Trade Secrets: Gluing the C-bouts using a Cremonese mould

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An alternative method for this part of the process, which may be more authentic than the standard procedure

By Fany Bourel

Luthier based in Chemillé-en-Anjou, France

When I was a student at the Newark School of Violin Making, we were taught to glue the C-bouts of our instruments using a trapezium wedge. This is the method still used by the majority of luthiers I know, and works well as long as the corner-blocks are cut square. However, while working with François Denis I learnt a different method, probably closer to that used by the old Cremonese makers, which makes it possible to glue a rib that is not perfectly bent but which, once glued, follows the mould perfectly.

The moulds and counterforms exhibited at Cremona’s Museo del Violino (MdV) show that the technique used at the time of Stradivari was different. In those days, rib structures were commonly mounted without a mould. It was necessary to bend the ribs quickly, because the heating process was harder to control than it is today.

The method described here seems to me more authentic, as it can be applied to a block that is not perfectly square. It also has the advantage of being fast and efficient. Additionally, I like to leave tool marks and make asymmetrical volutes and slightly irregular purfling, so it seems more logical for me to use this method of gluing, closer in spirit to that used in the time of the great masters…

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