Thursday, August 27, 2009

Out with the old, in with the new.

Continuing a bit from yesterday's post, let's talk about neck blocks. Violin family instruments have 6 blocks inside the body. One at the top (neck block), one at the bottom (end block), and one at each corner (corner blocks). These blocks are typically made from quarter sawn* spruce although it us not uncommon to find willow or pine blocks in some older basses. The blocks are the first things to be put in place in construction of a new instrument, and the rib structure is then built around the blocks and the mold. So needless to say, they're pretty darn important when it comes to an instrument's structural integrity.

A few months ago a customer of mine brought me his lovely German flatback c. 1900 because it had developed some cracks in the neck. Being that this was the original neck on a bass well over 100 years old, it was time for a neckgraft. A neckgraft is a procedure where a new neck is carved for an instrument and the pre-existing scroll is grafted onto the new neck. Upon removal of the old neck I found a neck block underneath that was an absolute mess (check out the pictures....). Since it makes no sense to put a brand new neck into old block, it was time to rebuild the block too. It was like giving the old man a new spine. The before and after pics say it all.....

Maybe more about neckgrafts soon....

*Quartersawn boards are created by first cutting a log into quarters and then creating a series of parallel cuts perpendicular to the tree's rings. The grain in quartersawn wood is more consistent and stable and this is why it is preferred by violin makers.

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