Thursday, October 16, 2014

Factory Fiddle Scroll


Nothing special about this.  It's a typical ca. 1900 "factory fiddle", probably from Germany.  Labelled "Antonius Stradiuarius ... 1736".

I liked seeing the facets.  Hastily carved, by someone who had carved a few, and was just trying to make a living.  After that, the scroll itself has seen some use over the years.

Interesting character, I'd say.












Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Horsehead pochette

Strung it up today.  String length is about 1/4-size violin. I experimented with various soundhole shapes, then finally decided to go modern/archaic. Viking longboat, with the curves being the upper and lower bouts. Top is spruce from near McCall, Idaho.


Back was an abondoned full-size violin back, European tonewood.


Neck is carved from a chunk of maple stock. Fingerboad is salvaged from an older fiddle. Width of the fingerboard is more normally full-sized, though the string length is 1/4.


Detail of horsehead. Inspired by photos I had seen of Norwegian Ale Bowls.


Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thorskegga/4105357103/in/faves-23218266@N06/


Full-size fiddle at back. "Glasgow ca. 1780" inspired kits on either side of the new horsehead kit. 


More on the Glasgow kit: http://www.theglasgowstory.com/image.php?inum=TGSE00590


Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Shapes Seen by the Carver.

Transient and pretty.  I think so, and if you're into any sort of wood carving, I suspect you do to.  A little scene that lasts for a moment, then is gone.

This violin back plate is still several millimeters away from its final surface.  The outside shape is not finished, the corners overgrown clumps that will slowly evolve.  In the meantime, I like seeing the steps before the end, before the completion.  At this stage, I am flailing away, taking off as much wood as I dare.  I like seeing the leftovers, the curls of wood that will be swept up, destined for the fireplace, the compost heap, or the trash, depending on my whim at the time.


With luck, it will live a long life as part of a violin, making music, interacting with the human world.  With more luck, someone will really enjoy its shape, its existence.

The scene here is obviously only potential.  What will it look like?  What will it sound like?

 Permance, though, is perhaps nearly as fleeting.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Web-page Revision

I've made a minor, and at the same time, a major, change in my business's web-page.  Focusing more on one-of-a-kind and my own instruments, I've decided to try listing some instruments and prices on my web-page.

This is brand-new today, and you can see it here.

Probably several changes to lay-out and format in the next few weeks.  I am accustomed to making frequent, minor updates to the web-page, but this will probably require a bit more attention.  And I have no idea how it will look on others' browsers.

It's really a guess on my part.  By far, most of my business since 1996 has been local, walk-in, personal referral.  Times change.  It could be interesting.

Tangentially related, and because I like to see images on blog-posts, here's the neck attached to the body of my newest pochette.


I had intended to cut normal f-holes into this one, but no matter how I drew them, I didn't like them.  Seemed busy.  I was suddenly inspired by the Norwegian ale-bowl horsehead scroll to cut soundholes shaped like longboats.  Another guess on my part.  But it's just a fiddle.


Monday, June 30, 2014

The Retail World Today.


In our part of the country, we are seeing many stores closing.  I suspect most of these closings are due to internet sales.  I think the rate will accelerate.

We spent our week at Weiser this year a little differently.  We had very little in the way of commonly available retail items, and, for the first time, I had no music books.  In the past, I've spent many hours selling music books there.  I enjoy books, and enjoy talking with folks who enjoy books.  The problem is, there's no money in it now.

I had my handmade instruments, white instruments I had varnished, and vintage instruments.  I offered repairs.  Phil had his bows and offered rehairs and repairs.  It was a much slower week as far as individual sales, but we did survive.

And how have the economics changed?  Here is a cut-out from a flyer I received this morning, advertising a new string being offered by one of my wholesale suppliers.


The list price is the old "manufacturer's suggested retail price." Traditionally, this is what has been used to determine the wholesale price, the price I would pay for the set of strings. In the past, this has been roughly 50%, which in this case would be $35.00.  As a "Special Introductory Sale Pricing," the set is being offered to me at 40%, or $28.26.

So what is the MAP?  It is the Minimum Advertised Price.  That is, it is the lowest price that can be advertised.  Note that in the usual wholesale pricing, this is pretty darn close to the usual wholesale price.

With the sales-flyer email still fresh on my computer screen, I went to Amazon.com, and found this right away.

Note that Amazon's price is right at the MAP.  Also note the "Prime," which means if you are an Amazon-Prime member, you don't have to pay shipping.  I don't get the same deal from my wholesaler unless I buy many, many sets.

Further note the "More Buying Choices" at $31.50, below the MAP.  How is this possible?  Well, it turns out they are not actually the same strings, but similar.  What would the customer choose?  Who knows, but the option is there, 24-hours a day, 365 days a year.


What happens if a seller advertises at a price lower than MAP?  They get in trouble.  What does trouble mean?  I don't know.  I suspect not much.  And note that the MAP is the lowest  price a product can be advertised, not the lowest at which it can be sold.


So, how can I make money selling strings?  I can't.  So, I don't, or at least, not often.  I have strings and will sell them, but mainly they are for my own work.

I am in the fortunate situation that I can make my living from repairs and building, lessons, some income from performances, that sort of thing -- all things that are really hard to do easily over the internet.

But, my income depends on other people making money, making a living, too.  And there is a huge change happening which I suspect many people are not really aware of.  Not a good time to be a brick-and-mortar store or employee.

Lesson: learn how to DO something.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Marriage Marks

One thing we often see on vintage factory violin bows are Roman numerals on the underneath portion of the slide as well as on the stick.  I've heard all sorts of explanations for these things, from price to maker's mark, and so on.  But the most reasonable explanation, I think, is this:  VII frog goes with VII stick, VIII frog goes with VIII stick.  A maker in a factory would have several on his bench at one time, or even a partial assembly line set-up, with it moving along to another maker for the next step in production.

And today I ran across this --


Timber Frame "Marriage" Marks, found in the on-line publication "18th Century Material Culture: The Carpenter and his Tools - Framing."

A traditional technique, it turns out.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Weiser 2014

For more than a dozen years now, Phil Stanley and I have run the repair shop at the National Old-time Fiddlers Contest in Weiser, Idaho.  We cram our little cars full of shop goods, tools, parts, and such, and make the hour-plus drive up to Weiser.  We set-up in the shop room, out behind the warm-up area at the Contest.  Good years and not-so-good in sales, but we always have fun.  Lots of good friends new and old.

Here are a few iPhone snapshots of our set-up.  This first one shows the debut of my wife's "Juniperberry" bags -- for music books, shoulder rests and general musical needs.  She thinks of them as "Useful handmade bags with a touch of historic fantasy."



Here are is Phil, helping a customer with some bow trials.


Looking down the tables with instruments and bows on display. We have no music books this year for the first time in probably a dozen years; it's one thing that we just can't compete with Internet sales, so we're focusing on handmade and restored vintage instruments, one-of-a-kind items.


The blue towel covers my 'workbench' for the week. Actually end up doing a fair number of diverse repairs here. Keeps one on one's toes. 
The three instruments in stands are violins I have made. The rest are whites that I have reworked and finished or vintage instruments I have restored.