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Workshop inadequacy?


Buckey

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Hello! Admittedly, I'm a new poster and hoping for some good opinions on my situation.  I have been interested in violin making for a while and I understand it would be a very long journey. However, my concern is that it may be a rough start since I live in a townhome in south Texas (the land of hot and humid ten months out of the year) and really only have my garage as a space to work in. It has been useful for DIY projects and I do have a work area carved out (no pun intended), but the intricacies of violin making have me worried since we have the door open regularly and it isn't possible to install an AC system. Part of me says AC was in short supply 300 years ago, but I don't want to be foolish either. Am I dead in the water from the start? Any recommendations from someone with similar circumstances and limitations? Thank you kindly!

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Workshop inadequacy is a common neurosis among violin makers and requires many years of therapy to cure.

Seriously, I know of very successful violin makers who work in basements, attics, bedrooms, backyard sheds and corners of apartments . Several friends have met a fellow who started making violins in a tent in Iraq while serving in the military. The things you have to think about are keeping your work out of direct sun which I would think could cause problems. Protecting from dust while varnishing will also be necessary. Otherwise having a good workbench, decent lighting and a good set of tools with a way to sharpen them are really the only requirements for a shop.

Good luck!

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You can keep the parts of your violin inside the climate-controlled area when you're not actually working on them. That way, the time you spend working on them in the much more humid shop environment won't change them all that much.

I'm a big believer in making and assembling an instrument in a medium environment, which better prepares it to go into an environment of either extreme at some point in the future.

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I made most of my first 25 instruments in a corner of the living room of a 500 sq/ft flat in Glasgow :) I had a foil lined trash can with a light bulb inside to keep the work pieces fairly dry, and doubled as my light box.

I think my favorite tip I got back then, was to brush with a slightly damp cheap nylon brush 10 minutes before varnishing.  Even in that carpeted "shop" I didn't have dust problems.  I believe that was Evan Smith that shared that little pearl of wisdom.

1557036802_oldglasgowshop.jpg.3eb09d775f9b89b5c748b9533570c836.jpg

Ahh the good old days.

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My mentor worked in a walled off corner of his basement (to contain the dust and shavings). It was a space no more than 7 feet wide, by perhaps 12 feet long. He had a small bench with lots of shelving below, above, and more shelving on the other walls.  He managed to build about 500 instruments during his time in that small space.

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5 hours ago, David Burgess said:

I'm a big believer in making and assembling an instrument in a medium environment, which better prepares it to go into an environment of either extreme at some point in the future.

I'm a believer in assembling in a dry environment, so future environments will tend to put the plates in slight compression.  I don't want the plates to split, which happens when it gets dry and the plates shrink crossgrain relative to the ribs.

It's easy enough to put the plates in the lightbox for a while just before gluing them to the garland.

The amount of shop space needed depends mostly on the amount of large machines you have.  I have 2 bandsaws, a CNC, 12" jointer, dust collector, and a fairly large stockpile of wood sharing my 1-car garage, and there would be plenty of room if I put stuff away once in a while.  If you want to keep a car in the garage, that's something else... but I know one maker who does just that (sans all the machines).

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I was just reminiscing about my violin. :wub: I was lucky in that I was able to visit and see a wee bit of the process of its creation - from the wood pile onwards ...

My violin was made in the tiny basement workshop of an adorable tiny old house. I think the basement even had a dirt floor (but I could be remembering that wrong).

Not that it ultimately matters...but I think these "old space" workshops have so much character. :)

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5 hours ago, Matthew Hannafin said:

I made most of my first 25 instruments in a corner of the living room of a 500 sq/ft flat in Glasgow :) I had a foil lined trash can with a light bulb inside to keep the work pieces fairly dry, and doubled as my light box.

I think my favorite tip I got back then, was to brush with a slightly damp cheap nylon brush 10 minutes before varnishing.  Even in that carpeted "shop" I didn't have dust problems.  I believe that was Evan Smith that shared that little pearl of wisdom.

1557036802_oldglasgowshop.jpg.3eb09d775f9b89b5c748b9533570c836.jpg

Ahh the good old days.

 

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I have a backyard shed.  Uninsulated unheated and uncooled except for a kerosine heater and for summer a window unit airconditioner which quit working so I have to get a new one.   Summer in Georgia get up into the high 90s F and 70% humidity.    You can do it!  

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12 hours ago, CaseyLouque said:

Friend of mine built 4-5 violins in his shop in southern Louisiana without an AC. 

Average humidity here is about 78% after about 10 years the violins still have had little to no issues.

Not that I'm recommending it but seems to have worked fine for him.

When the instrument remains in it's "native climate" they tend to be fine. However, if it's built in one climate extreme and then moved to a much different climate, that's when problems show up.

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20 minutes ago, Bill Yacey said:

When the instrument remains in it's "native climate" they tend to be fine. However, if it's built in one climate extreme and then moved to a much different climate, that's when problems show up.

It is hard to believe due to the summer/winter temperature and humidity contrast that any instrument would face in its "native climate". Maybe if the instrument was made in south America, south Asia or any Arabic country you would be right.

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While some of the comments sort of sound like we're harassing the newbie with how we all used to walk 10 miles to and from school, uphill both ways (:lol:), I do work in a part of the US with tropical conditions (and high humidity) for around half of each year, and ventilate my shop with fans rather than A/C.  The major things I've had to do to deal are to use powerful fans to maintain adequate airflow for comfort, and mix my glue stiffer than most here probably do.   :)

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On 12/4/2021 at 6:41 AM, Buckey said:

  I do have a work area carved out.

Get a temperature and humidity gauge combo.  The only tip that I have for the moment is to do your carving work when the humidity levels are higher thus reducing chances of excessive wood chip out and other possible calamities. 

Sawing wood with higher humidity is sort of easier too. 

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