Building a cello - Blog

When you buy a new pair of shoes, you will of course find some that fit your size, but when you get a new instrument your size is not taken into consideration.
Why is that?

I really think, that things you use everyday should fit.
Therefore I'm now building a cello with special measurements that will fit my hands and playing.
Here are some thoughts about the project:
Tailored cello video

It can easily take 800 hours to build a cello. The plan is to have it ready for a 1233 km long biking concert tour along the Rhine in the spring.
Follow the progress here and see if I'll make it in time...

02/5 2018 - Sawing should be mandatory

The music Magazine 'Optakt' mad an article about my mew cello.
They quote me for saying that sawing should be mandatory at the Royal Academy of Music... (:

Article

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

18/4 2018 - I'm taking it on a little adventure

along the Rhine, playing 35 concerts.
April 18. - June 16.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13/4 2018 - Two wonderful people

What a luck to meet Willy and Lene.

Several times a week for a month I went to their house in Hillerød and worked on the cello.

I was spoiled with tea, lunch and inspiring conversations.

One day I found out they are both former, very skilled archers. A sport that requires sharp focus, precision, courage, strengh and 'goal-orientation'.

No wonder this final dash of cello making went so well.

 

 

 

11/4 2018 - 9 months and two days!

Today it is ready to play.

I am so grateful to Willy. Today he made the bridge gave it protein and stringed the cello in his workshop in Hillerød.

I couldn't participate because I'm in the hospital getting operated in the finger.

Oh, I hope my finger will heal quick!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is kind of funny. This is a photo I shared 9 month ago on Face Book.
It got a lot of comments from people who thought I was really pregnant.

I think my nex cello will take less time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9/4 2018 -What to do

when your right hand does not work.

Willy has been my right hand today, and I don't know what I should have done without him.

Even with a mild blod poisoning (not related to violin making) I maneaged to work with my left hand.

Take a look: Video

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the very nice soundpost fit of an experienced maker. Thanks Willy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6/4 2018 - I can't wait till it is finished, but

but that also means that I will have no more wood work to do.
That I don't look forward to.

Today was the day when the neck was glued in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5/4 2018 - This sound

The sound you can hear in this video is the wonderful sound of a cello neck fitting well into the box.

Fitting the neck video

 

 

 

 

 

4/4 2018 - I couldn't sleep tonight

Fitting the neck to the box is the only thing I have been really concerned about from the beginning. And today was the day.

There are a lot of angles that have to match, and 1mm difference in this joint causes 4mm difference at the bridge.

It went surprisingly well.

Tomorrow gluing.

Here is a video of the cutting: Video

Video by Willy Nielsen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3/4 2018 - Will I make it in time?

Will this be something that makes beautiful music in two weeks?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

31/3 2018 - After today's performance...

... I couldn't wait, and went straight to the cello making in the summer house.

Hollowing out the fingerboard video

Ebony is very dense and actually heavier than water.

Fascinating material as you can see in the next photos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

27/3 2018 - Dangerous

 

Cutting out for the neck is somehow scary.

1 mm difference in one end causes 4 mm difference in string heigh in the other end.

Willy is helping me, and we decided to go for the 'better safe than sorry' solution. Meaning to prepare the neck foot fully before cutting into the box and gluing in the neck.



26/3 2018 - Tomorrow...

... is a big day.

The neck wil be attached to the body.

I can hardly belive it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Todays homework:

1. Hollowing out the fingerboard

2. Trimming the neck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



22/3 2018 - I think my heart skipped a beat...

... as I took a look at the box glued completely this morning.

It suddenly looks like a cello.

I really wanted to give it a big hug.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

22/3 2018 - "Is that a Strad model cello scroll you are making?"

That was the question from the ticket inspector in the train this morning.

I was a bit surprised, and told him, that it is a Montagnana model. - But the man in the uniform completely understood that this wider model will have more of the deeper overtones.

I was releaved that he didn't ask for an extra ticket for either cello or scroll.

180 degree portrait of the scroll here: Video, Scroll on a snowy morning

19/3 2018 - Does it look like a cello?

Take a look at this video:

Fitting the front

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

19/3 2018 - The bass bar - before and after

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

16/3 2018 - Just a very nice day 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15/3 2018 - A lot is happening - Jubiii!!!!!!!

Building a cello is such a joy!

In this photo the back is ready to be glued on to the sides.

Look at the beautiful light line in the wood right in the middle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have been building with Willy Nielsen in his wonderful workshop in Hillerød for some days now.

It really makes a difference to have someone who has the experience helping you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bass bar glued in!

This model, that I have made, is so wide, that the bass bar is quite far from the f-hole compared to 'normal' cellos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



28/2 2018 - A cello-smile

 

Today was a big day: F-hole cutting day.

Finally I decided to make a f-hole design that is very close to the cello I have from my grandmother. - My favorite cello.

Denmark is freezing cold these days, but my cheeks have been burning warm from concentration.

The F-holes still need trimming, but I think it does look like a cello-smile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

19/11 2017 - Zebra chips

The purfling has been the most challenging part of the project so far.

Here I'm starting the so called fluting along the inlaid wood all the way round:

Fluting video

 

 

 

 

 

5/11 2017 - Something surprising 

I was looking for information about the right position of the f-holes, and googled "Positions of f-holes cello".
Then this famous photo showed up.
I thought "is that really the right position of the f-holes? Arent they a bit too high?"
" - And, btw, is the cello really shaped like a human torso?"



So I measured, and was somewhat surprised to find out that the cello I'm making has the exact same proportions as my torso!
Exactly the same - when I'm in a headstand. 

Lengh: 70,5 cm, 
Upper widht: 34 cm
Lower width; 42 cm

Maybe there is more to this 'tailored cello' project than I have been aware of.

 

 

 






3/11 2017 - And the WINNER is:

Nr 2 !!!

He got 55 out of 118 votes = 46,6% 

Second place goes to Nr 4. She got 21 votes for her feminine charm.

Third place, Nr 7 for a rare elegance. 

Nr 1 lost, probably because he was in a really bad mood when the photo was taken.

I'm very happy that nr 2 won, but also glad to see that not only the conventional beauty is regarded attractive. 

Now I'm ready for cutting out some smiling f-holes.

Wish me luck!

1/11 2017 - Please use your vote!

f-holes are so expressive, and the the position of them is both essential to the character of the tone and the 'face' of the instrument.

Please go to Facebook and vote for your favorite among the 8 candidates:
Vote here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

27 - 29 /10 2017 - Meeting soulmates

I have become a member of 'Foreningen til violinbygningens fremme' - 'The society for violin making in Denmark'.

- You can also build cellos in this society and for three days we have been working on our projects togehter.

This group of wonderfull people is a bank of very important knowledge for a first time builder like me.

 

22/10 2017 - Do you know what 'hygge' means?

'Hygge' is a danish speciality that has become immensely populare outside of Denmark. 
The whole world seems to want to learn to 'hygge', partly because it rimes with 'lykke' = happiness.

If you have never experienced hygge, it can be difficult to explain exactly what it is, but this video will give you an idea.

A rainy autumn evening, and my parents' cat is helping me to decide the design and position of the f-holes:

Cat and cello-hygge - video

 

 

 

 

20/10 2017 - It is kind of cheating

It is kind of cheating to use an electric tool, but I admit it, I used my Dremel and a channel router from the local hardware store.
I then made the intricate wood construction, you see in the photo, to get the exact distance from the edge and the right depth of the channel.
It might not look very precise, but it is. 

 



 

17/10 2017 - In the basement og my parents' house

Try and listen to this:

Gauging video

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

14/10 2017 - TADAAAAA!!!

Finally!

I have been waiting for three weeks for the purfling.

Now I'm ready for what seems to be one of the most challenging tasks in the cello making process: Making a channel for it around the edge of the front and back, and fit it in.

 

 

 

 

It's this little detail, the two black lines, that is called the purfling.

 

 

 

 

 

11/10 2017 - Some things are done better when it is dark

To refine the arching, you can use one single light in a dark room, which allows you to se light and shaddows from small humps.

I have been working on this for a while and tonight I really got into it. At 2.30 AM, it seemed to be almost perfectly even.
I realized that the only way I could really get a nice even surface was when I slightly bended the Zeihklinge and actually pushed it in stead of draging it. It might be all wrong, but it worked!



8/10 2017 - I'm wondering

If you look and listen carefully to this video, you might notice how the plane goes smoothly in some areas and get stuck in others.

It is the grain that changes direction in aparently random areas. - But why?

Like with humans, I think it must have something to do with how things were when it grew up...

Brass plane video

 

7/10 2017 - Workshop with a view

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

6/10 2017 - Just roughly

I started to hollow out the back and front. - Just roughly.
This is actually not what I was taught to do next.
Next would be purfling, but the purfling still hasn't arrived, and I reseved time to work on the cello this week, so I have to do something.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4/10 2017 - Making stuff

It does take a long time to make a cello, but it takes even longer when you have to make tools and all the stuff you need for the actual wood working.

In this photo you can see the rear plate covered in yellow foam. 
It turned into a counter shape to support when you hollow out the inside of the front and back.

 

 

 

2/10 2017 - There is no doubt about it...

There is no doubt about it. Today is cello making weather.

My summer project turns into an autumn project. I still hope to have the cello ready for a 1233 km long biking concert tour in the spring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

28/9 2017 - Never sell your soul

Never ever sell your soul to anybody or for anything. 
Always be true to your self and your heart.

But, today I actually bought a soul.
- Hmm...
I don't think it was anybody's yet though, and now it will become the soul of my new cello.

In a cello there is a very important piece of wood inside the the instrument, that transfers the vibrations between the front and the back. It is called the 'Soundpost' and is often referred to as 'the soul of the instrument'.

In italian it is called 'Anima' literally meaning 'Soul'.

27/9 2017 - Waiting

I'm patiently waiting for the purfling to arrive by mail.

In the meantime there is time for some study at the harbor.

(It did say that it will take 1 - 30 days for it to arrive. I just read that Stradivarius actually did the purfling after gluing the instrument together. - Maybe I should go for the strad method?)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

26/9 2017 - Archings and the magic tone

The arching of the back and front seems to be subject to a lot of speculation, and maybe considered the most important factor to the character of the sound.

I better admit that I have spent some days on this now. I have drawn lines that show the heigh of the plate, so that you can see where to cut away more wood. They, of course, need to be symetrical.

From what I have read online, a higher arching makes a softer sound and a lower arching a more projecting sound. - Hard to choose right? How do you get both?

 

 

The wood for this front has very wide grains, which might also make the sound softer, so I go for a lower arching, hoping to get that magic soft AND projecting tone, with lots of different colors and personality:
A softly whispering 'pianissimo' and a wide, honest and healthy 'forte'. A fast reaction time, but warm, fresh and free tone at the same time.

 

 

 

 

25/9 - 2017 - A new tool

Soon the back and front will be ready for the inside carving, and for that, this instrument will measure the thickness of the plate with an accuracy of 0.05 mm.

If you are looking for one for yourself, check out Cremona tools.

Here is a video of some final planing of the back:

Planing the back, video




23/9 2017 - Which one do you like the most?

I'm looking for inspiration for the back side of the scroll.
The area with the red cirkle seems to be a part of the cello you can make the way you like.
(The one without number is of course the unfinished one that I'm working on.)
Which one do you like the most?
- Nr 3? Nice and simple.

22/9 - 2017 - So far so good

The scroll is taking form.

I went to the countryside to cut it out:

På vej... video

I love to work outside.
Feels like there is still a bit of summer in the air.

Working on the scroll is somehow relaxing because it is not critical to the sound.
- on the other hand there are quite a lot of angles and secret details to care about for this curl.

 

 



 

20/9 2017 - Studying the scroll

In the violin making book by H.A. Strobel it says:
"The scroll is the maker's hallmark."

In the second photo you can see a very old scroll by the maker, Gasparo da Salo, who is considered one of the first makers of the violin model we use today. He was born back in 1542.

For my scroll I'm working on a wide and chubby look that will match the body of the instrument. - It is kind of short and wide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Violin scroll by Gasparo da Salo.

Somewhat special, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

19/9 2017 - The best thing in the world?

I still had bad dreams tonight.

It is not possible to cut out a cello with a spoon...
I realized that I have to invest in some tools.

In this first photo are two tools I made myself, a purfling marker and an arching-line marker.

 

 

 

 

It was a great luck that one of my friends came by with a bunch of joinery tools from her grandfather.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I spent the day figuring out how to sharpen the tools in the right way and then biking around the whole city to find a sharpening stone that I could afford, and some compound paste for the final sharpening.

As I told a friend about my new sharp chisels, he said:

"Oh yes, sharp tools are the best thing in the world. Maybe even better than sex."
"- So if all tools in the world were always sharp, the human race would die out...?"

 

 

 

 

 

18/9 2017 - Endless dreams

Every night for more than two weeks I have had bad nightmares. 
In my dreams, my cello have been cut in two by a stranger, or I have been running around in an endless labyrinth of a hardware store not able to find a gouge.

But now finally after a week of 5 concerts and travels, I'll get a chance to work on the cello again.
I hope it will help me get some better dreams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3/9 2017 - New workshop!

Somehow it looks like it is almost finished, but that is absolutely not the case.

The oriental rug from my grandparents is a very usefull workspace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2/9 2017 - I don't understand it

Did the time really have to go this fast?!

Two weeks of instrument making in Cambridge was an amazing experience.

My cello is not finished yet, even though I workd as much as I could, as you can see in the second photo.

I was lucky to get the parts back to Copenhagen with no damages. So now I can continue in the livingroom...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1/9 2017 - Maestro Beament

This is my cello making teacher, Christopher Beament and me.
In the foreground my cello is set up with exactly 117 clamps.

"It is not a good idea to make a 7/8 size cello with a shorter neck." was his first reply as I explained my project.
"Some day in future, when you are not here anymore, no-one is likely to want it, as it will not be in proportion."

He is an expert, and I se his point. Therefore I'm even more happy that he anyway, decided to give it a chance.
He even cared to understand my somewhat odd taste when it comes to cello shapes, and supported my rebellious ideas about corner proportions.
He has been guiding and helping me through challenges for two weeks. I couldn't have come this far without such a good teacher - it means everything.

30/8 2017 - If you ever considered...

If you ever considered to build a cello - do it!
Just once in you life. Really.
Or a violin, or a guitar.

It is a real joy! 

Try listen to the sound of cutting spruce here...

Cutting the front: video

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

29/8 2017 - "That is what they don't tell you"

Yesterday was a warm evening and we were eating in the garden.

A few of us had really sore arms from gouging maple.

Fred said: "That is what they don't tell you. - How many hours it actually takes to make a cello."

Anything from three weeks to 35 years.
Last week a woman came with a cello that she started in 1982. She hopes to finish it while here hands are stil strong 

enough. - In between, she told me, she divorced, married again, had two children and a carrer.

- Another thing they might not tell you, is that the instruments we make, will most likely live much, much longer than we will.

I'm hoping to finish my cello before spring, so that it can participate a little bit in my life, and e.g. come with me for a biking concert tour along the Rhine.

- So far it is going very well.
Here is a short video of the fitting of the back to the ribs: Back and ribs

 

28/8 2017 - You are lucky!

Everybody in the workshop said, "You are lucky, it's a really nice piece of wood you have got!"

You can see it here in the middle of the photo.

Getting it completely plane was lots of fun.
Working on the outside curve, is tough, I have to say. I drank ca 2 liters of water and my right arms has grown a significant mass of muscles - and scratches.

I was surprised that I was able to play a garden concert at our host in the evening.

I hope I will be able to play in the end of the week, but not so sure about it. Recreation time might be necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

27/8 2017 - Sunday is day off

Perfect weather for sightseeing in Cambridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

26/8 2017 - I really like this!

One week of work (and they say I'm working fast): The ribs are ready for front and back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

25/8 2017 - starting the scroll

Scroll Video

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

24/8 2017 - Do you have unlimited patience?

Do you have unlimited patience doing repetitive work?
Yes or No

This was one of the questions you had to answer when applying for the Cambridge Violin makers summer school.

I ticked yes, and today I got to prove it. From 9 am to 5.30 pm I fitted one side of the four corner blocks, as you can see on the photo.

They will never be seen, because they are inside the instrument, but they have to fit with less than 0,5 mm.

 

In the end of the day, my arms were really sore, but the calmness of mind from this very focused work is almost like a meditative state.

Tomorrow bending the ribs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

22/8 2018 - This is the workshop

We are around 20 students and 4 teachers.

- All the tools you need to build instruments the way they have been made for several hundres years, are here.

The day starts at 8.45.
At 10.30 and 15.30 the tea-bell rings. 
At 17.30, unfortunately, you have to stop working and clean up your desk.

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



21/8 2017 - The value of experience

"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."
Søren Kierkegaard

The first day here in Cambridge has been very productive.

When you do something for the first time, it is almost impossible to know e.g. which angles are more important for the next step.

 

So having guidance from someone who has gone through the whole proscess many times, is great.

- Someone who can look backward, and tell you how to go forward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20/8 2017 - "I'll be honest with you"

I have to say I was a bit nervous today.
As I arrived for the introduction with tea in the afternoon. The cello making teacher told me that he would have a look at the mould I made, and see if it will work.
"I'll be honest with you, ok. I have been preparing a plan B just in case".
I spent a lot of hours preparing the mould the best I could, with some pretty primitive tools.

But, most importantly, I really would like to make an instrument with this exact shape, that I have been looking for, for maybe 7 years.
- Otherwise there would not be so much point in making one more cello to my collection of 10 instruments.
  
So I was really revealed as he looked at it without complaining, and said that with a few adjustments it should be fine.

Jubii ready to start!

16/8 2017 - size matters and 1 mm is a lot

 

My mom completely agrees with me, that 1 - 2 mm makes a big difference.
She makes ceramics, so considering the character of a curve is something she does all the time. 
Today I decided on the details of the shape. - I actually started all over again, and made a new template, because I found the upper part was too long and the lower part too short. - just a few mm.
I had help from my parents cat, even though she had been out all night with her red haired friend. In the end she was tired.

My mom completely agrees with me, 1 - 2 mm makes a big difference.

She makes ceramics, so considering the character of a curve is something she does all the time. 

Today I decided on the details of the shape. - I actually started all over again, and made a new template, because I found the upper part was too long and the lower part too short - just a few mm.

I had help from my parents' cat, even though she had been out all night with her red haired friend.
- In the end she was really tired.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

14/8 2017 - Making the mould

Went to my parents' place and cut out the two pieces for the inside mould.

It still needs a lot of adjusting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



10/8 2017 - Does size matter or what?

Some of my thoughts about cello sizes, and why I want to build my own instrument.

Tailored cello video

 

 

 

 

 

 



9/8 2017 - Making the template

How much does size matter?
For things you use everyday, I think it is important that it fits.

 

 

 

 

 

9/7 2017 - The shape I have been looking for

After a few negotiations, I have gotten an 'OK, go for it' to try and make the 'mould' - the inner shape - myself before the course.

It is not an easy job. It has to be very exact, and the proportions have to make sense from both an engineer's point of view and a musician's point of view.

When I have made it, I'll send the teachers some photos of it, so that they can see if it will work.

If it does, It means that I will get a chance to build the instrument with the shape I have been looking for for many, many years now.