Electric Violin

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About: I am a Mechanical Engineer who loves making random things!

Intro: Electric Violin

(Audio on step 6)

This electric skeleton violin uses a piezoelectric pickup. The body and neck are solid maple and the darker wood is mahogany.

I eventually finished it in November of last year after a two year build. It could have probably been done a lot quicker but exams and school got in the way. The body is made from a solid piece of maple. It was cut out using a band saw and a scroll saw, (I went through a fair few scroll saw blades!). The body was then shaped using a variety of hand tools. I aimed to try to use as few power tools as possible. The neck, fingerboard and pegs are explained further on.
The main book I used to make this was the Fiddlemaker's Worksheets by William K. Robertson. I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to make a violin, be it acoustic or electric. It has all the dimensions needed, the techniques for getting the correct finish and much more. The basic plan for this one came from tracing around a friends violin, (a very simple way to get started!).

Update: I have recently done a basic model of this in CAD. It is dimensionally accurate and is available to be downloaded in the following location https://gallery.autodesk.com/fusion360/projects/sk...

Step 1: Initial Drawings

As mentioned earlier. A simple way to get started is to trace around another violin. This, in combination with dimensions measured from the violin and from the worksheet book, can produce a simple starting template. Squared paper is extremely useful at this point!
The length of the body of the violin is 35cm and its width is about 21cm.

Step 2: Neck

I used computer software to model several parts of the violin. Any 3d imaging software is useful to produce accurate designs. I used Solidworks but there are plenty of free programs out there e.g. Google sketch up, Autodesk 123D, AutoCAD (30 Autodesk programs are available if you are student, http://students.autodesk.com/?nd=download_center). However, a very simple way of drawing 2D models accurately is using Microsoft Word and adjusting the lengths etc. in the properties section. This is really useful for producing accurate templates for cutting around. 

This part of the violin is quite tricky to get right. I would recommend finding an old bit of wood to practice on. Harder wood is better as it is easier to carve without large 'chunks' coming off. Softer woods can split easily and this can make the carving process harder. When I did mine I did two practices before starting on the maple. It makes it a lot easier to figure out what order you need to do things in. 

Here are the basic steps I followed:
1. Cut the side view out using a band saw (easiest option)
2. Drill out holes for the pegs, 5 mm diameter (a bench/pillar dill ensures the holes are aligned)
3. Cut the top view out
4. Chisel out the peg box 
5. Using cabinet rasp begin to round the underside of the neck. 
6. Using gouges and a rounded file begin to curve the underside of the head (image 2)

It is best to leave it fairly rough as there will be a fair amount of fiddling around getting the set-up right before actually attaching the neck. It just means you're less likely to mess up your nice smooth finish!   

Step 3: Fingerboard

Sorry for the poor image quality. I thought it would come out better than that! All the dimensions you need for this part are on the photo. 
For this part you need a hardwood otherwise you'll get lots of dents on the surface.
The image below includes the nut as well. The curvature of fingerboard is produced using a plane. The best way to test if you have the correct  radius is to print of a template and run it across the surface.
For the final set-up on the fingerboard use a rule side on (shown in photo 2) and make sure that the surface of the board is slightly concave. This is best achieved using sandpaper as it easier to judge how much wood you're taking off. The final distance between the board surface and the rule should be about 0.5-1.0 mm.
This part of the violin is not varnished! it only requires oiling to bring out the colour. 

Step 4: Pegs

The first picture below shows the basic dimensions for the pegs. Initially they need to be about 20mm longer than shown. This allows for easier fitting. 
There are several tools you'll need/make in order to produce your pegs. 

Reamer (photo 2) 
This reamer is made from an old pair of scissors. An angle grinder was used to get the correct taper of 8.5 to 5.5mm (ish...) over a distance of 7.5 cm. I have to thank TimAnderson for his instructable on making this and the peg shaver (https://www.instructables.com/member/TimAnderson/)
This can then be used to make the peg shaver and getting the correct taper on the peg holes in the violin head. 

Peg shaver (https://www.instructables.com/id/Cookie-Tin-Banjo-Part-2-Make-a-Tuning-Peg-Shaver/)
This tool can only be made once the reamer has been made. To make, simply drill a 5 mm hole in a piece of hardwood. Then, using your reamer, taper the hole. It is a good idea to mark on the reamer where the 8mm width ends. This insures that you only taper the hole that far. The next step is best achieved using a band-saw or mill but a 'bog standard' hand saw works too! You need to cut horizontally just above the hole. Then using a plane or a sander take the surface down until the full length of the hole is visible. Finally, clamp a plane blade above the hole to create a sharpener/shaver. Full photos on the link above. 

Lathe 
Simple pegs can be produced without a lathe, but I found that they were never quite true and were very difficult to get the detail I wanted. I found that a lathe was the easiest way to produce the shape of the peg in the image below. The head is done completely by eye but if you have a cutting jig available to you, the diameters below can be accurately achieved.

I used files and sandpaper to get the flats on either side of the peg head. I haven't really got any dimensions for this bit. It's really down to what you think looks good and feels right. After all it's your violin, it should be how you want it! 
The final stage is to put the peg through the peg shaver to get the correct taper. They are now ready to be fitted to the violin!   

If pegs seem like too much effort don't fear! Photo number 4 shows a ukulele machine head. These are the perfect size for a violin and allow quick and easy tuning. The only possible adjustment needed would be a hole half way down the peg, (shown in the photo).
REMEMBER: if you are drilling your own hole you will need to chamfer the edges with a larger drill bit otherwise your strings may snap. 

Step 5: Electronics

For this section, there are many different ways to go. I went for a simple piezoelectric pickup from eBay and simply wired it straight to the 1/4" audio jack. This does require some form of pre-amplification but I didn't have enough space in the body to fit all of the electronics for an internal amplification unit.

There are several violin amplification kits available. They have everything you will need to amplify your instrument. Just remember to factor in the size of the device when designing the body!

Step 6: The Rest Is Up to You!

There are such a wide variety of designs that the rest of the violin is really up to you. The stages covered in this instructable are the basic stages which are fairly universal to most violin designs.

The chin rest and tail-piece both heavily depend on what design of violin you are going for. I'm currently working on one which won't have a tail-piece and the chin rest is separate from the body. I will hopefully get some instructions up for how to make a chin rest and tail piece at some point but exams are looming!

The body can be as interesting and wacky as you want! It's provides the most fun to be creative with and will be the main part that sets it apart from any other violin. The only main warning here is to keep the centre of the body strong, you don't want it snapping after all your hard work! If you find that the body is looking too weak it is possible to put a metal strengthener down the centre, hey it could be a feature! The only other thing to watch out for is that you keep enough room for the electronics. 

The final finish is also very much down to your own taste. I used an amber oil varnish, which is traditionally used on acoustic violins, to finish this one. That along with a French polish (Colron French Polish sold at DIY shops) produced a lovely glassy finish.  However, coloured dyes, sprays and oils can be used and hey, who even said it had to be made out of wood!

Hopefully, I've given you enough to get started on. Let me know if you have and questions. 

Here is an audio/video of it being played by a friend.

 

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    69 Discussions

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    maxhirez

    4 months ago

    I was looking for something completely unrelated but this caught my eye and I had to say how beautiful your craftsmanship is! Keep up the great work!

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    NoahJYoungman

    8 months ago

    How did you create the pocket in the violin, the space where the wire and stratocaster are supposed to fit in? By use of hand tools or some other preferably quicker means?

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    markpope

    1 year ago

    Is the neck glued to the body? Is it notched or is a dowel used for strength? My son has carved the neck and body and a violin maker gave some advice I don't trust.

    1 reply
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    Toms Workshopmarkpope

    Reply 1 year ago

    Apologies for the delayed response. For this particular project I used 7mm dia. dowels to connect the neck to the body. This was glued with standard wood glue and a combination of claps to get the pressure from the neck to the body.

    It is standard construction for a violin to use a notch and gluing but I wasn't confident enough on this one to do that so went for the dowel and glue option.

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    Kidhacker

    2 years ago

    Would this work

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Electric-Violin-Pickup-4-4-Bausch-Bridge-Preamp-Tone-Volume-Knob-Endpin-Jack-Set/391495817339?_trksid=p2047675.c100005.m1851&_trkparms=aid%3D222007%26algo%3DSIC.MBE%26ao%3D1%26asc%3D39836%26meid%3Da15d33a5c9ff484e81fd35ae43352f00%26pid%3D100005%26rk%3D5%26rkt%3D6%26sd%3D220838924337

    2 replies
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    Toms WorkshopKidhacker

    Reply 2 years ago

    Yep, that should do the job fine. The only thing you will need to do is work out where the electronics will fit. Other than that you'll be ready to rock :)

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    Ace Gambit

    2 years ago

    Looks Awesome! You can definitely tell you put a lot of time into this. Have you considered using an electromagnetic pickup though? it sounds like you're getting a bit of background noise with that piezoelectric pickup.

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    Toms Workshopa2plis

    Reply 2 years ago

    Hey bud,
    All look ok and should be fine for use on your project. I'm not 100% on the fingerboard, it seems like a cheap price! You will be fine with the board as long as it is hard enough to withstand the pressing of the strings. To be fair you could make one fairly easily, it is one of the easier parts to make and quite good fun. I have the drawings for the board which I think are in this ible, if not I can add them this weekend when I'm back in the UK.

    The neck, chin rest and pegs look fine (I generally look at the % rating of the seller too to see how reliable they are). Again the chin rest is also quite good fun to have a go at ?

    I'll have a better look this weekend but for the prices on there it seems pretty good (even if you use them as templates for making your own)

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    a2plisToms Workshop

    Reply 2 years ago

    Thank you very much for your reply. I will think about either buying a more expensive fingerboard, or ordering this one, checking if it's real thing, and if not, using it as a template. Let's just hope the photos of other stuff aren't fake, as they look really nice (e.g. the scroll apparentlyhaving all the proportions, and angles correct). Again, thanks for help.

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    db8y97

    2 years ago

    Is the body 1 piece of maple (minus the mahogany of course). I am drawing this up now. I sort of cheated though and bought the neck, chin rest, fingerboard from ebay. Thanks!

    1 reply
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    Toms Workshopdb8y97

    Reply 2 years ago

    Correct :) I got it from a coffin maker. it makes the whole body very strong, however it could be just as easily done with multiple parts glued together. You could get some pretty funky patterns going like that :)

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    Toms WorkshopAntonN8

    Reply 2 years ago

    Hey man,

    I've had a look, the particular ones I found on eBay don't seem to be available but here are some links to get you started:

    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/1-Pure-Tone-Violin-Bridg...

    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/JACK-PLATE-SOCKET-for-ST...

    I'm afraid that I don't have any plans for the violin. I am in the process of making some new ones for my latest one, however I will get round to producing some for this one. I kinda just went with the flow on this one. The measurements above show all the basic ones you need. I'll see if I can grab some more for you next time I'm home :)

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    AntonN8

    2 years ago

    Hi what pick up did u use and where did you get the crome platecould you tell me the link thanks

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    Toms Workshopreiangel

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks very much. I borrowed it from a violin repairer friend but I have seen them come up on eBay every now and again, they're like gold-dust though :( I was hoping that a company might sell a digital copy but I haven't managed to find one. If you have any luck can you give me a shout, I'd really appreciate it.

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    reiangelToms Workshop

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Yeah ... it's really expensive, but however I'll try to get a copy.

    No problem, I'll keep you in touch :)

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    creativity4u

    4 years ago

    And i burnt words onto the side