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Now I Understand Why Violin Necks Are (Usually) Not Dovetailed


Brad Dorsey

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A standard neck has four surfaces that need to fit the body of the instrument.  One surface fits the back button, one fits the block and one on each side fits the block and the end grain of the ribs.  In contrast, a dovetailed neck has eight surfaces that need to fit, because there are two surfaces along each side of the dovetail.  One of these fits the block and the end grain of the ribs, and the other fits the outside surface of the ribs.  There is also one surface on each side that fits a little platform on the end grain of the block.

In fitting a standard neck, there is one mating surface that is entirely invisible from the outside — where the end grain of the neck meets the block.  A dovetailed neck has four additional invisible mating surfaces — the two inner dovetail surfaces and the two places where the neck meets the block platforms.  So there are five surfaces that you need to fit even though you can’t see them.

Now I understand why violin necks are usually not dovetailed.

 

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Actually you don't need to fit all those surfaces. And some of them only partially.

On guitars or mandolins the two angled tail surfaces are fitted and two "wings" only need to fit perfectly near the visible joint lines at the sides of the heel and also the button (if the button is glued to back, like on mandolins). Space behind the tail is typically left void especially on tapered dovetails where you want the wedging effect force the neck against body and this contact surface would not make it easier or could even cause loosening with humidity cycling and different grain orientation in block and neck.

I've never seen properly fit mandolin dovetail come loose without brutal neglect on users side but have seen violin style "dovetails" coming apart under tension of eight steel strings.

Advantage of this dovetail is that you can shape side profile of your neck heel without any complication in fitting while on violin style you need to cut the sides of cutout to match the neck, but most makers just make straight sides on violin necks.

But we, mandolin makers are especially nerdy about dovetails :) see dovetailed bone or ivory point protectors. Again tapered dovetail that tightens when the bone piece is inserted from one side.

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2 hours ago, Brad Dorsey said:

IMG_0157.thumb.jpeg.fa867d697d5f449b3f816fcc1147972f.jpegA

 

A standard neck has four surfaces that need to fit the body of the instrument.  One surface fits the back button, one fits the block and one on each side fits the block and the end grain of the ribs.  In contrast, a dovetailed neck has eight surfaces that need to fit, because there are two surfaces along each side of the dovetail.  One of these fits the block and the end grain of the ribs, and the other fits the outside surface of the ribs.  There is also one surface on each side that fits a little platform on the end grain of the block.

In fitting a standard neck, there is one mating surface that is entirely invisible from the outside — where the end grain of the neck meets the block.  A dovetailed neck has four additional invisible mating surfaces — the two inner dovetail surfaces and the two places where the neck meets the block platforms.  So there are five surfaces that you need to fit even though you can’t see them.

Now I understand why violin necks are usually not dovetailed.

 

I worked on an instrument with a similar neck set a few months ago that came to me because the joint had given way. The maker had apparently not measured his mortise or neck well, as there were all kinds of last-minute shims inserted to try to make it fit, coupled with a flood of glue as an attempt to fill voids. It was a pain to deal with. 

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If I would do a dovetail I’d use the baroque method. So I would fit the neck to the ribs before attaching top or back. This allows also to make minor corrections to align the neck to the Center line. This would also allow to hold the neck in place only by glueing it to the back. The only ‘problem’ would be an aesthetic solution to fit the top…

…..but wait that’s under the fingerboard anyway and you simply could make a larger cutout around the dovetail. 
 

Problems are rather for restorers trying to reset the neck or graft a neck.

—————

i was recently thinking about a good idea for a neck setting which doesn’t need any glue, but so far nothing really came to my mind.

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17 hours ago, jefcostello said:

Considering the tension required by the orchestra, I think the design of the violin should be changed.
I have been playing the violin for 45 years and there is not a violin whose neck does not get higher and higher....

I suspect that both the top and back plates are bending near the upper block.  The plates there are nearly flat there and therefore aren't very stiff and subject to creep.  The old Italian practice of thinning the plates around the upper block further reduces the stiffness the plates there.

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1 hour ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

我懷疑頂板和後板都在上塊附近彎曲。那裡的板幾乎是平坦的,因此不是很硬並且容易蠕動。義大利的古老做法是將上塊周圍的板子變薄,進一步降低了那裡的板的剛度。

Marty Kasprzyk

You are right, wood in that range will deform. But only top and are irreversible.

There are many legitimate situations on the violin that I can live with.

But neither my guitar repairman nor I like to take the neck off!

I once saw a guy whose fingerboard and neck had two layers of wood.............

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