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I put on a bunch of very thin color coats.  Three red ones toned down with a little yellow.  I  clean them up with a double edge razor blade, and then throw on another coat.  After I had the red on I polished it up with some pumice and oil with a tiny piece of chamois.  Then I rubbed it with my hand.  It made tiny gum like pieces like eraser leftovers.  Then I put on a coat of yellow.  The varnish dries in a couple hours max in the sun.  The yellow stayed tacky for 3 days because our weather was soooooo gloomy.  I don't do gloomy well.  Today it was gloomy in the morning, but it took it out of the garage and into the front porch.  It dried when the sun came out, and I put on another coat.  It looks even in some pictures, but usually it looks strawberry/blonde.  I think a few coats of clear may tone it down some.  We will see.  It shouldn't take long if the weather cooperates.






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I put a coat of clear on yesterday.  The varnish is yellow, but it is a very cool, greenish yellow.  Odd.  Here are a couple of shots after I smoothed it up today ready for another shot of clear.   They  show the strawberry blonde look underneath better.  It's looking better, I think.









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  • 9 months later...

I haven't put anything up here in awhile.  I have two violas, a 5 string, and a Ukulele going on.  One viola is almost done.  I got sidetracked with a 1/2 scale guitar,  450 scale length, with 5 strings; based on a Strad 10 string that looked cool.  The  one I drew up had a 750 scale length; obviously not pitched like a guitar?  I thought of doing it with 10 strings,  D, G, C, E,  A, with octaves on the D and G, the E and A unison, and I had the crazy thought of a low C, written an octave below middle C.  We'll see. 


The little guitar is very easy to play.  It actually seems much easier to play to me than a standard classical.  It is much lighter, and brighter sounding than a baritone Ukulele that is about the same size.  It actually has a shorter scale length.  


It is quite a bit different from making a violin.  The v joint for the head was probably the most difficult, but just like purfling, the banding was more of a nightmare for me.  It doesn't look too bad.  It is for my grandsons, 8, 6, 6, and 1, so it should suffice.


It was fun, and I can actually play it; kinda.












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  • 6 months later...

I haven't put anything up here in 7 months.  I'm in the process of varnishing a viola.  It's supposed to be a Gofriller, and I saw a photo of a really really red one on a Japaneses site.  That's what I'm going for:



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  • 2 months later...

I see that E is doing a Sultana now. I started something different too.  I have a lot of trouble finishing things, and have a couple that just need varnish and set up.  I am not real confident on varnish and set up.  Making stuff from pictures?  Bring it on.  I have no problem with that.  But pictures again have me chasing something.  

I made a small guitar for the grandsons.  The smaller 5 string version of a Strad 10 string I showed before.  I like the size of it.  Maybe a little small.  I saw a very cool, and immensely elaborate baroque guitar on a blog, and the guy had plans of it. 


I printed them out,  and played around with string lengths.  It only has 7 frets to the body, but one could change things around, and still keep the same, or slightly longer neck, with a smaller scale length, and maybe a higher pitch.  A smaller guitar to have fun with.

It uses catenary arches in both directions.  Sweet.  I thought of building it like a boat, with removable bulkheads,  that could be used as an inside mold for the sides as well.  Not exactly standard procedure for guitar building; but when did I ever follow the rules.  

I certainly won't add the squigglies.  It just isn't in me, but I will put the deeply fluted ribs on the back.  I found a piece of Katalox on vacation that will work nicely.  The thin pieces will be maple.   Hopefully it will be somewhat presentable.  Yeah, I know the bench isn't.




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  • 4 weeks later...

I want to string up all the instruments I've made.  Three have strings on them,  but for some reason or another that others don't .  I found a box that had fingerboards that I took off, and some tailpieces.  So I spent yesterday putting the strings back on the Ole Bull.  For some reason I decided to make it with an early setup.  



Yucatan Rosewood for all the fittings and fingerboard,  and American Sycamore back and sides.  I showed it to a shop owner after I finished it, and he hated it.  I don't think he liked anything about it.  Nothing.  I think he said I needed to go to school like he did, and learn Italian.  Really, he did.


I had to make a new nut and saddle.  I don't know what I did with them.  I used a piece of the same wood.  I like the G and the E, but the middle two are iffy.  Maybe it's because I have a very hard time bowing the middle strings.  I have them set right, I use a gage I made up.  .064" deep on the violin side, and .083" on the viola side.  I used the radius and the string spacing at the bridge.  The viola is easier to bow. 

It is pretty strong, and the body adds more to it than another violin that has a really clear, easy to play sound.  A heavy birch back, with an extremely low density Engelmann top.  


I made a little recording last night,  just plucking the strings.  I have the gut one tuned to A 415, I've had the E's break before, but it might have just been a bad string.

two violins.mp3

Plucked they don't sound much different.  Bowed, the Montagnana is sweeter, clearer and doesn't have as much volume.  The Ole Bull may have more possibilities.  


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The photo doesn't show it, but the birch has a very deep flame in it.  It is hard, but not much harder than hard maple.  It has an extremely low tap tone, even when thick.  It has a strong, resonant tone, but it is a fifth or so lower.  Doesn't seem to matter when it is put together.  Both tap the same when strung up.  The Ole Bull is lighter, 440 / 459 but that seems fairly close.  It is smoother and creamier than the American Sycamore.  Sycamore probably should be filled with POP or something.  I didn't know about that when I made it.  Maybe a less creamy birch would work even better?  How would you get that?  Harvest in the winter?

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I have 4 set up now.   2 were, but I changed the bridge on the dark Montagnana.  When I made the original I somehow flipped it around, and made both sides angled. I tried a nice Stamm blank that I had started, and then noticed that the top edge was chipped by the E.  Not enough wood.  Too bad.  Found another unusual one I had laying around in Cherry.  It didn't need much work:



The Strad was a mistake.  The belly came apart at the joint.  A wide gap across the middle, tight at the ends.   Had that happen twice.  Now I sometime rough in bellies with high arches first, then joint and glue them.  So I ended up with a very narrow instrument.  I measured it and found that it would be very close to a Strad from 1666 I found in Masterpieces of Italian Violin Makers, by David Rattray.   I used Delrin for the nut and saddle; the fake ivory cant take the string pressure.


The earlier Montagnana  has stayed the same since it was done.  I had to put an old Dominant E on the Ole Bull because the gut E kept breaking, even at  A 415.

Here is the bunch:



I made a clip of the four of them,  bowing a few notes.  Aside from the terrible intonation, and string crossings, they don't sound THAT different.    The Montagnana's are together, and the Strad and Ole Bull are together.   What order do you think that they are in?

4 violins.mp3


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  • 2 weeks later...

I finally cleaned up my work benches.  In the process I found more stuff to do.  My tools weren't really dull, but they weren't really sharp either.  A few were, but I have new stones that I hadn't tried, so I sharpened everything, and then even polished them.  They are sharp now.  I have 31 edge tools.  3 are just plane blades that I use as scrapers.  One is a plane blade for a plane I made that disintegrated.  I have a better plan now thanks to the program given on making planes by David Brownell at the Michigan Violin Makers meeting last Sunday.   I even put Camellia oil on everything.   Why not?  I had no idea I had that many tools.

The stones are Ear Moo (that's what is says on them).  A  400/1000 and a 3000/8000.  I like them, and they were very reasonable.  I'm getting rid of everything else I had.  

I have two sets of violin strings, and on viola string set left, so two violins will still be without strings.  Speaking of strings, the tiny 1666 StradI is strung with Tonica's with a Gold Label E , and they sound very nice.  Rather plain like the Dominant lights on a Montagnana, but they aren't bad.  The Warchal and the gut ones still have way more to them.  



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  • 2 months later...

It's been cold downstairs, so I've been planing.  Too cold to glue a bunch of fancy stuff, so the 10 string guitar is on hold.  I've thought about using casein for gluing the ribcage up.  That could be done. Maybe I'll do a quick violin.  My other project is to do 3 of the same but different. This will just be fast and easy, bang zoom.  I  had a Titian drawing, but I think it was in my now long gone AutoCad.  I tested Addie's P mold on the poster, and it sorta fits.  The corners seem low.  I drew one up and this is what I came up with:


The c bout is a little wide.   For some reason I have it about 1.5 mm over the P form.  The mold I have is a little narrow in some spots, and big in others.  This is how it matches up to the P form:


I think I'll just doctor this one up a bit.  It shouldn't be too hard.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I've been trimming up the molds for the Strad and the Montagnana, and making a pull apart Guadagnini, just because the mold didn't fit anything.  The Strad is close but it fit the  Montagnana better, so I cut out a new Strad PB mold.  The P is too long for the Titian. The only difference between the Strad and the Venetian is narrower, curvier c bouts, and a little more insweep before the lower corners.  Other than that they are identical.

But even with the new mold, I'm going to start one of the three Gofriller violins I have roughed out. I checked the mold after finding my others where not what I thought.  It looks fine.  Maybe I'm actually paying attention to what I'm doing?   I like roughing them out first.  I have 5 boxes with the 3 violins and 2 violas started.  The violas just have the pieces in them, but the violins are all roughed out.  This is the Maple/Sitka one.  I have a Koa/Spruce and a Walnut/Yellow Cedar too.  Which one should I start?  They all share the same outline, were designed with the same string angle/neck angle, but have different arches do to the material I had to work with.  Anything you'd like to see?


Then when I start working on them again, it doesn't take very long!  First I have to fix some purfling on the last one I made that isn't done yet. Only the upper corners on the back. I know how to fix my problem with purfling.  My rough edges are too thick, and they are not flat, so where the purfling goes it is even thicker.  I'll go for 4 mm, and make it flat like E does on the drill press.


I cleaned the benches off again, I haven't been working down there much, and when I do, I don't clean up.  I do believe I work better if it is not a mess.  The problem is that when they are clear, they are like a magnet to set things on!  I like having the glass on the one benchtop.  I put my poster and drawing under it for reference, and use it for setting up blocks on the mold, and varnishing.  

At least the humidity is easy to control in a basement. 



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1 hour ago, Ken_N said:

 Which one should I start? 

  My rough edges are too thick, and they are not flat, so where the purfling goes it is even thicker.  I'll go for 4 mm, and make it flat like E does on the drill press.

Do the sitka first or whichever wood is the toughest.

You'll find out more about yourself using a few clamps, a micrometer and a sharp 1/2" chisel for adjusting the edge heights. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Yesterday I glued on the c bouts.  I'm building the Sitka and Maple one.  It isn't the toughest one,  but it is the only normal one, so I figured it would be best to have an example that is closer to the original than the other two.  The Koa was an afterthought.  I found it in a bin at Woodcraft at 5 or 6 dollars a pound.  I spent about $20 on enough to make a back, sides, and a neck.  The wood seems to be exceptional acoustically.   It is dry, light, and cuts freely; yet it has a certain hardness to it.  Do you know what I mean?  It isn't mush, but it isn't creamy. It's just right.

The Walnut seems a lot like any good maple, but the Yellow Cedar is different from Spruce.  It seems more even.  Should bring out the lows.  Walnut is said to be bright?  Like pushing the loudness button on an old stereo?

I used some casein glue I made up.  I tried one recipe, but it was too thin; for paint, or seizing I think.  Did it my own way instead.  Heat a 1/4 cup or so of milk in a jar in the microwave for 30 seconds, pour in a little vinegar; maybe a tablespoon?  and swirl it a little. Curds right away.  Done.  Filter, and squeeze out the liquid.  rise with water and squeeze again.  Weigh it out. 6 g. Mix up some Borax in hot water.  140-160, like for glue.  Use enough borax so there is still some at the bottom.  Then it is as saturated as it will get.    Add 6 g. of the water to the  clump of curd in a jar.  Mix it up and let it sit a while.  It comes out like a smooth paste.  I rub some on each surface and then clamp them.  No brush, no runs, just a finger to wash off later.

I just used dowels, and twine, and tightened by twisting the twine with small drills.  I need to make some little posts, but the drills work.  I guess if I'm going retro, I might as well use the chisels.

The glue worked.  

Uncle Duke,  Believe it or not, your post just came up here this morning.


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No, this one it the Big Leaf that is kind of quilted.  This is the Koa:  The neck will be like quartered stock.   The ribs are close, and the back is like a slab, with both sides pointing out.  Like bark side out.  It looks like mahogany, but it doesn't have as soft a feel.  The back will be quite low.  Will make a high top for it.20180213_122114.thumb.jpg.dd69dff8e96bd5727b484cc525d4bacf.jpg

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  • 1 month later...

I have to work today!  I've worked very few Sunday's since having real jobs.  I don't even like all the Saturday's we've been working.  I'm ready to trim the outlines, and put the purfling in on  the Gofriller violin.  I've never had the edge so thin before; even after the purling was in.  We'll see how it works.  They are around 4 mm.  

The post by Jim about what Cello players like got me looking at my cello stuff.  I found the calendar page that got me hooked on Niccolo Gagliano. It is from 2008! I drew up the cello plans from that, and a viola that I've already built.  That one had a color that some were leery of.  Pink.  It isn't.  I opened the front door to let in more light.  It's sunny, but the widows are on the west with an overhang over the porch.  I must have chickened  out on the cool Lillies in the center.   I'm pretty sure that I had the pattern glued in place.










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  • 1 month later...

I just posted about the new look of the forum.  I think it looks good.  A couple weeks ago my wife said that putting some pegboard on the wall behind where my  workbench is  in the basement might work good.  It is kind of a room with 3 walls, and under the steps.  I have no idea why they did that.  

I decided to do both sides of the door.  The one photo came out horrible, the other isn't much better; but you get the idea.  I like it a lot.



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  • 1 month later...

Most people show stuff that is finished.  I've decided that I have to finish off some things that were never completed.  A Plowden copy, that had purling that got ripped out in the corners.  I used to leave the edges too thick.  Oh yeah, that was only a couple instruments ago.  Well, I used to do that.  I'm finally putting varnish on it.  Another that I "tacked" a fingerboard on, and almost couldn't get it off?  How come the seams won't stay put?





While that's going on, I'll work on replacing the belly on the Titian that I made a while back.  It just keeps splitting.  I fixed it twice, and it has two more cracks.  I've given up on it.  It will be a long time, if ever, before I try a piece of red spruce again.  I'd have to get it for free probably.  I liked it, but if it just splits on the grain?  No thanks.  I planed the split sides of the Englemann wedge, and now I sawed it in half.  It's been so long that I did it, I'll have to go over my plans, and make sure I know the plan of attack.  I may even check it with a few other Strad models, and see if there is a congruent consensus.  Maybe I'll even do a making a replacement belly thread?  Yes it is VERY RED.


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I thought about making thread on building a replacement belly.  I think I just put it here.  But first a close up view of the ground on the Plowden.  Right now it still feels like wood.  It has all sunken in, and rather than looking like it is stained, like the post on re-finishing a belly, it has a rich shine to it.  The photos aren't great.  I thought of posting in the post on colophony as a ground, and decided against it because the photos are so bad.  I was going to post it after Joe said "Alcohol in the first 2 steps... Coloring and some illumination.....then Turpentine soluble materials to enhance illumination."  I thought, "Wow, that's just what I did.  And it worked! The carpet is supposed to be tan.20180602_111812.thumb.jpg.81c172ad656a45d749961bae114b5d55.jpg


It looks kinda lopsided too, doesn't it?  I haven't added the final ground coat that should make a sealed varnish look that the colored varnish will sit on.  It's been gloomy out, and I'd rather do it when it will dry quickly.

I have the belly planned out.  I've done many models, and this one is like the Montagnana, but with a much lower arch, and the thicknessing is more even.  These are the cross catenary and cycloid curves.


The low point was just inside of the purfling.  Further in at the corners, and on the purfling in the c bouts.  The long arch is made by first making two diagonal catenary curves.  They give the most stiffness. Then the cross arches are made through these, and the resulting curve rises much faster that a catenary, and is fairly flat in the middle.  Its high point is probably around the bridge, or maybe a little lower.   The lower corner ends up maybe .5 mm higher than the poster.  The lower bout, maybe 1.5 mm lower than the poster.    It's what I'm going with.  

Maybe this drawing will explain.  I am a bit off the wall.


You can see the diagonals going from end to end.  Those are the main long arch catenaries. The actual long arch is not a catenary.  The  first line around the edge is the low point.  Next is the point that is the same height as the edge.  Next is the edge of the cross catenaries on the inside. the last line is the inflection line where it changes from convex to concave.  Those are also marked on the cross arch drawings.  I also have the inside long arch drawn.  The ends may come up higher than that if I decide to do that.

The point of inflection on a curate cycloid is not simple to figure out. It's straightforward, but takes some guessing to start out, and a handy dandy calculator that you are comfortable with. The halfway point (halfway between the low and high point) is simple to figure out, but that is NOT the point of inflection.  Higher, narrower arches will have a lower point of inflection.  On this one it is at 68 degrees of rotation.  90 degrees is the half way point. The corners are at about 75 degrees, and the bouts are at 80 degrees.  I didn't figure out any others. 

That said, the c bout is about 75% convex.  The corners are about 67%, and the bouts about 60%.  Moving the low point in or out won't change it that much, as long as you stick with a real cycloid.

Now that I have my plans, the split old top, and my new wood split, I'm ready to start working on it.  But first I guess I have to figure out the ends.  I'll draw the outside over the long arch, and see what I have to do at the ends.

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I drew the ends out so I know what I'm doing.  The long arch does have to come up higher than the blocks.  You can either do it with a small gouge or plane, or carve it all in, and double it.  I've done it both ways.

Last night I joined the spruce.  It had some thick wide grains, but is plenty wide enough, so I planed them off, planed the bottom side fairly flat, and then jointed them.  


I use my long Craftsman plane for flattening.  When I get them flat, I like to hold the two pieces, bottom to bottom, to keep them square.


That picture is fuzzy, isn't it.  Then I hold them up to the light, and polish them until I don't see light.  It is almost always heavy on the ends.  I use my wooden polisher for that.  It was from Japan Woodworker.  I think it is made in Malaysia, not Japan, by Mujingfang. Brass insert, very fine gap, good thick A9 blade. It works great.


I glued it with a rub joint, and today I start roughing it out.






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Yesterday I had an hour in the basement.  I planed the outside of the wedge down to about 19 mm, and angled the top and bottom down to about 6 mm or so; just to take off the high20180605_085636.thumb.jpg.89fac20771297b7df99b50e21450132c.jpg edges.  Then I drew the outline; very big; and drew int the line where the cross arches go to, and roughed the inside arch.  It isn't perfect, or completed, but it doesn't have any very thick parts, and is about 11.8 mm deep.  It should finish about 12.5.  That is close enough for roughing out the outside.  That will be the next step.


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Now to the outside.  I mark the outline with my fingers from the back. Sort of; it's just close. Then I mark the furthest the outside will be convex.  I set my thicknessing punch to 8 mm as a start.  I just use an Allen wrench to check.  Each turn in 1 mm, but checking is always best.




Here is what have have after another hour in the shop.   A lot of wood chips in 2 hours!  The wood looks pretty nice.  The sun is shining bright today too.  Now it will be a lot easier to cut the edges down to about 5, and the central area to about 4.





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