Nelle Doak O'Neill, Luthier
Carson Valley, Nevada

From Tree . . . to Concert Hall . . .

The Top and Back Plates

Various types of wood have been incorporated in the making of string instruments with varying degrees of sucess; however the tonewoods of tradition remain spruce, for the top, and maple, for the back, neck and scroll.
Though some instruments are built with one-piece tops and/or backs, most plates are made from two pieces cut from a wedge shaped section of the tree and edge-glued.

To make sure that the two pieces form an almost invisible joint, each is individually planed to a 90 degree angle with a hand plane or jointer. The sides are then joined using a water soluable glue (to facilitate any future repair) and firmly clamped together until dry.

Using the latest in "hi-tech" instruments, the outlines of the top and back are traced on the plates then cut out on the bandsaw.
Arching of the back plate, which is hard Maple, is roughed out using a "SAFE-T-PLANER" in the drill press. Then the hard work begins . . .
The softer, Spruce, top takes more kindly to the hand chisels and gouges and when the arching is nearly complete, a channel is carved on both plates to prepare for the purfling.

Next Page,
Purfling

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