Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Violin Diary-6. Completing Ribs and Preparing Plates

I left off, in the previous Violin Diary post, with the ribs almost complete.  In this post I will complete the ribs and prepare (cut, make joint and glue) the violin plates. This is a slightly longer post than usual and covers 2 separate days. 

Rib corners shaped 
Once all the ribs are glued to the blocks, it is necessary to shape the corners and ensure that they are uniform in appearance. This is done by using the file to reduce or smooth any protruding wood. This is not generally a complicated step. I can well imagine that any prior sloppy work may result in some problems being encountered at this stage. But as I've been very careful and have paid attention to details, the corners ended up being exactly equidistant from the centre of the mould. 

Ribs scraped smooth
With the ribs more or less complete, the next step is to smooth the exterior appearance and remove any dirt or glue that may have accumulated up until now. I'm a pretty messy worker, so there is always lots to remove. This is done with a scraper and requires no special skill. I find it a very satisfying operation though, as the result is a smooth, silky surface. At this stage the wood's beauty is exposed. 

Ribs flattened 
Flattening the ribs is really easy and rather fun to do. Needless to say, I'm rather good at the easy stuff, so this particular operation poses no problems for me. Sandpaper is glued onto a flat surface (glass or marble). The ribs are placed onto the sandpaper and moved fairly vigorously backwards and forwards, until the surface of the ribs is flat. Making the ribs perfectly flat makes it possible to attached the top and bottom plates later on. The below photo is the result with the ribs complete:

Sawing wood for plates 

Now this is where the problems really started for me. For some reason, I am incapable of sawing in a straight line. What should be the simplest thing, always manages to trip me up. Normally the wood for the plates is already pre-sawn. In my case the wood which I bought was in one huge chunk (See above photo, the piece on the left is a solid block of maple). I thought that slow and steady would be the best approach, but I still managed to start going skew. Luckily Dmitri was on hand to identify the problem and help correct me. Finally the two pieces came apart. Now the challenge would be to plane the gluing surface flat, but also to flatten the, very skew, surface that had just been sawn. 

Flattening plates ready for joining 
Violin plates are almost always in two pieces that have been joined down the middle line of each individual plate. Flattening the plates where this two halves need to be joined is painfully difficult for me. The idea is that each half is planed straight and flat so that it can be perfectly joined to the other to create a perfect, almost invisible join. It requires a steady hand, good tool handling and a good sense for where minuscule amounts of wood need to be removed. Seemingly, I don't possess these qualities in any large amounts. I expended much concentration and many hours to try to get this right. Eventually, in frustration, I asked Dmitri to help me. He was very patient in (re)explaining what was required and very graciously helped me to correct and complete the operation. 

Gluing/Joining plates 
When I did this the first time, I was a nervous wreck. Might be the fact that the glue dries really quickly, so there is no time for any errors. Now, that I am essentially trying to make this violin on my own, I am finding that I am being a little more rationale, relaxed and calm. To join the plates, glue is applied generously to the joints. The joints are placed together rapidly and moved backwards and forwards to squeeze out excess glue. Then clamps are fastened to secure the joints. The result and progress so far can be seen in the photo below.

Plates flattened
After the plates are firmly glued together, they need to be flattened on one side so that they fit flush with the ribs of the violin. This operation is actually harder than it sounds. Making the surface perfectly flat, requires lots of patience and many attempts, removing small amounts of wood in just the right places. Again this sounds much easier than it really is. I fared better than on my first violin and I was pleased to be able to complete this process on my own.

Catch the next instalment here.
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