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Violin making tools
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wonybunyeats
Junior Member


Joined: 04 Jan 2009
Posts: 1
Location: MA

PostPosted: Sat Jun 06, 2009 2:20 am    Post subject: Violin making tools Reply with quote

Hi,

I am in the process of gathering up the necessary tools to make my first violin, and I am a bit stuck with selecting the right gouges and chisels to purchase.
I acknowlege the fact that different people use different making methods with different tools, but I would be thankful if some of the experienced luthiers would tell me what their most commonly used types of chisels & gouges are.
I also have a question about the tools required for purfling. Due to my limited budget, I am not looking into buying an electric router to carve the purfling channels. To my understanding, some luthiers use a sharp knife to precisely cut out the purfling channels, and then use a simple tool to scrape and clean out the channels. I am wondering what the grand italian masters did for this process? I'm willing to follow the old violin making tradition no matter how much more time or dedication it requires.

Regards,
Won
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Tim McTigue
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Joined: 31 Mar 2007
Posts: 30
Location: Ontario, Canada

PostPosted: Sat Jun 06, 2009 11:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Welcome to the forum, Won, and to the obsession. Yes, obsession is the right word.

I'm not an experienced luthier, but I have made one violin, and am in the process of making another, so I can relate my experience. I'll leave the gouges to more experienced folks to tell you about, I made do with 2 or 3 that were not ideal, but on a tight budget, one does what one must. I think one is a #8 12mm, and one is a #6 14mm, and I recently bought a nice smaller gouge for scrollwork, but most of my work was done with the #8 and #6. Not highly recommended, but workable.

I don't know what the Italian masters did, but what I did for purfling was this:

I bought a proper purfling marker tool, 2-bladed, I think it cost me $35 or $45 - well worth the money. I used this to mark the purfling channel, and then I used a sharp X-Acto knife (#11 blade) to cut the channel. For picking out the wood, I made a tool by taking a short length of 1/8" music wire, putting a slight bend in it, heating the end and then hammering it flat. Then I filed the end so it was fairly sharp and plane-like - I think I even put a bevel in it. I then stuck it in an old file handle. This worked okay, but a better tool could be had. I found it wasn't quite stiff enough.
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Geemac
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Joined: 06 Jul 2008
Posts: 93
Location: Spruce Grove

PostPosted: Sun Jul 19, 2009 4:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, welcome to the forum. I have been down the road you are just entering. I'm retired so my annual income is less than minumum wage and yet my tool cabinet is quite full. I used two simple rules to get my tools. The first rule I assigned to myself was:

Determine the tool I needed to get the next step in making the violin done.

and second: If I could not afford it set aside some cash towards the purchase of the tool and over two or three months I would have enough to get what I needed.

It's all about budget and patients. or is it patience?

I also made a few tools for myself, just by looking in a tool catalogue with an eye toward making my own tools. Here's a little tip for you. Often dentists will save broken picks and probes and if you ask they will give you one or all of them. I got three when I asked. I took a curved broken one and ground it down to make a chisel about a sixteenth of an inch wide, maybe even less than a sixteenth. It's great for all kinds of jobs such as cleaning out the puffling channel or scraping in a tight spot.

If you approach it as if it's an adventure you'll have a lot of fun.

Oh yeah, a bending iron or steam cabinet are great to have but you can boil the side pieces and form them into shape just as easily.

Carry on having fun.
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John Cadd
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Joined: 23 Jul 2009
Posts: 538
Location: Ellesmere Port

PostPosted: Sat Aug 22, 2009 8:05 pm    Post subject: violin tools Reply with quote

Best carving tool is a PFEIL Swiiss made (octagonal ash handles)
gouge about 1,1/2 inches wide.Curved along it`s length and tip.Can`t remember the exact number.If you drew the curve right round it would be about 3 inches diameter.
Cut a slot in the handle to make a pistol grip.Very controllable.
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Andres Sender
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Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 274
Location: N. CA

PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2009 12:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pfeil often does not fare well in reviews by violin makers. Many have found their tools do not hold an edge for long in maple.

I recently re-hardened a Pfeil knife blade and it came out very nice.

A bit of hunting in past threads at various forums will get you some recommendations in answer to your questions.
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kipp
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Joined: 17 Jul 2009
Posts: 11

PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2009 3:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I bought my first set of chisels from the salesman at Gotz. He would come by and see us every year after the NAMM Show in January. We bought wood and many items that the US distributers did not have. Gotz stocks Dastra brand. So I bought the set for making violins(the palm set). It cost around $225.00 then. I think it is about double that now days. www.dastrausa.com is the US distributer. Gotz I am sure still stocks them as well. On ebay the chinese are selling carving sets. I am not talking about the cheap knock off stuff here. The sets I am talking about are from Donyang a southern city in China that has been into wood carving from the time of the Tang dinasty(900AD) Try an ebay search
New 62pcs ASSORTED WOOD CARVING set or the 30pcs set With these you will have to sharpen them first thing. As they come from the black-smith with only a rough edge to start with. Carfull of using power stones as not to heat up the steel. The 62 pcs set you will have to make or buy a set of handles. That is 31 socket chisel handles. The other 31 you could just buy some file handles. The key to the hole thing is having sharp tools.
For violin knifes and plane irons This guy is a great source.
http://www.hocktools.com/products.htm#BRinfo


Last edited by kipp on Thu Aug 27, 2009 3:23 am; edited 1 time in total
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Michael Darnton
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Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 1114
Location: Chicago

PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2009 7:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My scroll gouges are all Dastra, and the gouges that aren't, a lot of them had to be rehardened. I wasn't sure the Swiss Made ones could even be hardened, they were so unusably soft from the factory, so I gave them away. With Andres saying he'd hardened some knife blanks, maybe I was premature. I threw the knives away when the tips bent instead of snapping as they should. :-) That was all a long time ago, though. Some people have said to me that the Swiss Made are better now. Once burned; twice shy.

These days, however, I would probably buy mostly Japanese laminated tools (what most of my knifes are now).
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Janito
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Joined: 08 Oct 2007
Posts: 114
Location: USA

PostPosted: Mon Aug 24, 2009 5:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In the US I have noticed that there are various tools that carry "Swiss made" stamped on the handle, but the quality appears to be variable.

I have had good service from "Swiss made" Pfiel tools I bought some time ago.

More recently, however, I bought a "Swiss made" knife labelled "Brienz" on the blade. This was soft steel and the edge bent over whilst working difficult wood (it should have remained straight or snapped off). A most disappointing tool.

After that, as catharsis, I made a whole load of knives from a Starrett Red Stripe blade, as recommended by Michael Darnton. I felt better - just like the hungry catapillar.
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John Cadd
Super Member


Joined: 23 Jul 2009
Posts: 538
Location: Ellesmere Port

PostPosted: Thu Sep 03, 2009 9:58 am    Post subject: violin making tools Reply with quote

This is not exactly a tool but will make all your work more effective and more satisfying. A plywood rotary tool rack.Overall size is 2 feet high and 2 feet wide.Circular top and base joined by two vertical boards which support external racks and give a support for internal drawers.Rotates on a sealed motorcycle wheel bearing. The top centre has a simple short rod into a board to act as a stabiliser .Three "sides "are used for racks for gouges etc.The fourth side is filled with drawers which use the internal volume which would otherwise be wasted.The base is fitted with a rim (2 inch high) to use as a handy platform for current odds and ends.There is a similar shelf at eye level for anything else with occasional uses.
There are plans showing how to make one but it only needs 5 minutes with a pencil to work out your own setup.
The basic benefit is tools will always end up in the same place and will reduce clutter on the bench.Actual positioning is up to you,but arms length in any direction is all you need.Must look up the Lazy Susan phrase to see where that came from.
Nothing is attached that will stick outside the circular outline .


Last edited by John Cadd on Wed Nov 24, 2010 12:37 pm; edited 1 time in total
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CT Dolan
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Joined: 29 Jun 2008
Posts: 143

PostPosted: Fri Sep 04, 2009 8:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The best edge tools hold an edge, but are tough enough to bend without a break, chip or crack in the blade. I used to be a member of the American Bladesmith Society, and for the Journeyman and Master tests one had to forge their own blade (out of high-carbon steel for the Journeyman test and laminated, or Damascus steel for the Master test), bring it up to a fine edge, and submit it to a round of tests, most of which tested edge retention, however the last of which was to put the blade in a vise and bend it a full 90-degrees without any failure whatsoever of the blade (no chipping or fracture of the steel). You see, it is easy enough to bring a blade up to high temper, to give it a very hard edge, but another matter altogether to give a blade excellent edge retention combined with toughness. Hardness alone is not the goal, and there is a difference in the tool, when treated properly and made right. Ever used one of the really good chisels from days gone by? The ones that are thin in section, but super-tough and can hold an edge forever? This is the stuff I am talking about, but it is so very rare to find such a tool today. In fact, I've yet to find one commercially available. But, if you can find a good bladesmith in your area, you might be able to talk him into making up some tools for you with 52-100 steel. He'll know what you're talking about, and this stuff, when worked under the hammer properly and then differentially-hardened, is legend!
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John Cadd
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Joined: 23 Jul 2009
Posts: 538
Location: Ellesmere Port

PostPosted: Mon Sep 14, 2009 1:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

C T Dolan Have you ever tried those thin flexy blades in the current catalogues?I wondered if you would lose control with flexing.The blades are nice short ones.You would be the ideal one to ask.--Our resident metalman.(Your new title)
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CT Dolan
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Joined: 29 Jun 2008
Posts: 143

PostPosted: Mon Sep 14, 2009 7:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry, I am not familiar with the tools you mention. Generally-speaking however, the better tools are thinner in section (more slender) and have an elegance to their overall shape and appearance which suggests having been worked over and finished by hand. They also have an ever so subtle "give" under the hand, which provides a totally different feel in use and great tactile feedback. Such tools are very difficult, if not impossible to find today and the only way I know to get a hold of one is to make it yourself, or have one made by a good blacksmith, one who knows and understands edge tools, as any good blacksmith should. Even better, though, would be to find a bladesmith because these guys actually specialize in edge tools (sort of akin to seeing a medical specialist to treat a specific health condition, rather than a general practitioner, because even though perhaps very talented, they lack specific trainging). However beware that such tools, if made for you, would not be cheap, but it sure would be nice for maple!
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kipp
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Joined: 17 Jul 2009
Posts: 11

PostPosted: Tue Sep 15, 2009 2:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have found some nice tools at yard sales for those on a budget. Those old damaged and worn out files make very good chisels. Good steel is good steel. Flat thin spring steel can make knives, scrapers and so on. I had a freind who made a violin knife from a bed spring. It worked well for him for almost 50 years. He made it and other tools from some junk that he found in the alley in 1937.
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CT Dolan
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Joined: 29 Jun 2008
Posts: 143

PostPosted: Tue Sep 15, 2009 7:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As I believe I've mentioned before (somewhere, if not here), old car leaf springs can make for great tools.
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L P Reedy
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Joined: 02 Apr 2009
Posts: 242
Location: Brevard, NC

PostPosted: Tue Sep 15, 2009 5:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tools such as gouges and knives that have a little give (I think Flex-Cuts have more than a little) are fine for some jobs, such as scroll work. On the other hand, I do not want my roughing gouges and plane blades to have ANY detectable flex.
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