15″ 5-string Viola on the way

Spread the love

Five-String Viola in progress

Delayed Five-String Viola Completion

I have been seeing increased interest in 5-string violas, lately, so I am working to “populate” my five-string viola stock. This is the viola design I began with over 20 years ago (The mold says 1999; it was my very first instrument.) and it makes a very nice small viola. So I decided it would probably make a great 5-string viola as well.

I began the work quite some time ago, but other projects took priority, so the little viola languished on the bench. The back is curly, spalted maple from a tree that had been taken down on my wife’s parents’ place, and the belly is Sitka spruce. Both the front and back plates are one-piece in this case…something I seldom do. (One-piece front plates are uncommon. One-piece backs are quite common, and I prefer them.)

The rib-garland had been completed and the plates traced out months ago; so, after delivering the last commissioned instrument, I finally felt free to get to work again on the viola.

Completed Rib Garland for Five String viola.
Completed Rib Garland. Linings and blocks still require shaping and scraping.

Five-string viola arching complete: ready to graduate the plates

I failed to take any photos while arching…so we are beginning with that portion complete.

Front and Back Plates for Five String viola.
Front and Back Plates, completed except f-holes, bass-bar, purfling, and edgework.

 

Graduation of back plate for Five String viola.
Graduation of back plate.

 

Carving the back plate for the Five String viola.
Carving “dots” with specific thicknesses. Notice the button graft, to replace damaged wood.

On the backs, especially, I make a practice of carving “dots” to specific thicknesses, following a plan in my mind. Once all the dots are correct, I “connect the dots” using small planes, until the entire interior is a smooth continuum, and all the correct thicknesses.

"Connecting the Dots" on a Five String viola back plate.
Connecting the Dots.

The Spruce is a lot easier to plane, so I tend to just measure and plane. Most people use gouges for all this work, but I like using the planes.

Graduating Front Plate for a Five String viola.
Graduating Front Plate, using curved-sole plane.

Cutting the f-holes on the Five-String viola

Once the plates are completed (which also involved laying out and incising the f-holes) I still have to actually cut out the f-holes. I used to do this using just a knife, but it was time-consuming, and I found it difficult to get the round parts “round.” My grown children bought this tool for me, a special tool for cutting just the upper and lower eyes of f-holes. It works beautifully!

f-hole cutter in action, cutting the f-hole eye on a Five String viola.
F-hole cutter in action: this tool cuts a perfectly round hole for the eyes of the f-holes.

 

F-hole cutter mark on a Five String viola.
F-hole cutter mark.

 

F-hole cutter with plug removed from a Five String viola front plate.
F-hole cutter with plug removed.

 

Five String viola front plate with F-hole cutter work completed.
F-hole cutter work complete… Knife work remains.

 

Five String viola Plates essentially complete.
Plates essentially complete: bass bar, purfling, and edgework remain.

Beginning the Scroll for the Five-String viola

While things were being sorted around, and different tasks became logical, I decided to get a start on the scroll and neck. Didn’t get very far, but here it is:

Beginning the scroll of a Five String viola.
Beginning the scroll.

There is still a long way to go, but it is feeling more as if I was getting something done, at least.

Installing and cutting the Bass-bar is next.

Thanks for looking.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.