Thursday, August 11, 2016

Tool marks

Factory fiddle, no label.  Probably German, possibly early 20th century or late 19th.  In for repair, including a peg-box crack at the A.  Installing a spiral bushing here.  While doing so, I noticed file marks under the varnish -- tool marks from the original woodworker who cut this scroll.  Just thought it was cool.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Rehairing a violin bow.

Rehairing bows is something that most violin shops do.  I do a few a month, in addition to violin repairs and making.  It can be challenging, and humbling.  Horse hair is used, which is organic and therefore variable.  It has to be fit to the right length for each individual bow, and the length of hair changes with humidity and temperature.  Not much, but even that can be too much in some situations.  I try not to rehair on really rainy days, if I get the choice.

Another part of rehairing is the replacement of three little pieces of wood that are used to hold the hair in place.  We are seeing more and more student bows done with, how shall we say?, not so much attention paid to these three little plugs.  After all, the customer seldom sees them.

So, here are a few photos of the plugs of a recent rehair.

Here is the tip plug of a student-level violin bow.  When done correctly, the plug is just the right size, held in by geometry.  This one had a little glue to help it stay in place.  Using the traditional invoked cursing 1-10 scale, 1 being none, 10 being the point at which you really need to repent later, this was about a 3.

Here is the ferrule wedge.  It's not the best fitted one I've seen, but it did its job.

This plug holds the hair spread and is typically lightly glued in.  You can see some of the glue that did not get wiped off.  This one actually came apart fairly easy.  Invoked cursing: 1.

For one that was rather loosely fit into the ferrule on the end, someone did take a little time shaping it.  I'm not convinced this sort of shaping does much better than a straight taper, but it's pretty.

Here is a plug in the frog, holding the hair in that end.  The clamp holding the hair out the way is only for the photograph.  This block, when properly cut, stays in place through geometry and tension.  As with many factory bows, this one had a little glue in place for insurance.  It's a little tougher to get out, due to its depth and the nearby edges.  Invoked cursing 4 on this one.  It came out without too much trouble after a bit of digging.

You can also notice the cutter marks showing in the cut-out of the throat.

And at the upper end, particularly the upper right, you can see a bit of roundness in the mortise.  This is from the drill that was originally used to cut the mortise.  The mortise should be rectangular, and it's ok to start with a circular hole, but you want to make it nice.  This one was mostly rectangular, needing only a little cleaning up.

On the cheapest bows, it is a circular hole, with a piece of dowel glued in, instead of a shaped plug; invoked cursing 11.  I try to remember which ones are like that, what they look like from the outside, and simply turn them down on a rehair.  These Chinese bows often wholesale in the US at the $10-$20 dollar range and are sold in some stores at $70-$150.  But, hey, they're real wooden bows.

What kind of wood?  Dunno.  But wood they are.  Yup.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Waiter, there's a hair in my scroll

Cleaning up an old factory fiddle, a "Stainer" copy, and found this varnish-brush hair trapped down in a turn of the scroll. 

It was fairly dirty in there, and I cleaned out a good layer of grime.  For a while I thought the hair might be part of the gunk, but it was in the varnish, a left-over from the making process some hundred years ago.

The fiddle was a decent-sounding student instrument, and quickly went out the door as a rental.

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.


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

More on the Glasgow kit:

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.