This has become one of my favourite cello models. I first came across it a few years ago when in collaboration with three fellow violin makers we made a copy of it as a project at the Royal Northern College of Music, which owns the original. It’s a fine instrument with a rich quality of sound, and the versions I’ve made so far have all worked well. In fact this one is a commission from a Norwegian player who met the owner of the last one I made and liked it enough to commission one for herself.
As ever, I start with making the rib assembly. The back and ribs of the original cello are poplar, which gives a lovely warmth to the quality of sound, so I have used that too.
While working on the ribs, I’ve started the scroll. This is made from a lovely piece of gently figured maple.
My favourite part of making the cello is the back and front. I love the generous size and creating huge piles of wood shavings. For this cello, the back is poplar, as the original Francesco Ruggieri. This wood lends a certain warmth to the quality of sound. The front is spruce that I bought in France a few years ago.
I like to do some pre-thicknessing of the back and front before anything else. Then I roughly cut out the outline on the band saw and start the arching shapes.
The arching is now getting close to the final shape and I’ve finalised the outlines.
The next stage is to fit the purfling. This is made from a sandwich of dyed pear and willow. It’s fitted into a channel that I cut round the edge, and when it’s glued into place I use a gouge to cut the fluting channel round the edge of the back and front.
The arching is now finished. I feel very privileged that I was able to spend time with the original cello to understand how its arching works. It has a lovely rounded shape that rises gently from the edges.
Having finished the arching, I have started work on the thicknessing, taking wood from the inside of the back and front until I get the right balance of weight, stiffness and the sound it makes when I tap the plates.
It remains to finish the front – cut the f-holes and fit the bass bar.
And now, really the best stage of making a cello, the ribs glued to the back so that everything becomes wonderfully three dimensional. After that, a good Friday afternoon task, gluing on the front and ‘closing the box’.
I’ve fitted the neck and finished the cello ‘in the white’, another good Friday afternoon! I particularly like the way the grain of the poplar works on the back and ribs of this cello.
The next stage will be to give the cello some time with exposure to UV light and then to start the varnishing process.
It’s now mid-December and the cello is finished. I’ve varnished it using a warm deep reddy-brown oil varnish and added a little wear and patina at the end to soften it. The cello sounds good; even across all the strings, rich and warm.