Woody covered a lot of territory this month. I hope that you now know something that you did not know before. I am sure that I do.

Play Safe, stay healthy. Hope to see you back here next month.



RE-Shaping (and Re-Finishing) the Neck

    May is always a month of transition from spring to summer. Likewise, Woody's time invariably is split between luthiery projects and lawn & landscape work around the yard. So, Woody's agenda for May is always somewhat random.  The weather becomes a major factor.

​     This is a new topic for Woody to write about.  Not that violin repair and restoration are new for the Woody Strings shop. 

     What's new is writing about violins.  There is a plethora of literature on line regarding violin set up, repair, finishing, string tension, etc.  Whether it is video, still photos are just text in a blog, it's is hard to tell who knows what they're talking about and who doesn't.

     By being open to the walk-in public for many years Woody has learned that every violin and everyone who plays violin is different... often significantly different. 

     So, that's where I'm coming from... my observations gained from serving the public as a luthier for many years, and from playing fiddle as an amateur folk musician... like most of us are.  

​​     To begin with, and just so you will know... This is what Woody believes.

  • Today, the vast majority (95%) of violins are built and sold as student-grade with no intention of ever becoming heirlooms.

  • The vast majority of violinists are students...or amateur players of some sort...including me.

  • As a result, there is no one dimension or set up of a violin that is fixed and 'correct' for every violin or violinist.

  • The luthier who built your one-of-a-kind violin deserves your repairman's respect (manufactured violins, not so much).

  • Many luthiers can improve the sound of your manufactured violin... but there are limits.


  • Mechanically, it's all wood and strings (Wood y Strings).

​     (May 29) The "tricks" that I am talking about are really just explanations of the "why" and "how" the home-shop guitar builder can produce excellent results with the aid of a CNC machine.

     First: I have no relationship with any of the commercial companies mentioned on this website... none, as in zero.

     The Woody CNC cost $3,000 and I bought it locally at a Woodcraft Supply store. The CNC is made by Next Wave and the model is a Shark HD4.  It comes with Vectric software which I have found to be clear and useful in it's tutorial videos. There is no way around the fact that one has to put the time_ in learning different techniques and how to execute them on the CNC. 

     For the money, the Shark is (IMO) the best CNC for the home-shop guitar maker. It is essentially a 2-D carving system (i.e. X and Y planes).  It could possibly carve a violin top but the software is not set up to easily configure toolpaths with a continuously varying Z component.

     For guitars, the Shark can cut inlay pockets and cut the inlay material to go into those pockets. It will drill bridge pin holes cleanly and accurately; rout fret slots; sweep surfaces and precisely rout micro slots for splint repairs, and more.

Mask the Upper Bout 

Check Dimensions and Symmetry (Often)

May 2020

  •      RE-Shaping the Neck

  •      RE-Finishing the Neck​

  •     Inlay Tricks

  •      Setting Up a Violin

​     The motivation behind stripping finish, recarving and refinishing the neck on a couple of my guitars is that they felt to 'clunky' in my hand.  I've put this off all winter but the feel of the neck is often the first thing one remembers on a new guitar when it's taken off the rack. The feel of the neck on these guitars did not represent the quality of effort that went into building the rest of the instrument. We're talking about reducing dimensions by 1 or 2 millimeters at most... but you can feel it.

​     Unfortunately, the weather has not been cooperating for spraying lacquer. It's been rainy in Richmond, VA.  When it's not been raining, the humidity has been very high.  Woody will spray lacquer up to 55% RH but that's it.  Even with retarder, sprayed lacquer tends to blush above 55%. 

     Woody's finishing process has been presented in previous months (lately July, 2019). The wJs  spray facility is not climate controlled. So, we have to wait until Mother Nature brings a favorable temperature and humidity.  When the weather is cold and/or humid, all that can be done is to prep the guitars for spraying later. Daily I will check the projected forecast and be ready.

     Today is May 31st. The weather forecast for Richmond, VA has the temperature ranging from 65F - 75F. The RH ranges from 35% - 45%.  Perfect for spraying lacquer.

     Hog Out the bulk of the pockets with (in this case) a 0.125" (1/8") bit. Then, come back with a very small (0.025") bit to allow for the sharp points in the MOP design.  Two different toolpaths, two different bits.

Scrape and Sand

    Scrape to change dimensions, sand with blocks to flatten and true the curved planes. Keep an eye on symmetry.  Start with finished neck dimensions in mind (like at the 2nd, 5th and 10th fret). Check for symmetry often.

Spray Finish

For Set Up and Execution Details see July 2019 Luthier's Journal

Cutting the Tips

Setting Up a Violin

CNC Inlay Tricks

Miniature Bits

     Woody orders mini bits (0.015” - 0.0625”, 3 flutes) from Southwest Tool; Roanoke, VA (distributor for Harvey Tools) and Precise Bits; Palmer Lake, CO.

Re-Carving and Refinishing a Guitar Neck

Cutting the Inlay Pockets

​     The warmer/ dryer months here on the East Coast are when Woody tries to get the lacquer finishing done on the guitars built in the winter. I thought that I might start those procedures last month.

        Then other things happen (what an understatement!)

​     The last thing that you want to do is to create more work than is necessary. Mask everything first with cheap poster board. If you have plastic bindings on the fretboard... that's a problem. Mask them with tape. Chemical strippers will attack plastic. You can scrape the finish off the bindings later.