How to make a violin: the steps

Making a violin is an artistic process. That’s the reason why each instrument is unique. Each violin has its own birth and its own story to tell. It requires about 220 hours of work, from the wood choice to its assembling. It’s a patient and accurate working, arose by years of experience. Now, let’s try to describe it!

Balkans maple wood back

1. Choosing the proper wood is crucial for the future instrument acoustic and aesthetic quality. In this picture, a Balkans maple wood back with tangential cut.

Val di Fiemme spruce fir

2. Val di Fiemme spruce fir. The wood must be more than 10 years mature. It’s essential for the instrument acoustics.

Maple wood block for violin scroll sculpture

3. Maple wood block for violin scroll sculpture.

Selection and marking of the pieces

4. Selection and marking of the pieces already planed by a model, which usually reproduces historical instruments by Stradivari, Guarneri, Amati.

Violin belly and back

5. Belly (also known as soundboard or top plate) and back ready for roughing.

Arching roughing by gouge

6. Arching roughing by gouge. We use the same procedure for the back and the belly. The shape of the arching is extremely important for the sound.

Edge finishing

7. Edge finishing, by knives and files.

Channel cut

8. Channel cut for the inlay of purfling and its insertion. The purfling embellishes the instrument, in particular the beaks.

The purfling

9. The purfling. Tips must fit together perfectly. Their aesthetics depends on violin maker’s style.

Removal of the inside wood for purfling insertion in the arching

10. Removal of the inside wood for purfling insertion in the arching, by using proper gouges.

Arching working

11. Arching working by using wood planes, till reaching the desired shape.

Arching finishing

12. Arching finishing by using screeds. Screeds are thin steal sharp blades removing a thin layer of wood.

Placement and cut of the F-holes

13. Placement and cut of the F-holes. They are crucial for the violin, for its acoustics and aesthetics. As a luthier looks at a violin, the first things he notices are the “F”.

Thickness profile carving

14. Thickness profile carving by using chisels, wood planes and screeds. The thickness profiles of the belly and of the back are extremely important for the acoustics. Depending on flexibility and wood weight, the violin maker removes different parts of wood.

The bass bar, its pasting

15. The bass bar, its pasting. The bass bar is a spruce wood small bar, set under the bass strings. It supports the board.

The ribs

16. The ribs. They are made of spruce wood, possibly the same quality of the back. They are 1.2mm thick.

The ribs are thermo-bent

17. The ribs are thermo-bent and adapted to the selected model.

Linings and blocks

18. In this picture, the ribs are finished by pasting the linings and the blocks, and are now ready for the extraction of the body (here, the external profile of the body).

Label and fire brand

19. The label and the fire brand. Each violinmaker brands his violin by his own label and brand.

The back is pasted on the ribs

20. The back is pasted on the ribs by using animal hot glue.

The belly and the back assembled

21. The belly and the back assembled, by special clamps.

Files and screeds smooth and soften the external surfaces.

22. Files and screeds smooth and soften the external surfaces.

The scroll is cut from a maple wood block

23. The scroll is cut from a maple wood block.

Initial cuts

24. Initial cuts.

The scroll sculpture

25. The scroll sculpture goes on till its finishing. Then, it’s time to cut the pegbox, the housing of pegs and strings.

The scroll is engaged at the board

26. After the violin maker pastes the fingerboard, the scroll is engaged at the board by a dovetail joint, perfectly made according to conventional standards.

Nose finishing

27. Nose finishing. It’s another distinguishing feature of the luthier.

Violin Varnishing

28. Varnishing. In this step, a penetrating sealer coats the maple wood elements and gives them a coloured background.

Transparent coat

29. The varnishing starts off with a transparent coat, till the instrument reaches the desired colour. The varnish I personally produce and I usually use is alcohol-based with different dissolved natural resins.

The belly during its varnishing

30. The belly during its varnishing. On the surface, it’s possible to highlight some wood grains by a proper procedure.

The varnishing at its end

31. The varnishing at its end. Generally, the violin requires more than 20 coats!

The assembling

32. The assembling. It’s one of the crucial steps because it makes the violin sound. In this image, ebony pegs.

Violin is ready to be played

33. Finally, the instrument is ready to be played!