Monday, 15 July 2013

Violin Diary-1.Mould

For those who are reading my violin making journey for the first time see the introduction here.

The first step in making a violin is to make a mould from a model. The mould acts as a sort of scaffold which can be used for many instruments if made properly. Making a mould is fairly painstaking work as precision is key. I inherently lack attention to detail in most things that I undertake. It has therefore taken me approximately 12-15 hours over four weeks on and off, between the varnishing of my first violin, to make the mould. Let me explain the basic steps, with associated difficulty level, to try to justify the time it has taken:
  1. Trace model from stencil onto a rectangular piece of plywood (quick and easy: 30 minutes)
  2. Roughly cut along the lines using a band saw (quick and medium: 30). I am petrified of power tools though, I'm like a quivering leaf. I therefore use power tools tentatively and slowly, the result is usually rather rough and not as close to the line as I would like. To justify my fear, I say, "Better safe than sorry".
  3. Lots of rasping and filing to remove excess wood to ensure that the mould exactly follows the line of the model (hard and time consuming: 8 hours).
  4. Ensure that an exact 90 degree angle is maintained with the flat side of the board (very hard and fairly time consuming 4-5 hours).
Sounds easy, right?
Violin mould

I proudly presented my work to Dmitry on multiple occasions, each time hoping for a thumbs up, but Dmitry has an eye for exact detail, so multiple times I returned to the workbench to remove yet more tiny amounts of excess wood.
Even more frustrating though, was that the wood chipped while filing in certain directions, so even though the result is a perfectly functional mould that will server me for many violins to come, for aesthetic reasons I may well want to correct these blemishes.

So with my mould more or less done. I began making the blocks. There are 6 blocks in total and unlike the mould, parts of the blocks end up in the final instrument, acting as a foundation of sorts. Having made blocks once before, on my first violin, I had a misguided sense of confidence. This was quickly dashed as I started trying to make the blocks with a bit of haste. I had forgotten that there is a level of precision and care that needs to be taken at each step of the making process. My first block, or rather first vain attempt at a block, was more an irregular chunk of wood. Dmitry reminded me of the exact requirements, which put me back on the right track. Thereafter the rest of the blocks went fairly smoothly and I found that getting exact 90 degree angles wasn't as hard as I remembered.

Once complete the blocks need to be temporarily stuck to the mould. It was at this point that I realised that my mould is not as exact as I thought, resulting in the blocks not fitting correctly. This will need to be corrected next time before I can proceed. So for now, I end with a mostly complete mould at least.
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