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As promised last time, I am moving backwards in time from the “incastro” phase… to describe one of my favorite sections of the violin making process – the scroll, which in Italian is called “chiocciola“, (pronounced kyo-cho-la)meaning “snail”.

This is maybe the most obviously impractical part of the stringed instruments – it has nothing to do with the instrument’s strength, sound or playability. However, in addition to becoming one of the violin’s trademarks, the scroll is the place where the violin maker can really express her or himself. I’m sure that for most of you, like for me, most of those curly “snails” at the end of the instruments’ neck look about the same. Oh how wrong you are!

There are endless intricacies, variations, proportional differences and three-dimensional improvisations that go way beyond what we mortals are able to see – scrolls can be delicate or heavy, protruding or relatively flat, with a big or small “eye” (center), flowing downwards or upwards…. And these oh-so-subtle differences make the scrolls of each violin maker uniquely his. Not only that – the scrolls are one of the places that experts in violin evaluation look to decide whether this particular instrument is, in fact, a really valuable antique or whether it’s just the old, used instrument you happened to find in your grandparents’ attic, and wildly hoped that maybe, just maybe, you had stumbled across a long-lost Stradivari….

Since I am far from being one of those experts, I want to share with you what I find so magical about the scrolls: it’s Yonatan’s ability to three-dimensionally-imagine the perfect curve of the snail figure, and then to actually take a block of raw maple wood and turn it into that perfect, totally symmetrical, completely flawless, flowing form. Honestly – I still have trouble drawing a good two-dimensional circle… so seeing this process amazes me time and again. And thus, without further ado, I turn the stage over to pictures that will much better describe this amazing process:

Cutting the raw block of wood into the initial scroll form:

Further cutting it with a saw:

…and using a chisel to begin the three-dimensional work:

Then cutting again with a saw:

And beginning to slowly, patiently, sculpture the scroll, based on nothing but the eye’s perception and evaluation:

Then going round and round to deepen the curves and perfect them:

Then gently shaving and smoothing the edges:

Then working on the back side of the scroll:

Until finally there’s a perfect, flowing, almost sensuous, curvy chiocciola:

Need I say more? Pure Violin-Making Magic 🙂