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Making a violin.
A journey into the unkown.
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (76 votes) 
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Gordon Shumway
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I have to add a caveat - the only time I've ever used hot hide glue (rabbitskin) was to size artist's linen. Can't go wrong doing that, assuming you don't boil the glue. The fine stuff is so fine that you just add hot water. I don't know if it's strong enough for woodwork.

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Hi,

Thanks Andrew for both replies. Olaf is knowledgeable and also entertaining; Bron and I have watched a number of his videos always finding them full of information whilst being interesting. You mention rabbit skin glue Andrew; I'm sure many years ago I read rabbit skin glue was used in book binding? Both rabbit skin and hot hide glue are rendered virtually useless if allowed to boil; do you use an electric glue pot allowing temperature to be fully controlled; I still use the old fashioned cast iron double pots which take more looking after; at school all those years ago the hot hide glue double cast iron glue pot was left on a gas ring all day needing the water topping up also fresh pearls adding from time to time. I've now got a single ring electric hob I can use to heat my glue pot.

I can imagine you working just the right side of panic Peter whilst using hot hide glue on your violin; this glue has such a short open time; in high end furniture repairs the joint being reglued with hot hide glue is often warmed up first before applying the glue; the only other time I've ever worked at such a frantic pace was as a glass fiber laminator having catylized almost 5 gallons of resin; using a 15" long roller on a long handle meant no hanging around and unlike hot hide glue this resin was just the opposite curing much quicker with heat; mid summer used to be fun with the sun beaming in through the roof windows.

A novice would struggle at first trying to use hot hide glue; when I first attempted veneering I applied hot hide glue to one side of the veneer only and was horrified to watch the veneer curl and twist in disgust at my incompetance; I thought the veneer was going to jump from the bench and leave the workshop so I learned to use hot hide glue the hard way but this was many years ago before computers and YouTube; I did most of my learning from books.

I was out of bed just before 5 o'clock this morning and at Rufforth Auto Jumble near York (UK) just before 7 o'clock 45 miles distant from us; Rufforth to me is as a candy store is to a child; I've attended weather permitting for years but over the last two years have only attended once due to Covid and our dire climate so I decided to attend this morning as I wanted a good stock of new engineers files; a seller takes three stalls in the large aircraft hanger selling all kinds of very high quality files and drill bits etc these mostly Aerospace quality and they aren't expensive compared to buying retail.

http://www.rufforthautojumble.com/

I also found an outside stall selling cheaper but still brand new files these will be ideal to use as raw material for making violin tools; these cheaper files were only £1.50 for two so I bought 18 assorted. The Aerospace files of higher quality were a bit more expensive and I'll use these for my metalworking projects. The stall selling the cheap files had a set of six gouges which I could have used on this violin project; they were second hand at £18 the set but they were rough so I let them go; I now have the files so have material to make gouges to suit me. It was still dark when I arrived at Rufforth and a cold breeze gave a real chill factor; it felt colder inside the hanger with the doors open than it felt outside. I was back home by 9 o'clock; it worked out well because it's now raining and quite dark. I was one of only a few at Rufforth wearing a face mask; Covid is still a huge threat here but few seem to care; normally I enjoy a morning looking around buying urgent items I didn't know I needed but because of the cold weather and risk of catching Covid I quickly bought the items I wanted and quickly got out of there.

Files_0001.JPGImage Enlarger

A good morning at Rufforth; the large and small files to the right are the expensive ones; I was about £55 lighter in pocket but this included paying £10 for a bull nosed milling cutter; I won't need to buy more files for many years to come because I also bought quite a number of new files through eBay; this must be the file buying period of my life.

Kind regards, Colin.

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Jim Dunleavy
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It might seem like progress on the actual violin is slow, but I bet the preparatory work makes life a lot easier for you in the long run.

I wish I was closer to York - I would certainly be at that market! It's a couple of hours each way though.

I also have used hot hide glue when I did some restoration work on my piano and found it reasonably OK to use (though I watched many YouTube videos beforehand). I was able to heat the parts up first though, using some modified curling tongs. With pre-heated small parts it was relatively easy and the joints stayed mobile long enough to line the parts up into their final orientation.

I used a small deep fat fryer with water in it and a glass jar to hold the glue pearls while melting. It had a thermostat, but I had to monitor the temperature to get it just right and occasionally adjust the setting. There are vids on my youtube channel if you're interested - the channel name is the same as my user name on here.

I've always wondered how instrument makers manage to keep it fluid long enough when there's such a large area to cover and it isn't really practical to heat it all up, but you'll be finding out soon enough! 

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Hi,

Many thanks @Jim Dunleavy everything I do these days seems slow and I don't think it's just an age thing; buying anything I want is now challenging and time consuming; even our local Morrison's supermarket chain I believe are now American owned. I was taught that preperation is everything; start bad and it ends bad so get it bang on right from the start; if I can get a job right in my head then I know I'll succeeded otherwise more research is needed; I never jump in hoping for the best  but I've seen me measure five times and still get it wrong.

I've just been browsing your YouTube channel which is interesting; I'm pleased I only need to restring a violin and not a piano; please excuse my ignorance but I noticed the large coil of piano wire; are all the piano strings of the same gauge just cut to different lengths hence the different notes? My late grandfather played a trombone in a colliery band and in the huge house I was born in my grandparents had a big organ which my grandfather played on Sunday mornings; I couldn't resist as a child stretching to pull the knobs much to his annoyance.

Whilst browsing your YouTube videos I noticed this lovely yound lady; any relation to to you?

 

Yes eventually I'll be faced with the big glue up but I'll tackle this when it arrives; fortunately I'm not a novice to using hot hide glue but I can see a panic ahead of me.

Watching you making the pin loops brought back memories of when I started restoring vintage valve radios and needed three hands whilst soldering; one to hold the component in position; one to hold the soldering iron and one to hold the solder so I dreamt up a mini wire winder allowing tiny coils to be wound onto the connecting wire ends of things like capacitors and resistors; now I could cut out the faulty component leaving a short tail which was scraped clean then the new component could simply be slid into place and easily soldered; there are now many of these mini winders in use; I've made over a dozen of them as presents,

Completed-wire-winder..jpgImage Enlarger

I dreamt up this mini coil winder and it works like a dream; it's always nice when something works as planned.

im6.JPGImage Enlarger

Sorry about picture quality but I often worked in poor conditions during our long dire winters. Here the slotted thimble with hole is being used to add a coil to a bit of wire showing how it works.

im7.JPGImage Enlarger

Capacitor; resistor and extension wires all with tiny coil added. Not really violin related but highly useful in electronics; if there's a problem then there's a solution usually involving a bit of thought or research.

I think this project will gather pace once I become fully committed to it as winter settles in and I've gathered everything I need; at the moment I have more pressing jobs to do but I'm making steady progress.

Kind regards, Colin.

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Hi,

Sometimes I lose the will to live. I can seldom spend time enjoying myself in the workshop concentrating on something before being interrupted. I enjoyed a session this morning but  having got into my stride this afternoon Bron was knocking on the workshop door.

Our immediate neighbours had lost the key to their garden hut and did I have bolt croppers? When I went round to have a look the hasp & staple were mangled up with them trying to lever them off but without success. I wasn't surprised they couldn't get them off because I fitted them for our former neighbour; I didn't rely on woodscrews alone but drilled holes right through and added long bolts with lock nuts; back to the workshop collect my extension lead and angle grinder and chop through the lot; more brownie points earned to add to the rest.

I've made progress though today; I'm still working on the spool clamps which are nearing completion there being forty of them. The instructions in the book state leather protection pads are to be used one on each spool so  eighty are needed but I don't have the leather but I do have a nice big roll of rubber strip wide enough so I decided to use this.

Cutting rubber isn't easy and it's not the best material to drill; punching is best but I didn't have a 1" dia punch so I've made a punch but with  difference. I took it back to basics as to what I wanted to achieve giving it some thought rather than simply jumping in and wasting time. All I needed were 80 rubber washers; I could do as seen on YouTube and use a punch with hammer to punch the central hole but then a lot of time would be wasted trimming to size using a craft knife; I designed a double punch as one tool; this would completely punch the washers out if it worked as planned. I turned the punch from a short offcut of round steel bar stock but to such a depth in use it would make removing the washers easy rather than waste more time trying to remove them from the punch.

Having turned the punch in my Lorch lathe I left it in the chuck and using the tailstock to apply pressure against a backing board I attempted to punch out the first washer; partial success but the tail stock wouldn't clamp tight enough so not wanting to mess around with lathe adjustment I decided to use my big engineering vice and this worked a treat; I used 18mm plywood as backing at first but this was a bit soft so I then changed to 18 mm MDF and easily completed all 80 washers with spares.

Impact adhesive should be here in a few days together with wing nuts and locking washers then I can finish these clamps and move on.

So today mechanical engineering joined up with violin making; I love this kind of project where I can use my head and hands.

Spool-clamps_0001.JPGImage Enlarger

The roll of flat rubber strip I had to hand left over from another project.

Spool-clamps_0002.JPGImage Enlarger

Turning the new double punch in my very rare Lorch Schmidt engineering lathe. Any excuse to use my tools and machinery and I'm happy.

Spool-clamps_0003.JPGImage Enlarger

Testing the punch and I'm pleased it worked as expected.

Spool-clamps_0004.JPGImage Enlarger

A vice such as this easily exerts lots of pressure certainly plenty of pressure for punching the washers out.

Spool-clamps_0005.JPGImage Enlarger

Punching under way and I was delighted how well this double punch worked; it cut right through the rubber but didn't retain the washer which remained in the strip just needing popping out.

Spool-clamps_0006.JPGImage Enlarger

I usually find it pays to spend time up front thinking a job through considering options otherwise lots of time and material can be wasted; punching the washers out like this each washer was perfect not needing trimming or further handling; when the glue arrives I can finish the spool clamps; it's surprising how much work; material and time goes into making these clamps but to buy 40 ready made would be rather costly and I wouldn't have had the fun of making them.

Kind regards, Colin.

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Hi Colin,

I have a bag-full of homespun spool clamps and I will not share a photo of them because yours would put them to shame.

Interruptions! My life is a long stream of 'can you just...' inquiries, punctuated by personal progress. I hope for an evening of music practice later; an hour of bass followed by as much fiddle practice as the family allows; however the youngest son has recently acquired an Escort RS Turbo as a rolling chassis and several boxes, and as this is his first full refurb I can expect little peace.

Wishing you a productive evening.

Peter

"It is vain to do with more that which can be done with less"  - William of Ockham

"A crown is merely a hat that lets the rain in" - Frederick the Great

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Jim Dunleavy
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Thanks for the comments on my youtube piano vids Colin. 

to answer your questions:

- There are a wide variety of string gauges and types in a piano; for the bass section the strings are wound and have to be custom made - one of the early videos shows how I made paper template to send to the string maker, who also needed sample strings from each end and a couple in the middle.

The treble strings (from F#3 iirc) are all plain steel wire, but the diameter reduces as you go to higher notes. I don't fully understand the theory, but at the time there was a free piece of software for calculating the optimum sizes for each note, then you use the nearest swg to that. At the lower treble the wire gauge changes for every note, but as you go up more notes get the same wire gauge.  I used 14 different wire gauges ranging from 19.5 to 13 swg. 

- re the girl, if we are related it's in the dim and distant past in Ireland - I'm sure if she was part of the extended family I'd know about it as she seems quite famous. However, Dunleavy isn't that uncommon a surname in Ireland and while she comes from Dublin, my family came from Swinford in Co Mayo around the beginning of the last century.

 

EDIT: I'm afraid I didn't quite grasp the purpose of your coil winder for component leads; is it to extend leads that are too short?

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Hi,

Thanks Peter; I'm taking a lot of time and patience to do the best I can at every stage of this violin project; I'll be pleased to see the spool clamps completed then I can relax and move on to the next step possibly knife/tool making which I'm looking forward to.

I doubt you'll get much peace now Peter that your son is doing his first refurb of a car; what are you like at handing a spanner or can you just hold this dad?  Thanks for your good wishes.

You're most welcome @Jim Dunleavy. Many thanks for enlightening me regarding piano string wire gauges; 13 swg (Standard wire gauge) is thick wire at 2.337mm; it must cost a fortune to fully string a piano. 14 different wire gauges; can you buy just the wire lengths you need?

I wasn't aware the young lady singer even existed until I browsed your videos Peter but then I'm nosy and this is how I learn so much.

Thanks for asking Peter; the mini coil winder can be used for extending leads using solder joints but I designed it for replacing components on the radio chassis I was repairing; for those unfamiliar with a vintage valve radio chassis I'd like to expand on this a bit; here's a radio I'm sure will be well known in America I fully restored;

Looking-pretty..jpgImage Enlarger

Philco 84B now fully restored.

New-dropper-fitted..JPGImage Enlarger

Here's a typical radio chassis underneath picture showing the many assorted components; the valves (tubes) have a number of pins that components are soldered to such as capacitors; resistors; coils and transformers etc; just snipping and removing a component is easy enough but even easier to forget where the component was connected to; using the mini coil winder though I could snip out a component but leave a 1/4" wire tail on the valve or other connection this immediately indicated where to solder in the new component but having a coil at each end the new component could be slipped over the wire tail only then needing two hands to solder it in position; this mini winder works brilliantly. It's not hard to imagine how easy it is to lose the position of components just looking at the picture.

pic29.JPGImage Enlarger

This radio was the roughest on eBay and Bron bought it for me shipping it here to the UK from Arkansas as a lovely Christmas present.

Rough-but-original..JPGImage Enlarger

It sure was in a sorry state but with lots of TLC we still have it on display.

These radio projects don't appear to be related with stringed instruments but there are many electronic stringed instruments so in this respect it could be related as it can to anything electronic with discreet components.

I'll quickly get back on topic because I plan to start making the tools I'll need for this violin project; I'll try to add as much information as I can whilst work is in progress.

Kind regards, Colin.

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Thanks for explaining the coil winder idea Colin - I've got it now. 

Seeing that old radio chassis with discrete components and valves takes me back; as a kid I was always messing about making crystal sets and single valve radios and the like. My dad used to have a TV rental business and all the old 'beyond repair' TVs used to get dumped in our garage for spares - it was a like a gold mine for me and my brother with our wire cutters! lol

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Hi,

Thanks @Jim Dunleavy. I have a friend who used to own his TV/radio repair shop many years ago; how things have changed since then?

I've enjoyed a rare uninterruped workshop day which I've enjoyed and made the most of. I've now roughed out the four knife blanks for the knives shown in the Stradivarius violin making book; when I say roughed out I mean making the blanks to perfect size and shape but they now need hardening and tempering as well as sharpening also handles need to be added but a nice bit of progress today. I used my home made 2" wide belt grinder; angle grinder and lots of hand filing to bring these blanks to size; I used the gauge plate I bought making the job a bit easier rather than using files.

Violin-knives_0001_01.JPGImage Enlarger

The paper templates were laid out for best position

Violin-knives_0002_01.JPGImage Enlarger

Double sided self adhesive tape was then used to secure the paper templates then I used my angle grinder with a very thin disk to rough them out.

Violin-knives_0003_01.JPGImage Enlarger

Here are the four ready for the next stages; I've enjoyed getting my hands dirty making these.

Violin-knives_0004_01.JPGImage Enlarger

Here I've laid the blanks over the master paper templates and they are a perfect fit much to my delight; using printed paper templates and adhesive tape is a sure fire way of obtaining accuracy.

I've just knocked off having also washed and dried the car so all in all a lovely day.

Kind regards, Colin.

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Jim Dunleavy
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Colin, to answer a question you asked earlier but I forgot about - yes, you can buy piano wire by the metre on ebay (or at least you could when I did that work - nearly 10 years ago now!). The guy I bought mine from was a harpsichord builder who sold small quantities of material on the side - I expect he got through quite a bit and sold his offcuts or surplus on ebay - a win/win situation for both of us!

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Hi,

Many thanks @Jim Dunleavy  for enlightening me regarding piano wire I imagine even buying just enough as needed would still be costly; is piano wire just a generic wire given their assorted SWG or are they available in different qualities as are violin strings ranging from cheap to expensive.

Not much to report on the violin making at the moment I've been too busy driving around and in the gardens whilst the weather permits also visiting stores with Bron because we stay away from stores as much as possible in the run up to Christmas.

Kind regards, Colin.

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It's basically spring steel, but I bought the proper stuff specifically made for pianos. To save going into all the details on here, this ebay link shows the stuff I bought (I'm pretty sure that's the seller I bought from as well).

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/254.....R96l0riiXw

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Hi,

Thanks @Jim Dunleavy. I've had a look at the link you kindly posted; it's not a cheap job buying piano wire is it.

I've been quietly working away time permitting and this morning I've finally completed the violin spool clamps; there's a lot od work; time and components involved. Yesterday I must have spent three hours just gluing the rubber pads onto the spools using impact adhesive; not a job I'd like to do for a living; the Stradivarius book states 40 spool clamps are needed so I've made 45; this means 90 spools; 90 rubber pads (washers) 45 self locking nuts; 45 shake proof washers; 45 flat steel washers; 45 6mm x 4" threaded rods and 45 wing nuts.

Gluing the rubber pads took so long because it involved adding glue to the spool and to the rubber pad 180 in total glue applications; I decided to glue the pads then they wouldn't be sliding around as the violin is glued up. I initially tried using a disposable paint brush to apply the glue but it was hugely time wasting and highly frustrating so I tried using the end of an old hacksaw blade ground flat across and a pointed tool to hold the pad whilst the glue was applied; still frustrating but better than using the brush; lots of patience is needed.

It seems to have taken forever to make these clamps; time was wasted ordering items through eBay then waiting up to a week for them to arrive so I'm pleased this clamp making job is now behind me. The pictures speak for themselves.

I'm now grounded again; Bron is due to receive her flu jab shortly so we've a visit to the surgery this morning.

Kind regards, Colin.

Clamps_0001.JPGImage EnlargerClamps_0002.JPGImage EnlargerClamps_0003.JPGImage EnlargerClamps_0004.JPGImage EnlargerClamps_0005.JPGImage EnlargerClamps_0006.JPGImage EnlargerClamps_0007.JPGImage EnlargerClamps_0008.JPGImage EnlargerClamps_0009.JPGImage Enlarger

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Gordon Shumway
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How are the spruce, maple and ebony trees in your back garden coming along, Colin?

Andrew

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Hi,

Thanks for asking Andrew; we don't have ebony or maple but we've got a lovely big mature blue spruce I removed 15' from it's top years ago. I've felled and disposed of oaks; holly's; mountain ash; elderberry; 80' tall fir trees and even our laurels were huge; I've used some of the holly having dried it for a few years for woodturning and it's a lovely wood to turn. We've given tons of wood away to neighbours who own woodburning stoves.

Laurel-stump_0001.JPGImage Enlarger

I'm not surprised I'm forever tired and tense; here's the kind of work I do around the bungalow and gardens; just one of the laurel stumps I dug out by hand taking a full four days last year but I was younger then; these laurels were mature trees not bushes. I find it difficult to relax because when I'm not grafting  my head is full of work to do and projects. I'm retired but will never retire from hard graft. I'd rather be tired through honest work than be bored sitting in front of the TV watching someone kick a ball around; now for a bit of violin practice before dinner is ready.

Kind regards, Colin.

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@Retired -

Just wanted to share a couple sites I discovered today.  🤗

 

This site has wonderful, easy to follow/find information - I was reading about the linings for the ribs there. 

Making The Violin - Manuel

And, this site has great info with it's photos, e.g., interesting how some Luthiers can be identified just by how their buttons are constructed! 

Shop Photos

Have fun! 

- Emily

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Hi,

WOW Emily; thanks so much; I enjoyed a quick browse of both sites you've kindly added links to and they sure look interesting; making the violin couldn't be better and what excellent timing for you to find this now; I'll spend time looking at both shortly.

Yesterday I scaled the master template drawings of the scrapers and also the picking point then printed them out on to copy paper so these will be the next to play around with.

Spool-clamps-bought.JPGImage Enlarger

My friend David kindly sent me the details of these spool clamps; I'm not surprised at the price because a lot of work goes into making these; I'm pleased I didn't have to buy 45 of them though.

Love the cats. thumbs-up

Kind regards, Colin.

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Thanks for your posts @Retired
Great project. 😁

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

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Hi,

Thanks Fiddlerman you're most welcome. I receive lots of generous help from forums so I try to give a bit back. thumbs-up

Since last posting I've done a bit more work trying to move this project forward;

Violin-tools_0002_01.JPGImage EnlargerViolin-tools_0004.JPGImage EnlargerViolin-tools_0005.JPGImage EnlargerViolin-tools_0009.JPGImage Enlarger

I've resumed work on the knives now the spool clamps are sorted out. It's almost 60 years since I was taught blacksmithing but not done any since leaving the coal mine; in those long ago days I was taught on a proper forge but the tooling etc was much larger than I'm now playing with. Using a forge to heat metal that had a point was always difficult due to the point heating up very quickly hence the point could be burnt away; bearing this in mind I was concerned about heating these tools up to cherry red due to their shapes. I don't have a forge but I do have a MAPP gas torch so I've used this as the heat source.

I had bought fire bricks about a year ago and have plenty of sheet aluminium so I've made a mini oven but without door. I drilled an half inch diameter hole through the side but used the drill bit to open up a good taper allowing better heat spread.

Half filling a bucket with cold water this was placed nearby on the bench and everything was set up; I put on rigger gloves and ensured I wasn't going to burn the bungalow down then fired up the torch poking the nozzel through the hole whilst holding the torch in my right hand; using a pair of pliars in my left hand I picked up one of the knife blanks and was delighted to see it steadily reach cherry red heat then the blank was rapidly quenched in the cold water ensuring it went straight in point first not at an angle which often causes distortion. Qenching larger metal the saying is the louder the bang the harder it is.

Only the sharp end of the knives needed hardening; I also made a purfling pick tool blade this morning and this too was hardened. The gauge plate used wasn't sharpened to a sharp knife edge it was left full thickness I can do the sharpening later after making and fitting handles.

The colours show the actual cutting areas fully hardened half the blank not hardened at the handle end. I've just turned the kitchen oven off after doing a bit of baking; I've been tempering the blanks at 200C (392F) for well over an hour and now the blanks are still in the oven whilst the oven cools down slowly; I'll know if the hardening and tempering has worked when I test using a file to see if the file bites or skates; I did test after hardening and the hardening definitely worked because the file skated.

I'm taking my time and by doing so I'll end up with high quality tools which cost very little other than time to make. Little by little the project is moving forward and I'm enjoying myself using old skills.

Here's an edit now the blanks have cooled down; as expected the blanks are still in hardened state a new file skidding over them; I was interested in YouTube videos showing knife making and how the knife blanks were hardened then tempered the tempering done as I've copied using the oven and letting the blanks slowly cool down.

I'm going back to how I was taught and this time I'll still try using the oven to heat the blanks to 200C for an hour but then I'll quickly quench in cold water; this is how I was taught but so long ago we relied on colour change then quenching at the correct colour this setting the hardness/temper. Many times the old skills are much better but I thought I'd give it a try.

Kind regards, Colin.

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