The scroll is the part of the violin with the most opportunity for the maker’s personality to have free rein. Indeed, many violins are made with lion’s heads, young ladies’ faces and other imaginative designs instead of the more traditional spiral.
Functionally the scroll provides a sculptural and visual conclusion to this thing sticking out in space. Acoustically there is some effect from the added mass at the end of the neck, but the shape of the carving has only psychological affect on the player and audience. The scroll does also provide a point of leverage for the hand in adjusting the tuning pegs, and often shows the resulting wear.
The process of carving starts with the selection of wood, usually matching the back, the squaring of the block, and marking of the outline from a template. In the case of the VSO violin the template and measurements of the scroll are taken from the Strad being copied. The scroll and neck are of one piece of wood, although over time a new neck may be grafted to an existing scroll to adjust for wear or other neck problems.
I rough cut the scroll on the band saw, and then the work moves to the bench where I use a specialized set of gouges to carve the “volute” or spiral. I’m aware in this work how much the shape of the tool affects the outcome. Were the tool shaped or sharpened differently there would be a different natural shape that would emerge from the wood. This is part of the personality that is unavoidable in the carving: I work with a particular set of tools that I have learned to use in a particular way and will naturally lead the carving in a particular direction with a particular style. My goal is to produce a shape that carries as much personality and power as possible, within the constraints of tradition and good taste.
The pegbox is then hollowed out to provide for the functioning of the pegs, the most important function of this whole assembly.
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