David Finck Violin~maker

It is Spring and it is Easter.  A good time to write about beginnings. This blog has been silent for many months. Since making my first violin a little over a Ziskeit back corneryear ago, the majority of my woodworking time has gone into studying violin-making and making violins. I suppose I turned inward when engulfed by the intensity of absorbing so much new information and so many new skills. A new passion has been ignited! My sixth violin is well under way. With the recognition received by these early efforts from violin players and professionals in the field, I feel qualified to call myself a violin~ maker and have set up a new web site to advertise that fact:

www.davidfinckviolinmaker.com

I hope you will take a moment to visit the site and let me know what you think.  Willa at Woodshed with Neshomeh

The success of my first violin, which I wrote about earlier, inspired another go. Having made an instrument for one violin-playing daughter, without question I  had to build another for her violin-playing sister. Willa was very pleased with Neshomeh, her new violin. Neshomeh means “soul” in yiddish. She used it when she recently won the Asheville Symphony Young Artists Competition. As a result, she may have an opportunity to solo with that orchestra this Fall. This summer Willa tours the country with Carnegie Hall’s National Youth Orchestra.  They will play at some of the top venues in the nation and accompany violin great Gil Shaham. Neshomeh will accompany Willa on her trip

Here’ s a little look at what I’ve been up to:Ziskeit Back Ziskeit Front Ziskeit3 Carving Scroll lr
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hofenung Back Finishing LR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#4 Back Only LR

Finally, a very nicely produced local magazine profiled me in their most recent issue.  It’s called the High Country Magazine.  Here’s a link to the article: http://www.hcpress.com/april-mag-2014 It starts on page 42.

Until next time
df

Posted in Violins General | 6 Comments

Workbench Upgrade

Quite a few years ago I retrofitted my work bench with casters. It is great to be able to  move the beast around relatively easily as needed. Trouble was, my wall-mounted tool racks sometimes became inconvenient to reach with the bench in certain positions. A little cheapo 6-drawer plastic unit on plastic casters came my way and I decided to use it to mock up a rolling cart to hold all my most used tools. I thought it would be handy to have my tools wheeled around, close at hand, no matter where my bench was positioned.  It did prove  convenient for tool access, but I often had to roll it out of my way in moving around the shop.  Then the little casters gave out and my mock up was kaput.

This proved to be motivation to build a drawer unit under the bench top — another strategy I had been mulling for quite some time. I wanted the drawers to be durable and look decent but I did not want to make this into an involved project so I decided to simply miter the corners, then reinforce  them with 2-3 splines and glue plywood bottoms into rabbets to add further strength and rigidity.  I left a space between the bottom of the bench-top and the top of the drawer unit to provide a shelf and set the unit back enough to be out of the way of the bench-dogs.

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One thing I did not want to lose was the storage space I had incorporated between the stretchers so I hung the whole drawer unit on drawer glides to allow access:

Bench drawers

I used doubled up hardware on each side as the heavy-duty rated ones where rather pricey.  They are working out nicely. The drawers now hold, chisels, marking tools, saws, and all kinds of miscellanea.  I like it!

Until next time,df

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Sharpening Curved Scrapers

If you follow this blog at all then you know that I recently built a violin.  Violin making is a scraper intensive task — mostly using curved scrapers.  The scrapers have to be sharpened quite well to function effectively on the soft spruce of the top. When working on furniture I am seldom tempted to scrape softwoods, but it is the best way to go when smoothing the compound curves of the top and graduating its thickness to the tenth of a millimeter. This challenge required upping my scraper sharpening game a bit, so  I put on my thinking cap and came up with the solution pictured here, which tells almost the entire story.

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Nevertheless, I’ll add a few words to clarify. The small block of 3/4″  plywood has squared edges. It is captured in my tail-vise along with a fine grit diamond sharpening plate.  The wooden block on top of the curved scraper is attached to the scraper with very thin double sticky tape, creating a handle to maneuver the scraper easily. It is now a simple matter to form a nice sharp, square edge on the curved edge of the scraper. I have some ceramic stones that I used next to polish the edge further.  I finished off the edge by rubbing some white polishing compound onto a square of MDF, clamping it up like the sharpening stones and buffing the edge of the scraper to a high shine. Before removing the “handle” polish the face of the scraper on your finest stones (I use a King 8000 grit water stone). To draw the burr I did most of the work with the burnisher flat on the surface, followed by a very light burnishing on the edge itself to raise a slight burr. This worked very effectively!

By the way, a few weeks ago I was visited by Nancy Malott who came from Kansas to learn plane making.  She made a very nice smoother patterned after one of my Dad’s planes.Nancy Malott 2

In case you are wondering, the tooth brush is used to clear swarf  (man, I love that word) from the face of the stone.

Until next time!
df

Posted in Miscellany | 5 Comments

First Violin: 3rd Installment

Gluing the top and back went smoothly.  I approached this with some trepidation given my inexperience using hot hide glue, but it went smoothly.

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The next challenge was carving the scroll and making the neck

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Producing the neck proved challenging, but enjoyable. Setting the neck into the body  was also a challenge, but went smoothly.DSCF4197

The fingerboard is often removed prior to finishing the instrument to allow better access to the top.  Here, a dummy has taken its place to protect the delicate edges of the neck.
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There is tremendous mystique surrounding the varnishing of violins, from the sealing and choice of a “ground”, to staining, and formulating and applying the varnish. I sealed with very diluted oil/varnish mix, stained with a combination of various water-based aniline dyes applied in layers, and then French polished using a garnet shellac. I think the results were very pleasing and it should age nicely as well.DSCF4208

Then it was on to fitting the pegs, sound-post, bridge, end-pin and tail-piece.

I got motivated to dive into this project when I knew that my eldest daughter would be needing a new violin.  Was I naive, foolish, stupid?  Probably all three and more besides. Ledah has been playing for about 14 years, she’s a freshman music major and an outstanding violinist.  The violin she’s been playing for almost two years is a prize, (on loan) for winning the University of Delaware National String Competition in 2011. The instrument is a very costly one made by a prominent luthier, but it is due to be returned this Spring.

Well, here’s a clip of Ledah bringing out some of the first notes to come from my completed violin.

This experience has reminded me that it is often a good thing to dream, and even try to make those dreams a reality. Ledah was so pleased with my effort that she has chosen to play it over the other violin.  Listening to both played side by side in a large room it was clearly the more resonant and powerful violin. I was absolutely floored and completely gratified.  It felt like hitting a homerun on my first at bat in the Majors! Earlier that same day Ledah competed in and won the Durham Symphony (NC) Concerto Competition.  She’ll be debuting as a soloist with the symphony in April 2013 and giving the violin its first public airing as well. I couldn’t be prouder of her. You know, I’m pretty pleased with my own effort this time too.

Posted in First Violin | 10 Comments

Greenwood Rocker — 4th Installment

Time to finish up this rocker! I locate the mortices in the back posts with the aid of a dummy armrest to indicate where the armrest should be joined.

Dummy Arm Rest

Dummy Armrest

 

The template for the arm rest gives me locations for mortices and tenons as well as the general outline.

Armrest Template

Armrest Template

Shaping Armrest

Shaping Armrest

Attaching Armrest

Attaching Armrest

I shaped the back splats and rockers and applied finish to everything prior to seat weaving. I toned the oak with a couple coats of very dark garnet shellac and followed with two coats of an oil/varnish mixture I made up from Sutherland and Welles tung oil, uralkyd varnish, and their citrus based solvent. In this instance the mix was 1 part oil : 2 parts varnish : 3 parts solvent — very nice and very low toxicity!

Finishing

Finishing

With the finish completed I went around and pinned the joints.  The front and back assembly rungs are pinned by virtue of the side rungs slightly overlapping them.  I pinned the side rungs on the inside with 5/32″ D. bamboo skewer. More visible joints are pinned with walnut pegs.

Rungs pinned with Bamboo Skewer

Rung Pinned with Bamboo Skewer

Armrest Pinned with Walnut Peg

Armrest Pinned with Walnut Peg

Crest Rail Pinned with Walnut Peg

Crest Rail Pinned with Walnut Peg

I wove the seat from cotton Shaker seat tape in a simple over-under pattern, both top and bottom surfaces. A cushion of dense batting  covered with muslin lies between the two woven layers.

Beginning Warp with Cushion in Place

Beginning Warp with Cushion in Place

 

 

Starting Woof

Starting Woof

Completed Seat

Completed Seat

The next step is to locate the post holes in the rocker, drill them and pound the rockers home.

Attaching Rockers

Attaching Rockers

The splats are  inserted into the crest rail, which has extra clearance in the holes, so the bottom of the splat can clear the lower rail for insertion of the lower tenon.

And then the rocker is complete.

Completed Rocker

Completed Rocker

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Greenwood Rocker — 3rd Installment

I’m working on the back assembly now.  Here’s the the two back posts and crest rail.

Back Posts and Crest Rail

Back Posts and Crest Rail

The crest rail has been tenoned and the mating mortices of the back posts formed as well. The crest rail curvature and length determines the spacing and splay of the back posts making it a pivotal component to the overall success of the chair.

Crest Rail Dry-Fit to Posts

Crest Rail Dry-Fit to Posts

With the crest rail dry-fit to the posts the spacing between the posts is set so the back splat rail is cut to length and tenoned.

Back Splat Rail

Back Splat Rail

Since the crest rail will be glued and pinned and the two rungs of the back assembly will be as well, I’ll leave the back splat rail unglued.  This simplifies the glueup of the back assembly and lets me fine tune the rotational position of the back splat rail without struggling against seizing glue. Now I’ve tapered the back posts at both ends and got the tenons that will insert into the rockers roughed on the band saw.

Back Posts Tenoned

Back Posts Tenoned

And now it’s on to shaping the back posts. They are tapered cylinders at the bottom and transition to parabolic in cross-section at the height of the back splat rail.

Back Post Outside View

Back Post Outside View

Back Post Inside View

Back Post Inside View

Contouring the crest rail.

Contouring Crest Rail

Contouring Crest Rail

This is the setup I used to drill the angled mortices in the front assembly.  The simple holding jig is copied from the method described in Drew Langsner’s “Chairmaker’s Workshop” book.

Holding Jig

Holding Jig

With the plywood template held against the front seat-rung and the torpedo level resting on the template the front assembly is angled until leveled and then clamped in place. The drilling is done with the aid of a level as well and since the side-rungs are not perpendicular to the front assembly, that tilt angle is also incorporated in the drilling.

I dry-fit the back panel with the crest and back splat rail, then drilled for the seat- and lower-rung of the back assembly, and finally glued up the back assembly. Drilling the side-rung mortices into the back posts is probably the trickiest step of the entire chair, and unfortunately, the one step I did not document as I was so focused on getting it done right! If words will suffice, I first used my back panel mockup to determine the side seat-rung angle in relation to a flat surface when the back assembly was resting on that surface.  I recorded that with a simple bevel gauge — a foot-long 2 x 4 with the end of a batten attached to one side in the middle with a single screw that is tightened enough to hold the batten in position as needed. A second similar bevel gauge gives the splay and the drill is aligned to the two bevel gauges for drilling.

With the side-rung mortices drilled in the front and back assemblies I fit a dummy side seat-rung of correct length to each side so I could get a length measurement for the lower side-rungs.

Test-Fit Front and Back Assemblies with Dummy Side Seat-Rung

Test-Fit Front and Back Assemblies with Dummy Side Seat-Rung

After shaping, drying, and tenoning the side-rungs the chair is really taking shape!

Glued up Chair

Glued up Chair

Until next time!
df
 

 

 

 

 

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Greenwood Rocker – 2nd Installment

I’m getting started on the front posts now. Since the rungs joining the posts are at right angles I went ahead and drilled the mortices and roughed in the tenons at the post ends on the bandsaw while the stock was still square.  Then I bandsawed the initial curves  before switching to drawknife and spokeshave to complete the shaping.

Front Posts

Front Posts

Shaped Front Posts

Shaped Front Posts

The high-angle spoke shave I made to help smooth the difficult grain on the recently made birdseye maple and red oak end table also came to the rescue for this rocker (it’s there in the foreground).

With the front post shaped I finished roughing in the tenons by chiseling to the drafted tenon diameter (5/8″) at the ends.

Chiseling Tenon

Chiseling Tenon

Trimming Tenon Shoulder

Trimming Tenon Shoulder

I then rough shaped and tenoned the two front rungs.

Upper and Lower Front Rungs

Upper and Lower Front Rungs

To dry out those tenons before gluing up the front assembly I wrapped the rungs and posts in aluminum foil while exposing the tenons and baked them in my cook stove at 140 degrees (with the door propped open slightly) for about 3 hours. After the baking I finalized the tenon size with a tenon/plug cutter driven with a hand drill and cleaned up the shoulders with a chisel. This is the still over-sized tenon.

Shouldered Tenon

Shouldered Tenon

I used hot hide glue for the glue-up. I like the fact that if the joints ever loosen in the future that they can be reglued without having to clean off the old glue.  Hide glue sticks to itself quite well.

Front Assembly Glueup

Front Assembly Glueup

 

Until next time!
df
 

 

 

 

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Greenwood Rocker in Red Oak — Installment 1

I’m taking a detour from violin building for a bit as I shift over to fulfill a commission to build a rocking chair. It has been quite a few years since I built my last one, but it has always been quite a pleasure and challenge to do this sort of work — lots of curves and compound angles, steambending and shaping with drawknife and spokeshave. Time to dive in!

Red Oak Billet

Red Oak Billet

I have squirreled away a nice stack of billets of red oak, such as this one, split out of a gorgeous windfall from several years back. Rather than continue to split and rive the wood to working dimensions, I prefer to resaw the stock at this point to obtain the best yield and to also make it easier to rough in tenons from the squared stock as needed.

Here’s the oak sawn into front and back posts, rockers, splats, rungs, back rails, and armrests.

Resawn Stock

Resawn Stock

Before going any further I put together a mockup that allows me to adjust the back angle and test the splats and back rails for comfort. I keep tweaking angles and curves and heights trying to hone in on a really comfortable chair!

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Back and Seat Mockup

Once settled on what I’m going to do I get the steam-box fired up and get to bending.  The bent parts need days, preferably a week or more after steaming, to dry out and set the curves.

Crest Rail

Crest Rail

My small steam-box is in the background. Once this bend has cooled and set for a few hours I’ll let it dry on the form inserting narrow spacers between the form and the piece for increased air flow. My friend Link, man of many ideas, suggested using slightly thicker spacers for the middle to maintain the curvature since the radius of the bend would increase if all the spacers were the same thickness.

Rocker

Rocker

Since the stock has very little runout and the curves are relatively mild the bends go well with very little or no fracturing. Any more bend than this , or a less “bendy” wood requires the use of tension straps to assure success. It’s nice to keep it simple.

Back Post

Back Post

With only a couple of forms made to bend the  six back splats I built a drying rack to hold all the bent splats and free up clamps and the forms for bending.

Back Splats on Drying Rack

Back Splats on Drying Rack

Until next time!
df
 

 

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A First Violin — 2nd Installment

With the side, or rib, assembly together, it’s time to mark the outline of the top and back and then carve them to shape and thickness.

Preliminary Carving Top

Preliminary Carving Top

 

Tracing Back Profile

Marking Back Outline

The pins used to index the top to the rib assembly are seen here as well as the variety of tools I used to shape the top outline accurately. I scribed the exact outline of the ribs and also made  use of a spacer to create an outline about 3 mm beyond the margin of the ribs to mark the saw cut.

After the initial carving was completed I formed a flat ledge prior to routing a channel to accept the purlfing inlay

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Purfling Ledge

Purfling Channel

Purfling Channel

I should have mentioned at the outset that my primary resource for building guidance is the lovely book by Chris Johnson and Roy Courtnall, “The Art of Violin Making”. I do however have a library of reference materials about 2 feet long on my book shelf thanks to my dad’s collecting efforts. I managed to work my way through all of it prior to embarking on this endeavor!

With the channel completed, the purfling itself was bent, fitted, and glued into place.

Bent Purfling

Bent Purfling

Inlaid Purfling

Inlaid Purfling

Purfling Closeup

Purfling Closeup

Next comes the final carving of the outside accomplished first with chisel, then small arched finger plane, and finally a thin, very flexible scraper.  I prepared a template of the f-hole and located that on the top once the carving was finalized.

Finger Plane

Finger Plane

Scraper and F-hole Template

Scraper and F-hole Template

Now for carving the inside. The thickness of the top is not uniform and is described by something like a topographic map into zones of various thickness. Once these areas are outlined I used a drilling method with the drill press to indicate proper depth. A wedge is graduated with appropriate thicknesses marked on it; the board with the vertical peg is mounted on the drill press and then the depth stop is set using the wedge as required. The top rests on the peg and is drilled as needed to mark the thicknesses.  After the top is drilled hand carving begins

Drilling Fixture

Drilling Fixture

Drilled Top

Drilled Top

Carving Top Inside

Carving Top Inside

Carving Inside Top Complete

Carving Inside Top Complete

Here’s the f-holes in progress

Bass F-hole

Bass F-hole

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F-holes Completed

The bass-bar is now fitted, glued, and carved. I took a novel approach to locating it that some builders may find useful. The notched walnut blocks are temporarily attached with double-stick tape.  The notches in the blocks are a slip-fit for the width of the bass-bar and allow a small amount of movement forward and back for accurate rub-fitting of the bass-bar to the top. After gluing, the blocks were released by placing a few drops of acetone at their edges.

Bass-bar

Bass-bar

The procedures for the back are nearly identical.  It’s getting close to time to glue up the body!

Finished Back

Finished Back

Until next time!
df
 

 

 

 

Posted in First Violin | 2 Comments

A First Violin – 1st Installment

Though I have yet to chronicle my progress, I have been at work from time to time on my first violin.  As mentioned before, my dad dreamed of building a violin, but never quite got around to it. When he passed away the notion got hold of me to pick up on that dream. With two violin playing daughters it was even harder to ignore the call and so with some trepidation and more than a little excitement I picked up spruce and curly maple and dove in. Realizing there are many fine books on the subject and many others with much more expertise than I who have filled pages on the internet, my aim here is just to give a quick overview on my progress as the project takes shape.  Perhaps you’ll be inspired to give it a go yourself…

Planing Curly Maple

Planing Curly Maple

The maple for the back planed beautifully, as you can see.  This comes from a store of lovely maple that I been seasoning for well over twenty years. It’s hard maple rather than the traditional soft, so I’ll have to dimension the back thinner than is usual. I’m removing milling marks prior to glue-up.

I have little experience with traditional hot hide-glue so it’s been a lot of fun learning to use it.  Here’s my first attempt at a “rubbed joint”. Hide glue shrinks in on itself as it dries, drawing a closely fitted joint even tighter together — clamps are not needed.

Rubbed Joint

Rubbed Joint

This is the Englemann spruce top being joined.

Next I built a half-template and mold based on a drawing of a Joseph Guarneri violin provided with an old how-to booklet on violin making.

Half Template and Mold

Half Template and Mold

The mold serves to hold the corner blocks in place as the sides are glued. Here’s the mold with the recesses for the corner blocks positioned and cut.

Corner Block Recesses Cut Into Mold

Corner Block Recesses Cut Into Mold

Now the corner blocks are spot glued in place

Mold with Corner Blocks

Mold with Corner Blocks

The half template is indexed to the form using the nails pictured above and is used to trace the curves of the sides onto the corner blocks, which are then carved to shape.

Carving Corner Blocks

Carving Corner Blocks

The sides (or “ribs”) are all bent on an electric bending iron. This is a setup for gluing the “C-bout” to the corner blocks.

Gluing a C-bout

Gluing a C-bout

Here’s how the rest of the side pieces were glued on.

Sides - Final Glue-up

Sides – Final Glue-up

Until next time!
df

 

 

Posted in First Violin | 7 Comments