the bulldozing service can make their way out to the land. Just came back from the dog parade (Barkus) in the French Quarter. It's an annual Mardi Gras fundraiser for the local SPCA. Lots of great costumes and friendly dogs.

Edited by Gleo

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Excellent Birthday present you got yourself Keenan. A few other things you might find to be helpful are:

Cello Plans - http://www.orpheusmusicshop.com/posters/page/1/
I guess I'd recommend the 'Saveuse' Strad cello model to start with. Stradivari's work shows that he had a definite and consistent vision of how he wanted his instruments to look, which makes it a little easier for us to emulate. Also, he is such a popular maker that you will find many more resources that will help you out; such as these amazing photos of the 1707 'Paganini / Countess of Stainlein' Strad Cello (http://reuningprivatesales.com/stainlein/detail-gallery) and the 1699 'Castlebarco' Strad Cello at the Library of Congress (http://lcweb2.loc.gov/diglib/ihas/loc.natlib.ihas.200154818/enlarge.html?page=1&size=1024&from=pageturner). Sketching these detail shots before putting knife to wood can help you visualize these details more clearly when the time comes.

Supplies - You should be able to purchase most anything that you need from either Metropolitan Music (http://www.metmusic.com/), Howard Core (http://www.howardcore.com/) or International Violin Co. (http://www.internationalviolin.com/home.aspx). I'll let you compare prices yourself. I find Howard Core has a more complete catalog as for what it offers, including some higher quality merchandise that it is hard to find elsewhere. I like Metropolitan Music because they offer a catalog of tools/supplies that work well and are priced for less.

Know How - I find 'The Art of Violin Making' (http://www.amazon.com/Art-Violin-Making-Chris-Johnson/dp/0709058764) to be one of the best books available upon the subject. It really does take you through the process step by step. With a clearer understanding of the process it should be easier to adapt it for cello making. Also Michael Darton is writing a book on violin making and you can read it online for free (http://violinmag.com/). Finally, you have already discovered the great advantages of Maestronet, where you can get advice on joining cello plates straight from expert luthiers like David Burgess (http://www.maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/317209-cello-plate-jointing-how-its-gone-so-far/). There are these key members of the forum who share wisdom found in the best shops around the world and about the worlds best instruments - and then there are the other guys who take their work just as seriously but see more student fiddles than Strads is all - they also have alot of good information to share . . . I guess I have to admit we have a few armchair experts too, but all of these combined bring up diverse discussions about issues that I wouldn't have ever thought to consider. 

Finally, make your sharpening station your second home. It is just one more thing that you will have to practice until you can do it efficiently, and effectively consistently. Also get in the mindset of removing less wood per stroke. Take everything down to the final measurements, but do it with many more strokes - this is guaranteed to save your butt more than once during the making process. R Macpherson wasn't kidding about paper thin shavings when joining plates - get them as thin as those tissue papers you wrap presents in. Of course, a sharp plane blade is required to accomplish this.

Happy Birthday,
Joel

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Thanks for the info Joel. I will order the Strad poster you mentioned. Just took a look at the site  I already have the plans for a Gofriller model  though . The tonewood I bought two years ago actually came from International Violin Co. Are there any good places in Louisiana to buy tonewood that you know of? I started planing the top before I posted an S.O.S. for help on MN and may have removed more wood than I should have. The shavings were thin but not as thin as you all have mentioned they should be. Also there were times that only one side of the wood was cut in one pass which is why I cannot get the center joint flat until the plane I ordered arrives. I will see what happens. Worst case scenario I can always use it to make a violin top later on if I have taken the wood down so far that the archings turn out too shallow.

 

I watched a few videos on YouTube on sharpening planes last night. I found it to be a great resource for learning since I am a visual person. I have the Strobel dvd for cello making as well as the H.S. Wake dvd for violin making. I prefer the Strobel video. The H.S. Wake video is difficult to follow since he keeps correcting himself every ten minutes.  

 

I have a chisel set from Harbor Freight...probably not the best quality. I haven't used them yet so not sure. What size finger planes and gouges should I pick up to work on a cello? Thank you Joel and thank you to everyone for all of your help.

 

Thanks ,

 

Keenan

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 Hi Keenan - on sharpening - time spent reading Brent Beach's web site is time returned 10 x over.

 

http://www3.telus.net/BrentBeach/

 

In my workshop I have ~ 45 whetstones ranging from 40 grit through all types, even Japanese waterstones, to black and white Arkansas - some I was using as far back as the early 50s. After changing to "wet&dry on glass" all those whetstones have been in virtual retirement.

 

Here's a shaving from a cello joint - after sharpening on waterpaper on glass. It was cut under the weight of the plane alone - I just supplied the push.

 

post-98-0-12647800-1359401816_thumb.jpg

 

The huge improvement is due to two reasons - waterpaper on glass starts out flat and stays flat and using a jig means that you can retouch the edge in about 40 - 50 seconds.

 

Good shavings - edi

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That is a pretty thin shaving. I am reading the article on Brent Beach's website now. An hour ago I placed an order for a 1000 grit and 8000 grit waterstone as well as a small manual handgrinder that clamps to the bench to sharpen my tools and an india stone. I will try it first and will most probably, inevitabely move on to the method you're describing using the waterpaper on glass. Since I already have the order mentioned above

on the way I will be practicing sharpening with water stones. Baby steps...:-) The article is pretty interesting. Thanks for posting this information.

 

 

Keenan

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Glad I could help. If pros like Mr. Darton are willing to share their knowledge so freely, the least I can do is point you in his direction. Michael Darton used to post here very regularly, and alot of his thoughts / methods can still be found on maestronet. In addition to posting under his given name (Michael Darton) he apparently used to post under the name 'Stradofear' also. 

As a visual learner I'm sure you will appreciate the photos that Bruce Carlson has shared on the maestronet forum - I know they always make my day. If the forum search engine doesn't do the job alot of people find that a search of the forum through google works pretty well.

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