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Hans Kipferle's bench (Violin Cobbler)

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The photos are nice, but the excessively high resolution is eating up storage space somewhere, and is slow to load.  For general screen viewing, around 800 pixels wide I think is fine... or even less if details are not necessary.

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4 hours ago, Don Noon said:


The photos are nice, but the excessively high resolution is eating up storage space somewhere, and is slow to load.  For general screen viewing, around 800 pixels wide I think is fine... or even less if details are not necessary.

Hello Don,

Thanks for the advice, I have to admit to being a bit hopeless with computers and was wondering why my page and photos were taking so long to appear. I will look on the internet and try to fid out how to make the pictures less storage space hungry!

Happy new (torrefied?) year.

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(I think I've found out how to resize my photos so hopefully things will load a bit quicker from now!)

Before trying my newly made scrub plane I marked a line around the edge of my roughly shaped soundboard giving a cautiously thick edge of around 6mm. I filled in the guaged line with pencil to help my old eyes see it better


I then used my scrub plane to roughly form the arching, working cautiously and trying to be aware of the grain direction to avoid catastrophes, as I tried the new tool


I tried the small very curved plane I had made a month or two earlier to see how it could be used for the 'hollow' areas around the 'waist' area


The soundboard roughly done


Here the roughly arched soundboard (on the left) is shown next to its relatively un-shaped companion


Obviously I need a lot more practice with my scrub planes but they seem to work well and reasonably quickly!

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On 1/2/2022 at 1:06 AM, Rue said:

I gotta say...there is something just so cool about the look of the roughed out plates! :wub:

Thanks Rue, as you can see everything I do is roughed out and I often find the accuracy sought by some violin makers to be a bit alien to me. I hope you like this next post despite its non violin making content!

Late last year when walking through the local churchyard I noticed a large branch had been blown from an ash tree near the path. Luckily as I walked on to the shops I spotted the Rector near the church hall and I caught up with him and asked if it was ok for me to have the wood and I would tidy up things a bit. Here it is in its "unprocessed" state.

(You may notice that next to my wood scrounging tools there is a violin case. This is because many years ago I had been allowed by the same Rector to acquire a large piece of sycamore, working in the churchyard for 57 hours, stopping for one funeral procession in and out of the church on one day, being visited by police on one evening, sawing it down its length, by hand it into five large wheel-barrowable pieces. Last year I finally made my first violin using some of this wood and was planning to show it to the rector after first dealing with the ash branch.)


Being a bit too fond of lying in bed, I only had a couple of hours of daylight to work in. Here is the branch after I had rmoved the smaller branches etcP1090218.JPG.b87d5f59c165482484a1508715f4c93b.JPG

  I stacked the small branches and twigs into three piles to rot down and maybe provide homes for hedgehogs etc. I used part of the branch to make a bit of a chopping block to use when cutting things up with my axeP1090220.JPG.42b5ffada25174556f70e856693a5ed0.JPG

What a beautiful old axe! It is hand made and seems to have been re steeled at least once. I got it from e-bay, and made an ash handle for it, it has been hammered a bit on the back/poll but still works ok. I believe it is of a type/pattern that used to be made or favoured in Sussex. I am in Tyneside but the old axe doesn't seem to mind as long as it is kept clean and dry!P1090222.JPG.7f56a50f45369ca40b3fdbe29e00088d.JPG

After getting the branch ready for sawing and making my "habitat piles" I walked up to the Rectory and his wife was at home and seemed puzzled by her strange visitor, luckily as I was attempting to explain myself the Rector arrived home. I clumsily demonstrated my violin to him and he insisted on filming me on his phone and taking photos for the church magazine! (I have just looked for it online and, perhaps luckily, it looks as if I ended up "on the cutting room floor"!) I also gave him a wooden bowl I promised him all those years ago, made from a small part of the big sycamore log. I made the mistake of half carving it when it was green and soft and then leaving it for about ten years when it was dry and hard and difficult to hold and carve!P1090213.JPG.b1f4dcc0473c817e4ee64694b5844f18.JPG



He seemed pleased with the bowl even though it it had taken me fifteen years to deliver it and said it would be used in the junior church for collections or something like that!

Next day I returned to cut the branch into three carryable lengths. I used an old japanese crosscut saw I got off ebayP1090225.JPG.d5f29b20d38aa13619721f47c91bb9ec.JPG

Here is is cut and ready to carry home. On looking at it, I think this ash will not be very good for axe and hammer handles etc as it has quite narrow growth rings. It may be useful for something that required curved wood or I think I may used it to make the legs for the "historical style" benchtop I made about twenty years ago that presently stands in a corner of my kitchen!


The ash logs are awaiting splitting still and stand propped up at the back of the house.

Not feeling ready to restart my violins, I decided it was time to make a couple of boxes in the shape of fat cheeked pigs! Here can be seen the initial design sketch and the dimensioned full size drawing.


The process was much the same as i used for my chicken boxes. Here I am hollowing out the small box section before carving the outside.P1090238.JPG.24f6e7d0b548234e78e6a58d2ef7e6a7.JPG

One box was made from sycamore and the other from limewood. Here I have completed the internal boxes and am starting to shape the outsides, sawing away as much as I can with a tenon sawP1090242.JPG.e6d8759a10e05a4faf5ff5980f0e8351.JPG

Here I have shaped the outline of the sycamore box and have opened it to show the small box compartment


Here the outsides of both fat cheeked pigs are roughly shaped. P1090250.JPG.ff70475a7dee37ff8e524a38434f932a.JPG

A roughly carved curly tail on the sycamore pig!


The sycamore pig just about finished showing his internal small box innards.


The joint between his upper and lower parts went well and is hard to see and stays nicely shut


A small anxious pig watches as I work on his younger limewood brother


Carving the underparts. Here the pig is being held in my old woodcarvers vice


Two fat cheeked pigs looking happy, excitedly anticipating the Christmas holidays, they just need a bit of tidying up and a bit of shellac and wax now!


I hope nobody minds me straying yet again from my violin making and hopefully my next post will get back onto violin making track. I have learned how to resize my photos so they don't take too long to load and am going back and gradually resizing the photos in all my previous posts so If anyone wishes to look back it should soon be a bit quicker to access my ramblings and digressions!

To conclude 2021 here is a nice photo I took just before Christmas on my cycle route home from work. The sunset looked nice and here can be seen the Tyne, looking up river and on the left Dunston Coal Staithes


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We enjoy graveyards.  We read the memorials and traipse through history.  I think it's a lovely way to pay homage to those who have passed.

The saddest ones for me are the ones that have been totally overgrown and neglected.  Or, as we saw in Edinburgh...used for parties and one-night stands :wacko:

*p.s.  Those were so bad that I wanted to move to Edinburgh and start a 'save the cemetery' administration.  Turn them all into beautiful parks (for quiet mediation) and green spaces (and nature habitats).

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On 1/3/2022 at 9:37 PM, Shelbow said:

@Andrew tkinson are you going to start making custom order mini planes? guinea pig shape ones? :wub:

FYI, The lute society event will go ahead in February pandemic permitting.


On 1/4/2022 at 12:34 PM, Thomas Coleman said:

Excellent stories Andrew!  The axe is awesome and I love to think about how many other stories it could tell.  I also really enjoyed seeing the bowl and piglets.  Really nice work.


On 1/5/2022 at 3:19 PM, Don Noon said:

That's a cool gravyard... perfect for making awful horror movies.


On 1/5/2022 at 3:28 PM, Rue said:

We enjoy graveyards.  We read the memorials and traipse through history.  I think it's a lovely way to pay homage to those who have passed.

The saddest ones for me are the ones that have been totally overgrown and neglected.  Or, as we saw in Edinburgh...used for parties and one-night stands :wacko:

*p.s.  Those were so bad that I wanted to move to Edinburgh and start a 'save the cemetery' administration.  Turn them all into beautiful parks (for quiet mediation) and green spaces (and nature habitats).

Hello Rue,Shelbow, Thomas and Don, thanks for your interest and for tolerating me extending my bench out into the churchyard. Hopefully my next proper post will be about violin making.

When Don mentioned horror movies in the graveyard I thought it was interesting that I was lurking in the churchyard loudly chopping wood with a largeish axe and the several passersby either ignored me or said hello and remarked upon the cold weather. No one called the police or sent for Professor Van Helsing! I did explain I had permission from the rector and they could see I was dealing with a large fallen branch.

Here are a couple more pictures. For Don, here is my favourite gravestone, hidden behind a walnut tree near the wall, it has a strange three quarter angle skull  which I like.


Here is another gravestone in the churchyard which I think shows how attitudes to craftsmanship were perhaps different in the past, people didn't seem to aim for the uniform machine made perfection that people expect today. I think my making is a bit like this and perhaps I am a bit too tolerant of imperfection. This stone mason's letter cutting is really nice but he has made a genuine mistake, accidentally restarting his lettering on the same level as the numbers. I presume he must have carved this on site and must have used some form of filler, fallen out over the centuries, to camouflage his error before recarving the word Aged in the proper place. I bet his workmates made him feel very uncomfortable!


I used to play in the churchyard when I was a child and walked through it most days when I went to school. These days I enjoy seeing it it every time I go to the shops, I have known it all my life.

Here is a photo showing one of the churchyard gateways I like this picture as my shadow has peculiar long legsP1050931.thumb.JPG.5c8c0b56d11462c91261b9c960c297b8.JPG

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On 1/11/2022 at 10:44 PM, Rue said:

And you're wearing a bowler! :lol:

More awesome pics! Thank you!

Hello, thanks for interest. I actually wasn't wearing a hat but being a true Englishman, whatever that is, I cast a shadow showing a bowler hat, I suppose its a bit like Dracula having no reflection?

On 1/14/2022 at 2:30 PM, plasterercaster said:

Your posts are a wonderful example of a craftsman who has a deep connection to his surroundings. Thanks for sharing :)

Thanks for your interest. I have never learned to drive so walking or cycling for transport helps me connect with my surroundings and I can find a lot to interest me in things around me without having to to travel far. Walking is definitely best for noticing things. I went for a walk a little while ago and saw this big sycamore tree


I have noticed this ripple on the bark on some, but not all, sycamore trees before, and expect the wood below the figured bark is also nicely rippled and potentially nice violin wood? Here is another veiw higher up the trunk


There have been a few trees blown down recently in the wind weather so I have already got a small willow log on one walk (for future blocks and linings) and have my eye on some fairly big poplar trees that have come down near where I live. Hopefully I can get  a bit of a large popar log before the council chops it up small and takes it away! I'll have to wait until the winds are truly died down though as I don't want to end up under a fallen tree!



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On 2/22/2022 at 6:22 PM, Rue said:

No bowler? I must be seeing things!!! :P

...er...speaking of which...I'm seein this too :ph34r::



Hello Rue, I didn't notice this face in the wood, I was too interested in the possibility of the figured wood being visible in the bark of the standing tree. I know now you must be like one of these artists who allow the material to guide and inspire them to 'reveal' the image that already exists within the shapeless block. Unfortunately I don't have that gift of seeing, my eyes are firmly blinkered, it is as if my invisible bowler hat has slipped down over my eyes?

I have made a bit more progress on my violins, It is a good thing my little camera has no such bowler hat filter on its lens and captures things I don't and can't see? Here I have used my scrub plane to roughly arch my second soundboard, the one with the small knot


I now needed to refine the soundboard outlines so I used my metal pins to temporarily fix them to their associated rib structures and re-marked them tracing around the ribs using a pencil and a small washer. It was a bit fiddly, the washer kept slipping off the edge and I probably didn't get the outlines drawn very well!


I then used my knife to pare the wood down to the line


I then followed the knife with a file to even things up things a bit more


I had forgotten how tricky the spruce is to cut especially on one of my soundboards which seems soft and has fairly wide grain, next time I will mark the outlines more permanently, with a scriber, before I saw them out to avoid having the awkward re-marking process at this stage. Here they are sitting in place on their backs and ribs


Next I took my cutting guage and marked the edge thickness. I made it 4mm and around 4 1/2 mm at the corners


I then used a pencil to make the cut line easier to see and work to. (My eyes are not as sharp as they used to be or perhaps my bowler hat has slipped down again, I thought I needed better glasses but perhaps I actually need a better fitting bowler hat?) Some of the wide grain can be seen here


I then used a pair of compasses with a pencil to mark a line on the top of the soundboard to act as a guide for when I come to gouge the edge down to near finished thickness (as shown in the Johnson Courtnall book)


Here are the two soundboards marked and awaiting the gouge


I had been thinking about the possiblity of using a plane to reduce the edge thickness instead of a gouge and as usual wasted a bit of time experimenting. Here is a nice little picture of an array of old smoothing planes arranged in decreasing size


One of these little planes had been modified, to be used to cut rebates I presume, I thought this might possibly work so I sharpened it up and tried it a little bit on one of the soundboard edges


I stopped quite quickly as it was a bit risky but I wonder if a small rebate plane with a rounded corner instead of the usual 90 degree corner, seen above, could be used to plane down a soundboard edge if well sharpened and set up? Something to try at a future date!

After abandoning my little plane, I used a gouge to establish the edge thicknessP1090435.JPG.bc3b131d2fc1c9aa2a75822ace7ad08f.JPG

Here are the soundboards with their newly gouged edges


I then took a break and applied a couple of coats of shellac to my pig boxes


Back with my soundboards, with the edge thicknesses gouged I decided to do a bit more work on the rest of the arching before purfling. Maybe if I was more confident with my scrub plane and if was more familiar with what violin contours should look like I would have used it for this but I decided to use gouges


My soundboards you may recall are already arched on their insides and I am following the internal arch to create the outside. As I gouged I often felt the thickness, thick parts seem to be felt quite readily when compared to the edge with the fingers and thumb


I also made use of my homemade Stradivari type caliper and my calibrated wedge, marked in mm divisions, any fraction of a mm I have to estimate. I take care not to flex the wire of the calipers in use and reckon a level of precision of around plus or minus 1/4 a mm is about what I can hope for? P1090443.JPG.8c3fd4ba94e8c8df4f8b554d7907c6ac.JPG

Here is an end view,looking from the bottom, of one of the soundboards after working on the arching


Working on the arching with the soundboard held loosely agsainst wooden pegs on my small thick workboard


This is the sound board with the knot so I took especial care when working in this knotty area


Here are the two roughly arched soundboards. they are still quite a bit over thickness but I decided to stop.


Here is a view showing the emerging arching profile. I freely admit I am proceeding a lot by guesswork but I am having fun trying to make the arching look ok and being careful - most of the time!


I took another break from my not too exacting soundboard carving work to apply some wax to my pigs. They still look happy! The pig on the left is limewood and the other is sycamore


The limewood pig really looked good after the shellac and wax, it really had a way of cathcing the light when you moved it (Cats eye/Chatoyance effect?) much more than the Sycamore pig. I love them both anyway! Here I have tried to show the way the Limewood pig, on the left, catches the light when it is moved around.


Back to the soundboards, I sharpened my small homemade plane ready to smooth and flatten the gouged edge area ready for the dreaded purfling! I used a handvice to hold the small iron when sharpening as I find it awkward to hold a consistent angle and apply pressure on such a small short blade. It is especially short and hard to hold as I made it from a small scrap of tool steel I had left over from another project


The small plane iron is not very well hardened but it worked well enough to smooth of the area to be purfled. I need to harden and temper it properly, I have got a little better at this process since I made this little plane a long time ago but it is still a bit of a mysterious art to me!


I then applied a little thin hide glue to the area soon to be purfled. I hope I haven't applied too wide an area with glue and end up with glue affecting the finish but hopefully it hasn't penetrated too far into the surface?


In my limited experience I have found purfling very difficult and, as my pigs were now finished, to take a break from my soundboards I decided to try out an idea I had for a purfling cutting knife. I bought some spring steel from e-bay of a width and thickness that I thought would make a good knife aound 9 mm wide by 2mm thick. The steel I bought is already hardened and tempered to a spring temper. Having experienced inconsistent results when heat treating steel in the past I decided to try to make the knife without annealing it, I hoped the spring temper would still be ok for a knife blade.

I took a length of the steel and snapped off a length for a knife in the vice aided by a hammerP1090466.JPG.195ea55819bd693f90265472ce5cf6a5.JPG

It broke cleanly after bending a little bit, here is the broken off section, the bend had not remained which I thought seemed a good sign it was nicely spring tempered high carbon steel


The trouble with working with the un-annealed steel means it can't be shaped with normal hacksaws and files as it is too hard. I may have managed on spring tempered steel but I decided not to wear out my already worn old files and decided to grind by hand it on a coarse oilstone. I have a couple of hand cranked grinders but haven't got them set up at the moment (one is buried under stuff in the garage!) I have to admit I like using natural stones, because of my liking for old tools but for this type of small blade shaping and plane blade regrinding, I find the coarse side of an India combination stone is hard to beat! It still took over an hour! I don't need to use a hand vice for this as the blade is long and can be easily gripped fairly easily in my hand.


The reason I made the knife is because some books recommend a knife with a flat back/single bevel to be used for cutting the purfling channel, the flat back hopefully helps keep the channel side nice and vertical. I made two single bevelled knives last year for this purpose, I made two, one a left and the other a right bevel so I could alter the direction of cut to work with the grain and still have the flat back against the channel edge.

I thought to myself a flat backed knife with a both a left and right bevel a bit like a spearpoint, fleam or lancet but with a flat back (a bit like a larger knife version of a purfling cutter blade) could be used for both sides of the purfling channel and could just be turned around to work with changes in the grain direction around the edge? If it works it will be a little more convenient than having to use and pick up and put down two knives while working my way around the purfling groove? Here I have finished grinding the cutting edges on the coarse stone, refined them on the fine side of the stone and am sharpening the blade on an old natural stone (a coarse type of Arkansas stone or 'Washita', I think?)


Here is the finished blade profile, I hope it works!


Here is a side viewP1090473.JPG.1dbd5a5587109647b917cae0920b66d3.JPG

Here is the finished blade. it seems to hold an edge ok and the steel strip has rounded edges so is comfortable in the hand. I was thinking of making a wooden violin knife type handle but when I tried the knife I thought a thickish handle may obscure the marked purfling line a bit from my eye during use so I may just wind some cloth tape or string around the knife 'handle' to provide a more easily gripped surface.


I hope my purfling goes better than my previous attempts. I think I tend to rush it as I just find the discipline of trying to work accurately and concentrate to keep with the marked lines makes it fairly stressful and I am almost forced to go wrong!

Never mind, if/when it doesn't go to plan I can always say that " at the crucial moment my bowler hat slipped down over my eyes and it all went 'pearshaped' after that! "


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  • 1 month later...
On 2/23/2022 at 11:42 AM, MikeC said:

I'm enjoying following your progress!  And thought I would enter the tree face competition.   Oh by the way, if you weren't wearing a bowler you must have really big ears!  LOL  just kidding.  




It looks like a picture of Beethoven you have drawn or is it JS Bark?


Anyway back to my bench, or not!

Because, in my limited experience, I find exacting work, such as Purfling, hard, I seem to be avoiding purfling my violin soundboards so, once again I have not done much in the way of violin work

Here is a nice little old square I recently got because I thought it looked very old and interesting.


The blade is brass and is engraved with a scale and the words 'blood heat ' and 'Fever heat' as it seems to have been made from the recycled brass temperature scale from an old thermometer. It is not a right angle but I like it anyway.

I plucked up some courage to start purfling and sharpened the blades of my homemade cutters/markers


But I soon found something else to do! I decided I needed to make a scrub plane in the shape of a violin scroll! Here is my chosen piece of churchyard sycamore along with my drawings


I had decided it would be interesting to make a sort of rounded cornered rebate plane to see if it could be useful when roughing out the arching of violin tops and backs. I sawed my piece of wood to get the required parts and with the wood grain orientated in the best way, I hope, for stability


After squaring up the body block I used my cereal box violin scroll template to get the plane's outline. Possibly a viola scroll bould have been a better size but I managed to adapt things to fit


I copied the blade bed angle etc from factory made scrub plane, here the makings can be seen. I also copied the features from an old smoothing plane wedge which I can be seen here holding up to the stock/body-block


Here the plane stock is marked out and ready and I have made another slightly more refined drawing to help me visualize what i want to make

P1090514.JPG.4dfb135432ec171fbd615222e042b269.JPGHere I am using my trusty old brace and a shell bit to drill some of the waste out of the shavings escapement, the stock is wedged in my small experimental bench top


I then used a sturdy old gouge to excavate the shavings escapement/pegbox area. If I did a lot of this plane making work I am sure I would make a few purpose made jigs/wedge devices to hold plane stocks firmly during this heavy gouge and mallet stage


I managed to drill and gouge out most of the waste and here I am sawing the rebate plane style mouth


Here I am using a narrow bladed saw to saw out the wedge abutments/cheeks


I then used an old rebate plane to shape the bottom of my plane


The plane with its rebate type sole madeP1090526.JPG.6693a3ade3c6395fef867d23c5d84f1b.JPG

I then sawed the scroll shape


I got carried away sawing the scroll turns and made one cut too many so ended up losing some of the width


I am easily pleased however so carried on and here is the plane with its roughly carved finished scroll and its iron being tested for fit


I then started on the wedge


After planing and sawing the wedge to size I chiselled a taper on its end


I tested and adjusted the wedge for fit and here I am using an old tapered float file to refine the wedge abutments


I then sawed the wedge "points"


Then chiselled out the waste


Here is the nearly finished plane


Here I an scraping the bed for the iron with a chisel 'sharpened' with with a 90 degree scraping edge, to refine the bed so the iron doesn't rockP1090546.JPG.487b2478ff29a43f9b0b37cca33c6d0b.JPG

Here is a picture of the rebate plane type sole with its rounded corners, unlike a normal rebate plane


Here is the plane being tested on some scrap wood. Hopefully if will be of some use after a bit of 'fine tuning'?


Here is the rebate type cut I had envisaged, on a piece of limewood. Hopefully this plane may be useful, with practice, in helping to thickness the edges of plates, after gouging/scrub planing, ready for the purfling marking?


Anyway, back to my violin soundboards.

Because I have arched the insides of my backs and soundboards first, one problem I have encountered is the difficulty of holding the plates when doing the purfling as the material that can have screws driven into it has been removed!

For my backs, after messing about with cammed pegs etc I eventually settled on using my homemade bench holdfast (see previous posts) and I placed a piece of scrap soft wood under the back to raise it to give me clearance to go around the outline with my purfling cutters.

My backs are one piece so I didn't have to worry about the centre joints that my soundboards have! I decided to make a shaped support to place under my soundbards when I hold them with my holdfast during the purfling process. Here I am testing my new plane,after sawing and chiselling it to a rounded rectangular shape, shaping the support piece, a bit of old pallet wood complete with nail holes


Here it is nearly finished


Here is is in place inside the soundboard, it is not a precise fit to the internal arching but contacts the middle and should be enough to support the holdfast pressure on the centre joint?


Here the soundboard is raised up from my workboard with the shaped support in place


Here the holdfast is being tested, the small piece of leather protects the soundboard and improves the grip


The soundboard is held firmly enough with the holdfast and pegs, here is a view from the side


I am now ready to start purfling so I needed to find things to do other than this! Here I have made two small samples of spruce and sycamore to hang in my front window to get coloured by the sun.


Shortly after this purfling avoidance, when I was cycling to work, one foggy frosty morning, I saw two deer casually standing in the road at about 7.30 am. By the time I got my camera out they had moved to a field and one had run into the trees while the other watched me


The fog was mainly on the river. There is a song "The fog on the Tyne" by local group Lindisfarne and I could see this fog this morning. I have seen the river from my bedroom window looking like a snake or dragon of cloud with the rest of the valley clear, quite a magical sight!

Nearly at work, here is the old Swing bridge, with the older High Level bridge on the left enveloped in cloud


Here is the Tyne bridge in a similar foggy shroud


A  couple of months ago, during the high winds a lot of trees came down or were damaged. I finally got myself down to look at the windblown poplar trees near where I live so I could forget about purfling for a while! Here on the right of the biggest poplar (in the process of being cut up by the local council) I have started to saw a smaller log as it has already been split by its fall and I hoped I could get the upper piece fairly easily and it looked like it wasn't too damaged


Here is a closer view of my large Japanese crosscut saw, the hammer was need at the saw handle kept coming off until i wedged a small bit of poplar in the with the tang


I kept my feet out of the way as I sawed


When I sawed through enough the top half of the log could be removed


I then split this into three large pieces and some small chunks ready to carry home


I carried my tools and the small chunks home in one trip and took another three two way trips, about five miles in total and the wood weighing altogether over 14 stones (the largest piece was 4 stones 12 pounds) here it is at home behind the house. I was definitely too tired to think about purfling my soundboards after this strenuous activity!


However, I wasn't too tired to think about more wood to be harvested! My thoughts and dreams turned to the bigger tree and a couple of days later I returned and started to try to get some more poplar. I sawed the log three quarters through and some council workers came and very kindly completed the cut with their cainsaw. They had other trees to work on so left me to split my large piece and I assured them I would be careful. I was struggling to split it but thankfully it eventually gave way with a pleasing thudding hollow crunch sound


Here it is in half


I then got to work splitting it further into carryable and useful sections. I have a small old axe head I use to start the splitting and then use wooden wedges. I used a club made of a bit of holly, from my back garden, to hammer the axe and wedges


The wood splits nicely, it is very wet. I could imagine that a good straight trunk would yield nice wide, long, straight wedge section planks. These pieces are over a foot wide and the piece was four foot long.


Here it is split and ready to take home


I stacked it up away from the road and was going to carry this nice straight piece home along with my tools when I concluded that I needed to finally get some transport!


Before I went home I took a photo of the end of the log I had sawn, it is about 2 feet across its widest part


I returned with my transport, it can be seen waiting at the top of the steps that the wood has to be carried up


Here is a view from the top of the steps, my timber transport loaded securely.


Here is a view of the fallen trees and the small poplar grove behind


Halfway home, resting, luckily I only had to go up about a quarter of this long hill


Nearly home, at the corner of my street, its all hilly around here! Thankfully this was the last load!


Finally home, I took eleven pieces home in five two way trips over two days. The bicycle pump was need to pump up the wheel barrow tyre, before every trip, as it has a not-so-slow puncture


Stacked at the back of the house, awaiting further cutting and splitting 


The two largest wedges are over 12 inches wide (see picture with my large hand below) and I can see some gentle ripple in the grain on most of the pieces so hopefully this can be used for instrument backs and sides. In addition to maybe violins violas, I would like to try to make an archtop guitar out of some of this, I've just got to keep the woodworms away and let it dry for a few years. Hopefully I will have finished my purfling by then?


Happy Easter

Here can be seen the traditional Easter time egg Jarping competion between my brother and I. He seems to have an eye for a strong egg and usually wins! the, already brown, eggs were boiled in onion skins to give them a nice amber brown colour the way one of my grandmothers always used to do them every year.





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  • 3 months later...
On 4/18/2022 at 8:47 AM, John_London said:

Love it. Making instruments is cleary a good workout.

I walk in the woods above Absam most weeks, and often wonder whether Stainer collected his spruce in a similar fashion.


On 4/18/2022 at 5:16 PM, baroquecello said:

I always enjoy your posts. So many pictures, keep them coming! I believe you should best seal the end grain on your new wood as to avoid splitting.

Hello and thanks for your interest.

I bet the woods near absam are nice to walk in, knowing Stainer will have very likely walked the same paths. I really like the idea of Stainer collecting violin wood but I suspect he was too busy doing the fine work of making violins, but you never know? I seem to spend my time gathering wood, sleeping too much, making things other than violins and generally putting off difficult work.

Thanks for you advice on sealing the end grain, I was thinking about it and got it done eventually! Every thing with me is done later than it should be, never mind!

I thought it was about time I posted something here but as usual it is after midnight by the time I've got started so here are a couple of pictures and I will explain more, at great length, as usual, over the next few days.

Violin wood and pork pie


Cannibalism? Don't worry it's not what it looks like!


Knitted royalty.


Poplar puncture wound!


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After Easter I couldn't resist going to get some more of the windblown poplar. I noticed that the bark has these strange knobbles on it in places, here are a couple. I wonder if they are the tree's reaction to an insect 'attack', a gall, like an oak apple?


I sawed a shorter length of log this time, to fit my wheel barrow better. Here I am half way through


After splitting it I made a little stack to be tranported home the next day 


The next day, to collect the wood, I took a slightly different route. Here we are on Coalway Lane, a steep footpath today but at some point in the past it was a busy waggonway used for transporting locally mined coal down to the river Derwent then on to the Tyne. Not having a waggon or "Chaldron" I used my wheelbarrow on this old pathway.


Here is a view looking up at some of the remaining poplars in the little grove


On the way back I rested, here the view behind the barrow is over the Tyne valley looking Northish. The housing estate in the foreground was built fairly recently on a field in which Oliver Cromwell's troops camped on their way to Scotland and their camp fire lit an exposed coal seam which is said to have burned in a troublesome way for years. The road on the right is a lot older than the estate and is called Ashfield Avenue and I wondered if it was named after the ash from that fire as I couldn't recall seeing any out of the ordinary Ash trees in the field when as childern we used to regularly walk through or play in it, although it is probably just a tree themed street name as two streets joining it are Elm and Beech avenues.


I stashed my poplar behind the house and put some bits of old wood and poplar bark over it, as best as was possible, to keep the direct sunlight and to deflect the rain a bit.

The 30th of April was a bit of a special day, after having been cancelled for the two previous years the Lutherie one day one day violin and related stuff 'meeting'  was being held again, Lutherie 2022, in the town of Newark. I had a really nice day and it was nice to meet up with people again. At the end of the meeting when general thanks were being given to the organisers and speakers the hearty applause from all attending was supplemented by a spontaneous loud cheer, almost like a long delayed exhalation, which seemed to me to be an emotional release, an audible demonstration of how, after being isolated by the pandemic for such a long time, people were relieved and happy to be finally meeting again!

Here is a picture of the violin wood I bought on the day. I bought the second cheapest this time , I usually buy the cheapest. I've just got to make something now, it is too easy for me to think that after buying the materials I am halfway there!


Another good thing about Newark is the availability of good quality pork pies, in the above picture I am pointing at one sitting amongst the mini forest of seasoned maple on the seat table on the train home after Lutherie 2022. I don't seem to be able to find nice reasonably priced handmade pork pies easily up where I live in the North, they seem to be a mid England speciality. It is generally accepted and stated by the leading authorities/connoisseurs in the porkpie world, that the town of Melton Mowbray is to pork pies as the town of Cremona is to violins. Newark is about 30 miles from Melton Mowbray hence the high quality pie design, building and golden brown 'varnish' glowing on the fine hand crimped raised crust! I wonder what the secret is to achieving such a golden yet transparent and delicious glaze? I wonder if the raised crust pie is of greater antiquity than the violin and sometimes wonder who the Amati of the pork pie could have been?  

After a long day, I was quite hungry and couldn't resist having some pie but unfortunately I only had a small spoon in my bag. The result is shown below, my little wooden pig travelling companion. as you would expect, was not impressed, he just looked on smiling tolerantly and said nothing!


I then had to cycle home four miles from the railway station. I think my shoulder is still not quite right after having to carry all my stuff. I feel sorry for my poor old bicycle, seen below at Newcastle Central Station, having to carry it and me! P1090697.JPG.849b1c16fcbf36b16571f762cf42f110.JPG

A few days later I was back processing my poplar again. Here I am removing the bark off a piece it seems to come off the fresh wood quite well and is strong and thick. I was hoping to keep it and use it for a bit of a cover on my woodpile


Here is some of the freshly removed bark and it can be seen there are lots of small sharp little 'dormant branchlets' on the wood's outer surface


The bark comes off quite easily but the small underbark spines shown above can pierce the skin when removing bark, perhaps some gloves would have been useful? Unfortunately I didn't press the bark and it curled tightly up, almost into pipes, along its length when it dried after being removed. I still tried to use it to shelter my growing woodpile.


Here I am attempting to take off some of the unevenness of the split wood with an old side axe


Then I planed some of the wood to see what it looked like


A couple of times I found myself wearing bracelets of thick shaving from my scrub plane


I ordered some wax end seal from the internet and brushed two coats on the end of each piece, it was starting to crack at the ends, I should really have done this as soon as I got the wood home. Other woods I have 'harvested' in the past like ash and sycamore don't seem to crack at the ends as readily as this does so I was thinking this would be no different and was a bit too slow in getting this done


The widest pieces are over 12 inches across. I kept the biggest widest bits inside the garage well spaced out to allow free air flow and out of sunshine and rain


The wood had been cut a few weeks now and I tried to split some thick pieces further and found the splitting didn't seem to go as well as it did on the newly cut wood. Perhaps this was because the wood had dried a little and was now somehow less tractable, causing the splits to 'run out' instead of splitting so evenly as it had in its earlier wetter state. Any further division of wide pieces will have to be done by sawing.


After having allowed my beard to grow since the end of October last year and it being nearly the end of May it was high  time for a different type of shaving to be made


I like trying to use an old cut-throat razor and old barbers sharpening stone (belgian I believe) I always cut myself a bit and it is a bit frightening but a long beard can be removed in around twenty minutes.


Now I was clean shaven, if a little bloody, I could felt able to show myself to Royalty. Here the knitted Queen sits on top of the village pillar box a nice little local tribute in her Platinum Jubilee year


From her shape - obviously not modelled on the actual Queen - I wonder if this woolly queen has a bit of a liking for high quality pork pies?


I hope the absence of violins from my bench or even my bench from these posts is acceptable, more nonsense soon! 



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A New Career?

I am starting to get arthritis in my fingers, so, this year, I concluded it would be better to use my hands to make things  (especially since I now had  so much poplar to use up!) instead of straining them at my part time job moving chairs and musical equipment around. So in April I handed in my notice and on May the 29th (Oak Apple day) I worked my last shift. I don't need much money to live on, I have some savings and have a couple of very small pensions (one starts this August) so thought it now would be the time to try something new instead of waiting until retirement age and looking at my sore old hands and regretting that I still hadn't made many instruments.

By a strange bit of luck, at the end of May I was offered a strange little job, via the brother of an old school friend, to sit every Friday and be a sort of human curiosity, on display at his newly opned outdoor 'pub'. My duties are to talk to people while sitting with a small display - limited by what can be carried on my bicycle - of some old tools and wooden things I have made. Another part of the job is to attempt to provide a bit of background music for the customers, playing my violin and guitar. I find I am a natural at being a human curiosity but am not the most capable or confident solo musical performer! The first week went surprisingly well, especially as a more confident person came along and joined in on guitar and we had a great time messing about making stuff up and were even compimented by a few customers! The job has continued to go well especially when I am joined by others so I decided to make a wooden accomplice in the form of a 'jig doll' or 'limberjack' to perform with me.

Here I am sawing up some small poplar scrap pieces. I had kept these in the house so they were already reasonably dry. The pieces on the right had their split surfaces chopped then planed smoothish


I looked at the internet for ideas and information then I remembered I had seen some wooden toys in one of the "Foxfire Books" I  had collected. Here is the foxfire toys and games book open at the correct page


'Lang Jack'  (See https://www.sunnisidelocalhistorysociety.co.uk/jackstory.html ) taking shape on my crowded bench. Here I am splitting the waste off a roughly shaped leg


The body and limbs completed


Lang Jack ready to be loosely nailed together. The limbs are loosely nailed so when 'dancing' the arms spin and the legs wobble and in skilled hands the feet can be made to almost clog dance. I hadn't yet taken a picture of him fully assembled (See below a few pictures on) but I took him to my job the next day to keep me company. Luckily for me, one of the bar staff had been shown as a child by his mother how to use one of these (in combination with the accompanying piece of thin springy wood) and he and my puppet have proved quite popular, dancing along to my questionable violin playing  of Trumpet Hornpipe, Blaydon Races etc. He improves my playing by providing a rhythmic pulse, and being an extrovert little wooden person, he enjoys the attention and takes the 'pressure' off me! However the bar staff soon complained about the loudness of his dancing feet but luckily the puppet is hard of hearing, possibly caused by the noise from his own loud clattering feet, and was not offended or put off his dancing by their complaints!


Around this time I saw this family swimming valiantly against the tide on the Tyne on a windy day


After my day at the pub I stopped near home to admire the nice sunset


I made a temporary woodpile for my poplar hoard and covered it as best as I could with the stripped bark and some bits of wood. When Autumn comes with its tendendency towards damp and propaction of mould I will make space for it in the shed behind. I will brush it with a bit of paraffin (kerosene) to deter woodworm visits 


My little black mulberry tree had the best harvest yet this year, I'll have to find somewhere to put it in the ground! The poor little tree is made small by being kept in a pot and when it was smaller by the ravages of tree/bush climbing slugs, these are the biggest berries I've ever had!


I enjoy eating a few berries as they ripen and end up with stained fingers


A few weeks after the successful debut of my 'Lang Jack' puppet, seen, completed here, supervising, I decided to make a canine companion for him


Here I am using an old side axe to roughly smooth - if that is possible - some more small bits of poplar. It is a nice easy wood to work, ideal for this, tough, light and makes a nice sonorous rattle when the puppets dance. I hope this wood will be useable it for instrument making and I will try when it is dry enough but If it is not I think it will certainly be good for lots of other things!


Sawing out the head


Drilling a hole to help when making a 'mortise' for the loose head joint


Finding the head pivot point by temporarily nailing it, seeing how it pivots and adjusting it, working things out as I go




I balanced the head so it stays horizontal, I was pleased with the way it worked but I should have made his bottom jaw a bit longer, that's what can happen when things are worked out during making and not overly 'designed' in advance


I made little wooden spacers to go behind the legs to allow them to spin clear and free of his body and head


Back leg design in process


A bit of re modelling with the saw


Sitting down, awaiting a wooden bone?


Action photo




I have been taking an old violin to my 'pub' job. It is old and fragile and I worry about it getting damaged so I have been looking for a backup. I got this violin a few years ago, it had a separated joint under the bridge area and some other cracks. I rubbed some hide glue into the joint and got it quite successfully together, or so I thought. The violin is, I think, home made and has the a name and date written inside in ink.


The angle of the neck is low so ready made bridges are too high to use


I decided to have a go at making a special very low bridge, here is my stash of well seasoned sycamore pieces (from the big log from local churchyard, as usual) which I had kept for this purpose (at the right there is also some old pine or spruce I've kept for making soundposts)


I have tried to make bridges before and the end products were improving but still quite rough. Here are my tools


I ended up with this little bridge and after a great struggle managed to fit it not too well to the violin. I set the soundpost in place and after some adjustments I tuned the violin and it sounded niced to my not too fussy ear. Nicely balanced and mellow, a good violin for a shy performer. Unfortunately, after a couple of days, I heard some creaking noises and sadly the soundboard joint had opened again, my repair was at least reversible but I would have preferred it had not reversed of its own accord! I put the violin to one side, I will have to bite the bullet some day soon and take to top off and try to repair it properly!  


One job I have been working on is a new doorframe for my garage/workshop. Here I am using a useful tool I bought at a market. It is a square that can take the marking for shoulders of my joints over the large rebate I made  in the door frame. I don't know if that is what it was made for but it seems to work well for this situation


Here is the joint between the sill/threshold and doorpost/jamb ( I just thought last night, perhaps I should have made a small rebate on the cill also? Too late, the frame is together now, I will think of something )


The joint at the head of the frame is quite complicated for an untrained joiner like me.


It seemed to go together ok, not perfect but good enough for me


A gouge is used to cut the 'scribing' for the moulding, the ovolo mouling section is suitable for this. I think the idea is, if the wood shrinks a little a mitre would open but this type of 'scribed' joint doesn't tend to show as open when it shrinks. (I'm sure someone else may know more about this than me and can explain this more accurately) 


Here the frame is being tested, I have no room as I have filled my decent sized garage with poplar wood, other wood, stuff and more stuff!


It has been a struggle to get this done in my clutter. I have learned once again that just because a project is quite large it doesn't mean that you can be less accurate in measurements.



I use a basket to carry my tools between the house and garage. I like baskets, I ordered this one and a couple of other types, a few years ago, from a maker in Scotland, they were very reasonably priced, he sells this one as a 'potato basket'


The door frame disassembled on my bench


Another view showing the extreme clutter and some of my poplar pieces


The wood I have drying inside, I have been turning around to even the drying and on this occasion I sustained a small puncture wound, which naturally I had to photograph. The wood is getting noticeably lighter in weight as it loses moisture


 The joints of the door frame will be held with oak pins. Here I am splitting a piece off a lump of local oak (from near the picturesquely named "Washingwell Woods") I got probably around 1985


The pins are then roughly shaped with a side axe


I then chiselled them into squares to fit the trial hole in the piece of wood on the bench. I made them too small and had to make some more


Here are the second batch


I made the pegs to fit a shell bit of around 7/16" in diameter. Shell bits have no centre point so I have found that, where accuratish position is needed, a good way to mark out where to drill is to draw a square or two sides of a square so the hole can be drilled to sit inside and against the lines. I am not sure when wood drills with a centre point were first made but this type of drill, being simple to make and maintain, was in common use until the recent the past so I like to use them and hopefully in the process try to figure out how they were used.


The hole started


Using a square to try to keep the hole perpendicular to the frame


Finished hole


A view showning the shavings made by the drill


I was using drawbore pinning, where the holes in the tenon are offset so to cause the peg to pull the shoulders of the joint together when it is driven in. Here I have assembled the joint and am using a narrow chisel to mark the position of the edges of hole on the tenon. This is much easier to do with a  more modern centre pointed bit which can be simply pushed in the hole to mark the centre. But it must have been done with this type of drill bit when it was in common use so I like to try to try things out to hopefully learn. I am sure some others may have better ideas than me? 


Here I have made pencil marks to help me see the chisel marks I made through the drilled hole


I then drilled a hole in the tenon and hopefully the offset of the drawbore pin holes can be seen here in the assembled joint


I then tried an old metal drawbore pin in the holes and the joint pulled nicely together. Phew, I was relieved to see I had made the offset in the correct direction!


Here you can see how I have marked an offset for the drill on the internal/tenon hole of about 1/16" I have to think about the direction off offset, right for pulling the joint together, each time and find it difficult to trust myself


I find that with these drills once the hole is started, if not quite right, they can be persuaded to go into the correct position by angling the brace and tuning slowly until it works towards the correct the position, after this has been achieved the drill is brought upright and the hole can be drilled


Here the hole can be seen drilled next to the offset marks


Sorry about the sparcity of violin content, lately I have been concentrating on learning more violin/fiddle tunes for my pub job. I also seem to have an even greater desire than usual to lie too long in bed but hopefully next post I will have some instrument making stuff to write about. 

But for now I really like being able to call myself a "professional musician" at last, because of my new and temporary little job playing at the pub or perhaps I would be more honest to say "professional human curiosity"? The second is probably more accurate but never mind, I am having fun and am getting more experienced and confident in my music making, with a little help from my wooden and other friends!


Old Hector, and an extract from "Our village" by Mary Russel Mitford, which I chanced to be reading at this time.



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