Hans Kipferle's bench (Violin Cobbler)


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My version of Hans Kipferle's bench of 1561

This picture, below, shows an intarsia table top dated 1561 made by Hans Kipferle (For more on this, see https://thomasguild.blogspot.com/2013/04/woodworkers-guild-chests.html ) I am interested in old tools and string instrument making so for me this table top is a wonderful thing.

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The table top shows many woodworking tools that must have been in use in 1561 and is located, and as far as I know was made, in the Italian Tyrol, on an ancient and busy trade route between Northern and Southern Europe. I'd love to get a train to to Southern Germany or Austria, visit Fussen and Absam then attempt to walk the old trade route over the alps, following the path taken by materials, people and ideas since prehistoric times, making my way to Bolzano to the museum to see and find out more about Hans Kipferle and his table top. I may be being fanciful but because Bolzano is not too far from the towns of Cremona, Brescia and on the route between Fussen and Venice I reason that the woodworking tools shown on the table would be very likely be similar to those available to and used by instrument makers in these towns in the second half of the 16th century, a very interesting time for violin making.

I am not a trained violin maker, hence the title 'Violin Cobbler', I am not a historian but I like making things, old tools, history, wood and stringed instruments so for over twenty years now I have tried to combine these interests into one by having fun while making musical instuments and other stuff.

At the centre of the table top is a bench and a few years ago I made a small version of this benches top to try to experience myself how the pegs, wedges and vice notch (on the front edge) were possibly used and how well they worked. Don't laugh, but here it is, hooked over the end of my 'modern' bench

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I have been messing about with this little bench top for a while now and find it works quite well. I am sure if I made a full size free standing version it would be better, but this year I managed to complete or cobble together, my first violin and made much use of this bench top along with other old  and home made tools. I am not sure I am allowed mention this but, just in case you are interested. I have produced a very, very, very long blog about my violin and tool making here  https://oldenoch.blogspot.com/  (I think the endless 'stream of consciousness' format I have adopted may put people off looking more than once!)

Finally, what's on my bench now!

After finishing my first violin I started two others intending to try to build them on their backs. Up to now I have made the two backs, doing the insides first and have cut them out and roughly arched the outside and purfled one back. here they are lying on another small workboard I use. The wood is from a tree from my local churchyard. it may not be ideal tone wood but because of its associations it it beautiful to me! I work on my own and am hoping to reach out to other people so ( in addition to my blog which seems to reach very few people) I plan to put pictures of the progress of these two violins on this message board from now and I hope it may be of interest to some people.

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Edited by Andrew tkinson
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  • 2 weeks later...

I am trying to build these two violins on their backs so after reading and hearing about various strategies I have decided to make a sloping channel on the inside to help keep the rib shape in line with the outline. I thought this will be less trouble than a full groove and it seems to be more common from the information I can find. I have decide to offset the rib channel a bout half a mm from the purfling to reduce the chance of weakening the edges too much. Here I am using the purflng on my back to set my home made purfling cutter 

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I cut a line around the edge while I have the back held in a small workboard with eccentric pegs I made to grip the already largely carved back

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I cut the lines right into the corners as I felt I didn't need to be as fussy about the shape and niceness of line of this rib channel at the corners as you should be when cutting the purfling channel. I must admit I tried to be fussy about my purfling channel but it still looks a bit rustic but never mind, I am getting neater - slowly!

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I then used a template and knife to cut near the button. I will not cut a groove all the way across here as I aim to use a 'through neck' construction

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I reshaped an old chisel, on a coarse oilstone, making a curved edge to use to chisel the 'ramp' down to the cut line

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I used narrow ordinary chiels on the less curved parts and on external curves

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Here is the channel completed. Hopefully my imprecise approach will be good enough.

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4 hours ago, J.DiLisio said:

This is interesting. I've not seen the process of building on the back before. Thanks for sharing.
Is the neck block platform shape typical of this style build?  It's very different than what you see on a Cremonese style instrument. 

Looks like it's gonna be a through neck. 

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18 hours ago, J.DiLisio said:

This is interesting. I've not seen the process of building on the back before. Thanks for sharing.
Is the neck block platform shape typical of this style build?  It's very different than what you see on a Cremonese style instrument. 

Hello, I am glad to have finally made contact with someone. I decided on the neck block platform shape from looking at the pictures of a dismantled 'through neck' violin in the book "The British Violin" (Published by the British Violin Making Association) and derived my neck platform from that and other things I may have heard and seen. Here is a photo of the book and pictures along with some of my notes and sketches (taken from one of my long and rambling blog posts)

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I have looked on Maestronet for other pictures of two other neck platforms and one is very similar and one is smaller, the same width as the neck and rounded. I have to admit that I am not a professional violin maker -hence the violin cobbler name - but an enthusiast who likes history, old tools, woodworking/crafts and music so am combining my interests in my instrument making. Any advice, corrections and suggestions would be most welcome. I worked at a summer camp in Pennsylvania in the early 1980's and I recall being driven through Maryland at some stage, I think when I visited someone in Virginia at the end of summer. I hope you are well.

 

 

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15 hours ago, Nick Allen said:

Looks like it's gonna be a through neck. 

Hello Nick, you are right. I completed my first violin - using an internal mould - in July this year and some one suggested that from the type of violin I had made, the plain local wood and my liking for 'historical' methods I should try to make  a violin built on the back. I have decided to make shallow channels for the ribs along with the through neck. I welcome any advice on what I am trying to do as I do admit to being unschooled in violin making. I hope you are well.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Also on my bench. I have recently become distracted from my violins and started to try to make a renaissance cornett. I couldn't find any drawings but learned of a German book with lots of information, illustrations and measurements of museum examples. I have concocted a plan and working drawing even though I struggle to understand most of the book. here is my drawing and some working out

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I then made a paper template of the bore and quicky concluded that a stiffer, wooden template will be necessary. Here the paper and wooden templates can be seen and behind is the lump of sycamore I hope will be thick enough for my cornet

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Meanwhile back to violins. I need to varnish my first violin which I largely completed in July this year. I have had it hanging in the window of my kitchen since then, to try to let the Northern English sunshine colour the wood. The violin needs to be cleaned up and the neck shape finalised so any colour it has gained will probably end up being scraped off in places. I thought I would try to prepare some horsetail to use as I am trying to stick to 'historical' methods and I have never tried it before and like the idea. I bought this 'Egyptian horsetail' at an artists materials shop in London over 15 years ago - where does the time go?

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I had seen a video, found on Maestronet, of a violin maker preparing it and sticking it on tape as a backing so decided to try using gummed paper strip for my version. I used scissors to cut the horstail to lengths to fit on my gummed tape then used a knife to split the small brittle cylinders on one side before soaking them in warm water so I could open them up and flatten them ready to put on the gummed tape

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I wiped off the exess moisture and applied the horsetail to the tape and used a heavy iron plane to press it overnight between two pieces of wood to allow moisture to escape, to keep things flat and to encourage adhesion

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I used scissors to cut the pieces apart to make five small bits of paper backed horsetail. the adhesion wasn't perfect but it still seemed to be adeqauate and I tried some out on a violin back I had to reject and I found it to be quite a fine abrasive but it produced a very silky surface

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I'm looking forward to experimenting with this more. I have concluded that I will have to scrape the surfaces clean and smooth as best as I can before using the horsetail as it is such a fine abrasive?  

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On 11/30/2020 at 4:14 AM, Andrew tkinson said:

Also on my bench. I have recently become distracted from my violins and started to try to make a renaissance cornett. I couldn't find any drawings but learned of a German book with lots of information, illustrations and measurements of museum examples. I have concocted a plan and working drawing even though I struggle to understand most of the book. here is my drawing and some working out

 

I then made a paper template of the bore and quicky concluded that a stiffer, wooden template will be necessary. Here the paper and wooden templates can be seen and behind is the lump of sycamore I hope will be thick enough for my cornet

if you want to make a cornetto, I'd recommend going to one of Sam Gobles "make your own cornetto" courses - rather nice, and Sam is able to guide you through it (it's a different level than makin a violin). What I do think though, is that perhaps the "historic" glues are not the best choice - they were wrapped in leather to hold both halves together. (And then tend to rot on the inside, above the first tone hole). Sam recommended the "Die Zinken und der Serpent" from the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien. I made one instrument (from total beginner, no woodworking experience), which in maestronet terms can be described "it looks like somebody who knew what they were doing was standing next to the person that made this instrument". It's good enough to study on, but no comparison to my good one.

I saw your other comment on glues. In the course, it was gorilla glue for the leather (works nice with wet leather actually), and some weird WWI era 2 component glue for gluing both parts together.

Also, make sure that you oil the thing. Cornetto's tend to rot above the first hole. Some makers use oil and a vacuum, others use a lot of oil and a lot of time.

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On 12/1/2020 at 3:51 PM, cadenza said:

if you want to make a cornetto, I'd recommend going to one of Sam Gobles "make your own cornetto" courses - rather nice, and Sam is able to guide you through it (it's a different level than makin a violin). What I do think though, is that perhaps the "historic" glues are not the best choice - they were wrapped in leather to hold both halves together. (And then tend to rot on the inside, above the first tone hole). Sam recommended the "Die Zinken und der Serpent" from the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien. I made one instrument (from total beginner, no woodworking experience), which in maestronet terms can be described "it looks like somebody who knew what they were doing was standing next to the person that made this instrument". It's good enough to study on, but no comparison to my good one.

I saw your other comment on glues. In the course, it was gorilla glue for the leather (works nice with wet leather actually), and some weird WWI era 2 component glue for gluing both parts together.

Also, make sure that you oil the thing. Cornetto's tend to rot above the first hole. Some makers use oil and a vacuum, others use a lot of oil and a lot of time.

Hello. Thanks for your comments. I would like to go to one of these courses but everything has been cancelled this year, also I only work part time so haven't got much money. I looked around for drawings/plans and couldn't find any and I bought the book you mention as it was recommended to me but as I say my German isn't very good. However I enjoy making things so thought I would have a bit of fun and attempt to make a cornett using measurements I could get from the book. I am trying to use the cheese glue as it fits in with my historical experiments approach and it is said to be waterproof and it will be fun to try to make. I will test the glue I make first on some scraps. Thanks for the advice on oiling hopefully I get something made to the stage that it need to be oiled. At the moment my workshop is very cold so I have slowed down but hopefully will get back in there soon, any more advice would be very welcome as I progress.

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If you could follow the workshop in Cambridge, the owner of the place is a clarinet maker. We got a very nice talk about the effect of the bore on (clarinets) sound.

One thing I wonder about the original glue is the setting time. With the instruments we made, we used the 10-15 min time of gorilla glue to attach the two first sides of the cornetto to the leather skin (note: make toneholes before attaching leather, then cut through the leather. 2279B5EF-7989-48F1-A3BB-6D947D356FE9.thumb.jpg.6a9ec119f275b9e56f747b3e772697c4.jpg

Mine looked like this on the inside, and attached is also a way to cut the diamonds in the throat.

D75F3768-E90A-4593-9C47-482D13197A57.jpg

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hello Cadenza. Sorry for the late response but thank you for the advice and photos they are much appreciated. I am making slow progress at the moment but have made what seems to be a successful experiment with my cheese glue. I was wasting time on my computer the other day and found the book "Die Zinken und der Serpent" is currently on sale 19.95 instead of 51.30 euro here https://shop.khm.at/en/shop/detail/?shop[showItem]=100000000027176-1311-0&cHash=5142d29d23885b2bbd74dd7f039edfe5  I just stumbled upon it. I already have it but if you haven't got it and the postage is reasonable  and of course, if it would be any use to you? I have a very badly structured, rarely viewed blog which has more detail on my Cornetto making and other wood working things here https://oldenoch.blogspot.com/  if you would like to see more of my activities in my small cluttered workshop. I hope you have a nice Chistmas.

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2 hours ago, MikeC said:

Hi Andrew,  I'm impressed that your cheese glue is working well.  I have not had good luck with geese glue / casein glue.  It doesn't seem to make a strong bond.  Maybe I made it wrong.  

Hello Mike, when I say success I have only tried it on some small pieces of scrap, here is an update on my cheese glue activities so far -

 I started off with some nice full fat cottage cheese, shown here above my copy of Theophilus, "On Diverse Arts", opened at the page on making cheese glue. The cheese was very tasty and I made a point of eating a few large pieces to get my moneys worth, just in case my glue making wasn't successful

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I then washed the cheese with hot water, repeating until the water ran clear. The first rinse the water looked like milk and by the end I had lost a lot of material. Maybe I washed too much but next time, I will use the cheaper low fat cottage cheese as I will eat less of it and I suspect lots of the lost material was fat?

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After first pouring some cold water on it to help soldify it, I drained the water off and poured the wet cheese residue onto a paper towel on top of a wooden bread board.The cheese would be ready to use for glue now - with the addition of some alkalai - but I had found this really good description of making cheese/casein glue ( https://www.getting-my-medieval-on.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Doc-SCA-Class-Handouts-Casein-Glue-Short.pdf) which told me that the washed cheese could be dried and stored so had decided to try that so I wouldn't have to go through this cheese washing process every time I may want this type of glue. The house is quite cold so to help the cheese dry I placed the bread board on top of my dehumidifier

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I left it for over a week and here is the result. Unfortunately one or two bits of paper towel had stuck to the now hard cheese granules. The volume is much reduced

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I then thought I would use a pestle and mortar to grind the dry cheese into a powder. which I thought would help it re-hydrate quicker when I came to use it. I used an old brass/bronze mortar I have and for a pestle I used a wooden peg from my benchtop. I used a knife to make a rounded profile on the end of the sycamore peg thinking it would be better, After well over an hour of strenuous 'pestling' I had managed to get a small amount of fineish powder but decided I would save my effort keep the rest in large granules. The dried cheese cards are tougher than I had imagined, I need a brass pestle to go with my mortar

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I put a small amount of the ground and unground cheese into a little water overnight and the next morning I was pleased to see they had both re-hydrated well and become white and cheeselike again. I was especially pleased the unground cheese had reconstituted nicely as this meant I wouldn't have to spend lots of time affort grinding it to a small powder

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I put the small jars in my fridge to keep safe and after a few days I decided to see if it would work. Theophilus in his 11th century book recommends putting the washed cheese on a board and using a smaller board to make the cheese into a paste. I used a home made wooden spoon to mash the cheese on the back of my breadboard

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I scooped up the liquid cheese with a teaspoon and put it into a jar and then was ready to add my alkalai/base to 'activate ' the glue. I had bought some Calcium Hydroxide powder, used for aquariums, I think, from ebay. Theophilus uses quicklime (Calcium Oxide) but this can be quite dangerous if a splash gets into your eye for example so after some internet searches I learned that slaked lime or Calcium Hydoxide can be used and is much safer. (Apparently 'pickling lime' is much the same thing but I've never seen this in England)

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I wasn't sure how much to add so I took half a teaspoon of Calcium hydroxide and mixed it with a little water (the cheese is on the left) I had read on Maestronet (Thank you Mr.Oded Kishony) how the base is added and mixed in and the glue is ready when it feels slimy! So thought I would just try it, add the Lime and mix it in well and check the texture with my fingers and add a bit more until it felt slimy 

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I then brushed some of the thin glue onto two small pieces of scrap wood

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I put a cramp/clamp on it and left it overnight

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Next day the glue worked, I tried as hard as my hands were able and the pieces couldn't be parted

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The joint seems strong and hopefully will be water resistant so it will work in the moist interior of a renaissance cornett?

Anyway, sorry about the longwinded reply, I hope you have a good Christmas.

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you used full fat cheese?  I think you're supposed to use non fat.  You don't want butter fat in your glue.  Looks like it worked though!  So you mixed your cheese with some water first before adding the alkali?    I added quick lime / pickling lime to my dry casein and maybe I added too much. I can get pickling lime here at a local hardware store.    I made it with skim milk, added vinegar to separate the casein from the liquid then drained and washed it.    

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Hello Mike. I used full fat cheese thinking it would be close to what was available in the past although I have heard of some old fashioned cheeses were very hard as they were made with milk that had been skimmed thoroughly to get the cream for buttermaking. I used hot water to wash the cheese, as recommended by Theophilus in his 11th century treatise. Hopefully the hot water melted much of the fat and it was then removed by the rinsing and maybe that is why the volume of the rinsed cheese was so much reduced from the start volume?  My scrap pieces seem quite well glued. I may put them in water to see if it resists water. I rinsed the small amount of leftover 'glue' down the sink and regreted it straight away as I would have liked to look at a lump of the cured glue and tested it for hardness and water resistance. I am going to try some more cheese glue tomorrow so will keep the leftovers for examination afterwards.

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On 12/19/2020 at 12:11 PM, MikeC said:

Hi Andrew,  I'm impressed that your cheese glue is working well.  I have not had good luck with geese glue / casein glue.  It doesn't seem to make a strong bond.  Maybe I made it wrong.  

The problem might be that you're using geese? I dunno. Just a thought. </shrug?>

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As it is nearly Christmas maybe we should try some Turkey glue or for a more water proof glue Penguin glue?

Yesterday I decided to test the water resistance of my glue by immersing the small pieces of scrap wood I had successfully glued in some warm water. It was fine for about 15 minutes then I was quite disappointed to find I could pull the pieces apart. I'll try making up a new small batch of glue and adding a bit more lime and try to improve the water resistance. I reckon the bore of a cornett must get quite moist so a water resistant glue is necessary. The book I have of museum examples shows they are reinforced at several points by having strong thread/fine string bindings which will help keep two halves together along with the thin leather covering wrapped and glued on the outside, but a waterproof glue is needed really.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Meanwhile, back to my violins, I have been considering trying to make a Lion Head pegbox for one of them. I have a picture of a really nice Lion Head  in a book which I attempted to draw and then from this make a plasticine model to try to get an idea of the thing. Here is the first attemptP1070560.JPG

He looks a bit dog-like. My third attempt is still a bit like a dog/TopCat hybrid but I am learning from this. I made a tracing of the photo in the book which can be seen at the right

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I have never thought about this before but a tracing has the great advantage of being effectively two views for the price of one drawing, you just turn it over and effectively get a view from the other side which is really useful when struggling - I really struggle with this - to turn a flat drawing into something in the round. Here is my tracing of the picture from the book, a three quarter angle viewed from the right, next to my roughly shaped limewood practice piece

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Here the tracing has been turned over and gives another viewpoint, this time from the left. This is probably obvious but I was most pleased when I stumbled upon this 'discovery'!

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Then it was Christmas and time to decorate the cake. The cake is small but the little animals are precious to me as they are older than me - I think. They are part of our family and they must have their yearly outing on a cake!

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I then made up a side view drawing from my picture, and from others from the internet, then traced it to give left and right views and started to work on my woodblock a bit more

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Here I am using a brace and shell bit to open out the rear of the mouth

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Here I have modelled the face a bit more and am performing some more dentistry to open up the front of the mouth while leaving wood for two 'fangs'

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He still looks more like a dog but I think he has a nice smile. I have also given him some small whisker holes and a bit of an unwise makeover with a pencil, he seems pleased with it though!

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I didn't leave enough wood on my practice piece to make his mane properly but attempted to give him a bit of one

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He looks like a lion from some views and a pitbull from the front and his eyes are quite different but these quirks/mistakes can all be learned from. I decided to give him a coat of shellac which seemed to help reduce some of the roughness left by my imperfectly sharpened gouges

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He does look doglike from the front

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But a bit more lion like from the side

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He is a bit rough but overall I am quite pleased with him and I think he will serve me well as a model to work from.

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I agree it looks a lot like a dog but I'm impressed by your sculpturing ability.  I have a lion's head meerchaum pipe that I tried to copy in boxwood and didn't get very good results.  I'll post a picture of the pipe later,  I think you'll like the look of it.   

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On 12/21/2020 at 2:03 PM, Andrew tkinson said:

As it is nearly Christmas maybe we should try some Turkey glue or for a more water proof glue Penguin glue?

Yesterday I decided to test the water resistance of my glue by immersing the small pieces of scrap wood I had successfully glued in some warm water. It was fine for about 15 minutes then I was quite disappointed to find I could pull the pieces apart. I'll try making up a new small batch of glue and adding a bit more lime and try to improve the water resistance. I reckon the bore of a cornett must get quite moist so a water resistant glue is necessary. The book I have of museum examples shows they are reinforced at several points by having strong thread/fine string bindings which will help keep two halves together along with the thin leather covering wrapped and glued on the outside, but a waterproof glue is needed really.

You should read through the older thread that mentions additives to hide glue that make it pretty water resistant. Perhaps it will work with casein as well... (like formaldehyde does)

Worth reading (especially to the 3rd page)

I read in texts that the base used to mix casein has effect on water resistance. You may try borax or other stuff from books...

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Here's a lion head for you to copy.  I tried and failed but I will try again.  I want to use it in place of a violin scroll eventually.   The Turkish meerschaum carvers have some skills!  

 

lion 3.jpg

lion 2.jpg

Lion 1.jpg

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12 hours ago, HoGo said:

You should read through the older thread that mentions additives to hide glue that make it pretty water resistant. Perhaps it will work with casein as well... (like formaldehyde does)

Worth reading (especially to the 3rd page)

I read in texts that the base used to mix casein has effect on water resistance. You may try borax or other stuff from books...

Hello HoGo, thanks for the reference, I'll have a look at it. Unfortunately, while the cheese glue I have made seems to work well as adhesive it seems only slightly water proof so I need to try to remedy that if it is to hold the breath moistened wood wood of a cornett together . Thanks again.

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