Building something like a bass viol

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Blog series by Dave Rutan updated 11-21-2020 01:55 AM 11 parts 3801 reads 48 comments total

Part 1: Roughing out the neck

08-23-2020 01:46 AM by Dave Rutan | 7 comments »

A co-worker asked if I could build something like a bass viol for him. I told him that it sounded like a long process, but I did not say ‘no.” Below is what a bass viol can look like. Mine whon’t quite look like it, but it should act like it. I will be making every piece of this aside from the strings. For me, the neck starts out as a glueup of four oak boards. Oak is what I got and oak is what I’m using. Onje end of this has to remain too thick to f...

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Part 2: The pegbox

08-23-2020 05:32 PM by Dave Rutan | 5 comments »

I’d love to say that I have some super precise measurements when I’ve created a pegbox, but really, aside from knowing how far forward to put it and about how long it should be, I just wing it. I roughly mark it out and drill holes inside to help with the carving. The drilled holes also help me keep the depth pretty much uniform. It still looks a bit rough, but I refine it as I go along and work on the scroll. Here I am creating the fluting that runs around my cu...

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Part 3: More neck and pegbox

08-24-2020 10:02 PM by Dave Rutan | 4 comments »

Having got the pegbox in good shape, I shaped the remainder of the neck fo the most part and then the base or ‘root’ end. You may notice that I glued some mohagany onto the neck to make the root the correct length. Back to the pegbox where I am drilling pilot holes for the tuning pegs. And then I ream them out minimally to receive the tuning pegs which I have not made yet. And my little mascot, Scratchy poses in the pegbox. THere will be a delay of ...

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Part 4: The Ribs

08-25-2020 09:23 PM by Dave Rutan | 4 comments »

What got my customer excited was a look at the box cello I made for my wife. I convinced him to let me try something creative to add some curves to this instrument. I’m making the body like I mede the sound box for my wife’s second mountain dulcilmer. Fist thing was to cut the wood to a generous length and resaw it partially. Then I finished the resawing with a hand saw. Then I brought them down to about 1/8 thick using my thickness planer. I made a pair of endbo...

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Part 5: Peg Prototype

08-27-2020 09:08 PM by Dave Rutan | 5 comments »

Mainly because of the width of the pegbox, I need to manufacture the pegs myself. I’m using mahogany which will contrast well with the oak neck and tie in with the ribs, fingerboard and tailpiece. Cutting scraps to size. I only need 7 pegs, but I’m making about a dozen to have spares on hand. It’s a custom made peg after all. After turning the first one, I’m keepting it as it was turned to compare with the one I’m currently working on. I think thewr...

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Part 6: Linings

09-05-2020 12:57 PM by Dave Rutan | 5 comments »

Linings are strips of wood added to the edges of the ribs/sides to increase their width for gluing. I was lucky to have cut-offs from the ribs that were perfectly usable for this task. This first picture shows a rib without a lining, on the left, and a lining being applied, being held on by modified clothes pins, on the left. This second picture shows a bit more detail of the lining and the clothes pins. In actuality the clothes pins will have no real space between them. And ...

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Part 7: Fingerboard

11-12-2020 04:07 PM by Dave Rutan | 5 comments »

I mostly work on this project at my place of work and a pile of broken cellos and double basses delayed this post. To create the fingerboard (and tailpiece) I laminated together a piece of mahogany and oak. (Note to self, the oak can be thinner next time.) The first thing I did was to cut it to length (a little oversize) and plane the sides down to the appropriate taper. Then I planed the radius on the mahogany side. Then I flipped it over and coved out part of the underside. Th...

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Part 8: The Bass Bar

11-13-2020 09:56 PM by Dave Rutan | 4 comments »

Since this is basically a cello-size instrument, I’m installing a cello-size bass bar in it. I’m starting with a piece of spruce that is a little taller than I need. For those who don’t know, the bass bar in a string instrument adds strength to the top against the pressure of the bridge. I actually put off this step by a day because my ‘bass bar’ clamps got left home after my teardrop fiddle build earlier this year. After it’s glued in, I shaped ...

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Part 9: Attaching the top/front

11-14-2020 01:22 PM by Dave Rutan | 2 comments »

With the bass bar installed and the sound holes cut, it’s time to glue the front (or to) into the ribs. Leaving the back off makes fitting the neck and end pin easier. (And just to prepare you, I forgot to take lots of pictures of that part of the process :-( My bad. I did, however make all tghose spool clamps. I want to make just another dozen.

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Part 10: Attaching the neck and end pin

11-15-2020 01:34 PM by Dave Rutan | 4 comments »

I mentioned earlier that I neglected to photograph the mortising necesary to attach the neck and the end pin. For that I apologize. I have instead included a few close-up shots of the neck where it meets the body. Suffice it to say that the neck fits into a mortise in a block of wood to which the sides (ribs) are attached. Unlike a cello or a doublebass, the end pin on a viol da gamba is more of a peg that stands up above the top. The tailpiece will hook onto this. The end pin...

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Part 11: Doing some finishing

11-21-2020 01:55 AM by Dave Rutan | 3 comments »

I brought the instrument home to stain and spray it with lacquer. It’s one of the many times I wished that they had a spray booth at work. When the weather permits, I prefer to spray outside, otherwise I use the spray and run method in my basement. After many (perhaps 4) coats of spray lacquer, I scrub the instrument down with steel wood and windex. Then I give it one more spray coat and scrub it down aghain to give it a semi-gloss finish. Trust me it works for me. Then I ...

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