Lutherie - the making of guitars

Saturday in McCall

Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop - Sun, 01/07/2018 - 10:51
No fiddle work in this post, just a view into our neck of the woods.

We took advantage of free introductory classes in cross-country skiing offered at Ponderosa State Park near McCall, Idaho.  Splendid instruction, and, after years of snowshoeing, nice to be able to slide about.  We did ok on the classic cross-country class,  fell a few times during the skate-ski class, and got up just as often.

My wife doing the no-pole shuffle --


She got a very brief video of me not falling down.


Skis, boots, and poles provided by HomeTown Sports in McCall, all in great shape.  We'll be renting equipment from them in the future

A couple of the local boys, not needing skis --


We had a great lunch at Salmon River Brewery in McCall.


A light snow amount so far this year.  Usually Payette Lake is frozen over, and we're out walking on it in our snowshoes, other folks out there ice-fishing.  Not so this year.  Hoping for more snow and cold temperatures to come soon.

Out with the old

Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop - Fri, 01/05/2018 - 12:43

This is a violin top I made a couple years ago.  It was on a Guarneri del Gesu inspired violin I was making, and in the spirit of Paganini's del Gesu, "il Cannone", I left the plates thick.  An experiment.

As I was carving it, I uncovered a small branch in the lower bout, treble side.  Very frustrating to find it at that point in the process.   I did learn to look for the tell-tale sign, the cross-section of a branch on the outer edge.


Flustered but not defeated, I continued carving, being careful around the rapidly changing grain.  I managed to get under it, without much distortion to the arching.  The weird grain was still there, and I grew to like it somewhat.  It did bother me, wondering what sort of sonic impact it would have.

So then I went on.  Here it is at the point in time we'll call "X" with my Brothers Amati plate underneath.  I like to build two at a time.


So I finished both of them, strung them up.  The Brothers Amati I liked.  The del Gesu I hated.  Give it a couple weeks to stretch and compress.  Still hated it.  No volume, unpleasant tone.  Ok, it was an experiment, heavy plates.  And there was that weird branch grain.  Maybe it was to blame. So I pulled the top and thinned it down.  Put it back together.  Now it was louder, but still an unpleasant tone.  Matters were worse.

Took it to a show in Portland, Oregon.  Folks played it.  Other makers played it.  Most didn't mind it too much, but generally a polite bunch.  It didn't sell, but not many violins sell there in a good year.

Moved the soundpost around a bit.  Made a new soundpost.  Still hated it.

I pulled the top again.  Thinned the top more. Thinned the back.  Put it together and strung it up.  Now it was even louder, still hated the tone.  Nasal, maybe, though with a head cold or bad allergy.  Bad diction.  Like listening to someone with a loud, sloppy voice, telling boring, long-winded stories.

Was it the branch grain?  Nothing I did seemed to help.

Took it to Weiser.  Folks played it. Some were complimentary.  It didn't sell.  Not much did that year at Weiser, either.  Still, I hated it.

Brad Holst, a fellow violin repairer from Medford, Oregon, was there, had put a few of his violins on the table at my temporary shop at the Weiser Fiddle Contest.  He said: "What's the spacing between your upper eyes?"  42 mm, I answered.  "Hmm, " he said.  "I'd be curious to see what it measures to."

So I pulled out a tape measure, and it came out at 39 mm.

Back to "X" point in time.  I laid-out the terminal holes incorrectly on that plate.  Distracted by the branch, perhaps.  Well, shoot.  I kept the fiddle around for a couple months after that, then finally said "no" to myself.  I wouldn't sell something like that.  Pulled the top off, made a new one.

I still am not crazy about the tone with the new top, but I don't hate it now. I could even play it for a few weeks and maybe learn how to handle it.

I thought about keeping the old top, with its too-close eyes, in the shop as a reminder of my mistake.  Then, I realized, I make new mistakes every day, so don't need some reminder hanging on the wall. I'd rather have something nice to look at.

Last night's contra band rehearsal was at my place, a cold night, snow on the ground, so we had a nice fire in the fireplace, and cleared out some old debris, including not just that top, but a top from an old factory fiddle that had been badly cracked and put back together with Gorilla (TM) Glue.  That was not my repair.  I tried to clean it up and put it back together, but it was too far gone, and frankly not that good of a top to begin with.  So I made a new one for that old fiddle, strung it up, and it sold within a week.

Here's the old top, also on its way to the afterlife.

I was wishing for a viola top, to test whether they actually do burn longer.

Life goes on.  Things are created, exist for a while, then are gone, elements to be recycled into something else.  Here's a photo of some bread I pulled out of the oven while writing this blog post.







DIY Marking Gauge

Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop - Thu, 01/04/2018 - 13:24

Not my idea, probably an old one at that, but simple and effective.  An adjustable marking gauge you can make in a few moments.  Good for putting that running dent in the wood, something to cut to.  The little screwhead lets allows you to get into the curves, which is nice at this point in the making.

Handy little adjustment tool, too.


A Guitar Maker's Christmas Wish

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Mon, 12/25/2017 - 12:02
Peace on Earth, Goodwill Towards Men!

Merry Christmas, Everyone!








Cleaning Up the Borders

Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop - Fri, 12/22/2017 - 15:41

Not to the final borders yet, but looking more like fiddles.  A little spit on the end-grain of the spruce sure can make cutting easier.  Plus, cutting spruce just smells like Christmas.  Not sure what the maple smell reminds me of, but I like cutting the edges on the maple.  Smooth and buttery.

Trying to snow outside my door now.  Will warm up some nice drink and relax for the evening.  Enjoy your holidays.

Sunrise on a clear day, low horizon

Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop - Thu, 12/21/2017 - 13:46
Rough arching a viola back.  Just liked the image.  Maybe at the point I wanted to stop working on this project for a few minutes.  Maple is a hard wood.  I can touch up the gouge, maybe do a little more tomorrow.  Other projects need attention.

Two New Fiddles

Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop - Wed, 12/20/2017 - 13:48
Every once in a while, I actually finish an instrument, or two. 
This has been a real-live 5-string fiddle for about two weeks now.  Played the contra dance in Boise with it the Saturday before last.  Also played it last Saturday, sitting in with the Serenata Orchestra in Boise, for their sing-along/play-along Handel's 'Messiah'. 

Scroll is based on the stern-piece of the Oseberg Viking Ship. Here's an earlier shot, during the varnishing.


As we say when we're being vocally emotional: I am not completely unhappy with it.


 The body form is based on the Brothers Amati that I drew several years back, following Francois Denis' method, and the f-holes are del Gesu inspired. 




My most recent, being a violin for about a week now, is based on a del Gesu, the 'Plowden'.   The form comes from my tracing of a CT scan from the poster put out by Strad Magazine a few years back.

 Also del Gesu inspired f-holes, which I like so am using them wherever I want to.

I'm not completely unhappy with this one, either.  Both are still stretching and growing.  Kinda fun to play them each day, note the changes.

I also just shipped off a fiddle, constucted here, that is a Christmas present, so I won't spill the beans yet. 

And an eastern European white viola that I had been varnishing and set-up went out the door to a very happy customer.  She actually got it before it was really ready, having had a bad accident with her then-current viola, and needed an instrument for a few holiday concerts.  But she liked it enough as-was to buy it.  Just did the final intial adjustments this week, after the concerts.





Manual of Violin Making

Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop - Tue, 12/19/2017 - 11:15




  I've made a few violins, that work to some degree, so I know at least a couple ways to build one.  But violin-making is like so many other intellectual activities: the more we learn, the more we realize how little we actually do know.  We start to get a glimpse of possibly what might be out there to be discovered. 
   When I write 'we', I certainly mean 'I', but maybe also 'you'.
   When I first read of Brian Derber's new book on violin-making, I said to myself that I did not need another expensive violin book, that what I needed to do was to just keep cutting wood.  If I had extra money, buy more wood.  Or maybe a new tool.
   I made the mistake of looking on the web-page for the book.  It has a couple sample pages.  I made the further mistake of looking at those sample pages.  From them, I learned a way of looking at the fluting in f-holes that I thought was just spectacular.  It made sense.
  Within a couple days, I contacted Brian Derber via e-mail to order the book.
  It's good.  I have not read all of it.  It is huge.  But I have read the sections pertinent to the viola and hardanger fiddle I had already started making.   In the spirit of an adventure -- not to mention I paid for the book, so I'm going to use it! -- I altered the way I am doing the rough arching (photo above) to follow the process in the book.  Not a conversion necessarily, but an experiment, a playing with a new-to-me method.
   In any book, there is a chain of knowledge.  In 'how-to' books it might go something like this: From what the author thought, to what the author wrote, to what was finally printed, to what the reader read, to what the reader understood, to what the reader could convert into a physical object.  We do what we can and adjust from there.
  So I have the new book. I am also continuing to cut wood.  Learning.  It's fun.
  If you are interested in the book, you can find the link here -- The Manual of Violin Making, by Brian Derber.
  If the link does not work, you can find Brian at the

  • New World School of Violin Making
  • 6970 Red Lake Dr.
  • Presque Isle, WI 54557
  Current price, including shipping in the US, is $375.  This edition is limited to 500 copies. 
  There's nothing to beat the experience of attending a workshop, seeing the work being done in person, getting feedback, and so on.  I've attended the Southern California Violin Makers Workshop several times, and can recommend it.  I also attended the now-defunct violin-making workshop that was held at College of the Redwoods in Eureka, California, lead by Boyd Poulsen.  There are other good workshops out there.  You can go to one. 
  Brian's book is really good supplement to that experience.  Good text, plenty of photos.   And if you can't attend a workshop, but are determined to build fiddles, it would be useful.

  In other exciting news, my car's odometer rolled over 100,000 miles last night on the way back from Scottish Country Dance.  It's been a good car, a 2010 Kia Soul that I bought new in 2009, and I hope to be driving it for several more years.
  Combining the current craft-beer renaissance with good cars and good information on violin-making,  I conclude that we live in the best of times.


Excavating.

Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop - Thu, 12/14/2017 - 14:31

After an hour of slicing off maple, 10 minutes on the spruce is a real pleasure.  Outline here is still quite rough, to allow for any weird chipping out at the edges.  I know how I work.  Maybe a little too fast at this point, but I compensate for that failing by leaving a good margin.  It's easy enough to work down as the plates get thinner.

Here are the back and the top, with the edges cleaned up a little, still out from the final shape.


The Impractical Guitar Maker's 2017 Holiday Gift Guide, Day Two

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Wed, 12/13/2017 - 19:24
Knowing only what is necessary makes living dull and marks the regression of learning.


Benjamin Franklin

Many people secretly aspire to be "the artist", but they have been told their entire lives that only those "with the magic" can see the world as it is and portrait it as such. It is unfortunate that so many people believe what they are told and never try to "look" at the world and "see it". We are told that we "that special something", talent, to draw, sculpt or create any thing.

Let me tell you that you don't need "talent" or "magic" to create, you need to have the desire to draw well, to learn how to read music, to play the piano, or take an axe to a piece of wood to make an idea you in your head into something that is tangible and stands in front of you.

I want to recommend a book to buy for yourself, or anyone on your holiday list,

The Zen of Seeing, by Frederick Franck.


Never has it been more urgent to speak of seeing. Ever more gadgets, from cameras to computers, from art books to videotapes, conspire to take over our thinking, our feeling, our experiencing, our seeing. Onlookers we are, spectators...


Franck was a well known artist, who's works are in great art museums in the United States, Europe and Japan. He was also a medical doctor that worked closely with the great Dr. Albert Schweitzer.

The main premise of this book is to go outside and sit quietly, to look and to draw what you see and not to worry about the outcome. Leave behind your academic training and all the things you were ever told about how you can't draw, sit down in a meadow and draw blades of grass, or your hand, leaves on a tree, or the sash in the window of a Victorian house. Why not pull out that old Stanley plane, set it on your workbench and really look at it, then draw it? You might be surprised at the results. And think, drawing skills can carry over into woodworking, music, cooking and how to converse with folks, just to mention a few areas of life that we all need to work on.

The book was written in 1973, but everything Franck says is valid today, perhaps more so because we are so inundated by media, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., that as a species we need to step back and  reconnect to nature, to ourselves.

Buy the book and give it a try, because as it states on the back cover of the book,

Even if you have never thought of drawing, if you claim to be  one of those people who cannot draw a straight line, this book will make you want to pick up a pencil and begin...to SEE.

Can you guess what book I will be re-reading the next couple of days?

The Impractical Guitar Maker's 2017 Holiday Gift Guide, Day One

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Tue, 12/12/2017 - 18:17
Is there a classical guitar player in your life and you just don't know what to get them this holiday season?

I asked several classical guitarists what guitar-related items they would like to receive as gifts this season, and I got very good feed back that I will share with you this week and perhaps into next.

#1 Most Requested Item

A one year supply of guitar strings!

Guitarists who practice, play and perform on a regular can wear out a set of strings in just one week!

The oils from you hand actually clog the metal windings on the bass strings.  Bass strings can be washed in an ammonia solution or hot soapy water and then line dried, but eventually the strings become thump sounding. The clear treble strings fair better, but still become worn out with playing.

I remember in college having to do the weekly or bi-weekly trips to the local music store, and then there were the phone calls home asking for money to buy strings.


This is the string drawer in my other workbench. As you can see I like several different brands, Savarez, LaBella,  D'Addario and Dogal brands are all tops in my book. 

I definitely have a favorite brand, but the strings a guitarist uses are a very personal choice, so be sure to ask that guitarist in your life what their favorite strings are before you buy! 

Here are two websites to visit, please know that there are many other string supplier websites to check out.



Have fun shopping!











Learning from the Humble

Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop - Fri, 12/08/2017 - 13:01

 A call from a local middle-school orchestra teacher.  "One of my students broke the scroll off a viola, and I need it repaired.  It's borrowed from another school!"  So, here it is.  Not just the scroll, but the entire pegbox.  A really bad break.  Financially not worth repairing.  It is, at first glance, an older 15" student viola, which has put in plenty of years work.  Just replace it.

"Can't do that.  It's borrowed.  I can't say her viola is broken."

It will cost _________.

 Pause.  "I don't have that much money in my budget."

So here it is.  I'm trying to figure something to do, and I think I have.  Not charging enough.  Hoping  the work also serves as pennance for some sin, past or future. 

But the back --


It just amazed me.  It has long been proven beyond any reasonable doubt that it is impossible to photograph varnish.  Photos, even video, can not catch the reflections as you or the instrument move through the light.  Even with a camera as nice as a cell-phone.  But here are some photos.


A one-piece back, with great clarity and motion.  It could be as simple as amber shellac and clear spirit varnish.  The wood, underneath, is aging to something of a grey-green.  It's a great combination.


So, even if I don't gain any pennance from it, at least this one may have a chance to make music again. 

And I have a new conceptual model for varnish color.

On the Workbench - Bearclaw Sitka Spruce/East Indian Rosewood Classical Guitar

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Mon, 11/27/2017 - 15:39
I am not sure how long I have owned this bearclaw Sitka spruce top, I think almost 15 years and I know that I bought the back/side set of East Indian rosewood in 2000. This wood has had a decent period in which to age, theoretically, because the wood is this old this guitar should have an amazing sound!

Several years ago, I joined the top and back and inlaid a Manuel Ramirez style rosette in the top with the intention of making a small bodied classical guitar with a fairly short string length, something like a 625mm to a 635mm scale. The project got put aside, there were orders for standard, or full size classical guitars, that guitar would have to wait.

In October, I pulled out the wood so I could work on it over weekends. I planed the back, I thinned the sides and thinned entire top to 2mm. The edges got thinned to about 1.5mm. Sitka spruce is stiff stuff, I want this guitar to be responsive, and thinning the edges a little more helps be responsive.

Then came the neck. After selecting a nice piece of Spanish cedar for the neck, I had to make a decision as to the string length of the guitar. Since the top was all ready cut out for a body length of 470mm, as opposed to 480mm-495mm body length for a "standard" classical, I couldn't make it into a guitar with a 650mm.  A 630mm string is a little short for most people, I chose to make with a 640mm string length. The guitar will have plenty of loudness with that length and will be just a little easier to play.

Today, I glued all the "fan" braces and the transverse braces to the top with hot hide glue. I really like hot hide glue! And I got one brace glued onto the back! I bent the sides last week, I will attach those after I attach the top to the neck.

The goal is to have this guitar ready for bindings by the end of the week!








The Impractical Guitar Maker - Wedged Joints

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Sun, 11/26/2017 - 12:51
Examination of the interior revealed the junction block used to connect the neck and body. The sides are slotted into the end block and held in place by wedges.

From A Detailed Description of an Early 17th Century Italian Five-Course Guitar

Tom and Mary Anne Evans, Guitars - From Renaissance to Rock, 1977

In making the body and neck of a classical guitar, the most complicated joint used is a scarf joint. The scarf joint is used to connect the headstock to the neck shaft, some makers use a more complicated "V" joint to connect the headstock to the shaft. Miter and butt joints are used on the bindings, but this is purely for decoration, bindings are used to cover simple joints. The guitar sides usually fit into slots cut into the heel block, I like to cut a wider, angled slot and use wedges to hold the sides in the heel block.

Anyone who has made a classical guitar with the help of the book, Making Master Guitars, by Roy Courtnall, should recognize this wedged joint. In Making Master Guitars the joint is touted by the master guitar maker, Jose Romanillos, he used this joint and a variation of it until he retired from making guitars.

I began using this joint early on in my journey in guitar making, it made sense. It is a strong joint and unlike cutting a narrow slot, it allows me some wiggle room in fixing how the side fits against the heel and the wedge against the side.



The wider slot allows me to clean up the saw cut that will be seen once the side is attached with a sanding stick, there is no need to see a gap between the side and the heel!




Once the wedge is cut, I put it in the slot with a "dummy"piece of wood that is the same thickness as the side. I then start to cut a kerf where the wedge and the heel block meet...


and continue to "saw kerf joint" the surfaces until...


I have a nice looking joint!

When the side is ready to be attached to the guitar top, all I need to do is to trim the wedge a little short so when I hammer it in the endow the wedge will be just shy of seating against the top. There is no need to glue the wedge in, it is a strong joint and the wedge won't go anywhere. If the wedge is glued then the joint is not reversible, a consideration if the guitar needs to be repaired!







Capos/Cejillas - New Batch of Six Padauk Wood Capos!

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Wed, 11/22/2017 - 07:25

Stocking Stuffers for Your Favorite Classical Guitarist!

This week has been dedicated to making 1970's retro style cejillas, or capos, for classical and flamenco guitars.

What makes them retro?

Traditional cejillas used leather straps to protect the guitar's neck from the string that goes around the next and is attached to the peg that tightens the string. In the 1960's and 1970's several capo makers in Spain put vinyl tubing over the string for protection. I think the vinyl tubing was used partly for economic reasons:  it is cheaper than leather and it makes assembling a capo go much faster, plus some of the capos being sold were made from Galalith, a material made from casein and formaldehyde, it looked like plastic and was used to make jewelry. The vinyl tubing went well with the look of the Galalith.

I use vinyl tubing because it allows me to assemble a capo much faster than using a leather strap.

I want to make affordable capos, every classical /flamenco guitarist deserves a wooden capo!






The bodies are padauk with East Indian rosewood pegs; neoprene face; vinyl tubing and the string is a LaBella brand 3rd guitar string. String colors are either black, gold or red.




These are my current capo shapes.

A is a very traditional shape, this shape dates to the late 1600's, early 1700's.

B and C are my interpretation of two shapes used by several traditional Spanish capo makers.

$30 for each capo, shipping and handling are extra.

Due to CITES (Council on International Trade of Endangered Species) regulations, I am unable to ship these capos outside of the United States because of the East Indian rosewood pegs. I don't make enough money off of these to warrant getting re-export certificates for each capo. I can make these capos with boxwood pegs.


Using My Jack Planes As Smoothing Planes

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 06:43
The earliest known plane was a flat-bottomed tool for smoothing wood and nothing more.

Aldren A. Watson, Hand Tools, Their Ways and Workings, 1982


The only plane I owned when I started working with wood was a Stanley No.5, Type 4 plane. It wasn't tuned properly, the tote was a replacement my grandfather had made from a walnut board that never did fit the plane quite right, and because it was a Type 4 the depth adjuster knob turned the opposite direction from the later Stanley. It had most of its japanning and the sides had a wonderful patina on them that I later discovered was really rust. The iron was not original to the plane, the original iron mostly likely got worn down to nothing or was stolen from the plane while it was at a job site. I have no idea when my grandfather acquired this plane, perhaps he got it through a trade or barter for some carpentry job he did in the early part of the 20th century. I know he didn't buy it brand new, if I remember correctly, Type 4 Stanley planes were manufactured between 1874-88, my grandfather was born in 1881!

It was my smoothing plane, jointer plane and when pressed into service it was a really big block plane. I remember at the time I read in some woodworking book that No.5's were called "jack" planes because, as the author stated, you could use them for just about anything - dimensioning stock, smoothing stock and jointing edges, it was a "the jack of all trades" kind of plane. It was all that I needed, I didn't have much money back then, new tools were a luxury, I got by with what I had.

As time went on and I gained more experience in wood working,  I purchased several Stanley No.4 smoothing planes because books and magazines stated those were "the planes" a woodworker should own and use.  I spent quite a bit of time and effort to "tune" those planes, again, according to the information found woodworking books and magazines. Which each new plane I flatten the sole, I sharpened the edge of the chip breaker so it mated perfectly with the back of the iron, the iron was regulation shaped and sharpened and you know what? I never could get those planes to work the way I wanted them to. The iron would chatter or dig in at the wrong place, there was always something about those planes that fought me at every turn.

Whenever frustration would set in with a No.4 plane I turned to my faithful No.5. If I kept the iron of the No.5 sharp the plane always worked when I needed it to. Maybe it worked well for me because of the longer length or that it was the first plane I learned to use. The only other size plane that works well for me as a smoothing plane is a No.3 plane, we all know a No.3 is a smoothing plane.

Today, I use the No.5 to thin down classical guitar tops, backs and sides, I need to be fairly precise when doing this activity. Tops and backs need to be within the 1.8mm-2.3mm range, sides a little less than 2mm, I find that the the added weigh of the plane helps it go through the wood better, thus easier for me to control;  the extra length takes care of the high spots on the wood better than a regular smoothing plane and it is much lighter and more wildly than a No.7. I have never set up a No.5 plane to be a scrub plane, I have a No.40 Stanley scrub plane for that, one of the No.5's has an iron set up for smoothing, the other No.5 has a toothing plane which is used to help dimension guitar parts.

I sold the No.4 smoothing planes and an extra No.7 jointer plane last year in an effort to downsize my tool collection. I don't miss the No.4's and I tend not to recommend them to people just getting into woodworking, I suggest it may be better for them to start with a No.3 smoothing plane and I tell them that Alan Peters thought a No.7 was the best one to use.

Once you have decided what your focus is in woodworking, be it making Federal style furniture, Welsh stick chairs or classical guitars, you will discover what tools work best for you and when you do, stick with them!

St. Andrews Dinner & Dance

Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop - Sun, 11/19/2017 - 12:21
We make fiddles so we can make music.  And often we make music so folks can dance.

Our local Scottish Country Dance club, the Thistle & Ghillies, had our annual St. Andrews Day dinner & ball last night.  Good times.  And while most of the dance was done to recorded music, my wife Monica, on piano, and I on one of my fiddles, did play for the waltz at the end of the evening.  We're not a big enough group to have live music all the time.

We do, though, regularly play for the Boise Contra Dance Society dances, on the second Saturdays September through May.  If you're in town, come on by and dance with us.

Here's another shot of last night's St. Andrews Day dance.



First ribs in place...

Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 15:48
... little to show for what is actually a fair amount of progress.



What has happened to get to this point?  Form selected.  Blocks squared and installed.  Outline traced onto the blocks.  C-bout curves cut into the corner blocks.  Curves cut on the neck and end blocks.  Ribs thinned to proper thickness and trimmed to starting height.  Bending iron fired up and curly maple bent into shape.  Glued and clamped into place.

Not shown -- the top and back plates are joined (individually, that is).

I find the other ribs much easier to deal with, so basically this fiddle is moving along into its second trimester.  Once the ribs and linings are in place, the outline can be traced onto the plates, and serious carving begins. 

This is my Hardanger, so it will have typical Hardanger f-holes -- a new adventure for me.

Note also in the photo, just right of center at the top, the plastic handle of a cheap chisel.  Even so, probably older than many of you reading this.  I bought it in the 1970s, just out of high school, working as a carpenter.  It is not what one would call a good chisel.  I had a good friend who would chastise me, if he could, for including such a piece of sh*t in my photo here, but he can't. 

And I use this cheap thing all the time.  Need to slice some old, gnarly glue out of a mortise?  Here you go.  Works as an old-glue scraper, too.  Split some wood into blocks?  Whack!  Won't stay sharp for a long, long time, but takes a good edge quickly and is just dandy, in this instance, for working blocks down to the point where my good gouges and scrapers can take over. 

What works, works.

Ribs and teeth

Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop - Mon, 11/13/2017 - 11:40
Thinning ribs with a toothed plane, to avoid tear-out in the highly flamed maple.  This side will go inward on the finished instrument.

An old task for me, but in a new context.  For the Hardanger, I'll go as I generally do with violin ribs.  For the viola, about 10% thicker.  So 1 mm and 1.1 mm!  Not much, but a difference.


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