kayjay

Grain orientation for blocks

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Greetings! 
I am brand new to this site - and working on my first fiddle! Since this is my first post a little background about me: I started playing fiddle about 2 years ago and as a result have become completely intrigued at the artistry and precision involved in their making. I have some ancient experience as a machinist and moldmaker many many years ago, but working with wood is ENTIRELY new to me. Possibly a bit naively ambitious, I just started in on my own fiddle building project. Who knows how the thing will turn out, but it's all about the learning in the process, right? (As an aside, I've considered starting with a kit, but I am less focused/hurried for an end product and more so embracing the whole process in order to learn). Unfortunately I do not have any luthier resources in my area (at least that I know about), so I am relying primarily on written materials, and hopefully some guidance from anyone here willing to spare advice! 

I have as my references Johnson and Courtnall's Art of Violin Making, and the Strobel series, also have Heron-Allen's Violin Making Historical and Practical Guide at my disposal for more general reference/context. I've settled on working from the patterns provided by Strobel.

I have my mold almost nearly complete and am about to start fitting and cutting the blocks. My question is: what is the significance of the grain direction in fitting your blocks, how precisely do they need to be spaced within the mold, and most importantly WHY? I am puzzled because of discrepancies in patterns. In the Strobel pattern (and in Heron-Allen's book), the grain on the corner blocks is angled downwards (roughly 45 degrees), yet in Johnson & Courtnall it is shown horizontal. As for upper and lower blocks, Strobel and Johnson & Courtnall suggest grain on blocks to be vertical, yet the pattern shown in Heron-Allen's book shows upper and lower block grain as angled. And each source says to ensure the grain is oriented correctly! Also there appears to be some subtle differences in exactly how the corner blocks are oriented relative to center (right angles versus slightly askew). Would like to know how critical this is for later steps (ribs...)

I'm assuming this may be a prime example of the myriad ways in which patterns may differ, but I am mostly wondering what are the consequences, if any, on overall build. I am assuming that in general having grain facing the belly and back will provide a better glue surface, and there is some critical structiral support and need to minimize cracking from expansion/contraction. I've searched archives and found a few scattered posts on grain orientation but have yet to find a more holistic discussion as to why - in terms of what forces (and in what direction) need to considered when choosing.

I very much appreciate any insights!

 

 

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It's a general rule that you'll want the grain for the corner blocks running in the direction to the tip of the corner. This can keep the delicate block from chipping or breaking during the feathering process. Also probably has something to do with the way the wood shrinks. 

The book probably depicts different grain directions because one is showing an ideal, while the other is showing what you'll encounter more often than not in the field. Like top blocks not quite being of straight grain. Sometimes the maker just didn't have blocks that fit the ideal grain pattern and said "Eh, that's good enough..."

I still don't know why top and lower blocks are traditionally oriented the way that they are, because they should shrink across their width, which seems to be more dangerous to me. 

But who am I to mess with tradition like that. 

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Being self-taught maker myself who started by using J&C book, I can say that you will be just fine doing as guys sugested. There is not much wrong in that book in general. It is their interpretation of traditionaly used methods. But there are always diferent ways naturaly.

I definitly suggest that you split the blocks verticaly along the grain and not to cut them,  though. It will be much easyer to shape them afterwards and to keep nice 90° vertical angle.

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What Nick is saying is for a beginner the best rule. Additionally it helps if you work from split wood so that you don't risk that wood of the corner block rips off in the wrong direction when working it with a chisel.

You could use as well unfigured light willow which is easy to work and you don't need to think about grain direction.

Differences in tutorials come from the personal experience of the author, basically you can put the grain in almost any direction. You just need well sharpened tools.

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One more thing that I do pay a little more attention regarding blocks. Make sure that your upper (neck) block when insertet in the form, has the outer (ribs) surface perpendicular to the bottom of the rib cage. If it isnt`t, glue it in such way that the bottom side is angled outwards (wider side of the block down). It will make your life easyer when cuting mortice and setting the neck.

Otherwise, I wouldn`t loos much sleep over it.

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