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Step between peg box and nut

Dwight B.

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Hey everyone,

I was reading the thread about bench-made vs. factory instruments, and it made me think of an unrelated question I had. 


In the thread, a violin made by Celia Bridges was mentioned:



If you look at the picture of the scroll, there's a step down from the nut, down to the top of the peg box. I first noticed this step on a fiddle made by a local violin maker a couple months back, and decided it's just how he likes to do it. But now that I see it again, I'm wondering - what's the benefit of doing it like this? Do many makers do this?




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Hmm... not sure why that post didn't capture the rest of my question, but here it is - A couple months back, I noticed that another local maker does a similar step down from the nut to the top of the peg box. Now that I see Celia's example, I'm starting to wonder where this comes from. Does anyone know what the benefit of doing this step is? 



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As others have said, I think the main reason to have a step is that it allows truing up the gluing surface. Without any step at all, it's nearly impossible to get a planed and true surface without taking some off the top of the pegbox. On many nice older instruments, one notices that the flowing lines (view from the side) have been corrupted from this having been done multiple times. Kind of sad.


It also allows planing the surface to cant the fingerboard, rather than setting in the entire neck and scroll tilted, and allows revisions of the cant down-the-road to suit customer taste.


And it allows small corrections in fingerboard projection, by planing more off one end or the other.


In my own making, I leave at least an extra mm to plane away after the instrument is varnished. I do this because I shape the neck with the fingerboard attached, and then remove the fingerboard for varnishing. With a combination of the added width from varnish thickness, shape changes during varnishing, and a little swelling of the maple when gluing the fingerboard back on, the neck can end up wider than the fingerboard. The sides of the neck can be trimmed back to match the fingerboard, and then retouched, but it can wind up looking kind of tacky, and I think of it as unnecessary work on a new fiddle.

So instead, I plane about 1 mm off the fingerboard gluing surface on the neck. Since the sides of the neck taper, rather than being parallel, the more I plane off the top, the narrower the neck gets. The neck winds up a little narrower than the fingerboard, and I'd rather trim the fingerboard back to match the neck, than trim the already-varnished neck down to match the fingerboard.


Having the extra material to plane off also allows for some fingerboard height tweakage, which can change some during varnishing.

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This is great. It sounds like using this step could've helped mitigate some issues I had on my last two fiddles. On my #5, the neck needed retouching after putting the fingerboard back on. And on the one before that, the projection was a little low. On that one I didn't have to touch-up the neck because I varnished with the fingerboard on (which gave me a different set of troubles!) 


Anyway, I just started #6, and I'll be sure to incorporate a small step. I love the kinds of things I'm learning on this site. Thank you all!

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