Derek Roberts Violins

Violin Making
Day 3 The ribs

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 prepares the ribs and bends them to shape.

The rib structure will be built up on the mould which has been prepared with blocks in the previous stage. Shown here is the template which will be used to guide the shaping of the ribs, being placed on top of the mould.

Each violin maker has his or her own sets of templates for different models of instrument. The template shown here is for a Stradivarius model from the early 18th century. Derek made this template of thin plywood from drawings of the Stradivarius instrument.


Each rib is made from a thin slice of flamed maple. The rib is very flexible and light when finished. Strength is provided by the six blocks, and by the linings which will be made later and fixed to the ribs and blocks.

The rib is planed to a fine thickness and measured with a dial gauge to an accurate tolerance, typically 0.1 mm.


The rib is placed on a shooting board and planed to the right depth for this stage. Later on, when the ribs have been glued to the blocks, the depth will be reworked. Now each rib is bent to shape on a bending iron.


The bending iron is a piece of brass with an electric heating element inside. Derek made the bending iron himself, the brass having been cast to order in a small foundry.


The ribs are roughly bent to shape and are put in place against the blocks on the mould.

The shape of the instrument begins to emerge.

In the next stage, Derek completes the rib structure.

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.

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