Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/302

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��all their lives. In addition to the pattern and the mould the fiddlemaker requires four templates of varying size, cut to curves which are the reverse of the principal curves of the surface. The largest is the curve lengthwise in the middle of the fiddle (i), the other three are transverse, being (2) the curve of the surface at the greatest width in the upper part, (3) that at the narrowest part of the waist, (4) at the greatest width at the lower part.

The first part of the fiddle actually made is the back. The block out of which it is made is first reduced to the exact shape of the pattern ; its upper surface is then cut away and brought to the right curves by the aid of the four templates. The maker then hollows out the inside, gauging the proper thicknesses by means of a pair of callipers. Precisely the same method is used for the belly, but its thicknesses are every- where somewhat less than those of the back.

The top and bottom blocks are next prepared and shaped, temporarily fixed in the mould by means of a single drop of glue, brought to the exact height of the mould by the knife and file, and cut to the right shape by the aid of the pattern. The next task is to prepare a long strip of maple planed to the right thickness for the ribs. The proper length of each rib is ascertained on the mould by means of a strip of cartridge paper, and each rib is then cut off to its length and the edges prepared for joining. The ribs are now dipped two or three times in water, and bent to the curves of the mould by means of a hot iron. They are then placed in position on the mould and glued to the blocks ; eight moveable blocks of wood, trimmed as counterparts to the ribs, one in each bout, one in the outer curve of each corner block, and two at the top and bottom, are applied outside them, and the whole mass is tightly screwed up in a frame and left to dry. When the frame and moveable blocks are removed, the ribs and blocks form a structure which only requires the addition of the back and belly to be complete. The back is first glued on, and the inside joint is filled up with linings of pine passing from block to block and dovetailed at each end into the blocks, similar linings are now glued to the upper edge of the ribs and brought to a flat surface. Lastly, the belly, on which the bass bar has already been fitted, is glued on, and the resonant box is complete.

The design and cutting of the head, the carving of the volute, and the double grooving of its back, are among the most difficult branches of the violin-maker's art. When the handle is ready it is accurately fitted and glued to the top block and to the semicircular button at the top of the back, which hold it firmly in the angle they form. The fiddle is now ready for varnishing. After being sized, three or more coats of varnish are successively applied. This is of two kinds, one made with oil and the other with spirits of wine. Oil varnish is long in drying; hence in this country, except in hot weather, the process is tedious, and the old English makers usually pre- ferred spirit varnish, which dries very quickly.


The best makers in all countries have used oil varnish, the soft texture of which penetrates and solidifies the wood without hardening the tone.

When the varnishing and polishing are com- pleted the fingerboard is glued on, and the violin is then ready for its moveable fittings. The peg- holes are now pierced, the pegs inserted, and the button prepared for the bottom block. The sound- post is made so as to fit the slopes of the back and belly and inserted in a perfectly vertical position : this is ensured by observation through the bottom block and soundholes. The bridge is then prepared and fitted, the tail-piece looped on, and the violin is ready for stringing.

Many of the best fiddle-makers, however, seldom make new instruments, which can be produced more cheaply and expeditiously by inferior workmen. Their principal and most profitable occupation is the purchase, restoration, and sale of old ones, which are preferred by modern purchasers, the best, because they really surpass in workmanship and appearance any of modern times, the inferior ones, because age has rendered them more picturesque to the eye, and easier to play. An old violin has generally to undergo many alterations before it is fit for use. If any part is worm-eaten, it must be renewed. If the blocks and linings are out of repair, or badly fitted, they must be properly arranged. Cracks must be united ; if the belly or ribs have been pressed out of shape, they must be restored to shape by pressure on the mould : the damage to the belly, above the soundpost, which is sure to have occurred, must be repaired ; if the old bass-bar remains, a larger and stiffer one must be provided, to enable the belly to bear the in- creased tension of a higher bridge. In almost every case the neck must be ' thrown back,' i.e. so re-arranged as to raise the lower end of the fingerboard farther above the belly, and thus admit of a bridge of the modern height: the new handle, carefully grafted into the head, must be made of somewhat greater length than the old one. The peg-holes, enlarged by use, must be plugged and repierced : a new bridge and sound- post must be adjusted with all the accuracy which these important details demand. Great labour and attention are demanded by an old violin, and it will be thrown away unless every detail of it is considered with strict reference to the particular type of instrument which is in hand. Hence the restoration of old instruments demands a knowledge of the fiddle which is wider and deeper than that required for the mere fiddlemaker.

For further information on the subject of the Violin the reader is referred to liiihlmann's ' Geschichte der Bogen-Instrumente ' (Bruns- wick, 1882), a collection of valuable materials, with an excellent Atlas of Illustrations ; Dubourg on the Violin (R. Cocks & Co.) ; Mr. Hart's excellent work, 'The Violin* (Dulau & Co.); M. Vidal's ' Les Instruments a Archet,' 3 vols. 4to. Paris, 1876-8, and Mr. E. H. Allen's recent publication ' Violin-making as it was and is ' (Ward & Lock). [E.J.P.]

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