The first violin of 2017 is finally under way. I don’t often start with the scroll, but in a fickle moment, that’s what I decided to do this time. It’s based on an early 1740’s Guarneri Del Gesú, which is one of my most used models, but I think this will be the last time I use it.
Recently we had a visitor in the workshop, who seemed pretty disappointed that the wood on one of the shelves, which is for scrolls, was just small rectangular blocks of wood.
I’m not sure what players expect the wood to look like before we start, but yes, it’s just pieces of wood, usually roughly sawn out at a sawmill. I agree that at this stage, it can look pretty uninspiring, sometimes it’s hard to even see the flames in the wood in this state.
The blocks are usually oversized, which is a very good thing, because it allows some freedom on how to align the grain, and placement of the template to obtain the best figure, or avoid any flaws in the wood.
With this block, you can see it still has a small section of bark attached.
It would be easy just to use the large flat side of the block as a reference, but that leaves us at the mercy of the grain orientation as decided by the sawmill worker, which may, or may not be what we want.
The sides of the scroll should be perfectly quarter sawn. In picture 3, I’ve marked out lines which will give me a perfectly quartered piece of wood, but as you can see, it’s very different to the original shape of the block.
With a hand saw, I cut the block to the shape I want, then plane it nicely square (pic 4). At this stage, we can see the flames very clearly, which were hard to see on the roughly sawn surface.
The scroll is marked out from a template, then sawn from the block. Once the outline has been trued up, carving can being in earnest. As you can see, there is often quite a bit to do in the preparation, before anything recognisable can appear.
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