Check out some pictures of the assembly of the my Stainer 1679. Now ready for finishing.
This was my first cradle, I designed it so that it can fit both violin and violas of varying lengths. The cradle is intended to clamp into a vice. This style of cradle is useful for hollowing, neck mortise work and violin setup. However, it’s limited in the positions it can be used in, making the rotating purfling fluting jig more useful for some tasks.
I’m placing the F-Holes on the Stainer model, to do so I first tried following the paper written by Alvin King “The Cremonese System for Positioning the F-Holes“.
His method includes Amati models, which should be similar to Stainer, but the layout did not work for the Stainer model. Mostly due to the shortness of Stainer’s f-holes and the length of his top bout.
In the end I set the f-holes based on The Strad poster measurements, a safe upper eye-width, and a comfortable notch location with respect to the stop location.
A “Violin knife” refers to a traditional tool used in both violin making and in broader luthier and wood working. The basic violin knife is a long relatively narrow piece of tool steel sharpened with an angled ‘blade’ at one end, double beveled and inserted in a removal wooden sleeve handle. What the knife is used for varies on the width of the steel, the angle of the blade portion and the bevel angle.
The blade portion can be made by tempering any high carbon steel, or ready made blades can be purchased from suppliers like Pfeil or Hock. The handles typically are separate and can easily be made in the workshop.
The size of the knife describes the width of the stock. Because the blade can be moved forward in the handle it can have a very long working life, making it an economical tool.
A cradle is very useful for working on assembled instruments. Tasks like setting sound posts are easier and less prone to damaging an instrument when the instrument is held in a cradle.
The cradle is no more than a thick piece of wood (or in this case several sheets of inexpensive plywood) hollowed on one side to fit the back of an instrument and lined with cork or leather. Its also helpful to put something on the bottom to keep the jib from slipping on a bench.
Aside: I keep my setup tools in the old cigar box pictured below. This are nice boxes and can be found fairly cheap. Most cigar stores will have a pile and only charge $5 or $10 for the nicest ones, sometimes less.
Check out the latest videos from Davide Sora. Davide’s videos are fantastic demonstrations of tried and true violin making.
His latest is a set of 23 videos on making a violin scroll. You can find this list and indexes of his other videos on my Best Practices page in the Resource section.
Also he’s made a time-lapse of making the scroll from neck block to finished product in 3 minutes and 15 seconds. Check it out!
There is a saying in violin making that it takes about only a few years to learn the basics of constructing instruments, but it takes the rest of your life you learn varnishing. A UV Varnish Drying cabinet can speed up the entire finishing process.
Traditional oil varnishes are a combination of drying oil (for example, walnut or linseed), a resin (for example, copal or amber), and a thinner. While initial drying of varnish is accomplished by the evaporation of the thinner, the curing of the varnish is a chemical process; the varnish alters at an molecular level. The curing, or polymerization, of the varnish is accelerated by UV light. Alcohol based varnishes, notably used in the French tradition after the Cremona golden period, do not require this method. Based on my research, I’m certain that the Cremonese makers used oil varnish.
Tanning instruments (both in the white and after coats of varnish) is a common technique in violin making. Exposure to artificial UV light effectively replaces exposure to sunlight. This is useful in areas which have lower sunlight exposure due to winter, or where exposure to direct sunlight isn’t practical (the glass in household windows blocks a large portion of UV light). Aside from curing varnish, sunlight is also used to ‘tan’ an instrument which darkens the flaming of maple.
CAUTION: exposure to UV light causes cataracts and skin cancer, just like over exposure to the sun. The bulbs I recommend below should be fairly safe for short period of exposure, but its best to avoid prolonged exposure.
The UV cabinet is a tool which provides a way to accelerate the exposure of the instrument to UV both for tanning of the bare wood, and accelerating the curing of the varnish between coats. An instrument may be tanned for one or multiple weeks, while varnish exposed to UV will cure overnight.
A simple, cost effective method of building a UV cabinet is the steel can cabinet. Not glamorous :), but certainly low cost and functional. This consists of a galvanized steel rubbish bin or garbage can, with UV florescent lights mounted vertically inside the can. A small amount of electrical expertise is required.
A vee-board is very useful for fine fret saw work, such as for rough cutting the f-holes, I also find it quite useful for work where the edge of plate (belly or back) needs to overhang, such as using a purfling marker or cutter, or filing edges to shape.