After 10 classes, this is my violin.
I’m taking a cultural preservation class, where we are learning to play fiddle tunes, New Mexico’s history with European music (dating back to Pedro de Gante in 1523), and violin making. The shop is a small studio filled with lumber and power tools, hidden away in the back of UNM’s Journalism building. This is my desk:
The first step in making my violin, after making clamps, learning to sharpen pencils properly, etc. was choosing which model I wanted to build: a Stradivarius, from the most famous violin maker in the world, or Giuseppe Guarneri’s del Gesú. The two luthiers lived in Cremona at the same, with the Stradivari family/company shadowing Guarneri’s work.
I chose the del Gesú model because Guarneri’s work is known for being somewhat crude, but having excellent tone (plus, I don’t feel like bringing a strad into this world).
After getting my mold (the largest piece in the first picture), I had to shape blocks, Neither the blocks or mold will be a part of the final part of the final violin, but they’re important to the shape. They are necessary for shaping the ribs—the sides of the violin.
Partially shaped blocks, glued to the del Gesú mold (as well as a cracked rib):
Two ribs: shaped and unshaped
The ribs are 34 mm wide, and (for the C-bouts), 5.5” longs. They’re also 1 mm thin, after extensive power-sanding. To shape a rib, you need a bending iron, which is hot enough to steam water; and a wet rib. The water vaporizes, and seeps further into the wood, making it more malleable. Slowly, you press the rib against the hot iron. If there’s too much force, or too much water, the ribs will crack (and I’ve only cracked four at this point).
I’ve managed to glue on the two inner-ribs. Two ribs—that’s my violin. The other four will be done next week, provided I don’t break any more. Progress is slow, but after the ribs are done, I start on the front of my violin: cutting, shaping and chiseling.
I absolutely love this class. I’m a linguist major, but I think this could be what i want to do. I feel like an artist: sanding blocks, shaping wood, creating clamps—even without considering the end result. It’s intimate and meaningful, and it provides an opportunity to create, in a way that none of my studies can.