Today let’s look at the top plate of the fiddle kit a little more closely –

The outside shows the grain – 16 rings at the center and 8 at the outer edges with a joint in the center, showing that this top plate was book-matched. The joint is all but invisible and the look is very balanced and pleasing. The surface is smooth, but not completely finished with a small pencil mark to show the future location of the bridge.

Here’s the underside –

There are some tool marks as well as scratches in a circular pattern showing where it was perhaps power sanded? Around the right side extending out to the edges of the plate are some very rough patches that will have to be planed out to form a good glue bond. The thickness at the edges of the plate is pretty uniform and measures 4mm – 5mm. The location of the bass bar has been marked as well as the general outline where the top will join the ribs. Total weight of the top plate is 83 grams.

A closer look at the F-holes and purfling grooves shows that both are well formed and overall the look is symmetrical and pleasing. The pointed corners of the purfling grooves are finished nice and sharp.

All in all, not bad, eh? Here’s where a bit of research can make a person crazy:

A cursory glance through Henry Strobel’s Useful Measurements for Violin Makers reveals that all is not as “finished” as it could be on this fiddle top.

The top should be 2.5mm thick at the upper edge, 3.0mm at the F-holes, and 2.6mm elsewhere. Clearly there’s some wood to be taken off here!

The F-holes should be 41mm apart at the upper eye (they are,) 75mm apart where the bridge will be placed (they are 70mm apart) and have an overall length of 78mm (they are 70mm long.) So it appears that the F-holes are smaller and closer together than Strobel recommends, but he does say that “for lighter, more flexible wood it may be advisable to leave the plates and ribs 10% or so thicker than shown [in the table on page 41.]”

Since I can’t change the overall dimensions or they won’t match the bottom/rib assembly, I’ll stop the insane comparisons there. I have no way of calculating the plate graduation at this time, but it’s clear that I need to get my hands on a caliper and see just where the scraping/planing will do the most good as I take off some of the thickness. Tapping it does produce a pleasing sound, though.

Placing the top plate on a glass table shows that it has a very slight warp and won’t sit flat. A bit of pressure applied to the center of the plate easily pushes it down flat, but this is worrisome – don’t want the fiddle to tear itself apart! Robert’s considered opinion is that it will likely be just fine, but I’m inclined to rush headlong down the slippery slope into Full On Crazy and graduate the plate according to Strobel’s diagrams in an attempt to achieve something more than a VSO (Violin Shaped Object.)

I never could think small…

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