Cello Week 1 – The Design

Having designed my last classical guitar using a great parametric freeware drawing package called Solvespace I decided to try and do the complete cello design using this package before cutting any wood.  The way I look at it, if I’ve thought enough about the design to be able to draw it, then I am going to have a much better chance of building it without making stupid errors.

I started by trying to replicate the Strad body design from the book by H S Wake.  At each iteration of the design I printed out the outline full size on multiple A4 sheets and then stuck them back together with sellotape before cutting out the outline shape with scissors.  After about 10 iterations I had pretty much worked out how to draw the shape and got it within a mm or 2 all round.


Next I iterated the design for a string length of 695mm giving a neck length of 280mm and f stop of 400mm. It also had a slightly longer body (755mm) and slightly wider waist (240mm).  I then tweaked the design until it looked right – particularly round the corners.

Before I started cutting any wood I also tried to get the ff holes designed on so that they met a few key criteria and looked right:

  • Outside of top and bottom holes equidistant from cello edge
  • Centre ff-hole “V” level with centre of bridge
  • Centre of top ff-hole and centre ff-hole “V” equidistant from bridge centre
  • Inside of top ff-hole vertically above outside of bridge foot
  • Top of bottom ff-hole level with purfling of bottom corner

The parametric drawing software was a brilliant tool for achieving this and the result looked about right to me.  The resulting design is here:

Cello top design

side view design

neck design

fingerboard profile

Drawing set on workshop wall


Links to the rest of the process following the design are below:

2. Building the form

3. The ribs

4. The back

5. The top

6. Plate tuning

7. The neck

8. Assembly

9. Finishing

10. Setup

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