Derek Roberts Violins

Violin Making
Day 13 Final arching

This is one page in a series about violin making by hand in the traditional way. Please see the introduction for more, and our violin making courses if you are inspired to make a violin yourself.

Today violin maker Derek Roberts completes the final arching on the top and bottom plates, having finished the purfling in the previous stage.

The external contours of the instrument have already been roughly carved on Day 6 and Day 7. In this final stage the contours are shaped precisely and the wood is very finely finished. The tools used are a thumbplane and a selection of steel scrapers. Also shown are templates and a pencil gauge.

Before starting on the final arching, Derek carves a narrow flute over the line of the purfling, around the edge of the instrument. The finished arching will rise up from this flute. He uses the pencil gauge to mark out a contour line in pencil on the back plate.

This and other contours marked with the pencil gauge will guide the final shaping of the arch. Also used are templates made of thin plywood, shaped from measurements taken from the original Stradivarius instrument.

A small brass thumbplane is ideally suited for work on the complex contours of the instrument.

The first step is to remove the gouge marks left from the rough arching of Day 6. Only tiny shavings of wood are removed, compared with the large amounts removed during rough arching.

The next step is to finish the contours of the plate, using the pencil lines and the templates as guides.

Although the thumbplane can shape the contours very accurately, it still leaves small tool marks visible on the plates. A much finer finish to the surface of the wood is desired.

Derek uses a flexible steel scraper to remove the tool marks together with any other irregularities in the surface of the arch.

The scraper has a small fine cutting edge which produces a silky smooth finish, allowing the grain of the wood to show at its best. Violin makers prefer to use scrapers rather than abrasive paper for this final finishing.

Scrapers of different shapes are used to suit the contours being worked on. Derek uses a small oval scraper to blend in the flute over the purfling with the main part of the arching.

In the next stage Derek hollows out the back plate.

Are you interested in learning to make a violin, or developing your violin making skills? See our Violin Making Courses. Our resources page has recommendations for books and suppliers for violin making.

All material on this site copyright Derek Roberts, Leamington Spa 1999, 2000, 2001, 2014