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Made For Each Other.....
The Wedding Present
Paganini "Il Cannone" Guarneri del Gesu 1743
The Mercury Project
Award Winning Violin
My first Carlo Antonio Testore Copy.
A copy of the 1717 Domenico Montagnana
A recent copy of a Carlo Anotinio Testore
A Copy of a 1731 J.B Guadignini Viola
A violin model Strad MB with a 4 flute scroll.
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"Decisons, decisions ........ What model to make........"
First, I made a new mold. A copy of the original Carlo Guiseppe Testore 1703 mold I used previously.
I made blocks and glued them into the molds.
Linings are cut to width and ribs planned to proper thickness.
Pegs arrived today. Beautiful copies of the English Baroque peg I have.
After the blocks are glued in, they are flattened on a large piece of plate glass with sandpaper attached to it.
The ribs are scraped smooth and to their final thickness by clamping them down to a flat piece of glass.
The upper, lower and corner blocks are cut to shape. This begins the determination of the final outline.
The scroll profile is cut and refined.
Then the neck and heel are roughed out. Peg layout is determined.
Arching templates are made to use during the carving process to check the rough arch and keep it within the desired range. These are created from the original which requires compromise to determine a good arch as the shape is asymmetrical from 300 years of distortion caused by sound post, previous repairs and other elements of age and use.
Retrofitted Jonathan’s violin with the new pegs.
The ribs are then bent around a hot bending iron with a strap to get their shape.
Then I check the fit with the c-bouts on the mold.
Then the Ribs are dry clamped into the mold to cool and keep their shape.
After the ribs are bent and shaped, they are glued in.
Upper and lower bout ribs are bent the same way as the C bouts.
After they are bent, they are glued. The upper bouts don’t need to meet because they will be cut in for the neck mortise. The lower bout has to be cut so they join perfectly.
While the ribs dry, the first turn of the scroll is cut with radial cuts from a Japanese saw.
The extra wood is gouged away.
Then the next turn is laid out and drawn on.
Linings are bent and then cut to fit the blocks. C bout linings are beveled and “let into" the blocks to keep them from pulling away since they are bent convex.
Once all of the linings are bent they are glued in and clamped with modified clothes pins.
The wood grain and direction are chosen. Then the outline of the rib cage is traced with a washer to allow for the overhang of the edge.
The outlines are cut on the band saw.
It’s starting to resemble a violin! (although I think it will sound a little thick!)
The edge thickness is marked with a marking gauge.
Holes are drilled for the locating pins.
The pins are used to align the top and back plate to the ribs in future steps, such as roughing the outline with a rotary file on the drill press.
The outline is finalized with the top and back pinned on. A file and sanding stick is used across both plates to smooth the outline and keep them uniform.
The thickness of the edge is roughed out with a router and an undercut bit.
Then the real work out begins. The most strenuous part is carving the rough arch with a gouge. My gouge handle is made from a chair leg that can be braced against my shoulder. The cross bar allows me to hold and control the gouge.
After the rough work is done with the gouge, a toothed plane is used to begin developing the arching.
The purfling channel is cut with a gouge. In this case, Testore scribed the purfling channel on the back while varnishing, so the channel is cut in the absence of purfling.
Then the arching is refined using fingerplanes
Then it is scraped smooth with scrapers.
The top is rough gouged in the same way.
Then the purfling channel is cut. I use a special attachment for my dremel to route the channel.
The corner miters are cut with a knife.
I make preformed purfling using veneers and forms to glue together purfling in a preformed shape for the specific model I am making.
The veneers are thinned down on a sander attached to the drill press that has an adjustable fences to get he required thickness.
The layers are glued together with thinned down epoxy.
Then the layers are clamped into the forms with a long strap of rubber.
The purfling strips are unclamped and checked to make sure they are formed cleanly without flaws.
After the purfling has been checked, it is cut with a micro thin saw blade chucked up in the drill press. The width of the strip will make 8 pieces of purfling. Enough for 2 violins.
Then, the purfling is cut to fit the instrument. The c bouts are cut first, and the upper and lower bouts are cut to fit the corner miters.
Then the channel is carved with a gouge and the arching is carved with finger planes. 1 directional light helps to see the contours of the arching.
A contour gauge is used to draw the same thickness around the instrument. Just like a contour map. It makes it easy to see where the inconsistencies are in the arching.
When the top is done being arched, the ff holes are laid out to make sure they lay right and the arching is symmetrical.
Then the holes are drilled for the eyes of the ff holes.
I set up a stop post on the drill press and set the depth stop to a safe 5.5mm to drill out the top and back.
Periodically the thickness is checked. The plate has to be held perpendicular to the arching or the drill bit will cut deeper on the outside edges.
Both plates are drilled out.
The back is gouged out first. “Get the harder one done first" I always say.
Then finger planes are used.
After I get to the bottom of my drill points (5.5mm) I carve measuring points closer to the finished thickness desired as reference points.
The top is gouged out close to the drill points.
Then it is carved with finger planes.
Graduations are checked. FF holes are drawn on to keep the appropriate thickness around them.
The inside is scraped smooth.
A special hole cutting tool is used to cut the eyes of the ff holes.
Then I use a scroll saw to rough cut the ff Holes. I prefer this over using a hand saw because the speed of the oscillating saw is less stress on the top when completing the cut, so I feel there is less chance of cracking the top.
Then the FF’s are finished with a sharp knife. This is my favorite part of violin making. Cutting ff holes with a knife is a very pleasurably and satisfying experience.
The bass bar is rough cut and bumpers are glued in to aid in fitting it.
The back is finished with finger planes and scrapers.
The bass bar is chalk fit and then glued in.
The peg holes are laid out on the scroll.
Then the pilot holes are drilled for the pegs.
Holes are drilled for the peg box.
Then the peg box is carved with chisels and knife.
And the fluting is carved. In this case, I am copying one of the many styles of unfinished fluting that Testore did.
The Bass bar profile is cut. This is a style different that what I normally do, inspired by Joseph Curtin.
Then the sides are thinned getting thinner towards the tallest peak of the bar. It is not the width but the height that gives this “truss" support strength.
Next, the ribs have to be removed from the mold. I use a collapsible mold. So when it works properly, I remove the screws, the top and bottom section slide in, then the sides slide in.
This time, it works perfectly. The blocks are glued into the mold, so splitting them out can cause damage to the rib cage. In this case, it works perfectly.
Then the blocks are shaped with a chisel.
The linings are cut with a knife.
After the blocks and linings are finished, the inside of the rib cage is cleaned with water and the top is glued on.
The inside is colored to avoid the “Jack ‘O Lantern" effect of a new violin. I use chickory because it has a nice golden slight red color and the water base does not soak through the ribs.
The back edge is rounded in stages starting with a file to bevel the edge. The outline is drawn on to get an even bevel all the way around the edge.
Then the bevel has the points broken to develop the round.
The edge is then finished out with sandpaper. (One of the few areas I find it acceptable to use sand paper.) The fluting where the purfling will go is refined under the shadows of a single bench lamp.
A fingerboard has the sides planed down to the proper widths and the top surface is roughly shaped.
The angle of the neck heel is laid out.
Then it is planed down.
The scroll turns and peg box are beveled with a file.
I like to glue the top on first so that I can start the neck set. The angle of the sides is laid out. The sides of the dovetail mortise are cut with a saw.
Then the mortise is chiseled out.
When the neck set is close, the back is glued on.
The neck is set using chalk to fit it perfectly. The chalk show where the neck is touching. I keep cutting with a chisel and finally with a file until the neck is properly seated and the neck height is correct and straight.
The saddle is laid out and the sides are cut with a saw.
A chisel is used for the straight cut following the purfling line and the top wood chiseled out.
The saddle is cut to fit and then shaped.
The guide pin holes are filled with a bass wood dowel.
Then it is cut and glued in.
The neck is glued in.
The heel and button are carved with a knife.
Then it is finished with a file and sandpaper. Also the button is beveled.
This violin was set up in the white to compare sound before and after varnishing.
Mercury Baroque Violinist Hae-a Lee playing the violin in the white.
Mercury Baroque Violinist Oleg Sulyga playing he violin in the white.
Mercury Baroque Concertmaster Jonathan Godfrey playing the violin in the white.
The white instrument is cleaned up with horsetail.
Horsetail is a very primitive perennial plant with dark-green hollow, jointed or segmented stems 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick with no true leaves. Stems may be singular or have whorls of branches. Only single stems produce the cone-shaped spore producing body at the tip. Horsetails can be standing in water or in wet areas. Horsetail stems contain silicon crystals (i.e. sand) embedded in its tissue. This gritty texture gives it a common name of "scouring rush". This is what makes Horsetail a natural sandpaper.
Even though I don’t believe in using sandpaper on the surfaces of the wood, horsetail acts like many fine scrapers and burnishes the wood as it removes fine particles. It doesn’t clog the pores of the wood like sandpaper would so it leaves a much nicer finish for varnishing. I believe that the Masters of old used horsetail and even shark skin as natural smoothing and finishing products.
The camera can’t quite capture the effect that is created. However, the wood ends up shiny and smooth with an added glimmer from the process.
Then, in about an hour, I add 150 years of wear on the wood it areas that would normally be worn by use such as the scroll from tuning and rubbing in the case as it is carried.
And the edge of the back and button from a player sliding into upper positions while playing.
Then I use a product called Imprimatura Dorata which, in short, oxidizes the wood and darkens it giving the result of many months in the sun.
Then the first coat of linseed oil is polished on to the top.
Then the first coat of linseed oil is polished on to the back.
Then the first coat of linseed oil is polished on to the scroll.
2nd coat of oil.
2nd coat of oil.
2nd coat of oil.
TThis is what the violin looks like with 3 coats of linseed oil. It has had 4 days in the light box since the last coat was put on.
And the top.
First the scroll is varnished. Then the ribs.
I use a Padding or Print method. The varnish is applied using a dense prosthetic foam pad. It is applied and evens out as I tap the surface with the pad. It gives a nice even coating and automatically picks up varnish in areas where there is too much and moves it to the areas without enough.
The top after the first coat.
Rubbed out first coat of varnish on the top.
Rubbed out first coat of varnish on the back.
Rubbed out second coat of varnish on the top.
Rubbed out second coat of varnish on the back.
Rubbed out second coat of varnish on the scroll.
The inside of the peg box is colored.
And the FF holes.
3rd coat of varnish on the top.
3rd coat of varnish on the back.
3rd coat of varnish on the scroll.
The violin is antiqued using ink and acrylic paints.
To create the small speckles, small rocks are heated and sprinkled onto the varnish. The rocks melt into the varnish and when they cool they are brushed off and create the small chips in the varnish.
Then the chips are colored with the inks and acrylics to simulate the affects of dirt filled chips.
“Designer Dirt" is put on in places where hundreds of years of build up would occur.
Marks are made with various tools to simulate natural accidental marks made from rings or what not.
Dirt is also painted around the edge where the top and back meets the ribs. This is a place of natural build up over a couple of centuries.
The underside of the fingerboard is graduated to remove mass.
Pegs are fit.
Then they are cut off and finished.
And the end button is fit.