This cello is a commission from a player in Suffolk who often works with the owner of another of my cellos. She tried his and also one of my more recent cellos before deciding to commission a cello from me. After some discussion, we decided that this model, quite similar to the cello of her friend but with a shorter body and string length, would be ideal for her.
I’m using poplar for the back and ribs of the cello. Poplar, rather than the more commonly used maple, was used frequently by a number of classical cello makers, and is the wood of the original Andrea Guarneri cello that I’ve taken as my model. It lends a slightly warmer and darker sound to the finished instrument. My first task has been to bend the ribs and glue them to the blocks which are set in the mould. I love the way that with poplar ribs, the pronounced grain lines join up across the separate pieces of the upper bouts, C bouts and lower bouts.
The ribs finished, I’ve started work on the back and front, roughing out the arching shape from the thick pieces of wood.
My friend Verena Schauer has been helping me in the workshop this week. She’s done some of the work on the cello front, and the pictures show her working on purfling the cello front, cutting the channel and then gluing the purfling in place.
The back and front are now well on the way; both plates purfled and arched and the f-holes drawn on. The wood is looking lovely; I’m particularly happy with the quality of spruce that I’ve used for the front. It’s both light and strong. The poplar is looking lovely now it’s finished, with strong markings and little ripples of figure.
I’m working on the thicknessing of the back. I’ve been concerned to get a good balance of weight and stiffness for the arching shape and the flexibility of the poplar, and I feel happy that this has worked out well.
I’ve now finished the thicknessing of both back and front, and am feeling happy with the overall weight, stiffness and sound of the plates.
I’ve now cut the f-holes. On the original cello they are not quite symmetrical and lean at different angles. I love this quirky feature that you often see on classical Italian instruments, so I have tried to capture that spontaneity in my own cello.The f-holes are also quite widely spaced, which I think helps to improve the lower register of the cello.
The bass bar is fitted. This helps support the weight of the strings and reinforces the bass register of the cello.
I’ve now taken the ribs off the mould, finished the internal faces and glued the ribs to the back. Always an exciting moment.
The label is glued in and everything is ready to glue on the front.
The body of the cello is now finished.
The scroll is now finished. I really like the Andrea Guarneri scrolls, which are full of character. And I’m also very happy with the block of maple I picked for the scroll, it’s a lovely quality piece of wood and carves really well.
The cello is now finished ‘in the white’. I’ve fitted the neck and finished and tidied up all the woodwork, so it’s ready for varnishing.
The cello is now finished. I’ve used a transparent golden brown varnish and the beautiful figure of the poplar is really singing through. The cello is in good voice too; the sound is rich, warm, even and powerful.