FITTING AND CUTTING A NECK

HANS PLUHAR explains how to create a neck mortise and fit the neck in the right position
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This procedure is one of the more technically challenging aspects of violin making, not least because the neck needs to be correctly positioned across several directions. Although there is an accepted standard for neck-fitting measurements in violin making, you still have a certain amount of freedom when building your own instruments that you don't have when restoring. Using a set of numbers means that you are in control of them and that you can change them. For me, establishing my own protocol has made this cutting and fitting job a lot easier. If you follow a few rules, little should go wrong. Shaping the neck itself, however, is a process that relies much more on aesthetics and is more difficult to express numerically. I find this aspect almost as challenging as making a good arch.
This is a 3 page article Page 1 of 3 trade secrets 2

STEPS 1-2

Placing the bridge in the centre of the instrument
Placing the bridge in the centre of the instrument
  [1] For practical reasons, I use the top and back middle seams as the instrument's centre. I place the bridge at the body stop and mark the outside of it with one tiny pinprick on each side. The bridge is then fixed to the top of the instrument with a rubber band that goes through the f-holes. (These markings also come in handy for finding the correct bridge position on the finished instrument.) At this stage the soundpost is already in place and the bridge roughly fitted so that it sits symmetrically on the arching. If the centre of the neck heel matches the top and back middle seams and the end-button is directly below the top centre, this will ensure the straight alignment of the neck. I then mark the height of the neck projection at 27.5mm from the arching on the front of the bridge
 
     
Centring the neck heel to ensure straight alignment of the neck    
Centring the neck heel to ensure straight alignment of the neck    
 
Marking measurements on the neck heel, ready for sawing
Marking measurements on the neck heel, ready for sawing
  [2] The neck block, with a centre line scribed all the way around it, already has the finished, centred fingerboard glued to it at this stage and the neck heel cut to an angle of 86.5 degrees. I mark a horizontal line at 40mm below the fingerboard. This is for a 6.5mm overstand (measured at the purfling), the 3.5mm top thickness and a 30mm rib height. The bottom of the neck heel will be 21mm deep at this position, so with dividers I mark 10.5mm on each side and draw two straight lines up to the edge of the fingerboard. With the neck securely clamped in the vice, I then saw away its sides with a coping saw, and work exactly to the scribe line with chisels and rasps.