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Making a Violin
Gwyneth Wilbur, LUTHIER

ach of Gwyneth's hand-crafted instruments is made from wood that has been air-dried for at least seven years. The sides, back and neck are usually maple to ensure strength and fine finish. The top is quarter-cut European spruce, chosen for perfect sound reflection. Ebony and rosewood are used for fittings such as fingerboards and pegs. Gwyneth obtains her supplies from specialists in Canada, the United States and Europe.

ne violin takes close to 200 hours of meticulous work. The wood must be carefully bent, carved and shaved to within 0.1 mm. in thickness, a calibration that depends on state-of-the art precision instruments. This work requires endless patience, hands that can form with surgeon-like precision, and eyes of a fine artist.

he resulting difference between a handcrafted instrument and one turned out on a factory assembly line can be seen and heard immediately, even by a non-specialist. The hand-crafted instrument has a longer life and like a few prestigious automobiles or vintage wines, increases in value as each year passes.

hown below is the process of making a violin:

Only the finest woods (left) are used quality violin making. Flamed maple is usually selected for the back, sides and neck. Even grained spruce is choice for the top. All wood is planed and scraped to the desired thickness as indicated by precision calipers (right).
The sides are carefully shaped using a hot bending iron (left) and glued to hardwood corner blocks that are temporarily fixed into a violin mold of precise dimensions (right).
The back is carved and scalloped using fine chisels and planes (left) and is glued to the newly shaped sides (right) using special wooden clamps.
The outer edge of a roughly carved spruce top is then embedded with fine strips of ebony and pear wood called 'purfling' trim (left). The top gets its attractive shape by careful hand-chiseling (right).
The top is then smoothed down using miniature finger planes and scrapped to a fine finish (left). In addition, f-holes are cautiously cut out of the belly (right).
To complete the top plate, a bass bar is added and shaped for optimum tone (left). The complete body in two parts is shown (right) before addition of the neck.
A solid stock of maple is carved to form the neck and scroll (left). Small scrapers are used to perfect the finish.

After adding a solid ebony fingerboard and tail saddle, the major parts are assembled and buffed to the 'in the white' state (two left) ready for application of a special finish. The two rightmost photographs depict the finished product complete with rosewood pegs, premium strings, bridge, tailpiece and chinrest to match. And, oh yes, the insertion of the sound post within the belly of the violin.

Reproduction of material from any of these pages without written permission is strictly prohibited.
Copyright © 2006-2016; Gwyneth Wilbur, Elmsville, NB, Canada

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