Sunday, September 12, 2010

A year in progress

     Well for anybody who is wondering I am not exactly getting the "college" experience. There are six people at the school, and I am living with two of them and really there is not much to do around here. I guess that's good so I can concentrate on making violins! I am working two jobs at a couple different restaurants now. One will end at the end of October and the other is just for weekends. I also know I could make a lot of money staying here over the summer, but would rather come back visit friends and family and take some college courses. I don't know, we will see. Ok so I have some catching up to do as far as school, for all you curious people out there.... Well on Tuesday Brian talked about hide glue which is made out of animal skins and is hydroscopic. He keeps his glue in a sauce pan that he drilled holes in to fit baby food containers which hold the glue. Nifty idea if you ask me. He also gave us some instruction on how to make the glue. You can buy the powder in different strengths. So after all my blocks were cut I glued them onto the form I am using. We are told to then wait 8-10 hours before working on them. While those were drying I began the awesome (some sarcasm) process of planing my maple and spruce. Talk about labor, pain, frustration. I have the blisters to prove it! It took me all day Thursday to plane the maple and tomorrow I will finish planing the spruce. That block plane and I haven't been the best of friends...we used what Brian referred to as chopsticks to lay the form on to glue the blocks. The dimensions of these depend on the form and the ones we use are 9mm by 11mm, the 11 side being used for violas. Ta ta for now!

Friday, September 3, 2010

New stuff to learn everyday

Ok so here I begin after finishing the lining of the violin, we work on the ribs. For the lining we used willow and for the ribs curly maple. Our teacher gave us our first rib to work on even though we each bought our own. The first thing you usually do on the ribs is use your tooth blade to get rid of machine marks from the company you got the wood from, however, international violin company sends out ribs that are already very close to thickness, so thankfully I didn't have to spend forever planing them down like I did the first rib. So after planing, one should see tooth marks evenly across the wood then one takes a sharpened and burnished scraper, which you have to do on your own, and scrapes the rib to get rid of all tooth marks. Once that is done you flip to the other side and tooth plane to 1.5mm, then scrape to 1.3mm, then 1.2mm. The next step is then cutting the ribs to length. Once that is done we do something called bookmatching which is just matching the flame of the ribs with the wood for the back of the violin. After the ribs are ready to go we work on the blocks.

Our teacher provided our first form which is based off a guy named Lee who he worked with and studied at the Mittenwald school. It is based on an Italian style. We had a bit of a history lesson. Brian said many thought a man named Gasparo defined the violin, but he was born after Amati. However this Gasparo guy did begin the Brescian school of violin making (my spelling of the names might be wrong here). It was Nicola Amati however that started the Cremonese school of violin making. Also Amati is credited with making the violin in parts. They used to just carve the ribs and backs together out of a log like you would imagine them doing for a boat. Just making a log hallow in the center, but it was Amati's idea to do the ribs, back, and top separate and then join them. He also started using a mold or form which lute makers had been using already that's how we got the idea today. Very early on Italian, English, and Dutch makers made instruments without forms so you can imagine their instruments being very asymmetrical. You also don't have to use an inside form, some makers use an outside form instead (like the French).

So we were given our forms which are solid inside forms made of plywood. There are also collapsible inside forms that make it easier to get out. We will eventually have to make our own. The next step is cutting out our blocks. The wood needs to be strong, lightweight, and easy to carve of course which may include spruce, willow, poplar, basswood, beach, walnut, and butternut. Amati used spruce and Strad used willow. We are using spruce. One thing to avoid in wood is twist. An average tree has twist but too much is very difficult to work with. The growth rings of these blocks have to be a certain way also. Then begins the famous procedure of flat, smooth, square. This is done to two of the sides and both ends of each block. The end blocks are a little different.

I did ask Brian the question of how to build a violin with a darker sound, and he told me three different ways: 1) to use willow or poplar for the backs which is usually used on violas or cellos 2) to select spruce that the growth rings are more spread out 3) create less arching but with that comes thicker plates which adds brightness. One thing that really made my day Tuesday was when I finally got done scraping my rib and showed it to him Brian said it was the most even and consistent meaning it was the best one he saw from all three of us new students. Boy was I proud!

On Wednesday I worked on one block all day getting each side flat, smooth, and square. I also met my violin teacher. Her name is Jennifer Anderson. I haven't heard her play yet, but she has a lot of experience under her belt.
Thursday on finished 4 out of the 6 blocks and after splitting my top block while trying to cut it out was successful on my second try. To cut them out we just use a sharpened butter knife and mallet. It usually splits the wood nicely but on my fist try with my top block it split the block right in the middle. Brian wasn't too

Something interesting Brian mentioned was arithmic(i think), giometric, and harmonic ratios. Something early makers tried to incorporate into instrument building. I have yet to look them up but find it interesting. So this is our four day weekend because of Labor Day....I was thinking what is Labor Day...what are we celebrating exactly? Anyways I have a chance to stomp grapes tomorrow (which is on my list of things to do before i kick the bucket) and will work again Sunday at the Blue Bayou. My feet kill me working there, but I'm too cheap to get a better pair of So I am pretty tired of writing now and it is getting late. My roommate and I are suppose to be practicing right about now for some shows we have lined up. I thought he would come looking for me by now especially since I am writing this on his computer...ha...guess not. Talk to you all soon. Oh and one more thing before this computer dies on me...Brian said most of his students go into repair after school. I know there is more of a job market there, but I don't necassarily want to be stuck in repairs. I think I am going to want to make.