Cox Violins Blog

Finishing the Interior

Violinmaker-in-Residence #14

Once the graduation of the back is finished it can be glued to the rib assembly, still secured on the formboard.

The violin is almost entirely held together with glue. The one exception is the neck, which since 1800 has been mortised into the upper block. The glue used today is identical, as far as we can tell, to the glue used in Stradivari’s time. Hides and other animal parts are cooked down to release the collagen. This is what happened to Dobbin when she was sent to the glue factory. This is dried and when dissolved in water makes a gel. When this gel is heated it becomes runny, like putting a Jello salad in the sun. This runny liquid will flow into the pores of the wood and as it cools, locks them together. As the glue then dries it contracts, pulling the joint even closer and leaving a matrix of animal protein that transmits vibrations much as the wood does. This glue is completely reversible so that joints made 300 years ago can be opened, cleaned, and re-glued. It can easily be made stronger or weaker by dilution to fit applications calling for more or less permanence.

The interior with labels affixed, branded, signed and ready to close.

The interior with labels affixed, branded, signed and ready to close.

With the ribs secured to the back, the formboard can be removed with no risk of distortion to the ribcage shape. The blocks are then cut down to remove any wood that is not adding to the strength of the ribcage. Any excess glue on the interior is washed away with hot water (hooray for hide glue!) Labels are glued in place and the interior stained using the same process that will be used on the outside. I brand, sign and number my instruments so there can be no question of whose work this is. The inside is then sealed with a drying oil, again the same treatment the exterior will receive.

In the VSO violin, like most of my work that is inspired by a particular master instrument, I install a facsimile label. This is not meant to confuse or mislead about the identity of the instrument and its maker, but to add information about this particular instrument.

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