Building a violin - photo essay (Completed)

Violin buildingI recently received another commission to build a violin. I have decided to document the building process through a photo essay. The building process is mostly done by hand. I have no objection to the use of powertools, but there are very few steps in the building process that can be improved or completed in a shorter time using them. And besides, powertools and a glass of wine and a nice CD on the sound system don't mix!

Click on the thumbnails below to see the photo with a description. Enjoy!

The wood for the violin is selected from my stockpile.   The maple as well as the spruce was sourced from Italy. This piece of maple has been seasoned for seven years.  This is the mold I am going to use. It is similar to my previous violins and based on a 1702 Stradivari violin.  Mold and blocks 2
 The mold is clamped to a flat surface and the six corner blocks are glued squarely to the mold.  The blocks have been glued and ready to be shaped.  The outline is transfered to the blocks  The excess is removed with an inside bevel gouge.
The ribs are thinned down using a scraper plane to prevent tear-out of the highly flamed maple.
 The final thicknessing and finishing of the ribs is done with a hand scraper fashioned from an old plane blade  The ribs after thicknessing  The width of the ribs are reduced to size using a plane
 The ribs are bent around a plywood mold using an old laundry iron and an aluminium backing strip  A top view of the plywood mold showing the bent rib clamped in place using a spring clam  The top and bottom bout ribs are bent using a similar method  The C-bout rib is glued to the blocks. A clamping block is used to ensure that it seats properly
 The top and bottom ribs are glued to the corner blocks using a suitable clamping block.  The linings are glued all the way round to the top and bottom of the ribs. This will give the ribs more strength as well as increase the gluing surface of the plates  The protruding edge of the linings are planed flush to the top of the ribs.  The whole rib garland is planed to reduce the height very close to the final measurement.
 The rib garland is sanded on a flat surface to ensure that it is completely square.  A close-up of a completed corner. Note that the lining is inlaid into the block to increase the strength.  The wood for the plate is sawn into two halfs that will be book-matched and glued together along the centre seam.  The plates are clamped together and carefully planed square to ensure a perfect centre seam.
 The plates are glued and clamped to form a centre joint that should last forever.  The joined plates are flattened with a plane.  The completed rib garland is clamped to the plates so that the outline can be transfered to the plates.  The overhang is drawn from the rib garland using a suitable washer.
 The completed outline. The corners will be drawn by hand later in the process.  The plate is clamped and the outline roughly cut using a jigsaw.  Both plates have been cut out and the remaining wood is removed using a combination of files, knives and sandpaper.  The thickness of the back plate edge is reduced using a big gouge.
 The same is done to the top plate. This is to prepare the plate for the inlaying of the purfling.  The purfling channel is cut using a very sharp knife. The purfling is three thin strips (black-white-black) of wood that is inlaid into the edge of both plates.  The design of the purfling in the corner is one of the individual trademarks of a maker.  The purfling has been glued and the channel going all around the edge of the violin is cut using a suitable gouge.
 The outside arching is roughly cut using a gouge.  The last bits are removed with a tiny violin makers plane  A close-up of the plane. It has a curved sole and is made from bronze  The outside arching of the back is completed
 The same is done on the top plate. The soft spruce cuts a lot easier than the hard maple of the back.  Another plane, just a bit bigger this time.  And a close-up  The arching is checked against a set of templates. This is where the voice of the violin will be determined.
 The arching is finished using a razor sharp scraper.  The plate is secured in a cradle for inside arching.  The plate is drilled full of holes using a drill press. The drill is set to stop a pre-determined distance from a stopper against which the plate is pressed.  The inside of the plate is gouged out until the bottom of the holes are reached.
 The rough thicknessing has been completed. Note the remains of the holes on the plate.  The final thicknessing is done using a thickness gauge and a scraper.]  The F-holes are drawn on the plate based on the Stradivari model used.]  The holes are cut using a combination of drills, files and knives.
 The mold is removed from the rib assembly.  Free at last!  The blocks and linings are trimmed down to size.  The back is glued to the finished rib garland.
 The bass bar is chalk-fitted to the inside of the top...  ...glued, and trimmed down to size.  The top is glued to the rib garland to close the body.  The scroll template is made modelled on an actual Stradivari gypsum cast.
 The template has been completed and the neck block cut out accordingly. The peg holes are also drilled at this early stage to ensure that they are square.  Many saw cuts are made to the correct depth to remove the side of the pegbox.  Using a chisel the waste is removed from the side of the pegbox.  The same process is used to remove the waste from the first turn of the scroll.
 The waste of the first turn has been removed...  ...and the second turn. The resemblance is beginning to emerge.  The edges are cleaned-up and chamfered and the eye refined.  The back of the scroll is fluted.
 The fingerboard is glued on at this stage and here I am plaining it down to the required thickness.  The next step is to attach the neck to the body. Here the width of the opening is cut into the top edge.  The waste is carefully removed with a small chisel.  After the mortice is cut into the top block and some careful aligning, the neck is glued to the body.
 The woodwork is completed and here is the finished product, before varnishing...  and a different view  and the scroll  The violin is varnished.
 Image  Finished!  Finished!  Finished!
 Finished!  Finished!  Finished!  Finished!

Albertus I am very impressed


I am very impressed by your craftmanship!!! I am a 73 year old pensioner who enjoys woodworking as a hobby (my skills are very very far behind yours). However, having seen your step by step pictures of the making of a violin on the internet, I would like to enquire wheher I could purchase copies of these pictures ore photo's. As I would like to try and make a miniature violin, complete with an ornate display case.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

David Gilliland

David Give me a ring at


Give me a ring at 0829035832 or drop me an e-mail at


Nice to see a craftsman can u

Nice to see a craftsman

can u make me a double violin with 10 strings. 5 strings on each.

i can send you pictures .

i need an a apprx cost to see if i can afford it.

i just started play the instrument 2 months ago, and i was able to tune it and play it  the first time i touched it, just as i had desired and dreamed i would, on my own, with no help as i can't read music notation.i am appling a system, that a hermit taught me, b4 he died. i am willing to teach and show this to anyone who desires to play.

Saw L.SHANKER and his double violin, i would like to achieve those sounds that he creates. i have listened to him, i know the sound, just need the tool

Many thanks


i would like to come and visit you


You are welcome to come and

You are welcome to come and visit. Give me ring at 0829035832 to set up.


Very good work,

Very good work, Albertus.

Veramente bravo e accurato. Complimenti vivissimi!

Greetings from Cremona, Italia


Thanks for the compliment!

Thanks for the compliment! Yes, most of the supplies and tools must be imported. But that is not really an issue with what is available on the web nowadays. Good luck with the wood working efforts!

I went through every picture

I went through every picture and paused about 20 minutes on each. What a beautifula piece of work and craftsmenship. Your skills are trully amazing. I build mostly electric guitars but after seeing this I am considering starting my first violin soon. The wood will definetly be a problem tho as well as the finger planes, In South Africa I haven"t found a decent tonewood supplier yet. As for the planes, many hardware stores don't stock them.


I congratulate you on such a beautiful piece of work. On saturday I go to see Marc Maingard of Maingard guitars, As you may see I am slowly gravitating to the true arts of wood working :-)

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