Stradivari tools – iron planes

Posted on | March 27, 2015 | 6 Comments|






The remaining tools from the Antonio Stradivari workshop are kept in the museum in Cremona – Museo del Violino. The tools give an interesting glimpse into the working practices used in the Stradivari workshop during the early 18th Century. Over the years,  I’ve copied and adapted some of them to make instruments in the workshop.

The original tools were passed down through Antonio Stradivari’s family, to his youngest son, Paolo Stradivari.  In the late 18th Century Paolo sold them to Italian violin collector Count Cozio. After being kept by Count Cozio and his descendents, they were finally sold in the early 20th Century to violin maker Giuseppe Fiorini. In a generous gesture, he donated the entire collection of tools and Stradivari templates/forms to the City of Cremona in 1930.

A few years ago, I was inspired by a colleagues efforts to copy the scrapers       (a simple steel scraping tool) from the museum collection. I copied a few of the Stradivari scrapers and they fit very well to certain tasks in making a violin.

Scrapers 6

Original scraper tools

Taking this a step further, I was curious to copy the planes from Stradivari. Below is one of four iron planes in the museum.  The body is made from two pieces of sheet iron. The sides are from one piece, bent around to form the two sides and curved back of the plane.  The sole of the plane is bent to shape, curving up at the front of the plane. The blade is held in place with a wooden wedge against a metal pin.

Strad plane - 1Using the dimensions and photos kindly sent to me from the Museo del Violino,    I cut to shape 2mm thick mild steel and hammered each piece into the required curves.  With a small fret saw I cut the mouth in the sole of the plane, for the blade to fit through. To join the pieces, it was welded together at ‘General Grinding and Machine Works’, by Will Walton. He was very helpful and his machine shop is just 5 minutes from my workshop. I filed and smoothed the plane into the final shape. Holes were drilled for the metal pin and I filed the pin for a tight fit.  The plane was finished off with a 28mm wide blade held in place with a rosewood wedge.












I think the size of this plane should make it well suited for cello making. I look forward to see how efficiently it works making my next cello!

This project was also a little inspired by tools my grandfather and great-grandfather made years ago. (below) Some of these perform beautifully and I still use a few for certain jobs in the workshop.


Note: The Museum in Cremona sent me more photos and more dimensions of the Stradivari planes. Though they asked me not to publish these, I’m pleased to share this information with interested luthiers.






6 Responses to “Stradivari tools – iron planes”

  1. Jacob
    April 7th, 2015 @ 5:40 pm

    Hey Guy! The plane looks great! I remember you working on one of the thinner scrapers shown in the museum photo. Did you ever finish it off and use it? I love that you are reproducing some of these old tools.

    I thought I would leave a comment! I love your blog posts

    See you,

  2. admin
    April 8th, 2015 @ 10:43 am

    Thanks Jake! I did make four of the Strad scrapers and use a few of them in my regular work. Also there’s one more plane I will copy too. Cheers, Guy

  3. Andrew Atkinson
    October 14th, 2015 @ 4:50 pm

    Hello Guy,
    The plane you made looks really great. I am trying to recreate the tools and methods of 17th/ 18th century Cremonese violin makers and at present am starting to make some planes based upon Stradivari’s iron planes. So if you could help me with measurements and any other details on them I would be extremely grateful.
    Thank you and best wishes,
    Andrew atkinson

  4. admin
    October 18th, 2015 @ 12:06 pm

    Hello Andrew – I’ve emailed you with some good information on the planes I’ve made so far. I hope it’s helpful! All the best, Guy

  5. Carl Hungness
    March 2nd, 2016 @ 7:59 pm

    I served only an 18 month apprenticeship as a violin-maker and copied the 1707 Dushkin Strad, so I am at best an amateur maker.I am a sculptor and wish to do a bronze of Strad. I am seriously considering including his workbench,so may like to correspond with you regarding photos of the tools you’ve made. Fine job! I made my own knives, purfling tool, chisels, etc. Thanks in advance.

  6. Shay
    May 23rd, 2016 @ 6:34 pm

    Nice work on the reproduction! I would be interested in more information on the plane you built, and the reference material you mentioned.

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    Guy Harrison Violin Maker
    792 Gladstone Avenue
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1R 6X9
    Tel: 613 569 4803

    1997 Silver medal for viola in the Mittenwald International Violin Making Competition, Germany.

    2010 Bronze medal for violin in the Mittenwald International Violin Making Competition, Germany.

    2014 Workmanship award for violin in the Mittenwald International Violin Making Competition, Germany.

    2016 Silver Workmanship medal for cello in the VSA Violin Making Competition, USA.

    Member of the American Federation of Violin & Bow Makers and Violin Society of America.

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