Making a Cello
Why do I want to make a cello? Good question. My primary answer is because I saw someone playing a cello, and now I want one. But that's not the only reason. I am also making a cello because of the challenge associated with it. I know it won't be easy, so I'm not going to pretend that it will be. However, I hope that through this experience I will learn skills that I can use when I make things in the future. In addition, there can't be many things more satisfying than playing an instrument that you made with your own hands. I am going to update this page as I work on it, with the hope of finishing it before the year's end. Wish me luck!
The first step in making a cello is to figure out which kind of cello you want to make, and then getting the corresponding plans for that cello. Since I wasn't too picky about which kind of cello I wanted to make, I just looked online for plans of any cello. I found some plans for the Antonio Stravidari "Davidov" 1712 cello, so that's what I ended up using.
Day 1: 1/1/17
This is the day I started on my cello! The first thing I did was make the template for the cello front/back. First I used my photo wizarding skills to get the outline of the cello, and then I printed it out on 70 different sheets of paper. Thinking to myself, "Well, a cello is a large instrument", I started to cut it out. Then, just to check my sanity, I tried to see about how large would be. It was just a couple feet too wide... So I went back to the computer, and printed it out again. This time, however, it only took 8 sheets of paper. I cut the outline out, and then taped the sheets together. It looked just like a cello!
Day 2: 1/4/17
The first thing I did was trace the pattern onto the 1/2 inch thick plywood board I was using for the mold. The mold is used to assist gluing the ribs onto the inner blocks. I then had to offset the line to account for the overhang. The front and back of a cello overhang the ribs a certain amount, so the ribs mold needs to be smaller than the original pattern. To do this, I used a 5.5 mm allen wrench. I used it to mark dashed lines all the way around the inside of the outline.
I then use a french curve to connect all of the dashes into a solid line.
Day 3: 1/5/17
The next step was cutting out the mold. I just cut around the inside line, making sure that I didn't get too close. You can see in the photos below that I cut off the areas where it would jut out. The reason for that is that I will be cutting the area there out in order to make a spot to glue in blocks. I used a jigsaw to do the cutting, as there was no way that would fit on a band saw.
I then took the mold to the band saw to cut out the areas for the blocks. There is one at the top, one at the bottom, and one at each of the corners. I got as close to the lines as I dared.
Since I am about to get there, let me talk a little bit about the woods used for a typical cello. Most cellos have maple backs, ribs, and necks, with spruce tops. These woods combine together to make a cello sound the way that it does. People have made good sounding cellos out of other woods, but they are very few and far between. It is nearly impossible to sell a high end cello that isn't made of the woods mentioned above. Another thing to mention is the appearance of the woods used. The maple is nearly always figured, or flamed. This means that it looks like it has ripples. The picture below shows a mild case of flame. Now, acquiring flamed maple in the dimensions I need isn't cheap. Therefore, I went the cheap route and just bought plain old maple with no figure. It might look a little bland compared to other cellos, but it's mine, and it doesn't affect the quality of the sound. The second picture shows the piece of maple I bought. It is a little over 6 foot section of 2x10 inch maple board. For the top, I bought a 6 foot section of 2x10 inch red cedar board. However, I didn't do enough research to realize that red cedar is almost always full of knots. I wanted straight grain, and I got a board with anything but straight grain. I will probably find something else to use for the top.
My next goal was to get all the maple that I needed from the maple that I bought. This meant that I needed to get the two back halves, the neck, and the ribs from it. After some trial and error, and a lot of thinking, I managed to plan the cuts so that I could get exactly what I needed. I found a cello neck template online, and used that to draw what I needed on the board.
After I was sure that everything was absolutely perfect, I started cutting. I cut most of it with the jigsaw, and then finished it up with a coping saw. The reason I used the coping saw is that there were some areas I really didn't want to mess up on. That little rectangle thing on the top is only for the back of the cello. It connects with the neck.
I then cut out the neck pieces. Generally the neck is taken out of one piece of wood, but I decided that I would make it out of two glued together. That way I wouldn't have to get another piece of wood. The band saw made quick work of it.
Day 4: 1/7/17
After cutting some areas closer to the line so I could line the neck pieces up, I glued them together. I used plenty of clamps to ensure that it was a good glue joint. Unfortunately, it still wasn't perfect. But I can work with it.
Day 5: 1/8/17
I cut out the inner blocks for the mold. Since I had more red cedar than I needed, even if I were to make the top out of it, I decided to use it for the blocks. I cut them out on the bandsaw.
Day 6: 1/14/17
I worked on cutting the ribs off of one of the back pieces. It felt like I got pretty far, but I still have a long ways to go. I may rethink my strategy for obtaining ribs.
I also worked on cleaning up the edges on the mold. I used my Shinto rasp and my new half round rasp to get the mold close to the lines. I also visualized what it would look like with the blocks in it. I still need to square up the edges so that the ribs are vertical when they are bent around it.
Day 7: 1/15/17
I did a lot of stuff on Day 7. First I squared up the edges on my mold. I clamped a square block of wood to my Shinto rasp, pushed the block up against the face of the mold, and rasped until it was square.
The next thing I did was get the inner blocks to fit in their respective areas. The corner blocks were fine, but the end blocks needed some extra rasping so they would fit.
I then prepared the template for the corner blocks and end blocks. I printed out the paper, and then used the technique with the allen wrench and french curve to offset the curve. I then cut the templates out with an exacto knife.
Eventually I would need to use my new gouge to carve the corner blocks, so I decided to practice using it on some wood. It's amazing what a very sharp tool is capable of.
Before I went on, I took another look at the blocks that I had prepared. First, I noticed that the two end blocks had the grain oriented side to side, instead of up and down. I didn't like that. Also, I decided that two of the corner blocks had grain that wasn't optimal. The grain was a little wavy, which will probably cause issues when I try to carve it. Since I do have more wood to use, I decided that I would make new blocks instead of using sub-par blocks. It should make my life easier in the future. You can see in the picture which ones I am talking about.
Since I had 2 blocks ready to go, I decided I might as well trace the templates on them. First I taped the templates to the mold, lining them up with the curves. I then clamped the blocks in place, and traced the template onto the end.
I also started working on the neck! All I did today was start to clean up the edges of the neck with a rasp.
Day 8: 1/16/17
I spent a solid 4 hours today rasping the edges of the neck to bring it down to the line. Here are some pictures showing my progress and the different tools I used.
I then spent some time working on narrowing the neck. First I drew some lines on it showing where I needed to cut to. I then took a saw and cut off those pieces. I tried my best to keep it straight, but it still wasn't perfect.
I then started on cutting some wood off the side of the pegbox. I got through one side, but then I started thinking. I haven't drilled the holes for the pegbox yet. In fact, I have no idea where exactly to drill the holes. However, I knew that I wanted a flat surface to drill on when I got to that. That means that I shouldn't cut off the one flat area I have left, at least until I drill the holes. Another thing I noticed is a mistake I made while rasping the outline. I accidentally rasped unevenly at one spot on the back of the scroll, which caused one side to be much lower than the other side. It isn't enough to ruin it, but I need to be more careful in the future.
Day 9: 1/17/17
I didn't do much today. All I did was use a template to draw the scroll onto the neck. This involved poking little holes along the curves, and then putting a pen on them to draw the dots. I also worked on cutting out the ribs some more. I'm not very pleased with how slow it is going.
Day 10: 1/19/17
I'm ten days in! I spent a lot of time today cutting out the ribs. However, I finally changed up my tactic. After determining some measurements and making sure I wouldn't mess anything up, I started cutting all the way through the board instead. Before I was worried that the back wouldn't have enough height, but I now know that it will have just enough height left over. Using this method I get two rib pieces at once, and it goes a whole lot faster.
Day 11: 1/20/17
All I did today was work on cutting the ribs off. I got through 8 inches.
Day 12: 1/21/17
The first thing I did today was continue cutting the ribs off. I got through another 5 inches, which puts me at about halfway.
The next thing I did was finish up on the markings for the scroll and pegbox. First I drew the pattern for the scroll on the other side. I made it symmetrical to the other side by drawing lines across, and using those to line it up. I then drew the outline of pegbox, and the thickness markings for the scroll.
The last thing I did was start working on carving out the pegbox. I wanted to use my new gouge for all of it, but it is a little bit too large. Instead, I used a chisel and a woodturning tool to rough it out. Here are some picture of the progress. To make sure that I didn't go too deep, I kept checking the depth with my dial caliper.
Day 13: 1/22/17
I worked some more on the pegbox first. I got it about the right shape, but it still needs to go a little deeper. I'm going to wait until I drill the holes before I finish it though.
The next thing I did was start on the scroll. The first thing I had to do was make cuts around the scroll to make it easier to remove wood, and also to show the shape of the finished scroll. The more cuts, the better. I used a saw that has a very straight, rigid blade. This allowed me to make perfectly straight cuts.
Day 14: 1/23/17
I first did the cuts on the other side of the scroll. I did these the exact same way I did the first side.
I then started to cut off the wood around the scroll. Now, I accidentally got a little carried away. What I should have done is just cut the wood off around the first turn of the scroll. That shape is already defined, so I don't have to worry about losing the template. On the other hand, once I removed the wood from the second turn, I no longer had a template. Part of the problem is that I was unable to cut around the second turn properly. I didn't know what depth to cut it at in some places, and I didn't want to remove the flat areas that I need for drilling the holes (this is why everybody else drills the holes first). Since I no longer have lines to show me exactly what the rest of the scroll looks like, I'll just have to wing it. Unless I find some other way to trace the template on again.
Since I wasn't too happy with some of the lines that I had drawn on the front and back of the scroll, I redrew them with more exact measurements. This would give me accurate lines to carve down to. Then I started carving to the line on the first turn of the scroll. I can finally see the shape of the scroll emerging!
Day 15: 1/26/17
I didn't do much today. I just cleaned up the throat area with my rasp, and then broke away some wood to start revealing the shape of the scroll.
Day 16: 1/28/17
Today was very productive. I started out by cleaning up the scroll area and getting the first turn down to the correct thickness. I used a small chisel for the majority of wood removal.
I then cut away the wood to reveal the final part of the scroll. This also involved cutting away the thickest part of the scroll, as it was too wide.
After cutting the curves further down, I ended up with this:
The next step was hollowing out the turns. This basically means just taking a gouge and digging in towards the center of the turn. I also worked on smoothing out some of the curves.
Since there wasn't much more to do on the scroll, I started working on cleaning up the neck. I just got it down flat with the line.
Day 17: 1/29/17
Today I worked on carving two of the corner blocks. Since the two blocks had nice straight grain, it was easy to use the gouge to carve all the way down the blocks. I didn't get all the way to the lines, but I got close. I used a rasp to even it out a little also.
I also rounded out the neck stem a little bit. After a quick sharpening, the spokeshave worked great for this.
Day 18: 1/30/17
The only other block I had ready to carve was the bottom block. So I put the template on and traced it onto the block.
I then started carving. Now, the method I used on the previous two blocks was to tap the gouge with my hand to break off thick, but straight pieces of wood. This made the carving much faster. However, when I tried it on this block, the pieces didn't break off nice and straight. They got thicker, and tore out more than I wanted. Unfortunately, they ended up tearing out too much, which rendered my block unusable. It was a bummer, but I had plenty more wood to replace it.
I also drew some lines on the front of the pegbox to show where to cut to.
Day 19: 2/4/17
I'm starting in on the second month already. Time really flies! Today I did a lot of work on my cello. I started out by finally using a drill press to drill the holes in the pegbox. I had to use the hand drill to finish up the holes because it was difficult to get through it all with the drill press.
I then worked on cutting the ribs off of the maple pieces. Since I finally had access to power tools, I put them to good use. Using power tools is risky, but it was worth it for the time I would save. I passed both sides of the boards through the saw multiple times, only increasing the height of the blade about 3/4 of an inch each time. I had to be very careful toward the end because the wood would start warping inwards and get cut thinner and thinner by the saw. Sometimes I put scrap wedges in to keep the wood away from the blade until it was pass.
At this point I only had 3 more inches of wood to cut through. I had an idea of how to cut it with power tools, so I tried it. My dad has a reciprocating saw called the "Fire Storm" made by Black and Decker that had a blade that was just long enough to reach to the spot I wanted to cut. So I clamped the board with a work bench, and went at it. It cut a ton faster than my hand saw did, and it required almost no effort on my part. Thank goodness I didn't finish doing it by hand.
After I had all the ribs cut off, I using the hand plane to remove the high spots and make them relatively thin. I was also able to see some low spots in some areas. Those might cause some problems in the future. I also cut the wide ribs into two separate pieces.
Next I cut out the rest of the inner blocks. I made sure this time around to only use blocks that have straight grain. I also cut all of the blocks close to their final height of 115 mm, and squared up the edges the best I could.
Since I knew that I would need it, I also cut up some wood for the linings. I chose poplar, because that just happened to be available to me. I cut the pieces pretty thick and tall, so I will have to trim them down in the future.
I also started preparing what I would need when I got around to bending the ribs. Lots of people recommend a bending strap of some sort, which you use to hold the wood against the iron. This helped to evenly distribute pressure, reducing the risk of cracks. I just got a piece of sheet metal and drilled a hole in each end. Eventually I will attach leather straps to either side so I can hold it.
The last thing I did was cut the excess wood off the sides of pegbox. I just used a bandsaw to do that.
Day 20: 2/10/17
Since I finally had all the inner blocks, I started by tracing the corners/ends onto them. I just taped the pattern to the mold, and then clamped the blocks in place while I traced the pattern.
Then, using my gouge, I carved down each of the blocks until they were pretty close to the lines. I used a plane for the end blocks to make them good and round. One of the difficulties with doing this was carving the same amount of wood off each end of the block. The end without the lines drawn on them always ended up being thicker.
Before I started gluing the blocks on, I wanted to make sure that the blocks fit and were square with the mold. So I tested them all, and took off wood where necessary. I also drew the center lines on the blocks.
I then glued the first blocks onto the mold! I did the two end blocks first. Although the blocks are being glued to the mold, it isn't meant to be permanent. Only a dab of glue was used, so I can theoretically knock the blocks off later. I used Titebond 2 wood glue.
I then spent a tiny bit of time planing one of the ribs down.
Day 21: 2/11/17
I got started working bright and early today. The first thing I did was work on gluing some more blocks onto the mold. The reason this glue up looks a little interesting is because one of the cut outs for the block isn't completely square, so I had to clamp it to the straight edge.
While I waited for the glue to dry, I did some planing on one of the ribs. My goal was to get the ribs thin, but at this point I didn't really know how thin they needed to be. This caused some problems later...
Unfortunately, I ran into a smallish issue. As I was planing down the rib, I noticed that a certain spot began to get really thin. Like, thin enough to feel squishy to the touch. This was very strange, and I was completely at a loss of how it happened. This also caused me to have no more backup ribs. I would have to use all the ribs I had in order to have enough. I then switched ribs, and started planing again. And the same thing happened! In the exact same place! This time I knew I had to get to the bottom of it. So I picked up the rib, and I noticed that there was a bolt sticking up above the surface of my workbench. The area of the ribs on top of the bolt was getting thinner and thinner, while the rest of the rib wasn't affected. I tightened all the bolts to prevent it from happening again. The picture below shows me trying to patch the thin spot (it obviously didn't work).
To take my mind off of my recent issues, I decided to glue the rest of the blocks onto the mold. It wasn't easy getting them both to clamp in the right positions, but I eventually succeeded.
I then did some more planing. This is also where I got to thinking about my rib situation. The ribs are supposed to be approximately 1.5 mm thick, with a height ranging from 110 mm at the upper block, to 115 mm at the lower block. Unfortunately, after measuring my ribs, the tallest ones I had were about 114 mm, and the shortest were 107 mm. This doesn't sound like a huge difference, but I also have to leave room for cleaning up the edges, which will inevitably make them shorter. In addition, I got a little carried away on one of the ribs and ended up with spots that were less than 1mm thick. After much research and deliberation, I decided to go ahead and use the taller ribs (which haven't been planed yet) for the upper bout/c-bouts, and get new wood for the lower bout. This way I can ensure that my cello ends up with enough height. I think I would regret it if I went ahead and used the shorter, too thin ribs.
Day 22: 2/12/17
Today I went ahead and tested out my rib bending set-up. The idea is to blow hot air from a heat gun through a steel pipe, and use a bending strap made of sheet metal to support the wood as it is bending. I kind of like how my bending strap turned out.
Since I didn't want to spend any time on the ribs at that point, I worked on the neck some more. I probably should finish the neck before I start something else anyway. All I did was chisel the rest of the excess wood off the sides of the pegbox, and then carve out the pegbox a little bit.
Day 23: 2/17/17
I didn't have much time today, but I did start carving the fluting. I started on the back of the scroll, and I mainly used my gouge to carve it out.
I also refined the pegbox a little more.
Day 24: 2/19/17
Today I worked a little more on the fluting. This included carving the fluting on the front, which looks really cool.
Day 25: 2/20/17
I worked a lot on refining the scroll today. This mostly involved getting rid of tool marks, and trying my best to make the two sides symmetrical.
Day 26: 2/21/17
More sanding/ refining. It will never look perfect to my eyes, but as long as it's close I'll be happy.
Day 27: 2/26/17
Today I really tried to get the scroll looking nearly done. I kept sanding it, and I also added a little chamfer to the edges. I'll probably add more later.
I then worked on the fluting some more. I used my half round rasp in order to round some areas of the fluting.
I then "assembled" my cello. It really does look like a cello!
Day 28: 3/2/17
All I really did today was clean up the fluting a little with my goose neck scraper.
Day 29: 3/3/17
First I attempted to get the edges on the two back halves flat and square. My method was to do them both at once so that when I put them together they exactly match each other. However, I was really struggling with getting the edge to be flat longways. Eventually I just decided that I would have better luck with a table saw, so I set it aside.
Another thing I did was get some of the linings ready. I just cut them to the various lengths I would need.
Day 30: 3/4/17
I did a few different things today. The first thing I did was work on getting some of the blocks closer to their final shape. I only got a couple done though. The problem was that I kept knocking the blocks off the mold! Now, I did want the blocks to be easily removed, so it is kind of a good thing. It just made it a little bit annoying when I was trying to remove wood quickly with a rasp or plane. I had to reglue 2 of them so far.
I then started planing the linings down. The final dimensions need to be 3mm thick by 16 mm wide. First I planed them each down until they were close to 3 mm. Once again, I got a little bit carried away at times and the thickness got closer to 2.5 mm. Luckily, this wood can easily be replenished. I used the surform rasp for quick removal of wood(maybe too quick), and then the plane for refinement.
Using the plane, I brought the width of the linings down to a little over 16 mm. Also, I'm pretty sure my new favorite thing to do is plane thin pieces of wood.
The last thing I did was mark my new rib wood board to the lengths I would need. Yes, I did get a new board to make ribs from. No, I am (hopefully) not going to use any of the previous ribs I made. See, this new board has flame! If I were to do half the ribs with flame, and half without, it would look kind of funny. Plus, why wouldn't I want to use flame for all of the ribs?
Day 31: 3/11/17
Guess what? It's spring break! That means that I can get a ton of work done on my cello! The first thing I did today was cut my flamed maple into ribs. First I cut off the end that I didn't need, and then I cut the board into three slices. Each one was approximately 1/8 inch thick. I couldn't cut through the whole board at once, so I made 2 passes on one side, then flipped it over and repeated.
The next thing I did was try to square up the edges of my back pieces so I could glue them together. I tried hand planing it first, but it was very difficult to get it flat. Since I had the table saw now, I tried to square up the edges using it. It didn't work. In fact, it might have made it worse.
Since I had no other option, I sharpened the hand plane and got to work. I planed and planed, checking every once in a while to see where I needed to take wood off. I was getting some pretty solid shavings too.
After a while, I clamped the two pieces together just to see how close I was. Although it was relatively flush, it wasn't quite good enough to glue.
Day 32: 3/12/17
I didn't have much time today, but I did find some time to finish planing the edges until they were flush to my satisfaction. The only problem I was having at the end was the fact that I planed both edges at the same wrong angle, so the boards wouldn't be perfectly flat when they were glued together. Since fixing this problem would probably result in more planing, I decided that it would be less work to plane it flat after they were glued together.
Day 33: 3/13/17
The first thing I did today was glue up the back halves. Since I didn't have hide glue (the glue luthiers use for everything), and the joint is meant to be permanent, I decided to use Titebond 2 wood glue to glue it up. I applied a liberal amount, and then clamped the two halves together the best I could. I then wiped off the excess glue.
While I was waiting on the glue to dry, I decided to start planing the ribs down to thickness. Since I thinned the ribs too much last time, I was a lot more careful this time. I did most of the work with the ever useful plane. I planed the ribs down to about 2 mm. It made quite a mess on the ground. I liked how shiny the ribs got when planed.
I also did a little bit of scraping at this point. I had a bunch of trouble getting the scrapers to work properly though. I thought I was sharpening it correctly, but I couldn't get many smooth shavings.
Day 34: 3/14/17
Progress today was a little slow. The first thing I did was try to scrape the ribs some more. Since I couldn't get the rectangular scraper to work, I resorted to the gooseneck scraper instead. It worked much better, but it tended to dig into the wood more, and left marks. But I was able to get rid of tear out marks.
I then cut up the ribs into their respective sizes. 2 c-bouts, 2 lower bouts, and 2 upper bouts. Each of these are a couple of inches longer than they need to be. It makes bending easier, and it makes me less nervous about accidentally chipping the end of the rib. For the same reason, they are also much too wide.
Now comes the 'fun' part, bending the ribs. My initial idea was this: blow hot air through a metal pipe with a heat gun, and then bend the ribs around that pipe. Unfortunately, the pipe didn't get quite hot enough to easily bend ribs. "Hmm", I thought to myself. Maybe I should get a thicker pipe! It would retain more heat! So I tried that. And then, since it still wasn't super hot, I stuffed something in the end of the pipe to make it even hotter. It was around this time that the metal part of the heat gun started getting red hot. I quickly shut off the heat gun, but it was too late. It wasn't working any more.
Since I no longer had a heat gun, I looked around for another source of heat. Luckily, the wood burning stove was nice and hot, so I tried to use that. I tried just pressing the rib on the stove top while bending it, heating up a pipe and then trying to bend it around the pipe before it cooled, and some other things. The only thing that happened to the rib was that it got more burnt. I didn't take pictures of this.
I then decided that my only options were to either fix the heat gun, or buy a new one. So I tore my heat gun apart, looking for what might have gone wrong. I didn't see any broken wires, or anything obviously wrong. However, there was an element in the circuit that might have been causing the problem. Eventually, I figured out that element was a fuse! That meant I just had to jump the fuse with a different wire and it would work as good as new! It worked, and I assembly my heat gun back together. Using the thicker pipe, I started bending the ribs once again. Although it was still difficult to bend the c-bouts, I finally got my first one bent.
Day 35: 3/15/17
I spent a ton of time today just bending the rest of the ribs. It was much faster and easier after I got done with the c-bouts. And funnily enough, the second c-bout was actually more difficult to bend than the first one.
The next thing I did was level one side of the blocks. I could have just done it later after I glued the ribs on, but I decided that it would be beneficial to do it now. I basically just taped sandpaper to the largest flat surface I could find, and the slid the mold/blocks back and forth over it. In the last picture you can see what part has been sanded flat, and what still needed to be sanded further.
I then made some fitted blocks that would assist in getting a good glue joint when I glued the ribs to the blocks.
The last thing I did today was work on cleaning up the corner blocks a little.
Day 36: 3/16/17
Today was mostly spent breaking ribs. Not on purpose of course, and fortunately not enough to have to redo them. But just enough to make it scary when I go to glue them up. The first thing I did was try to scrape some of the dirt/ other stuff off the ribs. It was going well, until I got too rough on the end and split it. This is why I made it extra long, even though I didn't know exactly why at the time. Another rib broke when I tried to test clamp it onto the corner block. Since I didn't want the splits to get any longer or bigger, I devised a way to keep it from spreading. I superglued a piece of cardboard onto the cracked end, forcing it to stay together until I eventually glue it.
I then levelled the other side. But before I did that, I made the top block close to its final height. The top block is actually shorter than the rest of the blocks, but only on the soundboard side. Eventually the top will need to be bent slightly in order to glue it to the top block.
After that, I planed one side of the back piece as flat as I could get it by hand. It was actually quite fun.
The last thing I did was cut a couple more strips for the linings. Now I have enough to go forward.
Day 37: 3/17/17
The only thing I did today was work on the linings. The first thing I did was plane the new ones down close to their final thickness, about 3 mm.
I then started to bend them! These were a lot easier to bend than the ribs. This is partially because they don't have to bend as tightly as ribs, but also because I didn't need to be as careful with them. I had plenty more wood if I messed up. And I only ended up breaking one lining.
Day 38: 3/24/17
Today I prepared for gluing the c-bouts! First I sanded the corners with a shaped block as smooth as I could get them. I then did some dry clamping to test the fit. No matter what I did, it was always difficult to get the ribs clamped completely flush against the blocks. I first tried using the shaped blocks to clamp them, but they weren't long enough to apply even pressure across the whole rib, so the sides weren't pushed down enough.
Day 39: 3/25/17
Before I start, I'll let you know a little bit about the glue I am going to use. The glue is called hide glue. It comes in the form of glue pellets, and is used by heating it up while dissolving it in water. Hide glue is very strong, and it has some interesting properties. It releases with heat, and it can be removed with water. These two thing make it the ideal luthier's glue, which is why all luthiers use it. It can be easily removed when/if an instrument needs repaired. Unfortunately, it can be a little annoying to work with until you get used to it. It dries very quickly, allowing for very little working time. However, if you do mess up, it can be easily removed so you can try again.
I started gluing up the ribs today. If the dry clamping looked good with the shaped blocks, I stuck with them. If it didn't I switched to a longer scrap piece of wood. I used leather to protect the ribs. The first one I glued was the c-bout. You can see my glue melting setup in the photo below. I keep it at a working temperature of 140 degrees F. I glued one end of the c-bout at a time, letting it dry pretty well before I glued the next one.
I then re-glued a couple of blocks that broke off while I was working. The top block glued on just fine, but one of the corner blocks had problems. The problem started with the mold. The corner cut into the mold wasn't square, so the block couldn't be glued in very well. This resulted in it breaking off a couple of times already, making it more difficult to glue again. In addition, it was hard to figure out exactly where to glue it back on. I already levelled the blocks, so any misalignment would cause problems.
I also trimmed up the ends of the c-bouts that were already glued. They eventually have to be flush with the blocks.
The second c-bout was then glued on. I had to get pretty fancy with the clamping set-up to keep the badly glued block where it belongs. Also, I learned that if I clamp a piece of foam on the ends of the blocks while gluing, the glue seam looks much better.
The next step was to prepare the corner blocks for the upper and lower ribs. After cutting, and then rasping the ends down, I sanded the corners with my shaped blocks to make them look nice and pretty.
The upper ribs were then dry clamped to test the fit. If they didn't fit very well, I sanded the block down more to make a shallower curve. Here you can see the foam pieces I used much clearer.
Then I glued it! These glue joints looked a lot better than the c-bouts did.
I decided to glue the upper rib to the upper block before working on the other one. I used plenty of clamps to ensure a good joint. Also, I forgot to mention something. I used small pieces of parchment paper to prevent glue from sticking to the mold. I especially didn't want the fragile ribs sticking to the mold.
Then I glued the next one on. When gluing it to the top block, I had to trim it down to fit. Fortunately, it didn't need to be perfect. A lot of it will be cut away to attach the neck to the body.
Day 40: 3/26/17
The lower bouts were next. Gluing them to the corner blocks was similar to the upper bouts. I just sanded the blocks, dry fitted them, and then glued them.
Gluing the lower bouts to the bottom block was the difficult part. First I trimmed them so that I could just barely touch them together. I then attempted to glue them. However, my gluing set-up didn't work very well. I glued one side first, but, no matter what I did, I couldn't get the two ends to come together without a gap. After struggling with it a lot longer than I should have, I finally thought of a solution! I used some clamps to pull and hold the two ends together! I just tightened the clamps, and the two ends were brought right next to each other.
Day 41: 3/27/17
I then trimmed up the leftovers. Here is what it looks like!
Day 42: 3/28/17
I didn't do much today. All I did was shave down the ribs some with my spokeshave.
Day 43: 3/31/17
The first thing I did today is get the ribs to an appropriate height. I left them just a little bit higher than the blocks. I will trim them down further after the linings are glued in. The important part of trimming was making sure you were going in the direction the wood wanted to cut in. If you didn't, the ribs had a tendency to chip and split off. Which is definitely not good. I used a chisel to get the corners down, and I used a plane to flatten the other parts.
I then fit the linings for the upper and lower bouts on each side. All it involved was trimming the ends of the already bent linings until the linings fit snugly in.
The next thing I had to do was cut grooves in the corner blocks to insert the ends of the c-bout linings in. The c-bout linings have a tendency to come off, unlike the upper and lower linings. Therefore, they have to be secured in grooves. The grooves aren't very long. To make them, I basically just used a utility knife to mark the location of it, and then I used a small sharp blade to chisel it out.
Day 44: 4/1/17
I finished the grooves up the next day.
Day 45: 4/2/17
Time to glue the linings! I used the tried and true method of clothes pin clamps. To make them stronger, I wrapped a couple of rubber bands around them. If you are wondering what that other clamp is doing, it is trying to keep that troublesome corner block from moving. It isn't even attached to the mold at this point. The first ones I glued were the upper linings on one side.
Then I glued the lower linings on the same side.
Day 46: 4/3/17
I trimmed and dry fitted one of the c-bout linings today. It was also around this time that I realized the linings that I had for the c-bouts weren't long enough to easily work with. They also weren't bent enough, and I didn't have my heat bending pipe with me.
Day 47: 4/22/17
With a combination of being busy on the weekends and not have the equipment I needed, it was a long time before I could get working again. But now I'm back in business! Today I started by planing and cutting new linings, and then bending them with the bending pipe I made sure to get.
After dry fitting the c-bout linings, I went ahead and glued those along with the upper and lower bout linings on the other side. Some areas on the c-bouts wouldn't glue well, so I brought the big boy clamps in to really squeeze them.
Then I trimmed down the linings/ribs with the plane. I got them reasonably close to flush with the blocks.
Here is where I got "hasty" again. I noticed that the troublesome block ended up being offset by 2-3 mm. This meant that on one side that block needed to be sanded down that much, and on the other side the rest of the blocks needed to be sanded down that much. The problem is, I don't really have a flat surface on which I can sand something as big as the rib assembly. However, in haste, I decided that if I put a thin piece of plywood on top of the back slab, it was flat enough (but is really wasn't). So I traced the rib assembly onto the plywood, and the cut out some sandpaper to fit around it.
Day 48: 4/22/17
The first thing I did today was cut glue the sandpaper to the plywood. I just used some simple superglue, and glued each piece in 4 spots. It went really fast, and it held it down pretty well.
Then I got sanding. I decided to sand the back side first. This side had the bad block 3 mm below the rest, so almost the entire side had to be sanded down 3 mm. You can see the gap in the photos. It took a couple of hours to sand it down. And it probably would have been faster if it was actually a flat surface that didn't move. I'm really happy with how the corners turned out though.
Unfortunately, sanding had the side effect of making the linings shorter in some spots than others. I don't really like the look of that, so I am going to eventually make all the linings shorter. It's amazing how many mistakes could have been avoided with simply getting the blocks glued in properly before I started.
Another thing I did was work on the corners of the ribs. I just used a small chisel to carefully trim down the corner until it looked good to me.
I then spent some time sanding the other side. It went a little bit faster, but I decided not to do it too much. I don't want my cello to have any shorter ribs than it already has. This side had one block that really didn't want to be sanded. Eventually I ended up taking a rasp to it to make it reasonably smooth.
Day 49: 4/26/17
The first thing I did today was make sure the back slab was reasonably flat. I just used a plane on it until I was satisfied.
I then clamped the rib structure onto it and traced the outline and overhang. The overhang is supposed to be about 4 mm, so I found this object that had about that thickness, and used it to trace. There was only just enough room on the slab to trace the ribs. Any bigger and it wouldn't have fit. I am going to have to be very careful around those areas where I don't have any room for error.
Day 50: 4/27/17
I started to cut out the back today! Unfortunately, the only tool I had that could do the job was the coping saw. First I just cut off a piece on the bottom. It took a while, but it wasn't impossible.
I then decided it was time to separate the rib structure from the mold. Breaking off the blocks was easy. I just used a hammer and a small piece of wood to gently break them away from the mold. The difficult part was getting the mold out. I struggled and struggled, cutting away pieces of blocks to make it come out easier, when I was finally able to take it out. The ribs are so much lighter now!
When I took the ribs off, I could finally see how the glue seam looked on the underside of the linings. It wasn't very good in some spots. To remedy this, I went around both sides with clamps, a heat gun, and new glue, and fixed the problem areas.
Then I worked on cutting out the outline for the other half of the bottom. Another thing I did was draw the basic shape of the corners on the back. I just marked a spot 4 mm out from the corners, and then drew lines that, if extended, would go through either the center top or bottom of the back. They may not be perfect, but I'm pretty happy with them right now.
Another thing I did was work on the arching templates. After extracting the templates from the images on my computer, I printed them out. I then cut them out, traced them onto plywood, and cut the plywood out. They aren't completely cut out yet, but they will be soon.
Day 51: 4/28/17
I first roughly carved the corner and end blocks down to size. I used a bowl to trace the shapes for the end blocks. I mostly used my gouge to carve them down, but I used a plane on the end blocks to keep them nice and even.
I then decided that I wanted to finish cutting out the back outline. I still had to use the coping saw, but it went a lot faster than I expected. I made sure to leave at least a quarter inch of room outside the outline, which I can clean up later. And the last picture shows where I am at at this point. It looks like a cello!
Day 52: 4/30/17
The first thing I did today was clean up the blocks in the rib assembly. I rasped them down to a nearly finished state.
I then cleaned up the glue and other imperfections from the inside of the ribs and linings. My scraper wasn't short enough to get those areas, so I sharpened the end of the scraper and used that. I also finally figured out how to sharpen a scraper reliably.
The next thing I did was start carving down the back. I worked on rough arching the back first. The first step was bringing down the edges until they were close to the correct thickness. I found it was easier to carve going perpendicular to the grain. Going against the grain causes chipping, and going with it wasn't any easier. It's hard work.
I then cut out some of the arching templates.
Day 53: 5/01/17
Today brought more carving. I just kept bringing down the edge thickness. The wood on the two ends was especially difficult to remove.
Another thing I did today was clean up the outline of the back. I just used a rasp to bring the wood edge close to the line. I also cut the corners so that they became sharp.
I then drew a line all the way around showing the thickness of the edge I am aiming for. The line I drew is 3-4 mm thicker than the finished edge should be. I then started carving down to that line.
While I was bringing it down to the line, I also started to make a flat platform around the edge.
The top end wasn't carving very fast, so I decided to just saw off the wood instead.
Here are my arching templates.
I continued to make a flat platform around the entire edge. The ends were still really difficult.
Day 54: 5/02/17
I finally finished the platform around the edge.
I started the rough arching next. I just used the big plane for the large stock removal. I mostly just removed wood from the two ends.
To remove the thickness in the middle, I used a gouge. It worked really well, and I got an arch that roughly matched what I was going for.
Day 55: 5/03/17
I just kept carving down the thick parts with my gouge. The arching is smooth and flowing, so I tried to carve it to match that.
I did the same on the other side. I also started to round out the upper and lower bouts.
I just kept on carving, mostly with the gouge. The shape is starting to look pretty good.
I got a new plane! It's only a little over 3 inches long. I'm going to use it to get some of the tighter curves.
Switching between the little plane and gouge, I kept on carving.
Here's how the arching looks at the end of the day.
Day 56: 5/04/17
Just more arching. I did a lot of carving to make the edges of the bouts a more gradual curve, before increasing in the middle.
Day 57: 5/08/17
First I cleaned up the arching a little bit with my scraper.
I then started on hollowing out the plate. This wasn't any easier than the arching. The only tool I had available was my single gouge, so that was all I used. The difficult was really just getting started. After a while the gouge could cut through easier. Again, it was easiest cutting perpendicular to the grain. I just tried to make one side a nice gradual arch to start.
Day 58: 5/09/17
More hollowing out the back. I started going faster as the arch became steeper. I focused on the c-bout area a lot.
Then, because I knew I would have to do it soon, I started work on making purfling. Purfling is a decorative inlay that goes around the border of the two plates on a cello. However, it also serves a functional purpose. It will theoretically stop cracks on the edge of the plate from spreading inwards. It is made up of two black strips, with one white sandwiched in between. My goal thickness was about 1.6 mm. I wanted the black strips to be 4 mm thick, and the white strip to be 8mm thick. Since the only wood I had laying around was a long, straight piece of poplar, I used that. I sharpened my plane, wet the wood, and started taking off long shavings of wood. It was very difficult work. The first ones I did were the thin ones.
Day 59: 5/10/17
I kept on cutting strips, but now I started cutting the thicker ones. They weren't that much more difficult, especially when I wet the wood sufficiently. In order to store them easier, I soaked them and curled them up.
The difficult part when making your own purfling is dying the black strips. Luckily, there exists an easy process called ebonizing. Ebonizing uses a chemical, called iron acetate, that reacts with chemicals in the wood called tannins. Luckily, iron acetate can be made by just soaking steel wool in vinegar. It takes a little while for it to dissolve. However, it can be sped up by heating up the mixture. This creates a really bad smell though. One more thing. Some woods, like walnut and oak, have a high level of natural tannins. Other woods, like poplar and maple, do not. Luckily you can just soak those woods in tea to increase their tannin content. It wasn't until the end of the process that I finally understood how to apply these things, so bear with me. The first thing I did was soak the wood, vinegar, and steel wool together. Don't do this. At least not before the steel wool is dissolved and the solution is filtered.
I then kept on hollowing out the back. I made a very crude system for measuring the thickness of the plate in different spots, so I used that to figure out approximately how far I still needed to go. That's what the numbers are. My main goal was getting the center line down to the proper thickness.
In order to make myself feel better about my progress, I decided to clamp the back to the ribs and imagine the final cello.
Then I kept going. I started to hollow it out so that it was more concave than convex.
Day 60: 5/11/17
More carving of the plate. It's starting to look pretty good. I accidentally got the plate a little bit too thin in one spot, so I'm not going to touch that area anymore.
Day 61: 5/12/17
For some reason I decided that the plate wasn't flat enough, and that it wouldn't glue well to the ribs. So I set up a sanding station like I did before, with the intention of sanding it flat. To make sure I didn't lose the line that shows where the ribs line up, I cut into it with an exacto knife.
After struggling with how I would sand it without pushing some areas down more than others, I decided that the plate was flexible enough that any discrepancies will be fine when it is clamped up. I did a test clamp up just to appease myself.
The next thing I had to do was bring the edge down to its final thickness. I drew line for the corners and button to be about 5 mm thick, and the rest was 4-4.5 mm thick. Apparently the c-bouts are also supposed to stay a little thicker, but I didn't realize that at the time. I doesn't really matter though.
I then used a combination of planes, gouges, and chisels to bring the edge down to the line.
The area directly inside the edge, where the purfling sits, is actually thinner than the edge. There is a channel that is cut inside the edge, just for aesthetics. Some people make the channel after the purfling is in, and some people make it before. I kind of went in the middle. I cut a slight channel so that it was barely lower than the edge. This was another time when I was at a disadvantage with only one gouge. My gouge wasn't steep or narrow enough to easily cut the channel.
The next thing I had to do was mark/cut the purfling channel. This is a different channel than the one I just talked about. This one is narrow, and about 3 mm deep. The purfling will be glued into it. I needed to mark two lines. One for the distance from the edge, and one for the distance to the edge plus the purfling width. I made a little tool that uses an exacto knife blade glued and tied to a piece of wood glued to another piece of wood. The blade is jutting out about 3mm, which is the depth of the channel. I then went around the perimeter, expect for the corners, with it.
The last thing I did today was attempt to ebonize wood. I first cooked up some tea, about 5 teabags worth, and then proceeded to first soak the wood strips in the tea, and then put them in the iron acetate. It didn't seem to do a whole lot, so I put the wood strips back into the tea. And then the tea turned black! Obviously the tannin in the tea was reacting with the iron acetate that was on the wood strips. However, it ruined the tea solution. So I thought to myself, how about I paint the tea onto the wood, and then, after washing the brush, paint the iron acetate onto the wood! So I tried that. It sort of worked. Before I went to bed, I put a couple of unstained wood strips in the tea bath to soak overnight.
Day 62: 5/13/17
The first thing I did today was continue dying the wood strips. First I took a couple of the strips dyed overnight, and painted iron acetate on them. It worked marvellously! They turned extremely black! However, I didn't soak very many overnight. I soaked the next ones for only a couple of minutes, and then did the same thing. But they hardly turned black at all. You can see the difference in color between the ones I soaked overnight, and the ones I didn't in the last picture.
The next thing I did was straighten out a bunch of the black and white strips. Since they were already wet, I just had to use my bending iron to steam bend them flat. Unfortunately, some of the black strips decided to warped along their length. I tried to straighten them out, but it didn't work very well. The makes it a little difficult to glue them together.
After that, I just had to glue them up! I used hide glue to do glue them. First I clamped them with cardboard under a rigid board, but I later decided that the board by itself is sufficient. I also put parchment paper on the top and bottom of the laminate to prevent it from sticking to anything.
I then clean up and squared one of the edges of the purfling. This makes it easier to cut it into consistently sized strips. Using an exacto knife and a straight edge, I cut off strips 3 mm wide.
The purfling channel marker was then adjusted by making the exacto knife stick a little farther out. This allowed me to cut the mark for the other side of the channel.
While I was doing all this, I was soaking a couple more dyed purlfing strips in the tea solution, hoping that they would turn blacker. After I painted another coat of the iron acetate on, some of them did indeed turn black enough to use. The problem with soaking pre-dyed strips in the tea is that they inevitably reacted with the tea, making it useless. It didn't matter how much I washed them and dryed them off. I straightened them out as well.
Since I had the purfling channel marked, my next step was to chisel out the wood in between. Since I didn't have a tool small enough to do that, I made my own. I ground down a broken tool with my dremel until the tip was smaller than the width of the channel. I also sharpened it. Carving out the channel was slow work, even with my new tool.
I was already tired of cutting the groove, so I decided to bend the purfling instead. I had enough for the upper and lower bouts, but the c-bouts were just a tad too short. I'll need to glue up some more purfling.
I then worked on marking the purfling channel for the corners. I marked them with the tool for the most part, but I also freehanded some parts to make the corners look better. At least to my eye.
Day 63: 5/14/17
More groove cutting. I used the exacto knife to cut down further, and then the chisel to remove the wood. The only thing that was causing problems at this point was the fact that the groove was getting narrower as I cut it further down. The bottom was narrower than the top.
In order to clean up the grooves and make the bottom the same width as the top, I used a small cutting bit on my dremel.
I then glued up a new strip of purfling.
Then some more work on the groove. You can see that the groove is almost there now. The purfling should only stick out a tiny bit when it is fully in. There is a joint of sorts at the top and bottom of the back where the purfling meets. I just angled the two pieces so that they fit together well. Another thing I did was try to use a larger bit in my dremel. This larger bit cuts away wood faster, is almost exactly the same width as the purfling, and is really just perfect. I do have to be careful, however, because it can easily widen the groove too much.
The last thing I had to do was bend the c-bout purfling, and then I was ready to fit the purfling.
Getting the corners to fit together was not easy. I had to make sure that the purfling in the corners meshed together well, as well as make sure the purfling was the correct length. I think that doing a better job with cutting the purfling groove in the corners would have made fitting the purfling a lot easier. I just started with one c-bout, and then worked my way around the cello, fitting one piece at a time.
Day 64: 5/15/17
The first thing I did today is glue the purfling in. I used hide glue for this. I just heated up my hide glue and applied a generous amount of glue to the groove. I then shoved the purfling in, making sure that it was all the way down in the groove. I started with one of the upper bouts and worked my way around the back. I made sure to wipe off any excess glue with hot water and a paper towel.
I then trimmed off the excess purfling and brought it down level with the channel.
The next thing I did was start to carve the channel out some more. I used the gouge some, and then I tried to use the small end of the gooseneck scraper. Finally, I used an old lathe tool. The lathe tool can sort of be used as a gouge, but it isn't particularly good. The only reason I used it is because it has a smaller radius of curvature, allowing me to more easily cut the channel. My other gouge is good, but it is too wide for this particular application.
Because I messed up the purfling groove a couple of times, there were a couple of gaps on the side of the purfling. Hide glue, unfortunately, doesn't fill in gaps very well. Looking back, I realize that I should have used Titebond to glue the purfling in. However, I decided that I might as well just use Titebond to fill in the gaps now.
Day 65: 5/16/17
All I did today was clean up the inside of the back. Using the gooseneck scraper, I just scraped away until all of the ridges from the gouge were gone. Or at least mostly gone. I also did some final graduating of the back. I used my thickness caliper tool to measure the thickness and figure out what I still needed to remove. The most I still had to remove in some areas was 1 mm.
Day 66: 5/17/17
I first did some final graduating of the back plate.
I then did some final scraping of the arching. I'll definitely do some more later, but I wanted to get it nice and smooth before I glue it up.
I did the same on the inside. It still has a couple of stubborn ripples, but I got it pretty smooth.
I also scraped the the outside of the ribs close to where the back plate will be glued on. I figured it would be easier to scrape it before I glued it up.
Here's a picture from the inside with the ribs on the back plate. It's getting exciting!
Day 67: 5/21/17
I started work on making spool clamps today. I need spool clamps to clamp the ribs to the back and top. I looked them up online, and found out that they are very easy to make. Plus, it costs a lot less than buying them. For the 'biscuits' I just cut up an oak dowel rod. At least I think it was oak. It was incredibly hard wood. I used a bandsaw to cut them out because I wanted to get as many 1/2 inch thick pieces out as possible, but they would have been a lot more uniform if I were to have used the table saw.
Day 68: 5/22/17
I spent most of the day today making the spool clamps. The first thing I did was count the number of biscuits I had. Dividing by two, I got the number of clamps that I would be able to make. By visualizing them next to the back, I could see if I had enough. I had enough to make 33 clamps.
The next thing I did was go shopping at Home Depot! I bought 6 36 inch 1/4" threaded rods, 100 washers, 50 locking nuts, 50 wing nuts, and some cork padding. All told, it cost a little under 50 dollars. However, I did get a lot more washers and nuts than I would need at the moment. After measuring the height of the ribs + back and accounting for the room taken up by the biscuits, I decided to saw the threaded rod into 7" segments. This would allow me to make 30 clamps. I just used a coping saw to cut through it. I ruined the blade, but it was disposable.
I cut the cork into circles with my exacto knife, and then adhered them to the biscuits. The cork fortunately came with a sticky side. I then drilled holes in each biscuit. I tried to drill in the centers, but more often than not I drilled slightly off center. I also drilled angled holes occasionally. A drill press would have made this much easier.
Next was assembly! I first wrenched the locking nut on one end of each rod, and then I put the other components on. Washer, then biscuit, then other biscuit, then other washer, and finally a wing nut. It even looks half decent! I made sure to test them all after I made them. If they were a little sticky, I widened the hole slightly.
The last thing I did today was work on evening out the linings on the back side of the ribs. They were uneven due to sanding the rib assembly earlier. I just chiselled off the wide areas and scraped/sanded it down.
Day 69: 5/23/17
The first thing I did today was use a scraper to clean up the blocks a little. I wasn't trying to make them perfect, but I did want them to at least be somewhat smooth to the touch.
I decided to start the endpin hole next. At first, since I was impatient, I wanted to simply drill the hole by hand. However, after getting the hole started. I decided against it.
The last thing I did was a final clamp up of the back and rib assembly. All I will do when I glue it is take off a couple of clamps, shove some glue in, and then clamp it back up.
Day 70: 5/24/17
Glue up time! I just took off a couple clamps at a time, shoved some glue in the crack with a used gift card, and then clamped it back up. I just repeated that process all the way around the cello. That's all I did today. I wanted to wait until at least the next morning to remove the clamps .
Day 71: 5/25/17
All I did today was clean up the excess glue from the assembly. I just used a scraper and removed the glue from both the overhang and the inside.
Day 72: 5/27/17
Once I had access to a drill press again, I finally drilled the end pin hole. I drilled it with a 9/16 inch drill bit. Since the bit was so dull, I'm not sure if it cut anything away. I'm pretty sure it just burned it away. Nevertheless, I got a hole.
Day 73: 5/30/17
Unfortunately the back of my cello didn't glue perfectly to the ribs. Some areas separated after a couple of days. I think that the reason this occurred is because I didn't get enough glue in the joint in some spots. To reglue it, I used a paintbrush to shove glue into the joint. It was only two spots that I had to fix.
Day 74: 5/31/17
The only the thing I did today was glue up another strip of purfling. It was really warped once again, which made it really difficult to cut into thin strips.
Day 75: 6/01/17
I got wood! It was very exciting. I researched, and then decided on the places where I would buy the rest of my wood. The first place I went is Woodcraft Woodcraft is a store that has a whole bunch of different hardwoods, as well as other woodworking supplies. Since I needed a really hard wood for the fingerboard and fittings, I did some research to find some hard woods that are available at Woodcraft. When I got there I found one of the woods that I was interested in. Jatoba, sometimes known as Brazilian cherry, is a hard wood that is also relatively cheap. Well, at least a lot cheaper than ebony. I got a piece that was 4 feet long, and 6 inches wide. The reason I got such a big piece is because I thought I would have to glue two pieces together to get the right thickness for the fingerboard. However, the board ended up being almost an entire inch in thickness, which was plenty enough to make a fingerboard.
The second place I went was Menards. Yes, it is a "Big Box Store". And yes, their lumber may not be as good as something I could have gotten from a luthier supply shop. Nevertheless, let me tell you about my experience there. My goal was to find a piece of red cedar that would be worthy of making a cello top out of. I didn't need it to be 10 inches wide either. I figured I could glue a couple of pieces together if necessary. I went in and walked up to some 2 in x 6 in x 12 ft red cedar boards. I almost immediately set my eyes upon the most perfect looking piece of cedar I have ever seen. I pulled it out and examined it, but the whole board looked the same. It was quarter sawn, with very tight grain, all completely straight. Oh, and did I mention that it didn't have any knots? Although it was pretty much perfect, I decided to look around a little and see if there were any wider boards that were good enough. After I was satisfied that I had the most perfect board in the store, I bought it. In terms of grain appearance, I'd say it is as good as any spruce I could have bought.
I started work on the fingerboard right away. The first thing I did was test how well I could ebonize the Jatoba, just in case I want to eventually make the fingerboard black. It turned very black. The next thing I did was cut out the fingerboard shape. I used the neck to trace the shape of the fingerboard, and then extended the line outwards to get the correct length. Then I used my saw to cut right outside the line.
The next thing I did was clean up the edges and draw the lines showing its final shape. The edges have a thickness of 7.5 mm, and the fingerboard has a radius of 70 mm.
I then used the plane to bring the wood down to the lines. One important thing to note is that cello fingerboards are typically not perfect curves. They actually have a a flat area located under the C string. I don't know exactly why it is there, but it apparently helps with playability. I did it a little, but I'll make it better later. Another feature of the fingerboard is a scoop along its length. The fingerboard is supposed to be concave along its longitudinal axis. This prevents the strings from buzzing. I'll carve that feature onto the fingerboard later.
The last thing I did today was work on the bottom of the fingerboard. The protruding part of the fingerboard has a carved out section of the bottom. I just used a circular object to draw the back line, and freehanded the rest of it. I used a gouge to carve it out.
Day 76: 6/02/17
The first thing I did today was finish the underside of the fingerboard. Using the gouge and a scraper, I got it to a nearly finished state.
I then started working getting the top fit together. I wanted to waste as little of the precious cedar as possible. I figured out that I only needed to glue about 3 inches extra on each side of the upper bouts, and 6 inches extra on each side for the lower bouts. After cutting all the various pieces out, I laid them out in order to get an idea of what is is going to look like.
After I had them laid out the way I wanted, I labelled them. I then started jointing the edges. Planing the cedar was easier than the maple, but getting the edges to perfectly match each other was still just as challenging. I worked on the large seam first, and then glued it up when I was satisfied with it. Once again, I used Titebond 2 for the joint. I know that it isn't removable, but I like the extra working time I have with it.
Day 77: 6/03/17
The first thing I did today was clean up the joints for the additional pieces. Those joints were a lot easier to get perfect, likely because they were shorter. Since I only had one long clamp, I only glued up one bout piece at a time. I then waited an hour or so before I glued up the next one.
While I was waiting for the glue to dry, I decided to start working on the nut. The nut is the piece that the strings rest on above the fingerboard. I just cut it out to the approximate dimensions, and then carved it down from there.
I then glued up the rest of the pieces for the front. Since I didn't want to stress the joints for at least a day, that was where I stopped.
Day 78: 6/04/17
Today was completely spent on the front plate. The first thing I did was decide which side I wanted to be on the outside. I actually didn't have much of a choice in the matter, because there was a nice crack on one side that I could only be removed if it was on the outside. I then flattened the inner face with the plane.
Once again, I started to get worried about how flat the ribs were for the front side. I was especially worried about the large than expected rib height drop at the upper end block. It was supposed to be only a 1/4 inch gap, but it grew to over 3/8 inch. In an effort to remedy the situation, I got my trusty sanding board out an started sanding. It didn't seem to be changing much, so I decided to stop and figure it out later. '
I then glued up the rest of the pieces for the front. Since I didn't want to stress the joints for at least a day, that was where I stopped.
Day 79: 6/05/17
I brought down the edge a little further today. I also just worked on carving away more wood to make smoother curves.
Day 80: 6/06/17
Using my small plane, I smoothed some more curves. I started to get some templates fitting well.
Day 81: 6/07/17
I started out by smoothing the arching out with a curved scraper.
In preparation for the purfling, I brought the edge thickness down until it was very close to the final thickness.
I then cut the corners so that they were the correct shape and size.
Next was the purfling! I marked the lines for the inside and outside of the purfling, and then I started to carve out the channel.
Day 82: 6/08/17
All I did today was work some more on the channel. It seemed easier in some ways than the maple, but more difficult in other ways. For example, when carving nearly parallel to the grain, the cutting tools had a tendency to follow the grain instead of the channel, which caused the channel to get too wide. The maple didn't cause that to happen as much. However, the cedar is a lot softer, making it easier to carve the channel. So it's easier to carve, but easier to mess up. I don't know which I prefer.
Day 83: 6/10/17
I worked a lot on the purfling today. The first thing I did was finish up some hand carving of the channel, making sure it was cut relatively deep everywhere.
I then used the dremel to clean up the channel and make it deeper. Using the dremel is a little scary, as it can sometimes cut a little faster than you want. In fact, at one point I accidentally went through the plate! It fortunately only caused a small hole, but it was enough to make me stop and say good enough.
The next thing I did was bend the purfling. I just used my heated pipe setup and bent them exactly like last time. It was pretty simple.
I then marked and fit all the purfling in. The corners are far from perfect: in fact, they are probably worse than the ones on the back. However, I am quite proud of the joints on the top and bottom.
Day 84: 6/12/17
All I did today was glue in the purfling. I used hide glue again as the adhesive. You can see in the first picture how much of a gap there is between the channel and the purfling. Like last time, my goal is to fill it in with Titebond glue after the hide glue is dry.
After the glue was pretty dry, I trimmed the purfling down level with the edge.
Like I mentioned above, I then filled the gaps in as best as I could with Titebond 2 wood glue.
Day 85: 6/13/17
After the glue was dry, I used a gouge, and then a scraper to finish off the arching.
Day 86: 6/14/17
The first thing I did today was cut the channel around the edge. It's hard to see in the pictures I took, but I carved a shallow channel around the entire edge with a gouge that isn't really supposed to be a gouge. The problem is that I don't really have a good tool for the job. I'll probably carve it deeper once the corpus is closed. I also put some finishing touches on the arching with my scraper.
I then started work on hollowing out the front plate. After marking the gluing areas at the blocks and linings, I started gouging it out. Once again, it was a lot easier than the maple. I started in the center and worked my way outwards.
After I got it sufficiently roughed out, I used my thickness caliper device and started calculating how much further I needed to go, and where I needed to take off a lot more wood.
Day 87: 6/15/17
I started work on the f-holes today. After sizing the template on the computer, I printed it out and cut it out. I then drew some lines on the front plate showing where different parts of the holes should line up.
After taping the templates in place, I traced them onto each side.
I then worked on some more graduating of the plate. I started using the scraper on the upper bout portion.