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Violin "In-The-White" Project
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DanielB
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February 26, 2013 - 5:01 am
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I've been thinking of buying a violin in-the-white ever since I saw Cat McCalls' "Red Fiddle" project, shortly after I first posted on the forum almost a year ago.  One of those things where you read about it and think "I want to try that, someday.."  Well, "someday" happened and I bought an inexpensive in-the-white via Amazon from A. Breton (Saga).  Not expensive, it cost me about 40$ after tax and etc.

This won't be a quick project, I expect it to take at least some months.  But I figure it is a good learning experience and a step beyond "learn the names of all the parts of the instrument" in my self-teaching/learning process.  At the best, it may turn out to be an interesting little instrument.  At the worst, I could end up making a trip to the craft store and it could end up being a seriously wicked little clock or something. LOL

So far as what work I'll do on it, what type and color of finish, what fittings, that is still all up in the air.  At present I'm mostly studying what I've got here, reading articles and thinking on the possibilities.  About the only firm decision is that the "dyed hardwood" fingerboard, nut and saddle are going to go.  I've already ordered ebony fingerboard as well as nut and saddle blanks.

I'm fairly pleased with the look of the wood.  No major flaws like splits or knots.  Grain on the top in particular looks nice and close.  A lot of areas like the scroll and pegbox are still a bit rough and will need a bit of tidying and smoothing.  There's one spot on the purfling that "wobbles" a little, but I consider that minor enough that I probably won't attempt a correction.  For what I paid for it, I'll count it as having been a pretty good deal.

Anyway, here's some pics.

100_0433.JPGImage Enlarger100_0434.JPGImage Enlarger100_0439.JPGImage Enlarger100_0440.JPGImage Enlarger100_0438.JPGImage Enlarger100_0437.JPGImage Enlarger100_0435.JPGImage Enlarger100_0441.JPGImage Enlarger100_0442.JPGImage Enlarger 

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"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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ozmous
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February 26, 2013 - 10:42 am
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Cool....cool, cool, cool!

cheers! - ⁰ℨ

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ratvn
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That looks very nice, Daniel.

Going to be a nice project, having your violin finishing the way you want.

I wish I can have time and the ability to learn how to do it.

Keep us posted of your progress and of course your final master piece.

Thanks for sharing.

thumbs-uphats_off

 

 

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DanielB
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February 26, 2013 - 7:38 pm
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I probably won't do much on it until I've gotten a set of calipers.  Not much sense taking the top off until I can measure to see what I'm dealing with.  I'll also probably make the spool clamps before I take the top off anyway, since a useful rule of DIY is "Don't take it apart until you have what you'll need to put it back together."  LOL

 For now it is at the stage of looking it over and thinking of what I can do with it.  Some tool shopping and a lot of reading and scouring the internet, of course. 

 

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Tyberius
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February 27, 2013 - 12:13 am
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Daniel that is awesome to say the least. I wonder if you could use a burner or dremmel and etched/burned a pattern in to it. Use carbon paper to set the image then painstakingly over the next few weeks, create your masterpiece.

Very cool idea my friend. Is the purfling a decal or is it inlaid?

"I find your lack of Fiddle, disturbing" - Darth Vader

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DanielB
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The purfling is definitely inlaid.  Nothing fancy, but one can tell it isn't a decal or painted.

And certainly one could use a woodburner or dremel or probably paint directly on the wood with at least some types of inks and etc to do some neat patterns and designs.  Or even inlay patterns in the same way purfling is done.

http://www.leroydouglasviolins.....hStrad.htm

http://donrickert.typepad.com/.....970c-popup

 

My current thought is to stick with basics for the first one.  My first interest is to see if I can make one I like the sound of.  Though my ideas on that may change in the course of the project.  I am currently trying to avoid any fixed notion of how the "blank" instrument I bought "should" come out looking.  Still contemplating the possibilities.

But considering how inexpensive some violins-in-the-white are, and that fittings also need not be costly (and are included with some unfinished violins), I am kind of surprised that more people aren't tinkering with them.  Even if one just wanted to paint/wood-burn/whatever an interesting piece of art for a musician's house or apartment, with no view to it having to be a good or functional instrument, it could be a fun project.

My interest comes from having seen various points of workmanship that were not done particularly well or probably not addressed at all (like plate graduation) on the couple of beginner/student level violins I have owned.  Sometimes I note something and think "I could have done that better."  And I wonder how an instrument would sound where I used my own time and patience to attend to the details.  I don't think it would necessarily sound worse than the factory made ones.  One way to find out.  LOL

 

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Fiddlestix
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Looks like a nice project, Dan. One thing I did notice though, is that the end pin hole is either not centered or the tailpiece pad rest is not centered.

I would check with a long flexable straight edge or an extra violin string, from center of the nut to the center of the fingerboard, running it straight down the center to be sure that the end pin hole is centered. I think if it's not, it could have an affect on the centering of the bridge and string's.

If that's the case then there will be a bend in the string's where they cross the bridge.

 

Just my opinion.

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DanielB
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Correct on the endpin hole, Ken.  Good eyes!  I'd also spotted that when I was checking to see if the neck and plates were straight.  The endpin hole is about 1.5 mm off center.  But since it hasn't been reamed for the size of an actual endpin yet, I don't figure that will be hard to correct.

The saddle is centered.  But the pencil line they put on it is not, and when I took the pic, the camera was at a slight angle.  Not sure what that pencil mark is supposed to be indicating, since it isn't the center of the plate, saddle or the endpin hole.  The saddle will be another of the parts I'll be replacing, since it's just some dyed hardwood, like the fingerboard and nut. 

I think the neck angle is also just a hair shallow, but I think that can be taken care of when planing/scraping the actual fingerboard that will go on it.  I need to check some more sources to make sure of the angle and measure it again more carefully than the quick check I've done so far. 

The neck is straight, and the top and bottom plates are well aligned.  I've been looking it over pretty close (you know how I am about such things), and so far this at least seems to be a nicer bit of wood I thought I might get, considering the price.  Not perfect, there's some small things that will need taken care of, but I think it is workable.  At least for a "first fiddle" project, it could have been a considerably worse starting place.   

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Kevin M.
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February 27, 2013 - 7:02 pm
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Daniel,

If you need any help at all don't be afraid to ask. If there is anything I can help you with I will.

 

I just got a late birthday present from my wife today. It is an atachment for my dremel to route the purflin groove instead of cutting it with a knife and chipping it out.

 

I suggest a spirit base varnish since it is easier to work with and is faster drying.  I put it on like a french polish.

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DanielB
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Thanks, Kevin.  I am sure I'll come up with plenty of questions during the process of the build.  I figure it's also as good an excuse as any to make or shop for assorted tools and materials.

The finish is still up in the air at the moment, since it will be a while before I get to that.  But we have various components like dry white lac and assorted resins in tincture and sun thickened linseed oil around the house.  I'm thinking it's a good time to buy a couple feet of maple 2X1 from the local lumber place and do some experiments on that.  Test swatches, sort of, to see color and drying times and how much pain in the neck different approaches are to work with.

At present, it's hanging in a southern window in a cool room in the grease and smoke free part of the house.  Winter sun isn't hot and it will give it some time for the wood to acclimate and air out while it gets a bit of minor UV.  It will probably be a couple weeks to a month before I do more than contemplate the work. 

I've dried guitar finishes that needed some drying time in the attic, under a cheesecloth tent to keep dust off.  We don't go into the attic much, and it's fairly large, so it's not hard to set a space where something can be undisturbed for a few weeks.

Cool on the dremel attachment!  I don't plan on trying messing with the purfling on this one, since it seems ok.  But I may ask what attachment that takes at some point in the future if I do another such project.  Eventually, I'd like to try doing a violin from scratch, but an in-the-white seemed more sensible at first.

 

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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DanielB
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Well, a couple things came in today.  The new ebony fingerboard and the soundpost tool.  The soundpost tool probably isn't any better than a coathanger wire, but it was only about 3$ with the rest of the order.  The fingerboard seems nice though.  Grain is tight and straight, no knots, pinholes100_0446.JPGImage Enlarger or cracks.  You can feel the difference between it and the "dyed hardwood" one that came with the fiddle as soon as you touch them though. 

So it's one more piece of the puzzle. 

 

 

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"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Kevin M.
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To remove the fingerboard I use an old steam iron. I just put it on top of the fingerboard and heat it up then with a razor knife I work it under the fingerboard and it starts lifting off.  When fitting the fingerboard, glue it down with only a few drops of glue. This way when you finish the violin you can take it off easily to finish the top.

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FiddleDetroit
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Daniel, this is going to be such a great project for you!  I can't wait to see the progress as it comes along.  Never knew that a violin in the 'white' could be so low cost, makes me start thinkin with my never ending DIY drive lol.  I'm no woodworker though so maybe this one would be a bit of a no no haha.  Forgive my ignorance but with a model like that, is it already glued together or is it pretty much set up with the exception of the fittings etc?  Are the things you're going to be doing to it more of a refinement process or are the plates already mostly carved?  Have fun with this one, great buy indeed!

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DanielB
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@kevin:  Sounds like a good plan.  I make it a point to check with the manufacturer before buying it to make sure that they use hide glue for these.  They do, so a little heat and maybe moisture should be all it will take to get it apart.

 

@FiddleDetriot: I think it might possible to find even less expensive options if one hunts a bit on places like ebay.  Getting a violin at this point in the making, it is pretty easy to see if there are problems.  Nothing hidden under  finish, or that taking the top off won't reveal.  One can see the grain of the wood to know if there are flaws, and still fix any small problems or bits of work that are rough. 

As I understand it, one ot the characteristics of beginner/student level violins is that while they may be made from ok wood, the plates will usually be left ungraduated, things like the bass bar may be not as well done, etc.  And they often have an inexpensive but quick and durable finish put on them and minimal pains are taken in setup.  The goal is something affordable, durable, and just reasonably playable.  Theoretically, one could take this violin as it is.. maybe a bit of sandpaper work to smooth rough edges, a simple finish, maybe replace the stained hardwood with ebony parts and put on a decent but inexpensive set of fittings, cut a bridge, put in a soundpost and string it up, adjust and one would have basically a beginner/student violin. 

At that point though, one can see where something like the 99$ beginner violin sets FM has are a pretty darned good deal.  You figure in an expensive bow and case, strings and rosin, and even figure your time as worth minimum wage, and one saves no money at all by making their own violin from an "in the white".  If one just wants a violin to play on, buying one already fully made is probably the best option.

But I already have a violin to play on that I like the sound of.  I just miss working/tinkering on the instrument though, since my Hoffmann is pretty good for the beginner violin it is, and I don't like the idea of risking it or having downtime when I can't play it.

With the in-the-white I am going to be attempting to graduate the plates, and try and do a bit better job on "tidying" up some of the fine points that seemed rather hastily done on instruments I have owned so far, to see if I can make something a bit better.  But my expectations of getting anything really good that way are not high.  It is more for the sake of the learning experiences and getting a better understanding of the instrument that I am doing it.  At the least, I think I'll have a better understanding of some points of quality, so it will know to look for them in the future on violins I may consider buying.

But yeah, at the price some of these in-the-white instruments are available at, very tempting to DIY minded folks!  LOL

 

 

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Fiddlerman
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March 3, 2013 - 10:31 am
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Thanks for the tip Kevin. Do you remove the nut the same way? With the steam iron on it till you can pry it off?

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Almandin
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Cool project! I'm sure you'll learn a lot during the process. A first step toward building your own from scratch maybe? Be sure to keep us posted!

Actually, that fiddle is really pretty like that. I wonder, would it be possible to just use colourless varnish and have a violin that's still "white" when it's done? I don't see why not, but I've never seen it done.

~ Once you've ruled out the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be true. ~

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DanielB
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@Almandin:  I'd like to try building my own from scratch eventually.  But this seemed like a sensible step in that direction that might be within my current knowledge and understanding.

 

It is certainly possible to keep a fiddle/violin at least very close to "white".  And you don't need to look far to see one.  One of the members of this very community, Cat McCall, did a rather lovely looking blonde violin.

http://fiddlerman.com/forum/th.....d-at-last/

  

In fact, Cat's project threads here have been one of the main things that got me looking at kits and violins in-the-white.  I kept seeing her projects and thinking "I want to try that."

I do agree that the wood on my in-the-white is quite nice looking as it is, and a blonde finish is definitely one of the options I am considering for this project.

 

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Almandin
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DanielB said

It is certainly possible to keep a fiddle/violin at least very close to "white".  And you don't need to look far to see one.  One of the members of this very community, @Sofia Leo, did a rather lovely looking blonde violin. http://fiddlerman.com/forum/th.....d-at-last/

OMG, that's beautiful! How come that's not more common? I want a blonde violin! drooling Maybe one day I'll go down the violin-building road too. I've certainly watched enough videos about it on YouTube... What you're doing is definitely a sensible start. smile

~ Once you've ruled out the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be true. ~

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Kevin M.
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Pierre,
To remove the nut is very easy. I just take a scrap piece of wood put it on the nut and give it a quick rap with a mallet. It sounds crude but it works real well. I haven't lost a nut yet. You just need to use a fast sharp rap and it'ts off.

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Sofia Leo
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It is certainly possible to keep a fiddle/violin at least very close to "white".  And you don't need to look far to see one.  One of the members of this very community, Cat McCall, did a rather lovely looking blonde violin.

http://fiddlerman.com/forum/th.....d-at-last/

In fact, Cat's project threads here have been one of the main things that got me looking at kits and violins in-the-white.  I kept seeing her projects and thinking "I want to try that."

Thank you for your kind words, DanielB :) Blondie hasn't been getting played nearly enough lately, but I'll be back soon with some videos and Ruby updates.

 

 

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