Introduction: How To: Make a Steel Violin (BODY)

Picture of How To: Make a Steel Violin (BODY)

Supplies:

- large sheet of paper (medium weight)

- masking tape

- 28 gauge sheet steel

- steel (or aluminum) pop rivets (1/8" di x 1/4" L), (3mm di x 6mm L)

- 3/16" di (5mm) steel rod

Tools:

- scissors

- tin snips

- small round-top anvil

- ball peen hammer

- hole punch for sheet metal

- needle files

- pop riveter

- pliers (standard and needle-nose)

- vice grips (2 or 3 pair would be best)

- scribe

- center punch

- permanent marker

- straight edge

- measuring tape (cloth)

- micrometer (optional)

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

Picture of Gather Your Supplies

Once you have all your tools and supplies, Google "violin dimensions" to get the proper measurements for the violin (or viola) you would like to make.

Step 2: Make a Pattern

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Make a paper pattern for your main body shape.

I found it easier to fold the paper down the center, draw one side to my liking, then trace the other side for a more perfect match. Cut out your pattern.

Step 3: Transfer Your Pattern

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Trace the pattern onto your 28 gauge sheet metal using your marker or your scribe. Taping at least two sides of the pattern to the metal may aid in keeping your tracing consistent the whole way round.

Do this twice, once for the front of the violin body and once for the back.

Use the tin snips to cut out your shapes, then clean up your edges and remove burrs using the needle files.

*Cutting sheet metal with tin snips causes the metal to curl up. The cutting is made easier if you first do a rough cut close to your scribed lines to avoid bending your whole sheet, then come back and trim up to the line (the thinner pieces of metal curling up easily without distorting your panel).

Step 4: Shaping the Body

Picture of Shaping the Body

Use the ball peen hammer over the round-top anvil to dome out both the top and bottom body panels. (photo is of general guidelines - by the end you will have hammered over the entire surface, not just along the lines drawn)

The use of reference photos (if you don't have a violin handy) should guide your shaping process. I recommend watching a few videos on shaping sheet metal with a hammer and anvil before you begin.

Be sure and form a small reverse curve at the edge to add rigidity.

*This step will require patience - work slowly and deliberately. As you hammer away, periodically check your panel against a flat surface (domed side up) to make sure the piece as a whole is not becoming too distorted. You will eventually be adding side structures, so the more your edges are in line with the table top the less trouble you will have fitting everything together. That being said, the cutouts WILL NOT be level with the leading and following edges and will require an extra step which we will get to shortly.

Step 5: Make Side Structures

Picture of Make Side Structures

Measure along the outside edges (excluding cutouts).

*If you're nervous about precision, cut your pieces a little long and trim them down once you have mounted them to the body.

Cut out strips to length with a width according to the dimensions you've chosen (add 1/2", 14mm for mounting tabs) i.e. 1 1/8" + 1/2" (30mm + 14mm). Scribe one line 1/4" (7mm) from the upper and lower edge for cut outs and another line 3/16" (5mm) from each side for the placement of your rivet holes.

*Using your micrometer to scratch the lines on your side strip makes for easy and consistent measurement.

Map out the mounting holes 1/2" (14mm) apart with your permanent marker along the line you scribed previously, then center punch and punch out (using the 1/8", 3mm die). Punch out small cutouts in between each pair of mounting holes (up to the line scribed for the cut outs using the 1/4", 7mm die - trim with tin snips) to allow the strip to maintain a curve once the tabs have been bent for mounting.

Bend the strips to match the shape of your pattern and bend each of the tabs OUTWARD 90 degrees, all the while preserving the proper curve.

Repeat the process with the other strip, matching the curve of the other side of the violin.

Step 6: Mounting Side Panels

Picture of Mounting Side Panels

When your side panels match your pattern and all the mounting tabs are bent outward, clamp each strip to the corresponding side of the BOTTOM body panel.

Use your permanent marker to mark a point on the body panel for each mounting hole on the side strip. Remove your clamps, center punch each mark you've made on the body, then punch out each individual hole. Re-clamp the sides to the body and begin adding your pop rivets.

*When riveting the sides to the body I would begin with a rivet at each end, then one in the center. Then add one in between the two rivets on one side and the same on the other. Split the difference between rivets until all the holes are filled. This will help to prevent distortion.

Step 7: Making Patterns for Cutouts

Picture of Making Patterns for Cutouts

Clamp the top plate on to your bottom structure, then take a small piece of paper and trim to fit along the curve of your cutout. Trace onto another piece of paper and add 1/4" on either side for mounting to the body and two tabs on the ends to attach to the front and back side panels.

Trace the shapes on to a piece of sheet metal with your scribe or marker.

Step 8: Mounting Cutout Panels

Picture of Mounting Cutout Panels

Once you have your cutouts prepared, map out your mounting holes as before (see step 5). Bend the pieces to correspond to the curves, then bend each tab INWARD, maintaining your curve.

Bend the end tabs to match the angle of the adjacent side panels.

When you are happy with the fit, mark - center punch and punch out matching holes on the body and side panels

Rivet the panel to the lower structure (*using the same method mentioned in step 6).

Step 9: The Base Bar

Picture of The Base Bar

For this step, the measurements from step one are very important.

The base bar helps to transfer the vibrations of the strings across the length of the body, so it must be placed directly under the (left foot - facing the front, smaller side up) foot of the bridge.

Once you've measured for the placement of your bridge, trim a piece of paper to match the inside curvature of the topside body panel parallel with the long centerline of the body in line with the foot of the bridge. Trace your pattern onto sheet metal with your scribe or marker.

Next - cut out a strip of sheet metal 1" - 1 1/2" (25 - 40mm) wide and prepare ONE side with mounting tabs using the same method as before and the other side, punch out a series of holes 3/4" (20mm) apart for mounting to the body. Bend the tabs at a 90 degree angle, then bend the whole strip to match the curve of the piece you prepared previously. Mark the mounting points both on the body and the curved piece - center punch, punch out and rivet.

*Add rigidity by bending the protruding edge of the base bar all the way across (no further than a 45 degree angle - see photo).

Step 10: F-Holes

Picture of F-Holes

Make a pattern for and trace your f-holes on the topside panel.

*Note the measurements you made before for your bridge placement as the center of the "f" on each side should line up with the bridge.

Roughly punch out the pattern with your sheet metal punch, then clean up the shape with needle files.

Step 11: Mount the Top

Picture of Mount the Top

Clamp the topside body panel (with base bar attached and f-hole cut out) to the bottom structure. Mark each mounting hole with your marker.

Remove the clamps and center-punch and punch out each hole.

Re-clamp the panel to the body and begin the riveting process, starting with the corners and the ends and splitting the difference between rivets to avoid distortion.

Step 12: Sound Post

Picture of Sound Post

Whereas the base bar is mounted under one foot of the bridge, the sound post will be placed under the other.

The sound post helps to sync up the vibrations of the strings on the front panel to the rear, giving the violin a fuller sound.

Measure the thickness of the violin body at the point where the foot of the bridge will sit. Cut your 3/16" steel rod to the measured length.

Using you needle nose pliers, insert the sound post in through the f-hole and wedge it in (friction will keep the post in place).

*If you do not get enough friction, or the fit is too tight, you may need to cut a new post or trim down your original.

Step 13: Final Notes

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Though I did attempt and, to a degree, succeed at making the rest of the violin out of metal - I was not entirely satisfied with the process nor the final outcome. Until I refine my process, I recommend you order the remaining pieces (neck, tuning pins, finger board, saddle, etc.) in their traditional form. I have ordered and been satisfied with product from StewMac:

http://www.stewmac.com/SiteSearch/?search=violin

If you are lucky enough to have a local violin shop, show your support for the small business and visit them first :)

I feel you will have the greatest opportunity for a functional violin if you use parts available - though if you are determined to make the whole thing of metal, I will not discourage you from taking on the challenge.

Thank you for your interest and I wish you success in your efforts.

Enjoy!

Comments

Random-Guy (author)2017-06-03

Can't believe it actually plays!

ceremona (author)2016-09-12

How does it play though?

I used traditional violin dimensions, so it plays like a traditional violin :)

MichelS31 (author)2016-08-03

thank you

Thank you! Don't forget to vote for your favorite in the "Metal" contest :)

done

Thank you!

20rmendoza (author)2016-08-07

I'm trying to make violins out of different materials

so far i have an electric and wood :(

I'm going for brass steel plastic manny manny kinds of wood and carbon fiber

Sounds like quite an undertaking!

Good luck!

I'm gonna need it

20rmendoza (author)2016-08-07

can't wait to make it!!!

15 and playing violin!

Enjoy :D

snelgrave101 (author)2016-07-29

that is one cool looking piece of engineering my friend.

Thank you! I appreciate you saying so :)

I seen one on Dicky dickinsons real deal it was made of ceramic or china all hand painted in lovely blue and white with people and all sorts on it estimate 500-600 it reached 480 there was a reserve of 500 a really nice thing to own and so is yours its very good (could i be cheeky and ask a price if you were to sell it ?) peace bro.

I haven't thought of selling it so I can't say for sure ... though I am rather proud of it ;)

And so you should be my friend , as stated before its a work of art , im thinking of now trying a geetar the same nice acoustic jim deacon number.

And so you should be my friend , as stated before its a work of art , im thinking of now trying a geetar the same nice acoustic jim deacon number.

Natalina (author)2016-07-29

Wow, this is really impressive. I'm not familiar with violin acoustics, how do you expect the metal body will sound compared to a traditional violin?

Thank you - did it all in the living room :)

"On it's own the steel violin does have a very unique sound. I was going for a "stanky" southern sound and though it is a little more muddled and muted than a traditional wooden violin, I think with a pickup and just a touch of distortion I might be able to get what I am looking for."

xc1024 (author)2016-07-29

Wow, this looks really nice. Congrats!

Bananamultiverse (author)xc10242016-07-29

Thank you :)

cnaughtin (author)2016-07-28

Wonderful! Is it possible to post an audio file of how it sounds? Or at least a video with sound?

Perhaps in the future. I'm in the process of reinforcing the neck (my initial design for the neck mount was inadequate) and electrifying for amplification, so it may be some time before I'm able.

Thank you for your comment :D

pskvorc (author)2016-07-28

Impressive!

Bananamultiverse (author)pskvorc2016-07-28

Thank you!

Manufactotum (author)2016-07-28

i made one in copper & silver a few years ago...! i made the fingerboard hollw so the high notes carried quite a bit.... well done! well explained as well!

Nice! Thank you :)

porkroast (author)2016-07-28

Absolutely wonderful. I would love to play this-- it reminds me of the old Alcoa aluminum violin shown in National Geographic years ago (being played by the former Concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony, Fritz Segal). Any plans to make this MIDI compatible?

Thank you :)

I'll have to see if I can't find the maker of that violin.

I do intend to electrify it, but I haven't given much thought beyond that.

deluges (author)2016-07-27

Stunning, you got my vote. Also, same question as infinitevortex

Bananamultiverse (author)deluges2016-07-27

I appreciate the kind word :)
(See my response to Infinitevortex for the explanation of the sound)

rainingfiction (author)2016-07-27

Beautiful. Does it sound like a wood violin?

Thank you :)
(See my response to Infinitevortex for the explanation of the sound)

Infinitevortex (author)2016-07-27

Cool! How does it sound compared to traditional wood violin?

On it's own the steel violin does have a very unique sound. I was going for a "stanky" southern sound and though it is a little more muddled and muted than a traditional wooden violin, I think with a pickup and just a touch of distortion I might be able to get what I am looking for :)

datuesti (author)2016-07-26

Absolutely genius!! Great job!

You are very generous, thank you :)

seamster (author)2016-07-26

This is really impressive!

Just with the simple techniques you've shown, I'm inspired with the possibilities for what can be made. I need to get some sheet metal! :)

Thank you for the kind words!

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Bio: too many hobbies, not enough career - if a hobby of mine would but volunteer
More by Bananamultiverse:How To: Make a Mechanical HandThe Blight is Upon Us!!!How To: Make a Steel Violin (BODY)
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