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First of all thanks to all the folks who post on Maestronet! I have learned so much and there is such a wealth of information, experience and folks interested and passionate about string family instruments that participate here. I've been a member here for a long time but don't post much but I thought I would at least start to post pictures and occasional comments about what happens in my violin/fiddle life in hopes that I can contribute to some value here.

Currently I'm mired in varnishing. For me varnishing is second to setting necks as being the most difficult aspects of actual making. Of course when one considers the amount of info that has to be learned first before you can even get to varnishing or neck setting it is huge but not necessarily difficult (maybe difficult to remember it all). Leaning is a never ending process though and I definitely got hooked and reeled in with violins.

Here's a short synopsis of varnishing stages on my current build.

  • Made red maple flower tea last spring.  I collected the blossoms as they fell off the tree in my back yard and then made a strong tea with them. Then did a bunch of testing.
  • Made the horse stain at the same time but that needed to brew thru the summer. Started some tests last fall.

One note with the horse stain or collecting media from nature is to keep the dirt out as it will leach iron when combined with water. Anyways I decided to use the red maple flower tea as it gave a nice tan/pink looks to both spruce and maple and seemed to be stable color wise. First pic.

I use Joe's ground system and varnishes so next I applied the ground as per instructions. Now the adventure began as I used some old varnish that I had around and had gone by.  I ended up stripping the colored varnish off and getting some new material which was a combination of greek pitch brown and rose plus a tiny amount of black pigment in one of the color coats. I used a variety of application techniques, brush, fingers, hand, foam cosmetic wedges and foam brush and denied in-between coats with micro mesh 2400 and water. Top coated with pine resin sandarac mastic varnish. It's got plenty maybe too much varnish on it, more than may last two fiddles anyway, we'll see how it sounds...eventually. Second pic. 

 

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Looks nice.  Never heard of maple flower tea before.  Where did you dig up that bit of information?  Or were you just inspired by nature?

-Jim

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Here's some work I did on a fiddle that had been poorly repaired maybe 50 years ago and then had some serious attic time. I had several cracks in the top which were misaligned and had to be unglued, cleaned, reglued and cleated. I repaired corners, had to reshape the lower bout ribs and retouched the cracks and various other dings but tried to keep the retouch in keeping with it's current look. I thought it came out pretty good. Also new nut, FB resurface and bridge and the client wanted it set up with octive strings. Actually sounded decent too. 

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14 minutes ago, Jim Bress said:

Looks nice.  Never heard of maple flower tea before.  Where did you dig up that bit of information?  Or were you just inspired by nature?

-Jim

I made it up. In the past I had been using black tea stain and I was thinking that the whole idea with this is to increase tannin content so I started experimenting and it produced a nice color so I went with it.

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I had time today to rub out the varnish on my current build. Fortunately my final coat of varnish was pretty clean so I went right to the rub. For rubbing out I use rotten stone and linseed oil applied with a round head shoe polish brush. I pour about a tablespoon of oil into a small container and the rottenstone into separate container.  To load the brush dip part of the brush head into the oil then pat it onto the rottenstone . I use a linear motion in line with the grain of the wood and rub back and forth with a medium pressure. It doesn't take much time maybe 1.5 hours to rub out the whole fiddle. Use a couple of clean cotton cloths to remove the residue, being vigilant to get off all the oil. You can compare this picture with one above to see the sheen I like and end up with.

 

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Fox, thank you or the kind words! There's always more to learn so all please feel free to critique. 

 

John, this is the stain that Roger Hargrave documents in his bass building thread. I didn't use it because when collecting the ingredients I got some dirt mixed in and this caused it to leave iron deposits when brushing on to the bare wood. The iron deposits could be minimized by wetting the wood with alcohol first. 

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I just completed fitting the pegs on my current build so I thought I would talk about how I do that procedure. I use a Herdim 4 hole shaper which works works well and gets the job done. The first thing I do when shaping pegs is to score the peg right up next to the collar using a utility knife. This keeps the shaper from cutting into the collar and will make a nice clean shoulder. Roll the knife around the peg shaft a couple of times to create a kerf, maybe a 1/32" deep. I place the peg in the half hole in my jig to support the peg while doing this procedure. Then shape the peg in the shaper the hole that just starts to remove wood off of the shaft. Repeat the two procedures until you are into the smallest hole on your shaper. Be a bit careful to not over cut the knife kerf in depth because you don't want to weaken the peg head to shaft connection. Once the peg is shaped give it a quick sand with 600g by turning the peg with sand paper wrapped around it. I made this jig in the first pic to help.

The length of the peg should be about 35 - 36mm from the outside pegbox wall to the end of the head, not including any pip or other decoration. When reaming stopping a little short of your predetermined depth on the first peg will leave you some room to compress the wood in the reamed hole with the peg and then be able to fine tune the length. Best to do a test first on scrap wood and mark your reamer so you know how far to go. Ream the pegbox to the correct size then stick the peg in the hole and give it a few turns while applying pressure.  This will burnish the peg shaft in two rings around the shaft. Remove the peg and apply some peg lube to the shaft of the peg on those burnished rings then push the peg back in and seat it well by turning several times. 

After this is done to all the pegs then mark the length to cut them off. I like my peg ends to be just shy of the peg box wall so with the peg seated I mark them using an awl by just poking a small hole on the top of the shaft.  Then I use the jig by placing the peg in the V notch and aligning the marked hole with the edge of the jig. I use a fine toothed saw to then cut the peg to length. Be sure to roll the peg while sawing the kerf all the way around the outside before cutting through or else it will split out on the bottom. See the small hole towards the right end of the peg.

Once the peg is cut to length file the end with a slight bevel all the way around, leaving a small (maybe 1/8") flat in the center of the peg. Once beveled then I sand the end of the peg starting with 220g and going up to 600g. I do this by placing the sand paper on my thigh face up and rolling the peg at slight angle while rubbing back and forth on the sand paper.

 

 

 

 

 

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54 minutes ago, Mike Spencer said:

I just completed fitting the pegs on my current build so I thought I would talk about how I do that procedure. I use a Herdim 4 hole shaper which works works well and gets the job done. The first thing I do when shaping pegs is to score the peg right up next to the collar using a utility knife. This keeps the shaper from cutting into the collar and will make a nice clean shoulder. Roll the knife around the peg shaft a couple of times to create a kerf, maybe a 1/32" deep. I place the peg in the half hole in my jig to support the peg while doing this procedure. Then shape the peg in the shaper the hole that just starts to remove wood off of the shaft. Repeat the two procedures until you are into the smallest hole on your shaper. Be a bit careful to not over cut the knife kerf in depth because you don't want to weaken the peg head to shaft connection. Once the peg is shaped give it a quick sand with 600g by turning the peg with sand paper wrapped around it. I made this jig in the first pic to help.

The length of the peg should be about 35 - 36mm from the outside pegbox wall to the end of the head, not including any pip or other decoration. When reaming stopping a little short of your predetermined depth on the first peg will leave you some room to compress the wood in the reamed hole with the peg and then be able to fine tune the length. Best to do a test first on scrap wood and mark your reamer so you know how far to go. Ream the pegbox to the correct size then stick the peg in the hole and give it a few turns while applying pressure.  This will burnish the peg shaft in two rings around the shaft. Remove the peg and apply some peg lube to the shaft of the peg on those burnished rings then push the peg back in and seat it well by turning several times. 

After this is done to all the pegs then mark the length to cut them off. I like my peg ends to be just shy of the peg box wall so with the peg seated I mark them using an awl by just poking a small hole on the top of the shaft.  Then I use the jig by placing the peg in the V notch and aligning the marked hole with the edge of the jig. I use a fine toothed saw to then cut the peg to length. Be sure to roll the peg while sawing the kerf all the way around the outside before cutting through or else it will split out on the bottom. See the small hole towards the right end of the peg.

Once the peg is cut to length file the end with a slight bevel all the way around, leaving a small (maybe 1/8") flat in the center of the peg. Once beveled then I sand the end of the peg starting with 220g and going up to 600g. I do this by placing the sand paper on my thigh face up and rolling the peg at slight angle while rubbing back and forth on the sand paper.

Very nice description.  I also use a jig in the same manner you describe, although I'm not very happy with the jig I came up with so it was nice to see your set up.  Very nice and clean scroll.

-Jim

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Thanks Jim! We all know there are lots of ways to approach procedures... Btw I made may half pattern for the viola last night, there's a start! Looking forward to seeing more of yours. 

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On 2/5/2018 at 6:06 PM, Mike Spencer said:

Thanks Jim! We all know there are lots of ways to approach procedures... Btw I made may half pattern for the viola last night, there's a start! Looking forward to seeing more of yours. 

Hi Mike, How's the "Stauffer" viola coming along?  Just watched this video and thought of your viola.  Playing starts at 3:45.  The Charles Coquet won the gold medal in the 2015 Triennale competition in Cremona.

 

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Hi Jim I hope you are healing well! Thanks for posting the video clip, I hadn't seen that one yet. Nice sounding. If mine comes out half that good I'll consider myself fortunate. Progress on instruments is always slow for me but I'm underway. C bouts are bent and glued and the blocks are shaped so I can start bending the upper and lower bouts next. Back is glued up and is a two piece slab back. I've made two other violins from the same maple only they were single piece slab backs and those both sounded good. I also decided to build another violin as it seems like things progress more quickly when building two at a time.

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Nice looking back.  How old is that?  Healing's coming along.  Right arm (bicep tendons at elbow) is out of the splint and I've regained full range of motion.  I can't bare any weight yet, but the right arm gets to pitch in a little.  Putting off the surgery for the upper bicep tendons until after Joe Thrift's work shop.  Gotta have priorities! B)  Outside plates are done.  Inside is rough graduated.  I'm starting to work on f-hole templates.  The Estense f-holes are too skinny for my taste.  I'll look for inspiration in my Geigen-F-Modelle nach den Originalen alter Meister book  to modify or substitute the f-holes.

Cheers,

Jim

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Jim, 

The maple is about 20 years old. It's not the most glamorous figure but it is very unique and has a bunch of interesting figure that doesn't a show in the photo. Also when I resawed the piece some subtle blue stain was reviled but I think this will disappear when the finish goes on. I'm sure the Thrift workshop will be fantastic!

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