This is one of the standard models I make for rental; it’s the perfect size for teenagers before they are ready for their forever viola.
I’m making this one for my rental scheme, and it is already destined for a young player who has been happily using one of my 14 1/4 inch cornerless violas for the last two years.
I’ve chosen some unusual maple for the back with several knots in the lower bouts; it will look really distinctive on the finished instrument. The front is from a nice piece of spruce that I bought in France a few years ago. I’ve started by roughing out the arching of back and front, working down to using these small brass thumb planes.
The next stage is to fit the purfling; the decorative black/white/black strips that are parallel with the edge of the back and front. That done, I’m able to finalise the arching. Then I turn over the plates and reduce them to the final thickness. I check the weight, stiffness and sound when tapped to be sure I leave the right amount of wood.
With that done, I cut the f-holes, always one of the most enjoyable jobs for any instrument.
Now it’s time to start working on the ribs, which I build directly on to the back for this model. I use a skeleton mould to temporarily support the blocks, and glue that to the back before bending and gluing first the lower bouts and then the upper bouts. Finally, I glue in the linings; narrow strips of spruce which reinforce the gluing surface with the back and front.
I’ve now fitted the bass bar and everything is ready to assemble the body of the viola. In the meantime I’ve also made the head, a delicate simple shape which echoes the form of the body.
I’ve now fitted and shaped the neck and the viola is ready for varnishing.
The viola is now finished. I’ve used a lovely translucent golden brown oil varnish over a golden ground. The initial thoughts on the sound are that it has a lovely of warmth; even all over with a good blending quality, but still rich and resonant.