15″ 5-string Viola on the way

Five-String Viola in progress

Delayed 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 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
Completed Rib Garland. Linings and blocks still require shaping and scraping.

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
Front and Back Plates, completed except f-holes, bass-bar, purfling, and edgework.

 

Graduation of back plate.
Graduation of back plate.

 

Carving
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
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 the planes.

Graduating Front Plate.
Graduating Front Plate, using curved-sole plane.

Cutting the f-holes

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
F-hole cutter in action: this tool cuts a perfectly round hole for the eyes of the f-holes.

 

F-hole cutter mark
F-hole cutter mark.

 

F-hole cutter with plug removed.
F-hole cutter with plug removed.

 

F-hole cutter work complete.
F-hole cutter work complete… Knife work remains.

 

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

Beginning the Scroll

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.
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.