A Custom 5-String Fiddle Progress Report

My Neck and Scroll process

Originally, when I first began making instruments, I laid out the scrolls with a pencil and simply started carving. However, that was extremely labor intensive and not very accurate, either. As a result, it was very easy for me to lose track of where I was going, and ruin a scroll by carving away wood I really needed. (Obviously, that is a “bitter pill to swallow,” having to scrap a scroll and start over.)

Learning from a Better Maker

So, then, what has changed? Fortunately, I watched how a viola maker in Brazil (Luis Manfio, of Sao Paulo) carves his scrolls, on a photo-essay he once posted. To begin with, he used a fine-toothed saw to cut “tangents” to the scroll pattern. Then, he used the same saw to follow the side surfaces of the scroll and remove the scrap wood. Understandably, this was a much better way than I had been attempting, so, ever since then, I have followed that path.

So, then: here is what that process looks like, using the current commissioned instrument as an example:

Five string scroll blank, handmade in Oregon by Chet Bishop, Luthier
Step one: Five String Scroll blank, laid out for carving.
scroll blank lyout for five string fiddle handmade in Orgeon by Chet Bishop, Luthier.
Also, the Volute and pegbox layout.
Cutting scroll outlines for five string bluegrass fiddle handmade in Oregong by Chet Bishop, Luthier.
Step two: Cutting tangents to the scroll curves.
Cutting volute on 5-string fiddle scroll handmade in Oregon by Chet Bishop, Luthier.
Step three: Cutting the volute lines, to remove the scrap wood.
Scroll blank for 5-string bluegrass fiddle handmade in Oregon by Chet Bishop, Luthier.
The resulting scroll blank still needs more tangents cut
Five string scroll in progress, handmade in Oregon by Chet Bishop, Luthier.
This is how the final tangents look. (Notice, too, an “error” pilot hole. It will be plugged befor the real peg holes are drilled.)

Then I carefully cut away the waste wood from the center area of the scroll, using small gouges.

carving a five string fiddle scroll
Using a small gouige to remove the rough wood from around the scroll “eye”
carving a five string fiddle scroll for a five-string bluegrass fiddle handmade in Oregon by Chet Bishop, Luthier.
Undercutting the turns of the scroll, using a small curved gouge
rough-carved scroll
Rough carved pegbox and scroll, front view
Scroll in progress for a five string bluegrass fiddle handmade in Oregon, by Chet Bishop, Luthier.
Rough-carved scroll and pegbox from side and back
back view of scroll for a five-string bluegrass fiddle handmade in Oregon by Chet Bishop, Luthier.
Closer view of rough-carved back of scroll
Side view of five string fiddle scroll in progress.
Treble-side view of rough-carved scroll. (Additionally, notice that the “error” hole has been plugged.)
Bass side of five string fiddle scroll in progress,
Bass side of rough-carved scroll.

Installing the Fingerboard

After the scroll is close enough to correct that it will not be changing much, I will trim off the excess wood from the sides of the “handle-portion” of the neck. Then, I will temporarily install the fingerboard, using three “dots” of hot hide glue.

scroll with fingerboard
Fingerboard temporarily installed and being shaped along with the neck
shaping fingerboard and neck on a five string fiddle by Chet Bishop, Luthier.
Shaping the fingerboard and neck, and perfecting the scroll

Subsequently, the next step is to install the neck into the neck-block on the instrument.

We will talk about that later.

 

Thanks for looking.