The art of Computer Numerical Control arching

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Yann Poulain reveals his method for roughing out the arching of the front and back plates using the technology

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One of the first tasks for luthiers when beginning a new instrument is the roughing out of the top and back plates. This refers to the process of shaving off the excess wood with a gouge to obtain the rough shape of the plates, so that we can later carve the archings of the front and back more accurately. Although this is quite a basic step in the whole instrument making process, this requires a good knowledge of forms and design, as well as a knack for 3D visualisation, so as not to create potential weaknesses in the archings at this early stage in the process. When making a cello back, given the hardness of the maple and the length of time it takes, it also requires excellent physical strength and stamina. It feels like almost every muscle in the body needs to be used: the feet must be properly positioned, and the legs and pelvis act like a pendulum to increase the strength of each movement tenfold. Then the overall thrust moves through the entire body and into the gouge, as the luthier keeps control with the arms held firmly against the chest…

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