SCVMW 2015 – Wednesday

It was a busy morning with a couple of lectures/demonstrations. The first came in response to my question about placing the corner purfling channel. Michael showed me how Stradivari pointed his purfling toward the lower quarter of the corner, and not in the middle as I had planned to do:

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You can see in the above photo how my original line was nicely centered, but Michael’s more forceful gouge mark demonstrates where the line of the purfling should really run. This gives more room for the “bee-sting.”

I used this long knife to score the purfling channel, then I removed material with the purfling pick.

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Since my knife blade is so symmetrical, I lost track of which side was the sharp one and earned my first cut at the workshop.

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Here is a picture of my purfling channel, all cleaned up:

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Some makers wait until after the plate is completely carved and sometimes even until after is has been installed on the ribs before doing this work. Waiting until the end seems a more natural approach, since purfling is, after all, finish work. But I do the purfling immediately after establishing the edge thickness.

After the channel is cut, I bend the purfling and set them in place to test for fit:

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Once I’m happy with the purfling in general, I spend time mitering the corners and lapping the pieces at the upper and lower bouts. The lap joint is nice, because that way you don’t have to measure the upper and lower purflings exactly.

At last, the purfling is installed. Note how the purfling overlaps at the top and bottom of the plate. I’ll just trim that flush tomorrow and you won’t be able to tell there is a joint there at all:

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Here is a close up of my corner work. It’s not up to Stradivari standards yet, but it is quite serviceable and will clean up nicely once I get the scoop in and scrape it all down (and add any necessary fillers):

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As you can see, my “bee-stings” are not too bad at all.

Next, I’ll carve the scoop and then work with the templates to get the plate down to the right dimensions and proper arching. At that point, it will look fairly finished, except for the hours and hours of scraping required to get all the little bumps out.

Also today, Michael and I discussed bass bar measurements and how to finish that particular piece in a deliberate and systematic way. In the past, I have simply imitated what I have seen other bass bars to be like, not understanding the system employed to reach a consistent and rational result. Michael was quite happy with the fit I got for my bass bar–since that is a difficult project to accomplish correctly–but I needed additional instruction on the shaping of the bar after it has been successfully glued to the top. I had hoped to get around to actually doing that work today but did not have the time.

There was also a good demonstration of re-setting a neck. Michael’s system for finding the exact center line, taking into consideration the idiosyncrasies of the f-holes and so forth, was quite involved and lasted over an hour. I have not taken such care in the past and will have to pay closer attention to this aspect for future builds. In practice, the system was much simpler than the explanation. 😉

In general, it was quite a productive day, and I have met a lot of extremely talented luthiers outside of my interactions with Michael Darnton. The Claremont workshop attracts the finest talent from across the world, and it’s a lot humbling to rub shoulders with them; to see and handle real instruments made by Stradivari himself, or by Guarneri del Gesu (the Jackson Strad and the Sloan del Gesu have been at the workshop every year since I began attending). I have a feeling that relatively few violin makers get such opportunities during the span of their careers.