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Making a violin....maybe #1: The begining. A hair brained idea at attempting something kinda crrazy.

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Blog entry by Ted78 posted 595 days ago 2924 reads 0 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Making a violin....maybe series Part 2: Day Two, glue,making ribs, and blocks. »

Violin construction has always intrigued me and I got a bug in my bonnet about 10 years ago to make a violin. No, I haven’t actually made one yet. Just a lot of false starts. I have carved a couple of tops and backs. first top I made I modelled (unwittingly) from a 3/4 size violin, I carved a back out of maple. I’d read somewhere that’s what the backs and ‘ribs’ the sides are made of. Turns out they are made of soft maple and I used hard maple. I made myself an inside mold and built a couple set of ribs. This time out of nice soft silver maple, but they have since fallen apart or been lost over several moves. All in all I’ve been having a great time dabbling here and there in my ignorance.

If someone’s goal is to make a violin I would strongly suggest attending some sort of violin making school, but making a violin isn’t really my goal. My goal is to revel in the process, re-invent the wheel, have a project with absolutely no time-line or deadline, get in over my head, push the boundaries of my woodworking skills. Probably right off the cliff.

About a year ago my parents had a big old silver maple cut down in their yard. I had them a save a couple of good sized logs, and we split them into wedges. I’d set this wood on the back porch about a year ago and was reminded of it recently when I came across a broad axe for six bucks one of those consignment antique/vintage crap stores. I hit gold, the broad axe, a couple of socket handled chisels for 50 cents each, a little smoothing plane for eight bucks. and a craftsman adjustable brace bit for a buck, but I digress.



I trimmed them down with my new broad axe, knocked of the real high points with a makeshift scrub plane, then quickly gave in to temptation and jointed the pieces on the big ole’ 8” jointer.

Now I have my book-mathced quarter split blanks. Just need to figure out where to buy some hide glue locally. to glue them up.

-- Ted



16 comments so far

View Alexandre's profile

Alexandre

1417 posts in 794 days


#1 posted 595 days ago

Nice! Titebond sells Hide glue… Rockler sells it, Lee valley sells the pellet one.
Good luck :)

-- My terrible signature...

View Ted78's profile

Ted78

156 posts in 603 days


#2 posted 595 days ago

Thanks, I used to have a bottle of the liquid hide glue, but I want to use the pellets or flakes or whatever they are, mostly because I never have. I’ll check out Lee Valley

-- Ted

View Cosmicsniper's profile

Cosmicsniper

2199 posts in 1761 days


#3 posted 595 days ago

I’d use regular PVA glue for the lamination. Save the hide glue for gluing the back and top to the ribs.

-- jay, www.allaboutastro.com

View Ted78's profile

Ted78

156 posts in 603 days


#4 posted 595 days ago

Cosmicsniper can you elaborate on the reasoning behind your advice? My understanding is that the reason hide glue is used is because it’s reversible so the instrument can be taken apart for repairs, Though I can’t think on any repair that would involve taking the two halves of the back plate apart.

-- Ted

View PhiltheLuthier's profile

PhiltheLuthier

56 posts in 1372 days


#5 posted 595 days ago

Ted,

A joint using PVA is likely to to be quite visible. As for needing to take the joint apart, in 100 years it may be necessary, I recently had to fix back joints on two instruments. I never liked the glue LeeValley sells, try ordering it from a luthier supply, Internation Violin company, Stew Macdonald or LMII come to mind off hand. Also, glue is just gelatin, you can buy some dry gelatin such as Knorr brand at any supermarket, it comes out to costing a lot more. For repair work I buy gelatin from a health/organic food store, it works very well. I’ve never liked the Liquid Hide glue, it tends to be too thick, but I never tried heating it or thinning it.

Keep at it, I don’t think the hard maple would have been a mistake, you can use anything you like really, tradition isn’t always the most important thing, haven’t you seen Fiddler on the Roof? Feel free to ask for any advice.

View Cosmicsniper's profile

Cosmicsniper

2199 posts in 1761 days


#6 posted 595 days ago

I’m not going to argue with a luthier, but in reference to my thought, I don’t see a reason to join the plates with hide glue…and you kinda answered your own question as to the reason why. I just didn’t see a reason to warm up a pot of hide glue for a simple plate joint.

I’ve never had an issue hiding a PVA glue line, as many a table top has been built among LJs with seamless PVA joints. Also, tons of quality instruments are built entirely with good old fashioned Titebond.

Obviously, hide glue is great, but it’s not a beginners glue…and for that reason I doubt I’ll be using it on my own guitar that I’m building right now.

-- jay, www.allaboutastro.com

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2368 posts in 2040 days


#7 posted 595 days ago

Violins are made with hide glue so that they can be disassembled every few years and reglued. I’m not sure why but they do this to good violins. You don’t have to use hide glue. Titebond is fine. It’s what other musical instruments are put together with. Just don’t use it on the fredboard as that does need replacing at some point as it wears. But you can use white glue (elmers) We use it on guitar fretboards and it comes off with heat from an iron.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View PhiltheLuthier's profile

PhiltheLuthier

56 posts in 1372 days


#8 posted 595 days ago

The joint is the one place I think I wouldn’t use any other glue, differences of opinion and varying experience I guess :)

“Violins are made with hide glue so that they can be disassembled every few years and reglued. I’m not sure why but they do this to good violins.”

I do not agree with this statement. Instruments should only be opened when in need of serious repair. Complete disassembly/reassembly of a high end instrument (or even a cheap one) would cost you a minimum of $70 000 in a shop skilled enough to do such a thing, before any taxes; not exactly a tri-annual expense that many people can afford.

In violin making the choice of glue does not mitigate the need for repair, but it does determine the amount of effort necessary when it comes time to repair.

View Ted78's profile

Ted78

156 posts in 603 days


#9 posted 595 days ago

Thanks for all comments and advice. Stoked to be able to get some advice from some people who actually know how to build instruments. Off to see if that box of Knox gelatin is still hanging around behind the cans of saurkraut and wax beans.

-- Ted

View Cosmicsniper's profile

Cosmicsniper

2199 posts in 1761 days


#10 posted 595 days ago

Just so you all know, in the classic text, “Guitarmaking” by Cumpiano, he states, and I quote…

“The choice between animal and PVA glue is a matter of personal preference. We find the PVA glues to be far more convenient and generally more durable than hide glue, and we do not subscribe to the belief held by some luthiers that the organic nature of animal glues make them more suitable for instrument construction. While certain aspects of bowed instrument construction make hide glue clearly the adhesive of choice, for guitar building we use white and yellow PVAs almost exclusively.”

He goes on to say, regarding the use of white vs. yellow PVA, that “yellow glues are for more permanent, durable joints, particularly in high stress areas (such as the soundboard center seam).” Alternatively, Campiano says you can opt for an AR glue, like the original Titebond. Incidentally, none other than the great Grit Laskin recommended only AR glues in his article many years ago in “Fine Woodworking” magazine. I suspect that this is because, similar to hide glue (only with more effort), AR glue can be deactivated by heat and moisture for repairs.

Now, if there is a something to specific to the violin, as Campiano mentioned (as well as did Phil above), then by all means step out in that direction. I would just be curious why hide glue is so superior for the center plate joint given that the same thing can be accomplished well with AR (Titebond I) or PVA (Titebond II)...assuming, of course, that you can get an invisible glue joint?

-- jay, www.allaboutastro.com

View Cosmicsniper's profile

Cosmicsniper

2199 posts in 1761 days


#11 posted 595 days ago

BTW, I didn’t mean to hijack the blog thread. I appreciate all forms of luthiery and am glad you found the desire to pursue this violin, Ted.

-- jay, www.allaboutastro.com

View Ted78's profile

Ted78

156 posts in 603 days


#12 posted 595 days ago

No problem. If I had to wait to get hide glue in the mail I probably would have gone ahead and just glued it up with white glue. But for me the whole point of this endeavour is to try new things. And since I did have a box of gelatin in the cupboard. That’s what I used.

-- Ted

View stefang's profile

stefang

12596 posts in 1937 days


#13 posted 592 days ago

My goal is to revel in the process, re-invent the wheel, have a project with absolutely no time-line or deadline, get in over my head, push the boundaries of my woodworking skills. Probably right off the cliff.”

Hi Ted. Not having any luthier experience, I wouldn’t want to try advising you on suitable glues, but I can say that PVA glue is easy to accidentally smear onto a workpiece and almost invisible until you put a finish on it, while hide glue and presumably gelatin would be very easy see and to remove with a damp rag, unlike PVA where it just drives the glue further down into the grain making mechanical removal necessary, and not good on thin pieces. Good luck with your project.

Also I thank you for exactly defining my erratic/irrational approach to woodworking. I couldn’t have said better myself!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Ted78's profile

Ted78

156 posts in 603 days


#14 posted 592 days ago

Thanks, a couple good reasons to go with the hide/gelatin route I hadn’t thought of.
I went the gelatin route simply because I had never tried it before. I was worried about not having a glue pot (I saw they are kinda pricey online) but my crock pot filled with a bit of water and a jar for the glue sitting in it seems to work just fine.

-- Ted

View PhiltheLuthier's profile

PhiltheLuthier

56 posts in 1372 days


#15 posted 592 days ago

I think a lot of people use those tiny crockpots, I just use a hot pot set barely above the lowest setting. If you ever do any basic repair it’s useful to be able to boil water for redressing bent bridges. At my day job we use a single burner electric hot plate with a small pot. You’re already doing great, keep it up, it’ll be fun to see your finished product.

By the way, do you play violin?

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