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Working sycamore

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I've been AWOL from much of my online activity, trying to simplify life a bit, particularly in the face of an onslaught of repair and restoration work as people inspired by Covid-related isolation/financial constraints resurrect or maintain instruments they own rathe than buying.

My question is: are there any ways to compensate for the porosity and fragility of sycamore when making the ribs?  Any ways beyond the obvious: just don't use it.

I haven't used it yet, but am selling large quantities of American sycamore and willow on behalf of the owner of a property formerly owned by a maker now deceased.  (Must be 20K worth of wood in the workshop.)

Many thanks in advance for any insight.


PS No idea as to what kind of instrument the late maker had in mind for 2.thumb.jpg.e3f7cd3b977a6338186809679f3eb757.jpg #2.



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13 minutes ago, Jim Bress said:

I don't know if gluing linen to the inside would help i.e., like with cell ribs. I know (think) you're trying to build with local materials, however you could use beech which has similar flecking.


Thanks, Jim.  This is some of the stuff I am helping the fellow out in Brownwood dispose of.  I'm going to try a couple different thicknesses on the advice of Edward Maday, who doesn't use it but of course uses a lot of other nontraditional woods.  I'll let MN know how it turns out.

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I've just used normal grads. I have.a.thin Montagnana model in Sycamore, and a Vieuxtemps in Big Leaf started. I'm sure the Montagnana will be lighter, but they.both should work with the poster grads. They are roughed inside and out now, but the outlines aren't set, and only The middle is mostly to.size. Both about.The same arch height on the back, but different arching and grads pattern.

The biggest problem is the grain shifts direction in bands. You can.see.the.bands, but you have to pay attention to them as well, or it will get you. The hard grain can.be a.pain to.get.smooth if you want it smooth. Textured is easy, but can be too much.

The coloration on the roughed out "violin" looks cool. I don't how about the splayed board.

Ribs? I just bent some. 1.5 -1.8 mm or so. They bend fairly easy, but can be trouble. Crazy Big Leaf is worse! I had trouble with a couple cherry ones. They seem to heat set.

The Sycamore and Cherry ribs held their shape well. I don't think would they are flimsy.at.all.

Typing with thumbs is just wrong.

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I'm currently building a cornerless violin in sycamore, and that stuff can and does move a good bit. I purchased a sycamore cello set some years back and am using the remnants from the cello neck block and worked down the surplus cello rib stock into violin ribs. The straight rib stock didn't stay so straight when I started working it into narrower strips, they looked like pieces of curved model railroad track. After some doing I managed to get some straight pieces worked down to about 1.2mm thick. They bent quite well however one of the ribs flared outward following bending and lining, I'll have to rework that piece before I glue the back on. The wood set was supposedly dried in a vacuum kiln, 5 years dry and in my possession 2 years before I worked it. It seemed quite dry, I assumed it was just the nature of sycamore.

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If the rib stock was still in block form, it sounds like there was some significant tension within the wood itself.
Sometimes it is best to saw what you need from the block, and set them aside for as long as you can, before starting work.

With cello neck blocks, it can really help to cut out a lot of what will become waste, along the neck and heel. This helps release some tension, and aid drying, which can sometimes be a concern with thick pieces.

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The rib stock I cut out was from thicker wider pieces of the cello rib stock, so it wasn't in block form. I actually had some other violin rib stock that was in block form that I resawed into violin ribs that stayed straight. Go figure...

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