Introduction: Lasercut Plywood Violin

About: I'm a Danish/Taiwanese/German woman who likes to learn new skills :)

This violin was the winning entry to the Laserworks Contest @ MADE festival in Roskilde, Denmark in August 2014. The contest rules were simple: build something out of max 5 sqm 3mm plywood within 8 laser cutting hours + assembling time. My contest partner and I created six instruments (violin, ukulele, cajón, monkey drum, ocarina and güiro/rattle) with me being mainly responsible for string instruments.

The violin (as all of the other instruments) can be played but does not sound particularly nice but rather flat. I suppose the sound could be enhanced a bit by creating a body of sound. Please feel free to download my files, hack my design and build an improved version :)

Note added on Nov 19th 2014: I have now finally uploaded my files. I changed the design of various small parts a thousand times during the contest, so I am not sure, which parts exactly I used. I therefore planned to print the violin again from scratch, but unfortunately I do not find time for it, so now I have just uploaded the parts I think I used. There might therefore be some mistakes in the files, but feel free to just change accordingly. And let me know if you think anything is missing!

Step 1: Cutting the Files

I drew everything from scratch in Illustrator. During the contest, I improved small details again and again, so don't get frustrated if you find something that doesn't fit and just change it yourself :)

Step 2: Glueing Small Parts

I have created three square spacers and four round spacers. The squared ones are placed in between the cross bars while the round ones are placed near the edges. The small square holes are added to make it easier to stack and assemble the pieces. Also, you can already prepare the snail. (Please note that there are probably way too many round pieces, as I also used them for another instrument).

Step 3: Bending the Fingerboard

I found it really tricky to bend the fingerboard and tried different things. What turned out to work best for me was to put the laser out of focus by lowering the table with the plywood and then cut deep lines 3/4 through the material (make sure to make a few tests with a small piece to find the right adjustment). To cut entirely though the edges of the fingerboard, I just added one or two layers in the same file, so that the laser would go around the board a few times. This can obviously be done in a more intelligent way ;)

I then soaked the board in warm water which made it contract itself. After having prepared the bottom of the fingerboard (a flat piece and two thinner and shorter pieces on top - see the picture), I glued the wet piece on top and secured it over night.

Step 4: Preparing the Body for Assembling

The 'walls' are made of sliced, bendable pieces of plywood. In order to attach them to the top and bottom of the violin, I have created a kind of retainers that the walls can fit into. The outer side of the outer piece follows the exact shape of the violin while the inner side of the same piece does not (see in the middle at the waist of the violin). This is because I couldn't get the sliced walls to make such sharp turns without breaking.

I glued the inner retainer about 5 mm away from the outer retainer but could probably have made a much tighter fit, so maybe you could try with 3 mm room between the two retainers.

Step 5: Assembling the Body

Now, you need to assemble the whole thing. I started with the bottom and the crossbars and then added the spacers. Next, I attached the walls and finally the top part including the bridge.

Step 6: Finalising the Violin

Finally, add strings and pegs. Voilá!

I just started playing with laser cutters a few months ago (I am a business student and usually have nothing to do with design ;) and this is my first real laser cutting project. I am sure that there are tons of things you could improve, so please feel free to build your own, hack the design and let me know your thoughts and improvement suggestions! I look forward to seeing your new violins :)