Making A Violin Mold With A 3D Printer


Some people see 3D printers as expensive and slow devices for replicating bracelets, whistles, and Yoda heads. Until the world transitions to a plastic octopus-based economy, those of us with 3D printers will have to find something useful for these tools. Bayesian Empiritheurgy out of Halifax, Nova Scotia wanted to do something useful with their 3D printer for the large-scale, distributed hackerspace competition, The Deconstruction. They ended up using their printer to make molds for a paper mache violin, and ended up being fairly successful at it.

The basic idea behind their paper mache violin was to create a plastic mold for exactly half a violin body. This block was covered in newspaper drenched in wheat paste. Once the paste was dry, the violin half was pulled off the mold and another half was created. These were stitched and glued together, resulting in a violin body.

The bridge, tailpiece, tuners, and fingerboard were 3D pprinted and held together with epoxy. The epoxy flexed a lot, so every time a string was tuned it threw out the tuning of the other three strings. In the video after the break, you can check out the paper mache and plastic violin being played. It’s not much for the eyes or ears, but everyone had fun, and the team completed the proof of concept for a fiberglass or carbon fiber violin we’d suggest they try next.


27 thoughts on “Making A Violin Mold With A 3D Printer

  1. It amuses me a little that the material of choice was papier mache after the mold was 3d printed…

    Though when it comes to molds, for layup of papier mache, fiberglass, carbon fiber etc, and economical and fast production of same, it makes me wonder if you could “print” them by laser cutting/melting Styrofoam.

    Then I’m also thinking, oooh, bigger things, print frames for a canoe! (Or half frames)

    1. We have pretty good access to tools, but we’re also completely broke. We needed a project that we didn’t have to spend any money at all on, just tools we already had.

      Plus using paper mache fit in with the themes of the event.

      1. Yes it has cheap going for it, is also quite a useful “fit to application” in some instances and is unfairly maligned as “only: a kiddies craft material.

        I wonder if one could step it up a notch with papier mache technique and through vacuum bagging it as is done with carbon fiber composites, produce objects that are as tough as commercial paxolin or delrin or mdf or other pulp or natural fibre composites.

        1. We tried that in our initial trials. The verdict is that it doesn’t seem to penetrate the paper too well. Of course we were using a dollar store gel epoxy.

          We also tried to make an aluminum foil mache using epoxy. It went about as well as you’d expect.

          It flexes and dents just like normal aluminum foil.

          1. I did something similar with organic fibers once. The trick was using 2 part epoxy that uses the drops as the curing catalyst. I would take about 1/3 of the epoxy base I expected to mix and combine that with the fiber mixture as thouroughly as I could, then let it sit and soak in for a while. Epoxy will soak into almost anything given time.

            I then mixed the last 2/3rd with the apropriate amount of catalyst and quickly combined the mix with the fiber mixture. Once you have it completely combined you can drain off any extra liquid epoxy to get the consistency you want. The goal in this case was to have it most look fiberous, but hold together well. Use the slow setting epoxy if you can, otherwise you need to use it very fast.

            The only other tip I can give is to absolutely make sure there is no moisture in anything you are mixing with the epoxy. As the epoxy sets it will heat up and create lots of bubbles where water is present.

            You can make some interesting materials this way. Have fun.

          2. I was interested in using white glue laminated cardboard to build furniture due to its low cost and extremely high stiffness and strength to weight ratio. I took some single ply cardboard, cut it into 1 inch wide strips across the webbing, then glued them into a 1 inch thick board with just enough glue to keep it together. It was a natural fiber honeycomb. It was so stiff that if you tapped it on something, you would feel the vibrations throughout the piece. Very interesting.

  2. You remember the post about people in some development country making great-sounding musical instruments from garbage?
    It amuses me that those instruments actually sound way better than this one here which was made with an at least hundred times bigger budget.

    1. We originally wanted to go the same route they did, but we couldn’t get the materials. Seriously, we have better access to tools but they have better access to materials. Our local dump charges insane prices for anything removed.

      Everything was done with stuff we had on hand. So the tool budget was probably more, but the material cost was way lower, for us anyway.

        1. Agreed. They recently went out of business. Now it’s all just sitting there, behind two layers of fence with barbed wire and 5 security cameras.

          They’d also quote you one price, then you’ll spend a few hours harvesting the material from whatever behemoth it’s glued to and suddenly you get a completely different price.

          To say nothing of trying to get transportation to and from there. No bus routes, middle of nowhere.

  3. “plastic octopus-based economy” What a laugh! You DO have a way with words.

    I think 3D printers are about like computers were in the early 80’s. Everybody agreed they were pretty cool, but nobody knew what they were good for. Now EVERYBODY has one and wouldn’t know what to do without it.

    1. Everybody said they were going to put grandmas recipe collection on them and balance their checkbook with it.

      Haven’t yet noticed a ubiquitous excuse for obtaining a 3d printer…. I’m sure one will be along shortly.

    1. I was told by a few people it actually made an excellent sound box. The problem was twofold. The tuning pegs weren’t very effective, and the epoxy around the neck failed.

      I’m not certain it’s actually worse then a massively out of tune violin.

  4. Just curious, but why did you do the basis of the mold as a positive rather than a negative? It seems like you would be able to get a more accurate piece by creating a negative mold and filling it rather than overlaying material on a positive structure.

  5. I know I’m just a random new guy around here, but with the 3d printer couldn’t you print the body in two pieces and attach them together? Instead of splitting it in half down the middle, think of it like a sandwiche, take the top have and print it from the face to the back this way the last pieces being printed would be the sections that would attach to the back, then print the back section. Use epoxy or some such to attach the seams together (maybe print the ends with several ridges similar to Lego blocks to line up) .

    1. Also, printing it in that fashion would allow you to have the violin be hollow which I believe it’s supposed to be for a proper sound. Before anyone flames me, I have absolutely no musical background. Just tossing out an idea to a fellow creator.

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