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Teardrop fiddle build

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Blog series by Dave Rutan updated 04-01-2020 12:17 PM 16 parts 5291 reads 59 comments total

Part 1: Getting moldy

03-20-2020 02:00 AM by Dave Rutan | 5 comments »

I’ve had this one in mind for a while and since the current crisis is giving me some slack time at work, I figured I’d just go for it.A teardrop fiddle is a violin, but shaped more like a teardrop than an hourglass. I’m making this up as I go, so hang on for the ride! Tonight I made the mold for the body. I used a scrap of 3/4 inch plywood. The mould is used to hold the end blocks and to shape the thin strips of wood that are called ribs. I cut most of everything else I needed in my shop a...

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Part 2: End blocks

03-20-2020 10:00 PM by Dave Rutan | 3 comments »

The rough end blocks, made of a chunk of 2×4 are glued to the mould temporarily. Then they are carved to curved shape to hold the ribs of the instrument. The ribs will be glued to the end blocks. Final sanding makes them ready to hold the ribs.

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Part 3: The Ribs

03-21-2020 02:36 PM by Dave Rutan | 1 comment »

The ribs are mahogany measuring about 18 inches long x 1 1/4 inches wide x 1mm thick. I bent them using the odd object in the upper right of the photo. A heat gun blows bvery hot air through some plumbing fittings to heat the brass nipple. the moistened rib is held against it and gently bent. I brought 7 ribs to work to bend. I managed to use them all up, but came out with the 2 good ones I needed. They crack if you work too fast. Then, using a bunch of small clamps and the holes i...

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Part 4: The Plates

03-22-2020 12:32 PM by Dave Rutan | 4 comments »

I’m making the top and bottom (front and back) plates from mahogany for the back and pine for the front, (it may actually be poplar.) I cut deep kerfs in the edges and cut the rest by hand. Then I glue the edges together. There are several reasons to create the wide plate this way, but for me it was a) I didn’t have wood that wide b) The hope of getting a cool, bookmatched grain pattern.

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Part 5: Linings

03-23-2020 11:40 AM by Dave Rutan | 3 comments »

Linings are strips of wood that thicken the top and bottom of the ribs to aid in gluing the front and back onto the ribs. They have to be bent with a heat iron just like the ribs. I also discovered that mahogany is too brittle and dug out what may be oak or poplar to use. The linings are clamped for gluing with special lining clamps. Today I gained 50 of these special lining clamps. The household lost 50 clothes pins. Only one side can be glued at a time. ...

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Part 6: Holes and Bars

03-24-2020 07:26 PM by Dave Rutan | 3 comments »

To make the sound holes, or F-holes as they are called, I glued a template to a piece of thin aluminum plate, added reference marks and cut it out with an exacto knife Then, locating them on the top plate, I traced the holes and cut them out with my scroll saw and finished them up with a knife and sandpaper. Last I glued on the bass bar. If this were an arch top violin I’d have to fit it, but with a flat plate it’s just a matter of gluing. I will say that I miss m...

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Part 7: Coming together

03-25-2020 10:38 PM by Dave Rutan | 4 comments »

After the glue dried I used a chisel and a small plane to pare down the bass bar and taper it on either end. Why? Because everyone else does. Then the top plate/front is glued on. Next a mortise is cut to receive the root of the neck. This can be a little tricky as the mortis controls whether the neck leans left or right or holds the fingerboard too high or too low. Then the neck is glued into that mortise, being sure that the neck is aligned correctly. Fina...

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Part 8: End button

03-27-2020 12:19 AM by Dave Rutan | 5 comments »

The more of the preliminary set up one does before finishing the instrument, the less likely the finish will be marred by tools.Here I am reaming out the hole for the end button which will hold the tailpiece. In case you noticed, I brought this in to work today as a time filler. We’re back home today as you’ll see in tomorrows’s photos.

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Part 9: The saddle

03-27-2020 12:37 PM by Dave Rutan | 3 comments »

Before finishing, I like to create the saddle and the space it will be installed on the instrument. The saddle is a piece of hardwood which supports the tailgut of the tailpiece. I’m making this one froma piece of maple. Usually I like to use cherry, but my cherry bits are currently kind of big. Eventually I’ll make matching nut from the same maple so that they match. I use a combination of knife, chisel, saw, and disc/strip sander to shape the saddle. ...

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Part 10: Shaping the tab

03-28-2020 12:24 PM by Dave Rutan | 3 comments »

After the neck id glued on the tab that attaches the back of the instrument to the heel of the neck must be trimmed. My tab is actually a tiny bit short, so I cheated a bit by paring the heel of the neck down to fit. Then I carved and filed and sanded till the tab had the same profile as the heel. I wet the mahogany in this second shot, so it has some contrast.

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Part 11: Stain

03-28-2020 05:12 PM by Dave Rutan | 3 comments »

I wanted to stain the top plate to tone down its ‘whiteness’. I used Golden Oak stain and I like the way it borought out the grain of the pine top. These first two pictures show the difference. After staining, I put the instrument out in the sun to sunbathe. My belief ius that it helped the stain dry.

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Part 12: Reaming the peg holes

03-29-2020 01:18 PM by Dave Rutan | 4 comments »

Tuning peg holes are tapered and have to be reamed out. The taper matches the peg shaper which is a pencil sharpener-like device.

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Part 13: Last of the glueing

03-30-2020 12:40 AM by Dave Rutan | 2 comments »

Glueing the fingerboard, saddle and nut (not shown) onto the neck and body. I’m using an ebony fingerboard that I previously purchased. Note my very expensive saddle clamp tape!

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Part 14: Carving the nut

03-30-2020 10:28 PM by Dave Rutan | 2 comments »

I’m forming the nut from a piece of maple, just like the saddle. It starts out as a chunk which is square on the sides which attach it to the fingerboard and the neck. The nut does not need to stick up very far above the fingerboard. Here I have drawn a line with a pencil to give me a target during the carving. I do my carving freehand with a sharp chisel and later a file to smooth the nut out. Sandpaper is also used.

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Part 15: Nut slots and neck scraping

03-31-2020 03:36 PM by Dave Rutan | 8 comments »

There are several different ways to do some of the operations I’ll be showing in the next few posts. It mostly depends on your background. A guitar person will have different tools and philosophies than a dedicated bowed strings tech. I come at these things from a woodworking point of view and I tend to use whatever tools I have at hand unless I need something in particular. Here I have made the first two string slots on the nut. I used a razor saw and made them just inside the wa...

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Part 16: Last bits

04-01-2020 12:17 PM by Dave Rutan | 6 comments »

The last bit of the instrument to be added is the soundpost. It sits inside the instrument under the foot of the bridge on the treble side. The way it gets there is one of those great luthier mysteries. SEveral methods exist, but I prefer using the traditional ‘soundpost setter’ In a pinch a piece of bent clothes hanger wire could be used. The soundpost for this fiddle is somewhat short because of the lack of arching in my front and back plates. This made it a little harder ...

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