A few thoughts

The template is the basis of all your work on the violin, so a lot of effort should go into its proper execution. You have to decide whether you are building an exact copy of an existing instrument or an approximated interpretation of an existing instrument or an original construction.

In case of an exact copy, you will use a full size template describing the outline of the copied instrument to the greatest detail. If this instrument is of any considerable age and has been used, it will have at least some wear. That wear will get copied as well. The shape of the instrument itself changes over time, the wood shrinks differently in various directions. All that gets copied. Choosing this approach, if you want to arrive at something "right" you have to work very precisely, because you are at least 8 "generations" away from the original outline and every generation brings some amount of error with it.

In case of an interpretation, you can still use a full size template, which you will "correct" to some degree. You can remove obvious spots on the outline, where the wear has caused the shape to deteriorate and you can also correct some of the asymmetry.

Besides the full size template, you can use a half template, which you flip on the other side to get perfect symmetry. The downside of this is that you will have to choose which half of the original violin you will use. Without correction, if the original violin is very asymmetrical you will end up with a very differently shaped violin. To illustrate this, get a picture of someone`s face, and use just the left or right half to reconstruct the whole. The change may be quite dramatic.

Knowing all that, for a novice, who is very likely to introduce a lot of errors, the symmetrical template is almost always a better choice. Remember, errors tend to accumulate with iterations.

You may also decide that you want to construct the outline yourself, without it being directly based on any existing violin. There are many systems of violin construction out there but to me the most simple ones, based on the use of compass and basic geometry seem the most plausible. For an in depth approach to this, see the great François Denis` book Traité de lutherie.

Because this manual is meant mainly for beginners, we will take the full outline and convert it into a half template from which in the next chapter we will construct a perfectly symmetrical mould. The full size outline is based on the famous Messiah violin, built by Antonio Stradivari in 1716. This violin is in perfect shape with no discernible wear, so we will even out just the obvious irregularities which are the result of handwork.

The template
  1. For the half template use a 2 mm thick sheet of plexiglass, or aluminium which is at least 15 cm wide and 38 cm long.
  2. Get the outline of the violin you want to interpret. You can either copy the outline from an existing violin or, you can buy a Strad poster, which, on its back has the outline plus the arching curves and other measurements. The outline should look something like in Fig. 1.

    If you decided to build the Messiah violin in this guide, you can take a short cut and print out the finished half template in Fig. 4. This outline should be 350 mm long. If for any reason you cannot print the outline to scale from your web browser, save the svg image and print it from Inkscape (with proper margins). Now you can skip to the gluing as described in paragraph 9.
  3. Copy this outline using a photocopier or print out the outline in Fig. 1. You will need a printer, that is capable of printing on A3 size papers as the outline is over 35 cm long exceeding the A4 format.
  4. Determine the centerline of the outline. Measure the widths in points A, B and C, divide by 2 to determine the true center of the violin. See Fig. 2.
  5. Mark out the points X1 and X2, about 8 cm in from top and bottom, see Fig. 3. These will serve as fixing points for correct alignment later on the mould.
  6. On the side, which you chose for the half template, construct the contour of the template. This contour is inferred from the plate outline, minus the overhang, minus the thickness of the ribs, which in our case makes, in total, about 3.3 mm. Use a compass to draw a parallel line inside the outline, see the red line in Fig. 3.

    During this process of parallel tracing you also have a chance to correct anything you don`t like about the original outline of the violin. You want to even out the bumps without loosing the original.
  7. The general 3.3 mm inset can be applied to all of the shape, except for the corners. There the inset gradually increases. The increase is steeper in the C bout and less so coming from the upper and lower bouts. Depending on the original model, the end of the ribs may be 0-4 mm inset from the end of the corners. The good common value here is 2 mm, see the dashed lines denoting the ends of the ribs in Fig. 3.

    It is therefore a good idea to try to draw the complete corners, including ribs, for reference. From this you can infer the inner outline of the mould. Study the corner construction in Fig. 3.
  8. Once you have the template outline complete, draw the remaining line which runs parallel to the centerline about 8 mm off the centerline, closing the template.
  9. Glue the half template outline to the plastic or aluminium sheet as mentioned in Par. 1. It is preferable to use some sort of superglue, as other glues may tend to peel. This, of course, depends on the material you`re using. Avoid the use of water based glues altogether as those will cause the paper to spread, leaving you with a bigger outline.
  10. Carefully cut out the outline of the template and finalize its contour with a file. About 3 cm from top and bottom cut out notches which will help you see the centerline when aligning the template to the mould.

    You can see the finished template in Fig. 4.
Comment by
2014-05-26 19:23:46
If you make the half template from 12mm ply or mdf you can use it as a guide to cut the mould and the plastic template (for marking the corner blocks) at the same time with a router. Simply sandwich the plastic, 12mm ply for the mould and the template and use a flush trimming bit to cut them. All identical. Then proceed with the mould (holes etc;) as normal.
Comment by
2014-12-08 01:52:44
Why do you need to make the half template from 12mm ply to use this (useful) technique of flush trimming with router? A much thinner template would do this well and is easier to make, such as from aero modelling ply which is only 1 or 2 mm thick. If using mdf, make sure to use breathing apparatus!!
Comment by
2015-02-10 20:04:07

I used 12mm ply because it gave the router bearing more material to ride against. Using 2 or 3mm ply would make it easier to cut the original (with a blade)but it wouldn't give the bearing anything to ride against while trimming. Also the 12mm would be more hard wearing and less prone to damage or warping over time.
Comment by
2014-12-08 01:00:34
The method described by John Dilworth in Trade Secrets is another option - neat trick of using the outside template and the purfling marker to mark a line on the inner template, and cutting this out at the same time as the mould.
Comment by
2015-06-10 16:11:44
I've tried printing the half template using inkscape and it only prints part of the drawing on A4 paper. You mention using proper margins, could you give some more detail please?
Comment by Vojtech Blahout
2015-06-12 14:22:41
The setup largely depends on the printer attached. You need to experiment, both with the margins and the scaling. Also, remember, A4 is not tall enough to accomodate the whole outline.
Comment by
2016-03-27 20:54:24
Does anyone know where to get a template for a del Gesu model? Body and Neck/Scroll.
Comment by Vojtech Blahout
2016-03-27 21:40:40
See this topic> http://www.makingtheviolin.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=452#p1113
Comment by
2016-03-27 21:53:55
Great... Thanks
Comment by
2017-04-28 14:54:27
are the blueprintthings like the outline of the messiah, scroll, etc from the ashmolean or where did you get this things from?
Comment by Vojtech Blahout
2017-05-04 13:18:23
Hello, they are based on information from multiple sources, including the Strad poster, the Courtnall, with some modifications.