Cello Week 10 – Setup

Having completed the rather rewarding finishing process I can now set up the instrument ready for stringing.

Fitting the pegs

The first step was to build my own peg shaver as the cheap Chinese one I had bought together with a peg reamer and end-pin reamer was way too small for the pegs I have.

I found a piece of maple off-cut and cut it down to the length of a peg and drilled it slightly larger than the thin end of the peg reamer before reaming out a hole with the thick end matching the thick end of my pegs (about 14mm).  Then I planed away one face until I had a nice parallel slot showing about 5mm wide.  Then I glued another capping piece over the slot and re- reamed the hole.  Finally I fitted the blade from my Chinese shaver together with a very simple fine adjusting mechanism.

The result is shown below.

Finished peg shaver
Finished peg shaver

I also built a very simple jig from 2 pieces of hinged oak to sand a finish onto the pegs.

Jig for sanding the pegs after shaving
Jig for sanding the pegs after shaving

Then I reamed out the pre-drilled holes in the peg box (using a few reverse turns at the end) so that I had a little more than the target 21mm between the edge of the box and the decorative rim of the peg to allow for the wood to compress a bit.

I then set up a simple jig to hold the pegs while I cut them to length and drilled them.  I marked the hole positions a few mm from the centre of the box towards the thicker end of the peg and drilled the holes using a 2mm bit and then chamfered the openings.

Fitting the soundpost

I rough cut a 13mm square sction from a piece of close and straight grained spruce taking care to ensure no runout and then planed it down to an 11mm square section.  Then I carefully planed it down systematically to an octagon and so on till I had a perfect cylinder 11mm diameter.

Actually fitting it could be quite an adventure with the fitting tool and retriever I purchased!

Yes – quite an adventure but eventually got the knack – certainly got my money’s worth from the sound post retriever!  The f-hole was only just wide enough to fit the post through though – must remember to make it a millimetre wider on the next one – took me 2 hrs of frustrated attempts! Phew.

Fitting the nut

I filed down the ebony nut blank to fit the fingerboard profile and also added a 2mm T-extension as some makers have suggested this improves the look and I needed it anyway to get back to the designed dimensions. I tack glued the nut to the end of the fingerboard with a few drops of Titebond.

Nut ended up proud of the fingerboard by 1mm at the A string to about 1.4mm at the C string.

String spacing was set with dividers at 8mm and slots cut with a fine saw and then nut files before lubricating the slots with graphite (pencil lead).

Nut glued onto end of fingerboard
Nut glued onto end of fingerboard
Fitting the saddle

Filed down the ebony saddle blank to match the curve on the bottom of the cello and marked /cut the top with a sharp knife to fit.  Glued in with hot hide glue

Saddle fitted
Saddle fitted
Fitting the bridge

I built myself a simple jig to hold the bridge during fitting:

Close up of the bridge holding jig showing the feet spreader
Close up of the bridge holding jig showing the feet spreader
Jig for holding the bridge during fitting
Jig for holding the bridge during fitting

I used a piece of carbon paper to highlight the area on the feet to remove.

Holding the bridge in position while fitting
Holding the bridge in position while fitting
Feet just about fitted
Feet just about fitted

Then marked the bridge height using a marked up stick on the fingerboard to give 4mm action clearance over fingerboard for the A, up to 6.5mm for the C string and cut the bridge profile on the band saw giving it a few millimetres extra to allow for final adjustments.

Next I used a small plane to get the thickness profile right before hand carving with a sharp knife to get the bridge to target dimensions.  Finally hand sanded to get rid of any tool marks and marked the string positions with dividers (15.8mm string centre to centre) and cut the slots with fine saw and then nut files.  Ordered some parchment to protect the A and D slots.

Stringing up

Finally got to the exciting bit of fitting the strings and seeing what the result of 9 months labour sounds like!

Held the bridge in place with the bridge holding jig I made earlier while I fitted the tailpiece and started stringing it all up with a set of large scale.  Everything seems to work ok – need to do a bit more on the pegs to get a more even grab between the two ends and the bridge needs a bit of tweaking to bring the action down to target and also a coat of linseed oil and the parchment protectors for the A and D strings – but it sounds wonderful!  Very responsive, lovely sweet tone, good depth and well balanced across the strings and right to the top of the fingerboard.  Quite a strong wolf note on F but a 7g eliminator on the G string sorted that out.

Finished at last! 9 months of hard work but sounds wonderfull
Finished at last!
9 months of hard work but sounds wonderful

Will be taking it to our cello-nite on Saturday night to try out on the felli celli!

Cant wait to see how the sound develops as it gets played in.

Finished instrument

I have decided to call her ‘Anna’ – I think she deserves a name after all that work!

Link to all the specifications  for the finished instrument are here.

Link to some better pictures and  recordings made with it by my good friend George Shilling.


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