Saturday, 22 November 2014


So after a lot of talking about it and a lot of time making sawdust and wood-shavings in the shed, I finally feel as if I've made enough progress on this to bother to put some pictures up about it.

The original idea was just to have a go at making a cello, but it has drifted into the idea of making a cello out of wood from as close to home as possible. This mainly happened because there was a fairly big Sycamore in our back garden that was shading everything out and when I felled it it was pretty sound inside and big enough to get a one-piece cello back from. I'm hoping to get a piece of willow that blew down in last year's storms on campus, but I'm still waiting for it to get sliced up (and it's not as close to home as the Sycamore).

So here are some of the lumps that came from the tree:


Not very subtle slices were hacked out with Ieuan's chainsaw and then planed down to make a slab suitable for a back:


I marked out a (fairly over-size) cello-shape from the plan that Mick-the-real-luthier-De-Hoog sent me (thanks Mick!). Then spent a few hours whittling away at it to get a feel for the quality of the wood and how it would shape up. It was quite fun getting the basic shape and profile:


Having done all this (good fun) whittling I realised that actually I should have been making the ribs and middle bit first and that I was just putting it off because it looked hard. So I started out by making a former:


I made it from a sandwich of plywood and spacers held together with screws so that hopefully when it comes to time to get it out it will be easier than doing it in one piece. Then I asked Matt-the-man-with-proper-tools to slice up one of the bits of Sycamore that I had crudely slabbed and he provided me with a nice pile of rib material around 2.3mm thick. I then spent a jolly day in the shed with a plane, belt-sander and set of cabinet scrapers to get them down to the recommended 1.5mm. After lashing-up a bending iron from an old piece of boiler pipe and a hot-air gun:

 I was ready to bend the ribs. The boiler pipe is about 3mm wall thickness and started out as ~5in diameter. I crushed it in the vice to get curves that looked about right for a cello and then almost blocked the end with wire-wool to keep the heat in and it worked surprisingly well for bending the ribs with the hot-air gun running whilst I worked. Had to be a bit careful to avoid burning too many bits of skin, but no trips to casualty yet and just a gentle aroma of singed hair.

So after chiseling and gouging out the blocks and bending the ribs, this is what it looks like at the moment:


Close-up of one of the C's:

Not a perfect fit, but close enough to pull in gently with clamps. That's the next step, think I'll do the pieces one at a time over a few days. The blocks are glued to only the top layer of the former with deliberately bad joints to try to make it easy to chisel them out when the time comes.

In the mean time, I stole one of Ieuan and Elizabeth's Sitka Spruces to use for the sound board. I took one from the edge of a bog which had stunted its growth a fair bit, so the rings are fairly close together. Not big enough to do a single piece, or even two piece soundboard though, so may end up being three pieces glued edge-to-edge. The Sitka logs:


 The Sitka was the furthest from home that we have had to go (about 400m).

Hoping to get a fingerboard and pegs out of some pieces of hawthorn that I cut down earlier in the year. Not sure how it'll be to work with, looks pretty dense and hard, but we'll have to wait and see:

The Sitka has been sitting in the shed for a couple of weeks now, so I need to get it sawn up (properly this time) and then give it a good few months to dry out before trying to do anything much with it, so don't hold your breath on an update!