Cox Violins Blog

Fitting the Fingerboard and Setting the Neck

Preparing to set the neck.

Preparing to set the neck.

Violinmaker-in-Residence #17

The angle of the neck is very important to the acoustics of the violin: it determines the placement and height of the bridge, and the angle of the strings and resulting balance of forces on the violin body. I aim to balance the amount of downward pressure on the bridge to the strength and stiffness of the top to achieve maximum responsiveness and power.

With the scroll carved, a fingerboard is fitted to the neck. The fingerboard provides a hard, even surface for the player’s fingers to stop the strings. Ebony has become the standard material because of its hardness. A tapered dovetail shape is planed onto the neck heel and a corresponding mortise is carved into the upper block of the violin. There is a great deal of force from the tension of the strings on this joint and precision of fit, as well as proper angles is essential. The neck is glued in place with hot glue and clamping pressure using the tapers to tighten a very strong joint.

Once the neck is in place, the shape of the neck can be finished. This shape is the most personal point of contact between the player and the violin. While there are standards, there are many styles of rounding possible and they affect the feel for the player. Necks are often customized for a player, but it is only possible to take wood away.

Repeated contact between the finger and string on the fingerboard produces wear, even on very hard wood, and the top of the fingerboard needs to be occasionally planed to restore an even surface. Again we can only take wood away, and the fingerboard becomes thinner with each planing until it must be replaced. For a violin in professional use, a fingerboard will last about 50 years before needing replacement.

Shaping the neck.

Shaping the neck after it is fitted.

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