Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Roughing out a Hardanger tailpiece

Since I'm really just trying to get the basic geometry down on my Hardanger fiddle build, I toyed with the idea of simply modifying a standard violin tailpiece.  That's ready to go for the top 4 strings, and then I can add some wire hooks for the 5 understrings.  But it just didn't seem right to me, especially in contrast with the traditional overlapping soundholes I had already made.

On the other hand, I didn't want to go with all the decoration on a traditional Hardanger.  That would be too much in contrast the other way with my rather plain build on the rest of the fiddle. A nicely figured piece of wood will have to be decorative enough for this one.

In Sverre Sandvik's book Vi byggjer Hardingfele -- English translation is (How) We Build the Hardanger Fiddle, translation by Eldon Ellingson -- are some details for the tailpiece.  It can't be too heavy.  It must not be too light.  Goldilocks.  But, one must start somewhere, so from the plans contained with the book, I traced the tailpiece outline with tracing paper, then onto a piece of cardstock (a bit of junk mail, actually).  Found a nice piece of cut-off maple from a previous violin top, traced it out there, using the cardstock template, and cut it out on the band saw.  Then, taking a block plane, start to clean up the top surface.

 Some more work with planes, knives, and rasps, it's starting to take shape.

Finer tools, and I got it to the point where I can call it roughed in.  I still need to drill the string holes, fit a saddle, and figure out how to put in the hooks for the 5 understrings, but I can think about that until tomorrow.

Of course, there is the underneath work, that the player seldom sees, but has the needed hollowed out places for the tailgut to fit, as well as thinning for the string holes.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Viola color varnish

The viola at the same stage as the Hardanger of yesterday. 

After these photos, I put a coat of clear varnish on each.  Guessing one more coat of clear in a couple days, then to let it harden a week or two, before polishing and fitting up.

And I really need to finish that sheetrock job one of these days.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Hardanger color varnish

A few snapshots.  I think the color is about where I want it.  Never quite happy with varnish, yet have learned that if I try too hard, it just gets worse.

Applied a coat of brown varnish yesterday. A coat of clear varnish tomorrow, perhaps, then another in a couple more days, and then to let it sit and harden a while before polishing.

My viola is at the same place in varnishing.  Will try to grab some snapshots of that tomorrow.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Cook a Pumpkin Dinner

Carving of a different sort today.  We learned this method from Tim Sommer of Purple Sage Farms in Middleton, Idaho.  He might have just made it up himself, but certainly folks do things like this elsewhere.  The method is an improvisation, and we do it somewhat different each time, depending on what we have on hand.  It's a great autumn & winter dinner.


Get a pumpkin.  Big is good.  This one is from the Peaceful Belly Farms stand at the Boise Farmers Market. 

In the glass bowl, I have chopped and skillet-fried sausage and vegetables.  Merguez lamb sausage from our friend Janie Burns of Meadowlark Farm here in Nampa.  Vegetables include garlic, onion, bell peppers, a jalapeno, mushrooms.  Some cilantro from Purple Sage.  Broccoli or something like that is a good addition, but we didn't have any.  It worked anyway.

Cut open the pumpkin as if making a jack-o-lantern and clean it out.  Don't cut eyes, nose or mouth!  You want the solid bowl structure.

Cut up a bunch of bread.  Stale is ok.  This is not stale, but is a mix of sourdough wheat and rye.  The bread will help soak up some of the water as the pumpkin cooks.  Grate some cheese.  Parmesan here.


 Oil the outside of the pumpkin to prevent it from drying out and scorching too much. Any cooking oil will work.


Start layering in the bread, vegetable & sausage, cheese.  Multiple layers is good.  I won't show them all here, but I think I had 3 layers of each, so 9 layers.  Maybe 10.  I didn't really keep track.  Fill it up.

Put the lid back on.  Remember to oil it, too.  I hit it with some spray cooking oil because by this time, my hands were a mess.

Into a pre-heated oven.  I set mine at 350 °F, but it runs a little low, which is good.  A lower temperature lets the flavors blend better.

Cook until done.  How do you know when it's done?  After an hour, check it by poking the pumpkin flesh with a knife.  If it's soft all the way through, it's probably done.  This pumpkin took about 2 hours to cook.  Will vary with size and content.

Take the top off, and scrape the meat from the pumpkin, mixing it in with all the stuffing inside.

Scoop out what you want and eat it.  Go back for seconds.  Good stuff.

Obligatory fiddle post -- Hardanger and viola in the varnish drying closet.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Some varnish work

Varnishing a fiddle can be frustrating.  It's tempting to put on thick layers to be done with it.  If I could do that, I would.  But I've found I do best with several thin layers, built up slowly.  Even that is not fool-proof.  This fool knows from experience.

Anyway, the Hardanger is the smaller one on the left, and the viola is the bigger one on the right.  Getting there.  Be making music with them soon.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Mary Rose 2 and Saddlework

Having drilled the pegholes, cut the pegbox outline and cleaned it up, I lay out the pegbox walls.  I like to hollow out the pegbox first, because (1) that is the functioning portion of the whole thing, and (2) while it's still square, it's easier to hold in a vise.

Feeling something like a prospector finding gold, it's always a little fun to uncover the first peghole.

More digging, moving the neckblock around in different angles in the vise, doesn't take too long to hollow the volume that will hold the strings. 

On another front, I carved two saddles out of ebony blocks, for the Hardanger and the viola I am about building.  This is the last wood that will go on these two before they are cleaned up, edgework finished off, and then into the varnish process.  The saddle is a chunk of dense wood which keeps the tailgut of the tailpiece from sinking into and damaging the spruce top edge.  Usually hidden under a chinrest, most folks don't notice it very often.  An ebony block, someday to be a saddle on another instrument, lays in front of these two.  The rubber bands are holding the saddles in place while the glue sets.

Put the saddle on the stove, Ma, we're riding the range tonight.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Hardanger Strings

Hardanger strings arrived in the mail today. Doesn’t indicate much real progress on my part, besides taking the time to find and order them, but they tickle me nevertheless.

And the package art-work, Fanitullen, The Devil’s Tune.

At a wedding, a fight broke out, as they did in those days.  The fiddler, wanting to be somewhere else during a fight, as we still do today, went down to the cellar to get more beer, to help calm things down.  He found the Devil atop the beer barrel, playing this tune.  Listening to it, he learned the tune, and played it for folks afterwards. 

Or something like that.

Here’s a decent version of the tune by Bukkene Bruse -- Fanitullen.

An 1853 painting by Adolph Tidemand (source).

And the words, in Norwegian by Jørgen Moe (1813-1882) and English translation by Espen Andersen.

In the hardened days of yore
when with beer and brawn
the knives of Hallingdale
from their sheaths were often drawn
when women to the feast
funeral shirts would bring
with which they would swathe
their dead husbands in

there once took place a wedding
somewhere in Hemsedale
where song and dance did cease
and the men did ring the vale.
In the center of the floor
framed by shoulder-broad men
two stood with knives unsheated
and a leather belt round them

And like columns carved
unmoving, serene
another four stood
as guardians of the scene
They lift burning torches
toward the blackened beams
where curls of smoke collected
to a dark and brooding stream

In vain two women try
howling, to stem
the living wall of bodies
raised before them
Angrily they’re thrown back
and left to despair
while the fiddler quietly sidles
toward the cellar stair.

Down he goes to tap beer
as the winner of the fight
may have need to kiss
the bowl's rim tonight.
Within the belt they'll duel,
blood running like sap
the vein will need refilling
from the beer casket tap.

Standing in the cellar
he saw a bluish glow
someone sitting on the casket
tuning fiddle, holding bow.
This man held it backwards
tightly to his chest
and as soon as it was tuned
put his fiddle to the test.

There came a song of wonder;
It rang like angry words,
Like steel bite into wood
Like fists rammed into boards.
It jubilantly roamed
Around the darkened cellar hall
And came to a halt
At the sound of a fall

Quietly the fiddler listened
to the mighty flow
It was like the music’s eddies
went down his spine and brow.
He quickly asked the other
“Where did you learn that song?”
The answer: “Don't you mind that,
But remember it – for long!”

But as the man bent down
Reaching for the tap
He saw a horned hoof
against the casket rap
He forgot to tap the beer
And ran up to the hall
Just as the men were lifting
The body from the fall

Fanitullen it is called
This wild and haunting spell
And in Hallingdale they play it
And they play it well
And when its tune is singing
to beer and feast and brawn
again knives of Hallingdale
from their sheats are quickly drawn


Well, back to installing pegs on a different violin.