Jump to content
Maestronet Forums

first violin build thread - Del Gesu 'Alard'


BigFryMan
 Share

Recommended Posts

Hi guys,

 

I have started building my first violin and I thought this might be a good place to document the process.

I'd welcome any/all advice on the build as I'm sure I'll make plenty of mistakes. This will probably take a while as I have a busy work life and can only make progress on my violin as time allows.

 

I decided to base my violin on the Del Gesu 'Alard' as I have never owned a Del Gesu and I want something with a deeper tone than my current cheapie strad copy. In a way I think this is my first mistake because I'm discovering a lot of asymmetry and 'close enough is good enough' from reading the Strad poster and plans. From what I hear, Stradivarius was a lot more disciplined and repeatable in his work. Obviously being a beginner, any asymmetry or roughness I try and emulate would have my own mistakes and asymmetry built in so it probably isn't the best choice. Despite this, I would love a Del Gesu violin and I'm already committed so I am going to stick with it. 

 

Sometimes I have a tendency towards wanting to achieve perfection in my projects and this sometimes means I don't get the job done because I get discouraged/caught up in the mistakes. This project I am determined to be pragmatic, fix the mistakes I can and if there's something I can't fix, I will just move on and keep going. I know it will take the practice of many violin builds and many mistakes before I'll get something I am happy with so I might as well keep the project moving as much as I can.  
 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 273
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

So the first part of this build was the plans from the Strad:

post-78203-0-53471200-1432020535_thumb.jpg

 

So much good information on these plans!

 

Next was to build a template (which I forgot to take a photo of) and then use the template to cut out the mold. In this this pic I'm just checking the mold against the plans:

post-78203-0-90678400-1432020533_thumb.jpg

 

Cut it out it a bit rough and then cleaned up with files and sandpaper and checked against the plans. Was quickly discovering that the corners are the trickiest to get perfect and then realised that I'd be cutting them off to put the corner blocks in anyway and then didn't worry about it any more  ;)

 

After cutting out the form I then cut out the appropriate corners for the blocks with drilled out corners:

post-78203-0-43728700-1432020538_thumb.jpg

Also I used a spade bit in my battery drill to drill holes to put dowel through for securing the ribs to the blocks.

 

Here I am test fitting the blocks:

post-78203-0-96747700-1432020540_thumb.jpg

 

Now I think this is where I've made my first couple of real mistakes. All of the corner blocks (except for the heel of the neck) have the grain facing upwards. I have since been told that the grain should be pointing out to the corners? Also the grain across the neck joint is currently across the neck rather than facing upwards. What is the standard for blocks?

 

This is the progress in shaping the corners:

post-78203-0-19063700-1432020542_thumb.jpg

 

As you can see at that stage they were still a little un-even.

 

And some new tools turned up:

post-78203-0-65779700-1432020539_thumb.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi BigFryMan,

My only piece of advice would be to cut down on the Big Frys - you know you don't need that third egg ...

 

The grain orientation in all the blocks should be up/down as you have done with the corner blocks. People have slightly different philosophies on how to orient the curve of the growth rings, but I think that's probably a matter of taste.

The top block should also be up/down, since you will be needing the side grain to add gluing strength to the neck in the mortise.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi guys,

 

I have started building my first violin and I thought this might be a good place to document the process.

 

Sometimes I have a tendency towards wanting to achieve perfection in my projects and this sometimes means I don't get the job done because I get discouraged/caught up in the mistakes. This project I am determined to be pragmatic, fix the mistakes I can and if there's something I can't fix, I will just move on and keep going. I know it will take the practice of many violin builds and many mistakes before I'll get something I am happy with so I might as well keep the project moving as much as I can.  

 

 

G'zactly.

 

1st violin huh?

Great start.

Keep it going.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Still, the only way to get to making number two, is finish number one.

 

The only way to finish number one, very often, is to simply plow through and make your best mistakes then...

I wouldn't want to make my first violin, without an accomplished violin maker there with me.

What a huge task.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with Martin.  You will have difficulty cutting the neck mortice.  It is usually done with a very sharp chisel and grain orientation is very important.  It is not to late to change them

Thanks guys - if you think that the grain really will make it difficult to mortise the neck then I probably should change it. My issue is that I'm out of blocks of spruce and I haven't found somewhere local that stocks it, let alone in small quantities. I may be able to order some online, but I'll end up paying more for the postage than the block!

Is the species of timber really important for the blocks? I can get oak fairly easily, would it make an ok substitute?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

your block cut-outs look enormous.

 

That immediately struck me too.  However, with a ton of trimming, you should still be able to make it work about as well as smaller blocks.

 

You could use fir or pine lumber if you need more blocks; I wouldn't use oak.  Just be sure it's dry (a lot of DIY store wood is soaking wet green).  You might have to look for kiln dried.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That immediately struck me too.  However, with a ton of trimming, you should still be able to make it work about as well as smaller blocks.

 

You could use fir or pine lumber if you need more blocks; I wouldn't use oak.  Just be sure it's dry (a lot of DIY store wood is soaking wet green).  You might have to look for kiln dried.

Thanks for that. I can get pine (that seems to be in abundance in Australia), but I assumed that pine would be too soft? Hence why I thought to use oak as it is harder. Or is the problem that the block will be too hard to cut the mortise?

Also, yes I am realising now that my blocks are rather large, but they should cut down ok.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Spruce is good because it carves easily and glues well - same for pine, which you find in a lot of old English violins. Just make sure it's not an oily variety ....

Fir equally good.

Willow has been mentioned, it's the classical block wood, beech is also strangely common for end blocks on Mirecourt violins.

Softness is not an issue, in fact I wonder if anyone has tried balsawood? I would think poplar would be fine too as it has a long grain and takes glue very well.

 

Generally people choose spruce because they've got bits left over from the table billet, and because that kind of high quality spruce splits beautifully with a knife

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Spruce is good because it carves easily and glues well - same for pine, which you find in a lot of old English violins. Just make sure it's not an oily variety ....

Fir equally good.

Willow has been mentioned, it's the classical block wood, beech is also strangely common for end blocks on Mirecourt violins.

Softness is not an issue, in fact I wonder if anyone has tried balsawood? I would think poplar would be fine too as it has a long grain and takes glue very well.

 

Generally people choose spruce because they've got bits left over from the table billet, and because that kind of high quality spruce splits beautifully with a knife

Thanks Martin,

I'll have a dig around tomorrow, but if I still can't find any spruce I'll grab some pine.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The real problem with your top block orientation is that the neck is going to shrink and swell slightly in width with humidity changes but your mortise will not, so over time the glue is likely to fail. I know, because I've done that (actually all the blocks) on one violin and one viola. The violin neck has not come loose but the viola did. My thinking had to do with rib stability, which is not really a problem except on cellos and basses.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The real problem with your top block orientation is that the neck is going to shrink and swell slightly in width with humidity changes but your mortise will not, so over time the glue is likely to fail. I know, because I've done that (actually all the blocks) on one violin and one viola. The violin neck has not come loose but the viola did. My thinking had to do with rib stability, which is not really a problem except on cellos and basses.

  

Thanks, so the vertical grain in the neck block will cope better with shrinkage/expansion?

Welcome to the fun and thanks for sharing.  

 

I think you would benefit greatly from investing in the Johnson Courtnall  "The Art of Violin Making."

I agree! It's on my to buy list, maybe I need to move it up the timeline!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi,

Cut your losses! Discard your form and start again! Have a look at some U-tube videos.

Have a look at David Sora tread on this forum.

I'll see if I can find the David Sora thread.

I the blocks are largish, but why would I need to start again? The blocks get cut down when the rib structure is pulled off the form anyway. Is there something else that doesn't look right?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'll see if I can find the David Sora thread.

I the blocks are largish, but why would I need to start again? The blocks get cut down when the rib structure is pulled off the form anyway. Is there something else that doesn't look right?

Just for an example-  the neck block is 55 mm width wise.  Why cut an area 75mm wide?  The corners blocks may be 25 mm x 15 mm on the plan for example.  Why cut out the mold 40 mm x 40mm?  Just give yourself 1 mm clearance each side of the blocks- mine are less but I use a 2 piece mold just to make things tougher.  Yours will work like you have now but you'll need to be careful and thoughtful while working. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yup. Start over. 

 

Think of it like this. Your mold is a tool that you should be able to use over and over. It should be as close to perfect as you can make it. Small imperfections will be amplified as you move forward. So do your best to get rid of them at this stage.

 

This is NOT meant to be discouraging, but rather to ask you to pause at this stage and assess what you have done so far and how it could be better.

Wooden forms are cheap. Violin wood is not.

 

In my experience, precise templates and forms are every bit as important as many other aspects of this process. Take the time now to re-do and refine these tools, and you will be better for it in the long run.

Good luck and have fun!

 

Sorry, edit.

Since you asked what doesn't look right, the lines around the mold look rough, as in they don't describe a smooth arc. Nit-picky maybe, but please see above comments. 

Also, if you carve out both sides of the corner blocks first, the pressure from clamping the middle bouts will distort the other side of the block. Which is to say, carve, clamp, glue, and trim the middle bouts first, then remove the wood from the other side of the corner blocks.

 

When you take into account the mistakes and re-do's involved with the first instrument, you will have actually have made 2 or 3 instruments by the time you put strings on your "first". 

Forward!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yup. Start over. 

 

Think of it like this. Your mold is a tool that you should be able to use over and over. It should be as close to perfect as you can make it. Small imperfections will be amplified as you move forward. So do your best to get rid of them at this stage.

 

This is NOT meant to be discouraging, but rather to ask you to pause at this stage and assess what you have done so far and how it could be better.

Wooden forms are cheap. Violin wood is not.

 

In my experience, precise templates and forms are every bit as important as many other aspects of this process. Take the time now to re-do and refine these tools, and you will be better for it in the long run.

Good luck and have fun!

 

Thanks arglebargle,

 

I will most likely make a new mold for my second violin with what I've learned from the first, but I am going to continue with this one and make as many mistakes as I need to and hopefully no more than that! Apart from the blocks being jumbo sized, I don't think there are too many other issues in the mold that will translate badly onto the fiddle. I'm not expecting this first violin to be perfect, I am using this whole experience as a learning tool and I want to see whether violin making is something that I could invest myself into.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.



×
×
  • Create New...