Making a Violin Scroll

By Evelien Heeres, FdA Historic Craft Practices – Musical Instruments

My name is Evelien and I am studying musical instrument making at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation. The object that I am writing about is a violin scroll. I chose this object because I am currently practising carving scrolls in the workshop.

The violin scroll that I am copying is the Antonio Stradivari Maurin from 1718. The Maurin was made at the end of the so-called ‘Golden Period’. The scroll has a beautiful curl that curls evenly from the inside to the outside.

Scrolls are usually made of maple but the one that I am making is lime. I am doing this because lime is easier to carve than maple.

When making the scroll I started by drawing the scroll onto the wood. Then I cut the outline of the scroll out of the piece of wood. The next thing was to fill the scroll to the line making the scroll square and smooth. Then I used the template to draw the dots on the scroll so that I knew how the scroll would curl, and next I drew the centre line onto the scroll using a marking gauge and then I drew the width of the scroll using another template.

I drew out the pegbox using a divider - the pegbox is the box with the pegs, which are used to get the strings on to the right tension. Before I started cutting out the pegbox, I drew a line two millimetres apart from the line that shows the width of the backside of the scroll. The second line is there because when you start cutting into the scroll you cut until the second line because sometimes some wood can break away. When it happens you still have the wood left until the first line. So wood breaks away through the second line but not through the first line meaning that you do not have to make the scroll smaller. After that, I made cuts to cut out the pegbox.

When both sides of the pegbox were cut out, I started to make the cuts for the first turn. Then I used a chisel to cut away the wood for the first turn and did the same at the other side of the scroll. Before going to the second turn it is important to go over the scroll and look at the turn to see if it turns smoothly and make sure that the scroll goes round and does not make an oval shape.

Using the same principle as with the first turn, I cut out the second turn on both sides, making sure that the first turn and the second turn flow into each other. To make the third turn I worked from the inside to the outside. This is because the third turn is so small that I had more chance not to break the scroll if I worked from the inside to the outside.

After that, I carved the flute going with the grain and not against it and then sharpened the whole scroll with a scraper to make everything smooth.

With practice, you can make a beautiful scroll!

FdA Historic Craft Practices Musical Instruments, Photo: Chris Ison