Novice Maker
I dunno much about music or acoustics, so I'm curious: Does the width of the violin neck affect the sound the violin makes? Is there a prescribed size for necks, or is it more about general smoothness and sturdiness? And following that line of thought, could you make a violin with a deliberate sound by making the neck thicker, or using a heavier or denser wood?

Does the width of the violin neck affect the sound the violin makes?

Technical answer: It probably does, pretty much everything does a little bit.

Practical answer: No. There’s no way any human has hearing sensitive enough to tell the difference.

Is there a prescribed size for necks, or is it more about general smoothness and sturdiness?

It’s all about the smoothness and sturdiness. We do have numbers to work with, but you’ve got room to fudge so long as it feels good in the violinist’s hands and isn’t going to bend or break when you string up the instrument. One of the most common ways a neck will vary is in how rounded it is. Some have cross-sections that are practically a half-circle, while on others it’s more of a very, very rounded triangle.

And following that line of thought, could you make a violin with a deliberate sound by making the neck thicker, or using a heavier or denser wood?

I doubt it. The surface area of the neck is tiny, and what vibrations there are are being dampened by the hand anyway. It would be really hard to determine even if you did too, because no two violins are going to be identical and there’s countless other factors that have a much bigger effect on the sound and can’t be controlled for.

No, if you were going to choose a different size, shape, or wood type, it would be for structural, ergonomic, and aesthetic reasons.

Sorry, it’s late and I’m too tired to write out a detailed explanation. I think the pictures are pretty self-explanatory though. After setting the neck, you get to start shaping it. You use an aggressive rasp for the rough work and then use a variety of rasps, files, fingerplanes, knives, and whatever else you feel comfortable with to get the shape you want. This is one of those jobs where there’s as many different ways to do it as there are people trying to do it.

I hope to be able to do a livestream sometime this week, probably wednesday or thursday evening. It won’t be anything special, just me doing a bit of work throwing on some music if I can figure out how to get that working properly with the livestream, and chatting with whoever shows up.

libertea-and-cookies:

hokaidoplanet:

jimbooks:

showers-and-sunshinee:

boxed-hobo:

opallynn:

coolcatmatt:

The Inside of a Violin

Well I know exactly how to design my future house now, thank you very much.

So cool. o_o

holy shit

looks like a very clean attic

I want to live inside a violin

there isn’t a sound post inside those violins.
they are going to cave in and break

Huh. I wonder what happened to that violin on the left. There really shouldn’t be a hole where that camera’s point of view is coming from.

libertea-and-cookies:

hokaidoplanet:

jimbooks:

showers-and-sunshinee:

boxed-hobo:

opallynn:

coolcatmatt:

The Inside of a Violin

Well I know exactly how to design my future house now, thank you very much.

So cool. o_o

holy shit

looks like a very clean attic

I want to live inside a violin

there isn’t a sound post inside those violins.

they are going to cave in and break

Huh. I wonder what happened to that violin on the left. There really shouldn’t be a hole where that camera’s point of view is coming from.

I’m back

School’s started up again and it’s going well. After much struggle trying to finish up my second neck set (seriously, that stuff is way too hard. I hope I can get faster at it because this is just ridiculous) I can finally move on to new stuff! Shaping the neck. Come Monday I should be able to start posting pictures again.

In other news, I decided to digitize all my notes because that’s just smart. I’m going to be using these things forever and I’d be screwed if something happened to them and I didn’t have a backup. It turns out that I suck at note-taking. The first section is utterly incomprehensible, and I spent an hour working out what this sixteen item bullet-point list was supposed to mean.

So, after you’ve got the neck foot shaped, you get to do the hard part. The neck set.

You start off by drawing the profile on the violin’s ribs a bit smaller than the final size. There’s some measuring and math involved, but I won’t bore you with that. 

After you’ve got everything drawn on, you score the lines, cut into the edge of the top plate a little inside them, and cut out some notches. Those notches will act as your buffer zone while you carve out the rest of the top plate in between them.

The next step is to take a chisel and start shaving off wood. You’ve got to take it really fine, otherwise you risk detaching the ribs from the top block, and every time you take some wood out, you need to re-score the lines or else you’ll have the wood chip out on you. For the first bit, you just keep everything nice and square, and keep removing wood until you’ve gone all the way through the purfling. 

This is where things start to get really hard. When setting the neck, you have to precisely control the centering, length, pitch, yaw, and roll of the neck. Your manipulations of the dovetail change all of that. The bed controls the depth, pitch, and yaw, and the sides control the roll and centering. Fortunately, you get to do the bed and then the sides, so long as you’ve taken proper care setting everything up.

You control the depth by making the whole dovetail deeper. You control the pitch by angling it back—the back end is deeper than the front. You control the yaw by making one side deeper than the other. Changing any one of these things affects all of the others, so you can’t just concentrate on getting one right and then doing the others.

You start out with the chisel and scoring method until you get close (the rule of thumb is that you’re always closer than you think, so leave lots of room for error), and then move on to sanding blocks for precision control. Even then, it’s easy to mess up. A few swipes in the wrong place, and all of a sudden the end of your fingerboard has dropped half a millimeter, or swung to one side.

Of course, the entire time you’re doing this, you’re also religiously checking that the neck is doing what you want—placing it in the groove and measuring each variable.

When all that is done, you’ll hopefully have your neck bed properly established and you can move onto getting the sides done. If you screw up, you get to shim it and start over.

Sorry about taking so long since the last update. I actually finished the neck set on my first instrument, but I couldn’t document it. I’m starting on the second one now, so I should have frequent updates for you guys.

After you’ve spot-glued the fingerboard on, it’s time to shape the neck and neck foot. The first thing you do is draw the foot profile on the end of the block. You find the center of the fingerboard and draw a perpendicular line down from it that is the length of the overstand (distance from the fingerboard to the top of the instrument, usually 6mm), plus the thickness of your top plate, plus the height of the ribs, plus the thickness of the button, plus 1mm. Then you draw a horizontal line 21mm long centered on the end of that and connect the ends to the edges of the fingerboard.

After you’ve got that done, you get to start on the fun stuff, hogging off wood. For most of the length of the neck between the top of the fingerboard and the foot, you take everything off right up to the fingerboard. You leave extra at the top so you don’t do anything bad to the pegbox or tail, and at the foot because you’ve got to take it in steps.

When shaping the foot, you take off wood with the chisel until you’re about 2mm outside of the profile lines, parallel to them when seen from the end, and parallel to the fingerboard when seen from above. Next, you take a moment to flip the neck over and sight along the back in order to make sure that the foot is centered with the scroll. Then, using a block plane, you take it down to 1mm outside the lines. It’s very important that you start paying attention to flatness at this stage, because if the sides of the foot are not perfectly flat in all directions, you’re gonna have a bad time. If everything checks out, you keep using the plane to take it down so that you’ve got a perfectly straight line from the 21mm line to the edge of the fingerboard.

Livestreaming

Lately, I’ve been thinking about doing some livestreaming while I work on my violins. It would be a pretty low-key thing for the most part; set up a camera, put LastFM on mix (I have pretty questionable taste in music, FYI), and chat with whoever shows up while I’m doing it. The streams would last two to four hours, depending on how much time I have available, with the occasional all-day stream, schedule permitting. 

There are a couple issues with the idea though. The first one is getting a workbench set-up I can use at home. The second is figuring out a camera set-up that I can use to show close-up work, but that doesn’t have issues with taking the work out of frame when I have to move stuff around. The biggest issue, though, is that the most time-consuming aspects of violin making are also the most boring to watch. There’s a lot of cool stuff to see, but it would be heavily interspersed with long hours of scraping and/or filing.

One reason I’m thinking about doing it is because I think some of the stuff would be really cool to show, like gluing in the purfling or closing the box. The other is because it would really help my productivity if I’ve got people to chat with while doing the more tedious stuff.

What do you think, if I were to set up a livestream, would any of you guys be interested in watching?

That terrifying moment when you realize you’ve been measuring from the wrong spot.

Tool Spotlight: Apron plane
So I was lucky enough to get a new Lie Nielsen Small Block Plane (aka, apron plane) with a low angle bed. I can’t believe I never got one before, because it’s pretty much the perfect tool. It fits perfectly in my hand, the low angle makes it great for working with the grain or across end-grain while taking extremely thin cuts, and since block planes are bevel-up planes, you can redo the blade to effectively make it into a high-angle plane for working on difficult, figured wood.
I’ve got three blades for mine, the toothed blade on the left, the normal one on the right, and the one in the plane has a 50 degree micro-bevel on it that I was using to smooth some figured maple. I was taking even shavings that were 0.01mm thick!

Tool Spotlight: Apron plane

So I was lucky enough to get a new Lie Nielsen Small Block Plane (aka, apron plane) with a low angle bed. I can’t believe I never got one before, because it’s pretty much the perfect tool. It fits perfectly in my hand, the low angle makes it great for working with the grain or across end-grain while taking extremely thin cuts, and since block planes are bevel-up planes, you can redo the blade to effectively make it into a high-angle plane for working on difficult, figured wood.

I’ve got three blades for mine, the toothed blade on the left, the normal one on the right, and the one in the plane has a 50 degree micro-bevel on it that I was using to smooth some figured maple. I was taking even shavings that were 0.01mm thick!

Spot-gluing the Fingerboard
So, after you’ve got your scroll done, you get to move onto the fingerboard. It’s pretty simple in concept. First you flatten the underside of the fingerboard where it’s going to meet the neck. Then you make the sides square and bring the width down to the right dimensions; the sides aren’t straight though, there is a half-millimeter deep curve along the length. Next, you flatten the front of the fingerboard to the right height, while creating another half-millimeter scoop along the length. Last of all, you position the fingerboard in place on the scroll, dry-clamp, double-check that everything is aligned right, and then spot-glue the fingerboard to the neck.
I have to say, ebony is a dream to work with, but the black sawdust makes your hands all gross and dirty.

Spot-gluing the Fingerboard

So, after you’ve got your scroll done, you get to move onto the fingerboard. It’s pretty simple in concept. First you flatten the underside of the fingerboard where it’s going to meet the neck. Then you make the sides square and bring the width down to the right dimensions; the sides aren’t straight though, there is a half-millimeter deep curve along the length. Next, you flatten the front of the fingerboard to the right height, while creating another half-millimeter scoop along the length. Last of all, you position the fingerboard in place on the scroll, dry-clamp, double-check that everything is aligned right, and then spot-glue the fingerboard to the neck.

I have to say, ebony is a dream to work with, but the black sawdust makes your hands all gross and dirty.