Making a violin, from Ashmolean Museum, Oxford


Six blocks of willow are glued to a wooden mould, one on top, one below and two on either side. The side blocks are shaped with the gouge to make pointed corners. Thin strips of maple wood are bent to form the sides, or ribs, and are then glued to the blocks.

The blocks are tapped free from the mould leaving a box shaped like violin. The box is strengthened with narrow strips of willow, glued to the inside face of the ribs.

A wedge of spruce cut from a log and a similar wedge of maple are both sawn in half, making two matching wedges that are glued together along the thicker sides. These form two rectangles of wood thicker in the centre and joined down the middle like an open book. The spruce is used for the front and the maple for the back. Outlines of the back and the front are traced onto each of the rectangles, slightly enlarged in order to ensure an overhang when front and back are glued to the box.

The outline is sawn from the wood and the outer face is roughly shaped with a large gouge.

A narrow line is chiselled out along the edge of back and front and filled with the thin strip of wood called purfling.

The inside of the [back] is hollowed out with the gouge. The back is glued to the box.

The eyes of the sound holes on the front are drilled out and curved outline of the f-hole is cut with the saw and finished with the knife.

A bar of wood, the bass bar, is glued to the inside of the front under the place where the G string will run.

The neck and scroll are shaped from a block of maple. The pegbox is hollowed out with the chisel and two flutes are carved on the back of the scroll.

A space is chiselled through the middle of the upper ribs and the neck is glued to the upper block. The neck is finished with the scraper and chisel to make a smooth, rounded surface for ease of handling. A small post is inserted inside the box, joining front and back and the front is glued to the box. The violin is now ready for varnishing.

Five coats of varnish are applied.

A tailpiece is fixed by the loop of gut to a button inserted in the lower ribs. Pegs are inserted into the pegbox and the instrument is strung, ready for playing.

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