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My friend and I attempted to make a cello--these are the results.
1) We made a functioning cello, as well as a bow from scratch. The main body of the cello i used plywood, not traditional, but soaked- and compressed pinewood can become pretty dense and resonates well, also it bends well! For the fingerboard, I'm not sure what kind of wood it is, but if you go to any local home improvement shop, you should be able to find some railing. Also, i used regular wood glue to glue the body, then I added hot glue where i felt necessary. The bridge and peg box are oak, the only metal pieces are a bar near the area where the neck meets the peg box, and the strings which are regular cello strings. All the tools i used i either own, or in the wood shop at my school, I list some of them later.. You can play all the regular notes on a real cello from C2 to F6.
2) We began the project for an event called Sound of Music in the New Jersey Science Olympiad
Competition, in which we placed second at states in. In this event, we were required to build a treble instrument, for which we built a flute, and a bass instrument, for which we decided to take on the ambitious project of a cello.
We were also required to arrange two pieces of music. However, the cello soon became the
centerpiece of the project. Beginning as a simple outline, the cello took weeks and months to
3) We began the construction of the cello, including the faceplates and sound post, in Justinís
garage. But in order to make the more delicate pieces of the cello
including the bridge and the end pins, we worked in the woodworking classroom in our school.
This room had both more powerful tools as well as more delicate tools that we could use to
construct the more difficult parts of the cello.
4) The first obstacle we had to overcome was the sheer magnitude of the idea of building a
playable cello from scratch. The most difficult parts of the construction included building the
bridge and the other more delicate parts of the cello. However, we were able to use our schoolís
woodworking classroom which helped us tremendously. The proudest part of the experience
happened when we were completely done building the cello and we played it for the first
time. We were so excited and shocked that it produced such a deep, rich tone. After months of
construction and weeks of practicing, we were able to play actual pieces of music. If we had to do it again, we would have used the woodworking classroom to begin with because the tools we used in Justinís garage made it take hours to build
Step 1: Materials
What you'll really need for this project varies with how nice you want your cello to be. I was under time restrains and with school and everything between i shot for a moderate quality homemade feel. For the most part i only used 3 tools a power drill/screw a handheld jig saw and a mutli-purpose sander, and for a table i used a recycling bin- not exactly safe but hey you got to do what you got to do. For making the bridge i did quickly have access to a school wood shop for two weeks- that's where i cut the tail piece and bridge with a band saw, and where i made the pegbox otherwise it would've been impossible. I also suggest you buy two sets of strings, one low quality one medium, and one high (only if you are pro). I got low quality strings imported form china from my friend.. and used it to model where the strings go- i say this because i went through 2-3 D strings before i finally got the right angle (the strings snap where there is too extreme of an angle especially where the fingerboard meets the pegbox, i used a metal edge which is probably the reason it snapped so often), then use the medium quality string for the final construction Finally i suggest getting horse hair for the bow hair, and if you can't find some fishing line and repose it, i'll talk about that later and it actually really works!
I would really suggest having at least a handheld hacksaw, a belt sander, wood glue, wood.., goggles, a powerdrill/drill bits, a table jigsaw (or really any fixed saw that you can cut curves with) and a strong sense of creativity!
Step 2: Marking out the measurements
So i did some research online, and there weren't really any free quality blueprints, so i found some measurements online to make a guide for. I could have traced from a real cello, but i was aiming to make a Full size, and i only have a 3/4 size at home. I used a canvas (waste of canvas i suggest you use a large poster board or project paper) to draw out the measurements, they aren't 100% perfect but for my purposes good enough.
Here's where i got my measurements:http://woodsoundstudio.com/setup.htm
Step 3: Cutting out the Faceplates
Here using the blank, i cut another blank, this one is thicker is important because later it will be used as a template to hold the curves together as they dry. Also it mentally prepares me to cut the actual two face plates
Step 4: Bending the curves
Unfortunately i didn't record this step, as it was too tedious, and my amazing brainpower forgot to, but i have taken a visual. I used plywood actually for this step, submerged in water. Here i used an old wagon, but I suggest you line it with a garbage can bag because there was substantial rusting on the wagon. Surprisingly on the plywood there was a thin layer of im not sure what you have to peel back- after you peel it back the wood turns a rich orange color which gives it a traditional wood color
Step 5: Gluing everything together
here's the face plate off the cello. still haven't rounded the insides out, but the f-holes have been cut and the sides have been glued together. As you can see i'm using small blocks of wood to keep the sides together as well as add structural strength. On the lower right of the bottom face plate i had a little accident with a car, so i just re-glued that portion.. not traditional but adds a touch of personality in my opinion. To make the f-holes i drilled two holes at the end and used a hack saw, removed the blade and reassembled it with the blade in the face plate and cut the form out. to cut the face plates i used my trusty recycling bin and hand held jig saw!
I had to taper down the sides with a belt sander to get the curvature.
Step 6: The Endpin
The endpin must be both strong- light- and durable. for this purpose i highly suggest you visit blinds to go (or really any window curtain selling area).. i'm not kidding those rods that turn the windows? perfect. Here i'm using an actual cello endpin- but any rod will suffice finally have some type of lock, a screw in a hole is fine enough- even two binder clips on the rod will work.
Step 7: The Bridge, Peg Box and Tail piece
Okay here's where things get complicated. To build the bridge i drew the outline of a bridge onto a flat piece of wood and SLOWLY cut it out with a table saw. The key is to go slowly, we're not allowed to film in school so i can only take pictures after i finish them. Then i used a belt sander to taper the bridge form top to bottom. to make the heart i drilled three holes and slowly carved them out- same for the kidneys.
The peg box as you can imagine, is a box fashioned out of 3 pieces of wood, which weren't hard to construct. The pegs were the harder part. I used 4 1inch wooden dowels with fashioned pegs attached with wood glue. To make sure the pegs "stuck" to the peg box first i used pencil graphite to make them slide better, than i used crushed rosin powder to make them stick.
Finally the tail piece same as above i took a tail piece and traced it out, then cut it out. To get the "curve" I also sanded down the sides and center until it somewhat resembled a tailpiece... now for the actual fine turners.
for the fine turners i used a screw l-bracket set up- the more further screwed in the screw is, the higher the pitch, as you can see for the D string i didn't need one because the peg worked well enough for that one string- in this picture my G string is missing.
Step 8: Finding the right fingerboard
This is probably the most important step- the fingerboard. If your fingerboard is too flimsy, the neck will snap if it's too thick you won't be able to play it- find the right balance.
In this picture i actually use part of a railing, and cut down the sides.
I highly suggest elevating the fingerboard- it saves you time as they do in real cellos- i didn't realize my mistake until after i attached the fingerboard
Also on this cello i used a l-brace to attach the board as well as glue and screws I MUST STRESS THIS PART THIS IS PROBABLY THE WEAKEST PART OF YOUR CELLO!! if you're going for a traditional look i highly suggest you use a PERFECT FIT and QUALITY GLUE or else you run the risk of snapping the neck!
Step 9: Putting Everything Together
Now you should have
-your body finished
-tail piece finished
-bridge, pegs and pegbox
-fingerboard *note the fingerboard in this picture is not the actual final product*
Now all you have to do is put them together!
Step 10: The Bow!
By this point i was exhausted- but this is probably the most critical part- the part where everyone gives up and plucks their cello instead. For my bow i used a simple wooden stick with an anchor at one end, and a simple set up at the other. The string attaches to a nut on a screw, which tightens as you turn the screw- simple and elegant.
Further for the hair, i used fishing line, i had horsehair on order but it didn't come in time for my purpose. To use fishing line, first make sure its attached then CAREFULLY run sandpiper on both sides of the fishing line until a fine powder forms and you can "feel" the barbs on the string. Afterwards be sure to rosin the bow!! or it will not work!
Step 11: Time to Play!
Play test your cello and make any modifications to it as necessary, contact me with any questions or comments, and most of all have fun!
Strings are too high
- i personally had this problem- i didn't map out the angles, lower the bridge, your bridge is too high
-First check that there is nothing there to muffle the string, for example the string is too close to the fingerboard to vibrate, then check that your bow is working properly a good rule of thumb would be to use a real bow- then use your homemade one
I can't tune it!/ The pegs won't stick!
-by this point you really want to use a lot of rosin powder on the pegs, but DON'T OVER DO IT you make hear a little bit of creaking, but if you hear A LOT of creaking that's not good your peg will break! use some pencil graphite to counter the rosin- and for the fine turners lets face it they're not regular fine tuners, use two small pliers or tweezers to get a firm grip and twist them.
That's it! hope you had fun, i did and enjoy your new cello.
Here are some clips