Etüdes for tool handling


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So, I've hardly any skill with violin making Tools, or fine woodworking Tools for that matter. I'm wondering if it makes sense to invent some "etüdes" (you know, I'm a professional musician) for the purpose of getting a feel what certain Tools can do. Etüdes that are not yet the making of a violin, but that do Train the handling of Tools. Does this make any sense to you guys?Can you think of small "off violin" tool-handling etüdes?

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The only "etude" to which I was ever exposed as an apprentice was when I was given a rough sawn piece of timber and instructed to plane it flat, straight, square and parallel on all four sides. Doing this develops your skill and feel for handling a plane.

 

Ervin Somogyi,  whom many would regard as today's most eminent maker of steel string guitars, takes it one step further, and requires his apprentices to make a perfectly dimensioned cube using only hand saws and a plane.

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So, I've hardly any skill with violin making Tools, or fine woodworking Tools for that matter. I'm wondering if it makes sense to invent some "etüdes" (you know, I'm a professional musician) for the purpose of getting a feel what certain Tools can do. Etüdes that are not yet the making of a violin, but that do Train the handling of Tools. Does this make any sense to you guys?Can you think of small "off violin" tool-handling etüdes?

Can you sharpen? Really sharpen?  Violin maker's standards are the highest, I think.  As a test of your skill, can your knives do this?  That is a 65 gram weight attached to 40wt rayon thread.  So, sharpening is the first skill.

 

Sharpen a plane blade. 

 

Learn to sharpen a violin scraper. The problem with this one is that scrapers vary in hardness. I cannot claim to have mastered it. This one needs to be learned in the presence of someone who knows.

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In school we did a rectangular block as Murrmac describes. The block was a little shorter than a sharpening stone and was later used as a guide to keep scrapers square to the stone while sharpening. We also made a mock fingerboard out of maple. You could do any of the ebony work I. A less expensive hardwood just for practice. Cutting bridges is very good practice for knife work and fitting. I spent 4 years in a shop cranking out student setups in assembly line fashion, and my hand tool skills at the end were excellent. The instruments would come to me without strings and I would cut bridges and pass the. To the left of my bench where a cleaner would take them, clean them, and string them up. If string heights were 1/4mm off or there was any other issue it would come back to me so I would make any correction rather than keep repeating the error if something was off. That process probably had the biggest impact on my tool work because it was lots of repetition and constant critique.

It's very important that your tools are well prepped. Without tools tat are properly adjusted you will struggle far longer to make any progress.

In school we did crack repair, touch up, and soundpost patches on tops and backs that were remnants of instruments that were never going to be repaired. Total Junkers with major damage. We would repair cracks, then make new ones. Touch up should be done on a real varnish rather than the stuff they put on VSO's, but I'm sure you get the idea. If you ask a shop with a rental program you'll probably find that they discard instruments on occasion, and may be willing to give you one. A rental instrument with a soundpost that has come through the top, for example, is never repairable for less than replacement cost. You can still practice repair on it.

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Great ideas so far, thank you guys! Keep them coming.

 

Well, for sharpening you first Need blunt Tools don't you? So I started off trying a miniature scroll "en Profile" in pine, using my new chisels. Turns out I Need some more different chisels to get to anywhere near what I'd like to see, but it sure was fun! (And I thought I'd hate making scrolls...)

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So, I've hardly any skill with violin making Tools, or fine woodworking Tools for that matter. I'm wondering if it makes sense to invent some "etüdes" (you know, I'm a professional musician) for the purpose of getting a feel what certain Tools can do

What clef would these etudes be in? ;)

 

Quite a few of us in the trade were given rental instrument setups and repairs, or setups of new "factory" instruments, as etudes.

 

If you can, even for short sessions, it's a huge help to have someone good looking over your shoulder as you learn. Progress will be much faster, and it helps avoid getting into bad habits. It's not unlike the advantage of having a good teacher, and taking lessons, when learning to play an instrument.

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A very good exercise is to carve a simple bowl.

Try to find a piece of lime. It's easy to carve, but it will give you a good idea of grain direction and so on. You can make a simple template for the inside and outside and try to work to it. Uou can finish it with your planes and scrapers, and fill it with hazelnuts when you're finished.

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Hi Baroquecello, It sounds like your wiser than me.  I tend to dive straight into the deep end of the pool before wondering whether swimming lessons would be a good idea. Step 1, I get the bright idea that I want to make violins.  Step 2, Build work bench (first wood working project). Step 3, Make violin (still working on step 3).  

 

My hind sight happens to be better than my fore site.  :)   I quickly realized while making my work bench that you can't do squat without knowing how to sharpen tools.  The Complete Guide to Sharpening by Leonard Lee has been a big help http://www.leevalley.com/US/wood/page.aspx?p=32991&cat=1,43072,43091,32991 There are lots of books on sharpening.  This just happens to be the one I bought.  

 

Melvin once wrote (paraphrasing) "violin making is just good woodworking" (or something like that).  Melvin if I'm misquoting you or taking that statement out of context just yell at me and I'll delete your name.  Anyway, I forget the precise conversation, but it probably had to do with joining plates.  The point is that basic wood working skills is very important.  So I bought The Essential Woodworker by Robert wearing http://www.leevalley.com/US/Wood/page.aspx?p=66203&cat=1,46096,46124&ap=1 and started building some furniture as well.  

 

Having two projects are great, because when you need to puzzle something out in your head you can switch projects until your ready to go back to the other project, say a cello.

 

Good luck!

Jim

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Re-sharpening....hopefully you'll not start with a chisel that was used to stir paint for 20 years. 
Keep it sharp and it will not get blunt. 
How many chisels do you need ? not many. 

Don't (Dont etudes hahah) get bogged down procrastinating. 
Listen to Shumsky, he recorded the Rode studies, then ask yourself how he could
make such music out of etudes....
As a grown up you'll likely have to make do with the limited set of manual skills most adults have acquired, unless you have a remarkable feel for tools etc.  If you have no skills in woodworking you're almost better
off since bad habits are not easy to lose. 
In other words, you can see parallels between playing and making that may be useful
in your endeavours to use and maintain hand tools with real purpose in mind.

Watch good people working if you can, eye to eye. Copy the best of them.
Carving and chopping skills are fundamental, most people can learn to sharpen a blade.
I wouldn't jump into a massive project, take it very slow and try not to lose any fingers. 

As David says, having time with someone who has spent their life woodworking is like
a masterclass but as you know, masterclasses only pay off if you've done 3,000 hours of 
practice first.
So, I'd get a decent plane (a flat & sharp one) and start planing some bits of wood square, practice
marking and measuring, basics. 

Books, yes books are best. Youtube is full of 'tutorials' about how to open a cardboard box. 
Ideally I'd say spend time reading, practicing, and watching competent people work eye to eye. 
Have a goal in mind, even if it's not a violin it can be a worthy goal. 

Good luck. 

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The traditional études begin with sweeping the shop floor, procuring a few old tools and rehabilitating them, and making your own tools... Things like a graduation punch (go easy on the rum ;) ), a bench hook for planing fingerboards, a work cradle... and don't (Dont) forget making new handles for those rehab'd tools. Hollowing out a work cradle is the same as hollowing a plate, except the tolerances aren't as tight. Some of my favorite tool handles were made from cherry saved from a friend's woodpile.

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The absolute woodcarver's classic is carving a continuous link chain from a tree limb and terminating one end with a ball in a cage.  You can find examples on You Tube.  Doing it with different kinds of wood will teach you a great deal as well.  :)

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The absolute woodcarver's classic is carving a continuous link chain from a tree limb and terminating one end with a ball in a cage.  You can find examples on You Tube.  Doing it with different kinds of wood will teach you a great deal as well.  :)

And then buy a copy of "You Can Whittle a Stradivarius"? :P

Talk about a ball and chain! :lol:

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I did a few warm up projects.  

As Addie says, making and modifying tools is one form or practice.    I made a thickness punch and a scissors style caliper out of wood. 

 

Also, since I wasn't planing on using templates to carve my archings, I did some smaller and odd sized arched carvings as practice.

 

Lastly, a designed my label and carved it as a boxwood woodcut.  You have to carve the printing in mirror image.  That was very educational.  Also, I made some of the engraving tools myself. 

 

All these little projects helped increase my comfort with tools before I made my first violin.

 

 

I think David's advice about doing setups is important.  I'm still very much learning on that front.   I'm not aiming at a repair business, but still I take every opportunity I can to setup instruments.  I feel I learn more with every instrument I set up, even when they aren't great instruments.

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Maybe Start with some basic woodworking using only or mostly hand tools?

 

How to use and sharpen a Hand Plane(s), chisel's & scraper's.

 

Also a handsaw.

 

Maybe start out making something simple like a small box or a tray. Something that requires you to plane flat and square and cut to a line. Maybe even cut some dovetail joints or something?

 

Pine is ok, but the yellow pine from the lumber stores can be challenging to work with at times. You might benefit from something a little denser. 

 

Anytime you are working with wood, understanding grain direction and how to work it is critical, especially on something like instruments with non-flat surfaces where you usually have a fine line between grain switching directions. Figured woods really put this knowledge to the test.

 

Everyone is different as far as their initial abilities, a lot of it probably has to do with how much a person has worked with their hands.

 

If you have little or no woodworking experience with hand tools, you would be amazed at how much you can learn and how it will apply by making some woodworking projects just using hand tools. 

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I've started practicing various violin making techniques on other things.  Hand jointing cutting boards, inlaying purfling into random things, using scrapers on oddly shaped bits of wood, varnishing various bits of maple and other pale coloured woods.

and sharpening everything with an edge.  That reminds me, I need to spend an afternoon re-sharpening every blade in my 'shop.  I've used them all enough that they've lost their super fine edge.

 

Making tools is also a good step.  The Strad punch is a good one, and the pencil thickness gauge/marker is another.  Making planes (finger, router, block, scraper, etc )is a good way of doing small fiddly work, without have to worry too much about tolerances.  The things I've been practicing on are the ones where I can practice the technique, and the outcome is not that dependent on how good I am with that technique.  Practice without penalty.

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The cube is a good one. It is so hard to do. Also, for me I think playing with chip carving is helpful. You only need one tool for that, which helps, and it's easy, but it still teaches knife control. And planning out a project before doing it. And other very basic stuff. I'm actually glad others are here too. Someone should start a non-violin beginner woodworking project thread, for those working up to a violin.

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Personally I hate making things to make things (jigs).  When I am forced to make a jig I don't try to make it pretty, I just make it to get the job done.  So for me jig making doesn't improve my wood working skills much.  Instead, when I get to a part of the build where I feel my skills are inadequate for the task, I think of something I would like to make that has more error tolerance than the violin I'm making.  For example, the peg box really intimidated me.  No problem, I started another project that required lots of mortises.  By the time I finished chopping 16 mortises for the other project, the peg box no longer intimidated me.  I still made mistakes, but that's okay.  I also gave up on perfection.  I'm learning a lot more by just being careful, and not worrying about mistakes.  Also, making corrections to the oops factor is a good skill to learn as well.  

 

My advise is, if you're going to make a violin, just start making a violin.  You can practice by making beautiful jigs if that excites you, or you can work on multiple projects.  But you will only really learn by doing it.  **Remember this  advise from a novice.  :)

 

Here some mortise work as a warm up to making the peg box.  I showed my scroll/peg box in another thread called "First scroll, throat too skinny?"

 

 

-Jim

 

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