Violins are the smallest stringed instruments in an orchestra and can be used for many different styles of music. While you can always buy a violin from an instrument store, building it can provide a unique sound and make yours one of a kind. Building a homemade violin involves a complex and complicated process that requires a lot of time and patience, but playing an instrument that you have created with your hands can be very rewarding.
Part 1 of 6: Building the Rib Frame
Step 1. Trace a violin mold template onto a 400 × 250 × 12 mm (15.75 × 9.84 × 0.47 inch) piece of wood
Find templates online for 4/4 violins, which is the standard size for adults, and print one at its actual size so you can work with it. Make sure it has eight large holes in the middle. Otherwise, you won't know where to make the cut. Transfer the outline directly onto a 400 × 250 × 12 mm (15.75 × 9.84 × 0.47 inch) piece of plywood, making sure to be as precise as possible. Otherwise, you may not be able to fit the violin parts.
- Any type of plywood is used to prepare the mold template, as it will not be included in the final instrument.
- You can choose a template for a smaller violin, such as 1/2 or 3/4, in case you want to build one for a smaller violinist.
- Violin stencils can vary a bit in size and design, so pick one that you want to work with.
Step 2. Cut the rib mold from the wood with a scroll saw
Put on your safety glasses before starting to work with the saw to protect your eyes. Turn on the scroll saw and guide the cutting edge carefully around the outline of the template. Make sure the saw fixture goes over the outer edge of the outline so you don't remove too much material from the template. Work slowly around the edge of the entire contour until you can remove the piece from the wood block.
- If you can't remove all the excess wood with the saw, use a sander or file to custom shape it.
- Keep an eye on where the saw is at all times so you don't accidentally cut yourself while you're working.
Step 3. Use a drill to remove the holes in the middle of the template
Change the bit in the drill so that it is the same diameter as the circles in the template mold. Place the template in the drill so that the bit is lined up with one of the circular holes you need to cut. Lower the lever on the drill to slowly cut the hole. Release the handle of the drill to lift the bit and adjust the mold. Keep drilling all the holes in the mold.
If you don't have a drill, you can use a hand drill with the larger bit to make the starting hole. Then use the jigsaw to cut out the outline of the holes
Step 4. Shape the wooden blocks into a C shape to fit the mortises in the mold
The mold has six different mortises on the top, bottom, and sides of the jig that are used to hold the rib (or sides) of the violin in place. Use wooden blocks and cut them to size with a band saw or scroll saw. Sand the edges of the blocks with 220-grit sandpaper, as it fits perfectly in the mortises of the mold.
- The size of the upper C-shaped block is 32 x 50 x 22 mm (1.26 x 1.97 x 0.77 inches).
- The size of the lower C-shaped block is 34 x 46 x 20 mm (1.34 x 1.81 x 0.79 inches).
- The C-shaped top side blocks are 33 x 25 x 28 mm (1.30 x 0.98 x 1.10 inches).
- The C-shaped bottom side blocks are 33 x 25 x 28 mm (1.30 x 0.98 x 1.10 inches).
Label the C-shaped blocks and mortises where they fit so you don't forget to place them later.
Step 5. Glue the C-shaped blocks into the mortises of the mold
Apply a thin layer of wood glue to the longest part of each mortise in the template mold using a finger or a small flat brush. Press the C-shaped blocks into each mortise where they fit. Secure the C-shaped pliers into the mold and blocks so that one end of each pliers is in one of the holes you made. Leave the C-shaped blocks secured for at least 24 hours so the glue can set.
Apply glue to only one side of each mortise. Otherwise, it will be more difficult to remove them later
Step 6. Chisel the sides of the C-shaped blocks to match the corners of the violin template
Place the template you originally traced on top of the mold so you know where the corners are on each side. Trace the corners on the C-shaped blocks glued to each side of the mold so you know what to cut. Use a chisel to cut the blocks so that the C shape on each side of the violin has a curved edge. Sand any rough edges with 220-grit sandpaper to smooth them out.
Don't chisel the outside edge of the C-block, as this will help keep the ribs in place
Step 7. Cut the rib pieces from the violin to a width of 1.3 inches (34 mm)
Find a flexible maple wood plate that is at least 13.1 inches (334 mm) long for the ribs. Run the sheet through a band saw or circular band to cut 1.3 inch (34 mm) wide pieces. Cut five or six strips of wood to use for the ribs and have enough to bend and mold around the outline of the template.
- If you want to know exactly how long the strips should be, measure around the edge of the mold with a flexible measuring tape to find the circumference of the instrument.
- Maple is the standard wood for violin making, but you can use any other hard or noble wood if you wish.
Step 8. Brush the ribs to a thickness of 1.5 mm (0.06 inches)
Clamp the strips of wood to a flat work surface, and guide the wood brush over each strip to reduce some of its thickness. Keep brushing each strip, checking the thickness after each pass until you reach 1.5 mm (0.06 inches). Be careful not to remove too much material from the ribs. Otherwise, the instrument will not be as strong.
Use a manual brush and not an electric one, as you will have more control over the thickness
Step 9. Soak the C-shaped rib pieces in water for two to three minutes
The C-shaped rib pieces are the smallest pieces that will fit into the C-shaped sections on the sides of the violin. Dip the strips in cold water so they can absorb a bit and become more flexible (and so they don't burn when you start to fold them). After two to three minutes, remove the strips and shake them to remove excess water.
Dip only two of the strips you cut at the beginning so the other pieces don't get too full of water
Step 10. Bend the ribs into a C shape to shape with an iron bender
An iron bender is a round piece of hot metal used to heat wood and bend it into curved shapes. Heat the bender to 200 to 250 ° C (392 to 482 ° F) before you begin to bend the ribs. Otherwise, they could break. Guide the rib pieces on top of the bender and mold them over the bend of the iron. Try to keep the curve close to match the C-shaped curves on the sides of the violin mold.
- You can buy an iron bender at your local hardware store or online.
- Wear gloves while working with an iron bender as it will be hot and will also heat the wood.
- Be careful when handling the bender, as it can cause severe burns if you touch it.
Step 11. Glue and hold the C-shaped ribs in the pan
Guide the bent rib pieces into the C-shaped curves on the sides of the template and hold them firmly against the edge. Lift the ends of the ribs and put a small amount of glue on the C-shaped blocks at the bottom and top of each curve. Press the ribs against the glue and place a flat piece of scrap wood between the C-shaped blocks to hold the ribs in place. Attach the wood scraps to the mold and allow the glue to dry for 24 hours.
If the rib pieces are too long for the curves, carefully cut them with a utility knife so that they extend 1 to 2 mm (0.03 to 0.07 inches) beyond the corners
Step 12. Cut the blocks into a C shape so that they are flush with the corners
Remove the clamps or pliers from the mold so that you can easily cut the pieces of the C-shaped blocks. Use a wooden gouge or chisel to mold the C-shaped blocks into the corners of the violin. Keep shaping the blocks until the edges are flush with the rest of the stencil, and sand them down to smooth them if necessary.
Be careful not to remove too much material from the C-shaped blocks. Otherwise, you could ruin the shape of the violin
Step 13. Fold and glue the lower and upper ribs in place
Heat the iron bender to 200 to 250 ° C (392 to 482 ° F) while submerging the rib pieces from the top and bottom of the violin. Guide the rib pieces along the length of the iron bender to mold them as close to the shape of the violin as possible. Lay the ribs over the edge of the template and press them firmly against the side. Apply a small amount of glue to the ends and middle of the ribs so that they adhere to the C-blocks. Hold the ribs in place and allow them to dry for at least 24 hours so the glue has time to notice.
- You may need to use curved pieces of scrap wood to hold the ribs in place and prevent them from drying out crooked.
- You can use one or two different pieces of ribs for the top and bottom curves of the violin. Two pieces of rib may be easier to mold than one.
Step 14. Remove the ribs from the mold once the glue has set
As soon as the glue is completely dry, remove the tweezers and carefully push the entire rib structure up and out of the mold. If it is stuck in places, carefully move a small chisel back and forth between the mold and the ribs to be able to remove it. Eventually the ribs and C-blocks will come off the mold.
Do not force the rib structure of the mold as you could break the wood
Step 15. Round the inside edges of the C-shaped blocks with a file
Place the edge of a file on the inner edge of the C-shaped block and file it carefully. Work the blocks into the side corners of the violin so that they have a smooth curve that follows the angle of the rib pieces. Round the corners of the top and bottom pieces so they are not sharp.
Part 2 of 6: Carve the front of the violin
Step 1. Trace 0.079 inches (2 mm) around the rib frame on a piece of wood
Place the rib frame on a piece of maple at least 375 x 220 x 20 mm (14.76 x 8.66 x 0.79 inches). Place a pencil along the edge of the rib frame and follow the outline closely so that the front piece is the correct size. Hold the pencil at the same angle throughout the outline so it doesn't affect the outline.
- Make sure the grain of the wood follows the same direction as the violin. Otherwise it will not be as strong.
- If you didn't use maple for the rib pieces, then use the same wood for the front of the violin for consistency.
Step 2. Cut out the shape for the front of the violin using a band saw
Put on safety glasses before turning on the band saw so you don't injure yourself. Guide the piece of wood along the edge of the saw to cut on the outside of the contour. Don't cut directly on the line. Otherwise, the front part will be too small when you want to fix it. Work around the sides until the entire cut is made.
Be careful when working with a band saw so you don't accidentally cut yourself
If you have difficulty cutting narrow corners, you can use a scroll saw or sand the area after cutting.
Step 3. Cut the outer edge to a thickness of 4.5 mm (0.18 inches)
A wood gouge is a tool for removing and smoothing pieces of wood. Measure 0.28 inches (7 mm) from the edge of the front to see how far you need to carve. Use a wooden gouge to flatten the edge around the violin to form the platform, which is the point where the violin meets the ribs. Keep flattening the edges of the front until they are just 0.16 inches (4 mm) thick.
- You can buy a gouge at your local hardware store.
- Don't remove a lot of material. Otherwise, you could go through the bottom of the front piece.
Step 4. Carve a channel in the front 3.5 mm (0.14 inches) from the edges
Use a chisel or gouge to carve the channel of the violin. Measures 3.5 mm (0.14 inches) from the edge and cuts to a depth of 2 mm (0.079 inches). Work around the edge of the front so that the channel goes all the way around it.
Step 5. Fold fillet strips with the iron bender
The fillet is a decorative wooden trim that wraps around the edge of the violin and also provides support for the instrument. Heat the iron bender to 200 ° C (392 ° F) and soak the strips in water for two to three minutes. Guide the fillet around the bends of the iron bender so they are close to the bends in the channel you carved.
- In total, you will need about 20 inches (500 mm) of fillets for the front of the violin.
- Wear gloves while working with the iron bender so you don't burn yourself.
- The iron bender reaches very high temperatures and can cause severe burns if touched.
- You can buy strips of steak at music stores or online.
Step 6. Glue the strips of fillets into the carved channel
Starting from the corners of the violin's sides, apply a small amount of hot glue to the channel and guide the strips based on their shape. Press the strips into the channel so they have firm contact with the glue and dry in place. If necessary, use a small hammer to secure the steak to the carcass.
- There is no need to hold the strips in place as the hot glue sets quickly.
- Do not apply the hot glue directly to the strip of fillet, as the glue could warp it.
Step 7. Use a wooden scraper to arch the violin along the center line
Guide the scraper along the violin to remove excess wood on the surface. Create smooth slopes from the center of the violin to the flat edge around the outside that you carved. Make sure the highest point of the arch is 0.63 to 0.71 inches (16 to 18 mm) above the bottom of the piece.
When working on more detailed parts of the violin, use a smaller hand brush to remove the wood more precisely
Step 8. Flip the violin over to carve the back
Flip the wood over so the arched side is facing down. Hold the front in place so you can easily hollow out the bottom of the violin. Flatten the area 0.28 inches (7 mm) from the edge and use a wooden scraper or gouge to hollow out the center of the violin. Keep removing material until it is 0.16 to 0.24 inches (4 to 6 mm) thick.
- Be gentle when working on the violin, as you could break the wood if you use too much force.
- Make sure to use new, sharp tools to make cutting the wood easier.
Step 9. Cut the holes in the shape of an "f" in the violin
The "f" shaped holes are the hollowed out sections from which the violin sound comes. Flip the front over so the arched side is up again, and position the f-shaped holes so that the top of each is 1.7 inches (42 mm) apart, already almost 150 mm. (5.9 inches) from the top. Use a hand drill to drill through the points where you plan to put the f-shaped holes. Then use a scroll saw to cut out the shape.
You can print the "f" hole templates so they are positioned correctly and not have to be drawn freehand
Step 10. Glue a bass bar to the back of the front
Flip the front part over so the hollowed out part is pointing up. Cut a piece of fir tree 350 x 20 x 8 mm (13.78 x 0.79 x 0.31 inches) and brush the edges so that they are parallel to each other. Position the bass bar so that it is 12 mm (0.47 inches) to the right of the center line of the instrument. Glue the bass bars in place with wood glue and hold them in place for 24 hours. Once the glue has set, you can remove the clamp.
- The bass bar allows the sound inside the violin to resonate to create a more pleasant tone.
- Fir is the traditional wood used for a violin, but you can use any other hardwood if you like.
Part 3 of 6: Shaping the Back of the Violin
Step 1. Trace 0.079 inches (2 mm) around the rib frame on a flat piece of wood
Lay the rib frame on a 375 x 220 x 20 mm (14.76 x 8.66 x 0.79 inch) piece of wood and make sure the grain of the wood follows the length of the mold. Place the tip of the pencil on the edge of the rib frame and slowly trace around the outline to see which shape to cut out of the wood.
Do not change the angle at which you hold the pencil, as it may affect the size and shape of the outline
Step 2. Draw a platform at the top center of the neck button outline
The neck is the part of the violin that connects directly to the bottom of the instrument, so you should include a platform at the top, known as a button. Use a ruler to draw a 22 mm (0.87 inch) line that crosses the center line of the violin. Draw straight lines from the ends of the one you have drawn to connect with the outline you have drawn.
Make sure the button is symmetrical along the center line. Otherwise, the neck will be misshapen when you attach it
Step 3. Cut the button part with a band saw
Wear safety glasses while you work so nothing gets into your eyes. Guide the piece of wood along the band saw, working slowly around the curves of the instrument. Make sure to cut outside of the outline you have drawn so you don't remove as much material from the back.
If you can't cut the details around the edges with a band saw, use a file or scroll saw
Step 4. Carve a channel around the outer edge of the back
Measure 3.5 mm (0.14 inches) from the edge of the back and use a gouge to cut a channel. Make sure the channel is 0.079 inches (2mm) thick and deep so you can easily fit the strips of fillet later.
Work slowly so you don't accidentally remove a lot of material. Otherwise, the strips will not fit well
Step 5. Fold and glue the strips in the channel that you have carved
Heat the iron bender to 200 ° C (392 ° F) and soak the steak strips in water for two to three minutes so they don't burn. Guide the strips around the curves of the iron bender so they closely resemble the channel you carved. Starting at the edges of the instrument, apply hot glue to the channel and glue the strips in place. Allow the glue to set completely before continuing.
- You will need about 20 inches (500 mm) of strips for the back of the violin.
- Use the same strip that you used on the front of the instrument for consistency.
If you cannot fit the fillet strips into the channel, tap them gently with a hammer until they are flush.
Step 6. Carve the back of the violin so that it arches in the center
Use a wood brush or scraper to curve the wood on the back. Keeping the center of the instrument at a height of 0.63 inches (16 mm) and gently arch the wood towards the edges, brushing to a thickness of 0.24 inches (6 mm). When starting to work on more detailed areas of the violin, use a smaller hand brush or finger plane to control the amount of wood you remove.
Make sure the back of the violin is as smooth as possible with the hand brush so that it has a smooth curve
Step 7. Flip the back over and hollow out the wood
Lay the back on your work surface so the arched side is pointing down. Hold the back in place and use a wooden scraper to hollow out the bottom. Keep the edges flat so you can easily adhere to the ribs later on, but remove enough wood in the middle so that the back is only 0.16 to 0.24 inches thick..
Do not apply too much pressure or remove a lot of material, as you could break the wood or affect the sound of the final instrument
Part 4 of 6: carve the neck
Step 1. Trace a violin neck template on a block of wood
Use a neck template that matches the body of the violin you make. Print the templates for the profile and the top view of the neck, and transfer the outline to a block of wood that is at least 250 x 42 x 55 mm (9.8 x 1.7 x 2.2 inches). Make sure the grain of the wood goes in the same direction as the length of the neck. Otherwise it won't be as strong.
Step 2. Drill the dowel hole locations in the template
Notice where the four holes on the side of the violin's neck line up and find a bit of the same size. Place the block of wood under the drill and make sure the holes line up with the bit. Attach the handle of the drill to cut the wood. Once you've drilled into the wood, pull the handle back slightly to remove the drill. Repeat the process for the other three holes along the neck.
- Wear safety glasses while working with the drill to prevent sawdust from getting into your eyes.
- If you don't have a drill press, use a hand drill with the correct bit.
Step 3. Cut the template from the wood block
Use a band saw to cut the main shape of the neck. Keep the cuts outside of the lines you have drawn so that the neck is not too small. Start by working from the profile view so that you can cut the overall shape of the neck first. Then work from the outline of the top view so that the neck is the correct thickness.
You may need to redraw the outline of the profile or the top view as you cut more wood
Step 4. Carve the scroll and pegbox with a chisel
Work with a gouge and chisel to make the details of the neck and remove any wood that you cannot remove with the saw. Carve the rectangular shape between the holes you drilled to create the pegbox, which is where you will place the strings and pegs. Then add details to the volute, which is a spiral section at the end of the neck. Follow the template closely to remove excess wood.
The headstock is generally 72 mm (2.8 inches) long and 19.5 mm (0.77 inches) wide
the scrolls do not necessarily have to be perfect, since they do not affect the sound of the instrument. You can work as much or as little as you want.
Step 5. Cut the fingerboard from a piece of ebony
Use a 280 x 50 x 15 mm (11.02 x 1.97 x 0.59 inch) ebony block to build the fingerboard. Draw the outline of a template on the piece of ebony so that the bottom edge of the fingerboard is wider than the top edge. Use a band saw to cut the ebony along the outline, and arch the fingerboard so that it is 10mm (0.39 inches) thick at the highest point. Hollow out the bottom at the wide end of the fingerboard so that it is arched and the wood is 0.24 inches (6 mm) thick.
Ebony is the traditional material used for the fingerboard, but you can use any type of hardwood if you need it
Step 6. Glue the fingerboard to the neck
Apply wood glue to the bottom of the fretboard with your finger or a small brush to achieve an even coat. Press the fingerboard into the center of the neck and clamp it in three different places along the length so that it sticks to the neck. Allow the glue to dry for 24 hours before removing the tweezers and continuing to work.
Put pillows or something soft between the wood and the tweezers if you don't want to leave marks or scratches on the fretboard or neck
Part 5 of 6: Assembling the Violin Body
Step 1. Hold the back of the rib frame with several clamps
Lay the rib frame on a flat work surface and put the back side up. Carefully line up the edges of the back with the edges of the rib frame and hold everything in place. Use approximately 32 presses to apply even pressure to the sides of the rear and the rib structure.
You can find a diagram of where to put the presses here:
Step 2. Apply glue between the back and the ribs with a knife
Remove two or three presses near one of the corners of the violin to apply the glue. Dip the edge of a paring knife into the glue you use and slide it between the rib frame and the back. The glue will transfer to the edge of the ribs and adhere to the back. Reattach the area, making sure everything is still lined up.
Spread the rib frame and back a bit with your hands if you can't easily fit the knife between them
Make sure to clean the edge of the knife after applying the glue so it won't be difficult to use.
Step 3. Work on the back of the violin and allow the glue to dry
Keep gluing the rest of the edges as you remove the tweezers, apply the glue with a knife, and reattach them. Once the edges are glued together, work around the curves of the instrument so that the glue holds all the pieces in place. Once you apply the glue around the entire back, allow it to dry for at least 24 hours before removing the tweezers.
Before replacing the clamps, make sure the back is still flush with the edges of the rib frame so you don't accidentally deform the wood
Step 4. Repeat the process to adhere the front part
Once you've attached the back, line up the front on the opposite side of the rib frame and lock it in place so it won't move. Apply the glue to the corners first and slowly work around the curves until they are fully glued. Firm the tweezers and allow the glue to dry for at least 24 hours for complete drying.
Step 5. Cut a mortise at the top and ribs for the neck part
The bottom of the neck connects to the button you made for the bottom piece, but it also cuts a little bit into the top of the instrument. Make a dry fit of the neck and mark the thickness on the front and the structure of the rib. Use a sharp knife or chisel to cut through the rib material and the front edge.
Work slowly while cutting the mortise, as you could damage the rest of the violin
Step 6. Glue the neck to the body of the violin
Apply a coat of glue to the mortise, the button at the back, and the neck joint. Press the neck into place and make sure the center lines up with the middle of the instrument. Hold the pole in place and allow it to dry for at least 24 hours so the glue can set well.
Wipe off excess glue so it doesn't dry on the violin's body and damage it
Step 7. Apply two or three coats of varnish to the body of the violin
Use an oil-based violin varnish to change the color of the wood and make it look shiny. Use a small flat brush to paint a thin layer of varnish on the maple parts. Wait for the first coat to dry for at least 24 hours before applying a second coat. You can add as many layers as you want, depending on the color you are looking for for the instrument.
Do not apply varnish to the fretboard as it can affect the overall sound of the instrument
Part 6 of 6: Add peripheral accessories
Step 1. Place the tuners into the holes you made in the neck
The headstock tightens the strings and is used to tune the instrument. Place the pegs for the A and E string into the first hole (the top) and the third from the right side of the instrument. Place the D and G string pegs in the second and fourth holes from the left side and secure them in place so they go all the way through the pegbox.
- You can buy tuners online or at music stores.
- Make sure the pegs for the corresponding strings are in the correct place. Otherwise, the strings will not rest in the correct place on the instrument.
Step 2. Place the soul inside the violin
The soul is a small plug that is placed inside the violin and allows the instrument to resonate. Place it in the grooves in the installer and guide it into the center of the violin, making sure it sits firmly between the bottom and top of the violin. Release the core and remove the installation tool.
You can buy a soul and installation tools at music stores or online
angle a mirror to see through the other f-shaped hole to determine if the soul is in place.
Step 3. Attach the tailpiece to the bottom of the violin
Drill a 0.24 inch (6 mm) hole in the center of the ribs on the end of the violin. Screw a strut into the hole so you can hook the string around it. Place the string against the bottom edge of the violin so that it is flush with the fingerboard, and hook the loop-shaped piece of metal around the strut to secure it.
You can buy a tailpiece at a music store or online
Step 4. Arrange the strings so that they extend from the tailpiece to the headstock
Attach the strings to the corresponding tuners and begin winding them to add a little tension. Place the other end of the strings at the base of the tailpiece so you can fix them in place. Tighten the strings until they feel taut throughout the instrument.
- From left to right, the strings should be G, D, A, and E.
- You can buy new violin strings at music stores or online.
Step 5. Place the bridge of the violin under the strings, near the end of the fingerboard
The bridge provides support for the strings, moving them away from the body of the violin and helping them resonate throughout the instrument. Slide the bridge into position, about 2 inches (50mm) from the end of the fingerboard, and turn it upright so that the arched side touches the strings. Position the foot of the bridge at a 90 degree angle to the body of the violin.
- You can buy violin bridges at music stores or online.
- The tension of the strings holds the bridge in place, so you don't have to use glue or adhesives.
- Wear safety glasses while working with power tools to protect your eyes.
- Be careful when working with saws and power tools so you don't accidentally injure yourself.
- Iron benders get very hot, so be sure not to touch them. Otherwise, you could get serious burns.