SCVMW 2015 – Tuesday

Well, it’s time once again for the Southern California Violin Makers Workshop, hosted by Jim Brown and instructed by the prodigious Michael Darnton of Darnton & Hersch.

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This year, I’ve brought a couple of projects to work on. I’m fitting a bass bar and carving a violin neck and scroll.

Here is my bass bar in progress:

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Michael’s advice for the bass bar is to carve it well enough that you don’t have to press it down to get a good joint. It should be good enough that it could be attached with a “rubbed” joint, although we clamp bass bars traditionally.

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The bass bar stuck fast to my top after only two short rubs, then I clamped it for the night. I’ll carve it down tomorrow.

My other project is this scroll:

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Pictured above is the volute as it looked when I arrived at the workshop, and I was rather unhappy with it. The profile reminded me of a wedding cake with layers of even thickness, with a shallow slope that lacks in elegance.

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In the above photo, you can see how I have begun to put a more pronounced angle on the right side of the scroll.

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The scroll is pictured in process and is starting to look better. In the photo below, it is pretty much finished (for the record, this piece of hard maple was insanely difficult to carve. I’ve never had one give me so much trouble! It tore out like crazy, and I could never figure out the run of the grain. Look at all the flecks in it, though.):

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Michael said this looks pretty good and that I’ve got the right feel for it. That’s a good compliment. However, he also suggested that I might further improve my work by making the scroll a bit smaller. The problem is that we use templates and tend to cut to the outside of the line, which is outside of the template, which is often itself cut ever slightly larger than necessary. These little things add up to make a larger reproduction than what was intended. This scroll is almost 3mm taller than Strad’s version, and the throat gap is a bit too pinched.

Still, this is good quality carving and quite up to snuff for a violin’s head. 3mm would be a fatal discrepancy in other, less forgiving areas; but a scroll is mostly pure aesthetic, and this one looks pretty nice.

One thing that I find I am developing as I carve each new scroll is a technique for the gouge. I used maybe three gouges on this scroll, and I find that, in addition to gouging, I use them to slice like a knife and even to scrape. I can get a lot of mileage without having to switch to another tool.

Tomorrow I may have time to dove-tail this neck and prepare it for setting. I left my block planes at home though, so I’ll have to borrow some. I also hope to do some purfling and arching, if there’s time. I made up new cycloid templates for this project, and it would be a pity if I didn’t get to use them while I’m at the workshop. I need Michael to check my corners, though. Those are still dreadfully difficult.

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