Category Archives: Violin #1

Violin week 8 – Setup

Now the instrument is basically finished it is time to set it up and hear how it sounds.

Fitting the Violin pegs

Having already shaved down the pegs to match the taper on my peg-hole reamer, I smoothed them with 600 grade emery paper and gave a light wipe-on coat of finishing oil and then burnished with wire wool.

The peg-holes were then reamed out carefully so the distance from the peg-box to thumb-piece was 16 mm. In order hold the pegs I built a simple jig to hold them while they were drilled with a 1.3 mm bit for the string holes and then lightly chamfered the edges of the holes. 

Simple jig to hold peg while drilling the string hole

The outside of the peg was marked where it protruded from the peg box and I carefully sawed off the excess using the same jig to hold the peg. Finally I rounded the end with files and 600 grade emery paper.

Fitting the Violin Nut

The Evah Pirazzi medium gauge violin strings I am fitting have diameters of 0.8, 0.66, 0.66, 0.21 mm

So to have string height above fingerboard of 0.5, 0.45, 0.4, 0.35 mm and slots 1/3 of diameter of string the nut height should be:

0.76, 0.67, 0.62, 0.42 mm

I marked the ebony nut against the end of the fingerboard and then filed down to give a 1 mm step and faired in nicely to the sides and entry to the peg-box.  Once smoothed with 600 grade and wire wool the nut was lightly glued to the end of the fingerboard.  I adjusted the step from 0.8 to 0.5 mm before marking the string positions using a sharp knife. I set the strings with 5.5 mm between centres and the E string 8 mm from the centre line.  This gives slightly more room for the E string than the G . The knife marks were then widened first with a triangular file and then with nut files.

The last step was to file the top of the nut down so that the slots only held 1/3 string and then finished with emery paper and wire wool.

Fitting the Violin Bridge

Starting with an Aubert Miracourt blank I followed the fitting guidelines in this very good article on how to fit a bridge by Lars Kismer. I built a simple jig to hold the bridge perpendicular to the top.

Simple jig to hold the bridge

Fingerboard projections were marked on the bridge and action marked at 2.5 mm on the E string up to 5 mm on the G string and joined with a curve of 41 mm radius.  I purchased a banjo head made of goat’s skin on e-bay which provides perfect parchment material for reinforcing the E-String notch. 

Setting the After String Length (ASL)

The violin tailpiece gut was adjusted to make the ASL approx 1/6 of the string length and then fine-tuned so that the after string tuning on the G string was an octave and a fifth below the D string.

Side view

The finished violin (without chin-rest) weighs in at 420 g.

Fitting the Violin chin-rest

I settled on a Kreddle chinrest as the client specifically wanted something high.  The Kreddle provides plenty of adjustment flexibility in this regard and came highly recommended. I also found it extremely easy to fit and adjust.

On first play of the finished violin, the G and D strings have a lovely rich sound and the E is strong and sweet but the A ran out of steam a bit at F.  Opening up the heart on the bridge a little and tuning the B0 resonance to the A0 body resonance by putting a small piece of Plasticine under the end of the fingerboard made a big improvement.

Delivered to my client yesterday at Orchestra who was delighted with it – brilliant timing too as we had the fabulous violinist Sarah Sew working with us on the Elgar violin concerto and she was kind enough to give it a workout. Her verdict : ” it works – I mean it really works and powerful too”. Sarah also said it compared very favourably to many new build professional instruments (she tries out a lot of them) but found it a little on the  “chunky” side compared to her wonderful Italian Gagliano – so not really a surprise as that is actually quite a small instrument.  Clearly I will have to work on making my next violin a bit “finer”.


Violin week 7 – Finishing

At last I have reached the fun bit where the beauty of the wood finally comes to light.

Cleaning up

The first step was to clean up the instrument all over using a scraper a 600 grade emery paper to get rid of any remaining tool marks and surface blemishes.

Then the fingerboard was easily popped off and replaced with a guard piece held on with a weak glue solution to make access to the top while varnishing much easier.

Giving it a Sun Tan

Then into the UV cabinet for a few weeks to start the ageing process and give the wood a natural darkness and bring out the figure on the maple.

I put a bowl of water in the cabinet to stop things getting too dry.

Into the lightbox for a few weeks

Peg Shaver

While it was getting a tan a made a simple peg shaver to deal with tiny (compared with the cello) violin pegs.

I just squared up a piece of maple thick enough to tak a peg hole and wide enough to take the full peg length. I then drilled and reamed a peg hole  to fit the peg blanks and then cut a quadrant out so i had a surface to mount the blade.  Previous shapers I have built had the blade mounted near the top of the peg a bit like a pencil sharpener but I found these tended to grab the grain.  So on this shaver I took a blad from a cheap chinese scraper and mounted it more like a scraper halfway down the side of the peg secured with a few 5mm set screws and then fitted a few fine adjusting screws through a side block.

Violin peg shaver

Seems to work really well.


This is what it looks like after 1 week in the cabinet

Front after 1 week in UV cabinet
Back after 1 week in UV cabinet

After 2 weeks I made up some ground coat the same as for the cello and rubbed in with a rag, Once dry I sanded back with 600 grade emery paper to make it flat and gave it 2 coats of wiped on shellac sanding back between coats.

Back after ground coat
Top after ground coat

I had to repeat the process after flattening with 600 grad a few times before adding the colour glaze. I made this up from golden brown varnish, linseed oil and artist colours (burnt sienna and a little alizarin red). Rubbed a couple of thin coats of this in with a cloth and this what it looks like.

Front after colour glaze
Back after colour glaze

Next for a coat of golden brown varnish before I decide whether or not to do any more colour adjustments.

After 1st colour coat
Back after 1st colour coat

Still needs more colour so another colour glaze going on next.

After another colour glaze and colour coat

The maple back is looking much better now with the flame really shining through. Once I have finished the varnish coats and cut it back the glossy shine should change to a much more pleasing satiny finish.




After another colour glaze and colour coat

















I think the front still needs a bit more richness before the next colour coat so colour glaze again.

After final colour glaze

So now for one more colour coat and a few clear coats.

Last clear coat finished
Last clear coat finished

Clear coats went on very easily making sure I sanded very lightly between coats to get rid of any surface dust and hairs.

The violin has a lovey glow and colour has been kept light as this client wanted.

Now into the light box for a couple of weeks to dry /harden the varnish properly before cutting back, polishing and then fitting the fingerboard and finishing the back of the neck.

After cutting back with progressively finer emery cloth down to 4000 grade I used rotten stone and linseed oil to finish.

Then I re-glued the neck after re-flattening the fingerboard and neck which had both moved very sightly.

Gluing the neck back on
Finished awaiting setup
Finished awaiting setup
Finished awaiting setup



Violin week 6 – The neck

Shaping the neck blank

First I squared up the neck block and then marked the outline and scroll detail from the template I had made out of perspex and rough cut the outline on the bandsaw.  Then I drilled the pilot holes for the pegs taking care to angle each hole slightly so that the pegs would be drawn into the box by the string tension.

Then I used gouges and files to get the correct outline before marking the details of the fingerboard, pegbox and scroll.

Neck rough cut from blank on the bandsaw and pilot holed drilled for pegs
Outline marked in pencil and first cuts done

Then I carefully sawed out the scroll a section at a time and then used gouges to get close to the finished shape.

Scroll roughly cut with chisels

I used scrapers and files to get to the finished shape.

I started the pegbox by sawing the sides and then used a sharp knife to continue deepening the sides and hogged out carefully with a chisel aiming at a bottom thickness of 5mm.

Then I used a gouge and scrapers to carve out the fluting on the back and scroll.

Scroll nearly done
Scroll nearly done


I had a nice clean ebony blank for the fingerboard and easily flattened the back and planed to the correct width profile.

I made a simple profile template out of a piece of rib set to 42mm radius and used this to guide the shaping of the fingerboard aiming at side heights of 5.5mm.  There was a lot of material to remove and when I got close I moved to scrapers.  Finally I scraped out the fingerboard relief at about 0.5mm on the treble and 0.75mm on the bass.

Fingerboard ready to be tacked onto neck

I used a few small spots of weak glue to tack the fingerboard to the neck and set about cutting the neck joint.

Neck joint

First I planed the root of the neck to size and then carefully transferred the width measurements to the ribs and used a scalpel to cut the ribs making sure I cut the slut slightly narrow.

I marked the position on the side of the neck where it should intersect the top of the belly plate giving a standoff of 6.4mm and a distance to the nut of 130mm and then marked the top of the mortice on the belly and cut down with a scalpel before using a chisel to carefully deepen the slot.

It is a very iterative process gradually deepening and widening the slot, planing the heel to fit and checking for the fingerboard projection at the bridge of 27mm.

After several hours I got it all to fit perfectly so it would just hold dry fitted.

Neck joint dry fitted
Gluing the neck

After letting the glue dry I started to shape the button and neck with chisels and then files. My aim was to get the total depth of neck + fingerboard at the nut to be 18.5mm and  20.5mm near the heel.

Neck rough shaped

Now for a final clean up and into the light box for a few weeks.

Into the lightbox for a few weeks

It looks as if the instrument is going to weigh in at about 415g once finished with all its fittings.



Violin week 5 – Assembling the box

Gluing on the back

Next I cleaned up the back and rounded the underside of the edges before gluing to the ribs using my homemade violin clamps.

Gluing the back to the ribs with the form still in

Taking out the mold

Once dry i then broke the glue joints holding the blocks to the mold by tapping firmly with a hammer and then carefully pulled the mold out.

Fitting the linings

Once the mold had been removed I fitted the linings to the front side just like for the back and then trimmed them to a nice chamfer with a sharp knife.

Carving the blocks

 I used a gouge to trim up the blocks taking as much as possible off without weakening the instrument.

Then a final clean up to get rid of any glue traces before gluing in the label.

Back and sides with label fitted ready for the belly

Fitting the saddle

I carefully marked the position of the saddle on the top with a scalpel and then deepened the cuts to complete the cutout for the saddle making sure the fit was not too tight.

Belly ready to be glued to the rest of the box

Gluing on the belly

Closing the box

I then carefully filed the inside of the edge curve on the belly and  after making a few marks to line things up properly I glued the top on cleaning up any squeeze out with a hot water soaked rag.

When dry I shaped the saddle to fit and glued in.



Violin week 4 – Plate tuning

Plate tuning

Having managed to get to the initial graduations I am finally able to start the plate tuning.

First I took stock by weighing the plates and measuring mode frequencies.


I used the same setup I used for the cello:

  • Android tablet to generate the signal tone
  • 20W class D amp
  • 4″ driver unit (used an 8″ on the cello)
  • Tea-bag for tea leaves

Starting point with initial graduations

The top weighed in at 88g and had perfectly matched x-mode and ring mode (an octave apart) but still a bit high as expected at this stage.

Top x-mode @ 202Hz with initial graduations

Top ring mode @ 404Hz with initial graduations

The back weighed in at 119g and is still quite a bit too stiff with the ring mode going off both ends and not closing. The x-mode frequency needs bringing down quite a bit to get to an octave below the ring mode.

Back x-mode @ 201Hz with initial graduations
Back ring mode @ 374Hz with initial graduations

After a bit of work I managed to match the back and top  ring modes an octave above the x-modes at about 180Hz.  The plates are still a bit heavy but this gives me something to work with when tuning the bass bar after cutting the f-holes.

Belly (80g) ring mode @ 364Hz
Belly (80g) x-mode @ 181Hz
back (110g) ring mode @ 363Hz
Back (110g) x-mode @181Hz


I marked out the outline of the f-holes using the printed paper template I had designed and pricking through with a pin to mark the outline on the top. I then drilled the top and bottom holes with a forstner bit and opened them up to correct dimensions with  the reamers I use for peg holes.

With the top carefully clamped to the cork faced form, I used a fine toothed coping saw to cut a rough outline and then carved off the excess with a scalpel.

First results are shown here but still needs a bit of fettling to get the two holes balanced.

F-holes carved – not quite even yet

Bass Bar

Next I sliced up a nice piece of quarter sawn spruce on the bandsaw and sanded down to 5.5mm wide on the drum sander.  I cut this to length and marked the underside profile with a pencil using a block of wood while the blank bar was gently clamped in place on the belly.  Then I planed the underside profile down to the pencil lines and chalk fitted to the inside of the top aiming to get the outside edge of the bass bar 1mm inside the outside edge of the bridge foot with a 2mm slant outwards from top to bottom. 

After gluing in the bass bar I tuned the bar to match the top and then gradually worked both the top and back down in frequency to match each other and get as low a weight as possible (my client wants a light easy to play instrument) with the ring tones just below F.

Top mode 2 @ 170Hz
Top mode 5 @343Hz and 73g
Back mode 2 @ 166Hz
Back mode 5 @ 343Hz & 99g



Violin week 3 – the back and belly

Joining the violin plates

So to the task of joining the violin plates from the bookmatched back and belly sets. First I squared up the beautiful maple blanks and planed the two edges together to ensure a good fit.  This was so much easier to do compared with the cello as the pieces of wood are so much smaller/lighter and the join quite short.  I heated the pieces gently with the air gun and then glued them together with a rubbed joint which worked really well first time.

Gluing the back with a rubbed joint
Gluing the back with a rubbed joint

Next I planed the underside surface flat before tracing the outline from the ribs and using a washer to give the external dimension including 2.5mm overhang.

I cut out both belly and backs on the bandsaw leaving a bit of waste to be cleaned up after shaping the outside profile.

This was so quick I ran the same process for the belly.

Carving the outside profile

Next I created a set of templates for both back and belly based on the profile curves published by Sergei Muratov (the same source I used for the cellos).  I drew these up in solvespace and then stuck the full size printed drawings to a piece of perspex, cut out on the band saw and then finished on the vertical oscillating sander.  I finished by spraying these with a bright paint – different colours for front and back so they didn’t get mixed up.

profile templates for the belly
profile templates for the belly
Profile templates for the back
Profile templates for the back

Then to carving starting with a 3/4″ no 5 sweep chisel to get the rough shape. 

Rough shaping the belly and back
Rough shaping the belly and back

I cut a 10 mm wide platform at the edge with  the router using the same attachment I made for the cello work.  

Router attachment clamped to the bench
Router attachment clamped to the bench

These were cut at the finished edge thicknesses of 3.7 mm (back) and 4 mm (belly) and make it much easier to start the gouge cuts. 

Then I moved onto using thumb planes.

Here I am getting pretty close to the final profile.


I tack assembled the back and belly to the sides to cut the side overhangs down to final size – 2.75mm except for the c-bouts at 3mm. Started with the knife and finished with files with a piece of waste of the correct thickness taped to the middle of the file.

Also cut the corner shapes with a knife.

Just finished setting the edge overhangs with some simple tool/jigs
Just finished setting the edge overhangs with some simple tool/jigs


Next job is to cut the purfling groove so I made up a simple holding jig for the body first.

Base made for holding the violin body when working on it
Base made for holding the violin body when working on it

Then I made up a laminate 1.4mm thick for the purfling of 0.3mm black (ebonised pear), 0.8mm white (sycamore) and another 0.3mm black. I sliced this up on the bandsaw into strips about 2.5mm wide.

Purfling after slicing up on the bandsaw
Purfling after slicing up on the bandsaw

Then I marked the purfling groove on the front and back with special gauge set in 4mm from the edge and deepened these faint marks with a scalpel lubricated with dry soap and carefully carved out the groove with a 1mm chisel.

Channel cut for the purfling
Groove cut for the purfling
Purfling fitted and channel roughly cut
Purfling fitted and channel roughly cut
Belly arching done
Belly arching done

Next I carefully fitted the purfling using the bending iron taking special care with the corners and glued up with hot glue.

Then trimmed back with a chisel when dry and gouged the channel round the edge about 1mm deep before fairing everything in with scrapers and checking the final arching.

Back arching done
Back arching done

There is a slight blemish in the maple on the back. I was hoping I would get through it with arching but there is a tiny thin bit left and I would rather keep the proper arching than keep on scraping away –  it looks like bark but it can’t be as it was not visible before carving.  Should dissappear when the back is coloured anyway.


I started by marking out the thickness profile contours and then drilled on the bench press to a few millimeters thicker than this to make the rough thicknessing quick and safe.

Back drilled to rough depth for hogging out
Back drilled to rough depth for hogging out

Then I roughed out with a large gouge.

Belly inside roughed out
Belly inside roughed out

Now I have to build a caliper/nail tool for marking the finished thickness before plate tuning.

New tool for needle marking the thickness
New tool for needle marking the thickness

And it works really well – I have made it big enough so I can do a cello with it.

Back depth marked with the new tool
Back depth marked with the new tool

Nearly down to the initial thicknesses before plate tuning.



Violin week 2 – the ribs

Preparing the blocks

I split some willow to make the blocks and set them at 32mm high at the bottom tapering to 30mm high at the neck and after getting them good and square, glued them into the form which I supported on a few pieces of plywood to get the form more or less into the centre of the blocks.

Blocks glued into form
Blocks glued into form

Then I used the perspex template to mark the outline on the blocks ready for carving.

Blocks marked ready for carving
Blocks marked ready for carving

When the glue was dry I carved the blocks down to the marked outline with a chisel and finished with a round file. The split willow carves very easily but because they are so small this is so much quicker to do on the violin compared to the cello – although you have to go slowly to get the accuracy required!

Blocks carved to shape
Blocks carved to shape

Preparing and fitting the violin ribs

Next I thinned the ribs down to 1mm with a combination of the drum sander and then scrapers. The figuring has to be matched up so the stripes all point upwards when looking at the back. Next the pieces were cut to size and carefully bent after damping in a wet tea towel and then finally glued to the blocks using pre-shaped cauls.

Gluing on the ribs
Gluing on the rib

Then I planed the edges of the ribs down to make sure everything was perfectly flat.

ribs cleaned up ready for gluing in linings
ribs cleaned up ready for gluing in linings

Adding the Linings

I thinned the willow linings to 2.1 mm on the drum sander and cut them 10 mm wide on the band saw (aiming for 8 mm finished depth) to leave a few mm proud for trimming back flush to the ribs.

Gluing in the linings on the C bouts
Gluing in the linings on the C bouts

I was able to re-use the peg clamps I made for the cello and just substituted a thinner pivot piece to get a parallel clamp on the 1 mm ribs + 2.1 mm linings.

More linings
More linings
Linings in and cleaned up flush with ribs
Linings in and cleaned up flush with ribs

Now to move onto the back where I have some gorgeous maple to play with!









Violin week 1 – Design & Jigs


I had already decided to try my hand at making a violin after 2 successful cellos when someone in the orchestra actually commissioned me to make them a violin on the strength of my cellos!

I already had the Harry S. Wake book on violin making from the cello work but bought another book on amazon by Juliet Barker which I found I could not put down once started because it answered a whole load of questions that had been floating around my mind from the process of building the 2 cellos.  Interestingly I also discovered that she only wrote the book because of encouragement from David Dyke who supplies me with my instrument wood! – small world.

As with the cellos I decided to draw my own plans – not because I think I can do better than Stradivarius – but more so that I understand the basics of how the shape can be produced, have something I can repeat without access to 3rd party plans and  so I have a clear reference point if I need to adapt the design in future.

I used the solvespace parametric drawing package again referring to the Strad design in Harry Wake’s book for key dimensions. The result is within a gnat’s whisker of the strad outline but achieved very simply.

Here is the inside mold outline as a result and the solvespace file if anyone wanted to adapt it.

Violin mold outline: violin-top-mold-da-v1

Side profile: violin-side-view

ff holes: violin-ff-hole

Neck: violin-neck


The form layout glued onto a piece of perspex before cutting out on the bandsaw

After cutting out the perspex and carefully sanding to get an exact profile, I used the template to mark out the outline of the inner mold on a piece of 18mm plywood.  After careful sanding down to the exact dimensions, cutting out the recesses for the corner/end blocks and adding a few coats of varnish it looked like this:

The finished mold and perspex template
The finished mold and perspex template


Profitable visit to David Dyke

Just got back from another expensive but most profitable  visit to David Dyke down near the South coast.  Came back with the boot loaded up with enough wood for the next cello and my first violin.

New load of wood for cello #3 and first violin
New load of wood for cello #3 and first violin

Spent this morning doing the design for the violin inside mold using  the solvespace parametric drawing package again.

I have decided to do a blog of the violin making process like I did for the cello so that interested parties can follow the progress as well as providing me with a reminder of what I did!

The first instalment is here.