10/23/2000 – These photos (36, 37, 38 & 39) contain images of the newly smoothed nearly finished back arching. Whew. I’m always glad to have this sizeable part of the project completed. The sweeping up and over and around of the archings was mostly achieved with sculpting quality that the fingerplanes yield. In the previous photos, the way the tool marks are all uniformly right next to each other and the curvature of the long line of each plane stroke, reveals in the shadows a great deal of information about the shape of the arching. The plane stokes are consciously made to create a linear clue to the crosswise and lengthwise shapes. In pursuing the successful resolution of those shapes I run the finger plans planes about four different directions: 1. lengthwise with the grain, 2. crosswise, directly perpendicular to the grain, 3. diagonal across the grain which helps integrate the upper and lower bouts with waist area, and 4. in a concentric topographical layer lines which connects the shape of arching with the outline. Each of these approaches by itself could make a pretty good arch but would presumably miss the correction that the other three attacks provide. They act as a check and balance, maybe. These techniques are something learned, borrowed and adapted from the so-called “lofting” of a boat design, which means drawing the boat full size and by a number of means, this process corrects for inaccuracies that are inherent in a drawing that is then exploded into full life-size.
When the fingerplanes have reached their goal of a good arching, then the scrapers come along. I scrape the surface of the wood, and in the process, smooth out the tool marks and strive for a well integrated surface that undulates smoothly and elegantly without too many ripples or bulges. Oft times, as in a cello back such as this one, there are certain small areas where a number of the flames in the wood have compressed, and in those places the wood is proportionately harder, requiring a very razor sharp scraper to cut it level with its surrounding areas. The scrapers are made of thin spring steel and are flexible enough to bend across the curvature of the arching, thus spanning the high points or hills to lower them to be even with the valleys.
Many parts of violinmaking are strictly structural and must simply be well-fit and sturdily, though lightly constructed. Then there are the various stylistic aspects that are aesthetically important but are more the window dressing. However, early on in my working career I realized that the archings may be the single most responsible members of the whole instrument body affecting its acoustical potential. I believe that how well they are conceived and made, has a very direct affect on the sound of the instrument, as well as the character of the voice quality. With that in mind, I feel it is time well spent trying arrive at a good arching and taking