If you’re interested in how violins are made, you might also be looking for some electric violins from Cecilio. Making a violin is something that takes years of practice and expertise to do right. Violin makers treat each of their instruments with great care and getting from a piece of wood to a fully-functional instrument can take them years. So let’s see how they do it.
Creating the ribs
Violin makers start building the instrument by making its sides first. These are the ribs and they will act as guidelines for the rest of the instrument. To help the makers build violins better, they use a special mold on which they put the ribs. This mold is cut to the exact dimensions of the inside of the violin.
For the corner and end blocks of the violin, the makers put pieces of wood in the mold and cut them to the approximate dimension. Nothing is precise yet but it will become. Using a pattern, gouges, and files, the pieces of wood are trimmed to their final shape.
Makers also use heated metal forms to bend the wood as they like and to keep the ribs in the same position so they take the shape of the violin, they use counter-molds that keep the wood in place. Using clamps or wrapping the whole mold, the pressure is applied on the ribs.
In the process of creating the shape of the violin, the makers start with the middle ribs that must be cut to extreme precision and they go on from there. After every piece is in place, the ribs are filed and planned so their height is even.
Creating the top and back
For the top of the violin, makers split a wedge of wood in two and glue the resulting pieces together. The resulting joint should be perfect. For the back, the same process applies, but sometimes violin makers find a large enough piece of wood to use it as a whole.
Fitting the two pieces of wood together is a very difficult task and it needs to be planned right. After carefully examining how the pieces of wood best fit together, the maker puts one of the pieces’ edges in chalk. Then he or she puts the 2 pieces of wood together and where the chalk transfers from one piece to another the maker should shave the wood slightly so it all fits well together.
This is repeated until the fit between the two pieces is perfect. After that, they are glued and clamped together, forming the top. This piece of wood that is now the top is flat and it is positioned over the ribs and cut so it fits their shape. However, the makers leave a little room for error, making the top a bit bigger than the shape of the ribs.
The same is done with the back as well. After that comes the arching process, in which special arching molds are used for the top and back respectively. Most modern violin makers use the designs and the templates that were used by Stradivari or other significant makers.
Finishing the top
As you know, the top also needs the F holes and violin makers create those by transferring the drawing onto the top and then using a sharp knife to cut the holes. The violin also has a bass bar which sits on the underside of the top and this is made of a piece of spruce that is straight and cut to perfection, following the design of ancient makers.
The maker uses the chalk-fitting method once again for the placement of the bass bar. Before cutting the holes and mounting the brass bar, the maker also listens for the resonance of the top piece. After the changes are made, the resonance modifies, so the maker has to check it once again.
Completing the body
The violin maker then removes the ribs from the mold and glues the top and the back pieces onto the ribs. A very strong type of glue is used for the back, but for the front, a weaker one should be used to allow the top to be removed if the violin needs some service.
The purfling process, in which the edges of the violin get their specific look, comes next. For that purpose, the maker uses a special purfling cutter to mark the exact distance between the groove and the edges of the top. The groove is then deepened and its space is filled with purfling strips that give the violin its special look.
After all of that is done, the edges of the instrument should be smoothed using a knife, a file, or perhaps sandpaper. However, sandpaper is not used for other parts of the violin because it ruins the look of the wood.
Creating the neck
For the neck, the violin maker uses a block of maple that matches the back. This is cut so it matches the distance between the top and the bottom piece. Then, the outline of the side view of the neck is traced on the block of maple. The view from above is also drawn on the piece of wood.
The maker then starts cutting away the wood using a razor saw, and for more precise details he or she uses gouges and scrapers. Each maker expresses his or her unique style in designing the neck.
Making the pegbox is a bit more complicated but the maker does it using chisels and gouges. The result is often an impressive one, proof of the maker’s craftsmanship. After the neck and the pegbox are cut to the exact dimensions, comes the process of attaching the neck to the body.
For that purpose, a mortise, or cavity, is cut into the ribs, top, and back parts, where the neck will connect. This cut should be very precise and the neck should have the exact dimensions and curvature. This is essential for getting a good tonal result.
Some people say that special varnishing techniques are the secret ingredient that gave old Italian violins their unique tonality. Whether that is the case or not, little is known. However, makers know that varnishing the instrument is an important process. It makes the violin beautiful, and it helps against keeping dust, water, and damage away.
There are many ways to varnish a violin, but there are some general steps taken for that purpose. Most violin makers hang up their instruments and let them “age” over time, in some cases for months or years. This darkens the wood and brings out its details.
After that process is over, a pore filler is applied. The varnish comes next and it’s applied in several layers. Coats of clear varnish are put over the instrument and in some cases, makers coat their instruments with some colored varnishes too.
Because violins that look older are priced better, makers put their instruments through an artificial aging process. Each of them has a specific method that is kept secret and good violin makers proud themselves with their methods.
The last thing that needs to be done is fitting all the hardware, including the ebony nut. The pegs are shaved and placed into their holes, and the bridge and soundpost are placed last. The result is a magnificent instrument.