Wednesday, March 23, 2011



Removing a fingerboard off an older factory fiddle, intent on replacing it, I ran across these markings, and that gave me pause. We often see these Roman Numeral markings on factory fiddles (and bows) from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Apparently it was a way to keep the individually fit pieces together during the assembly process, probably not done by one person. In this instance, perhaps, one person fit fingerboards all day. Or maybe the number refers to the worker, and is a way of keeping track of pay. I don't know. Here we see XVI (little I) on both the violin neck and the underscoop of the fingerboard. You can also make out the cross-hatching on the neck, which is one method to allow for a little squeeze-out of the glue. Some folks think it helps hold the joint together. We all have our magic formulas in making.

Anyway, this fingerboard has been on the instrument for maybe 100 years, and is just now being replaced. Just a moment of respect, then on to the job.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Gourd banjo, part 4, the playing thereof...

Put the strings on the banjo today.


It's basically done. Still experimenting with where best to locate the bridge, and may want to scoop out a section of the fingerboard near the gourd -- because it's a bit tight in there when playing.

My high-school student/co-maker was on her way over to take possession of it, so I quickly plucked out a few tunes. Not great quality video, but it does give some idea of the instrument's sound.


Worried Man Blues -- I could see the student and her mother arriving while playing this, and they rang the doorbell just at the end.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Titian #4 strung-up.

I strung up this fiddle about 24 hours ago, and am not unhappy with the tone so far. I expect it to play in well. I chose a tune that covers the four strings in first position, which is about my range! It is a shortened version (to fit the Flickr 90-second limit) of "Coilsfield House" which I learned from the Pete Clark CD "Even Now, the Music of Niel Gow."

Recording is done using the video mode of my Pentax Optio WP digital camera.

Dominant G, D, A; Jargar e (forte).

This is the 4th fiddle I've made, and the first one that after I strung it up, I wasn't immediately unhappy with the sound. It's not perfect by any means. There's a bit of edge on the e-string. On the other hand, the notes sound clear to my ear, and I have hopes it will develop over the next few days.

And when I say I wasn't immediately unhappy with the sound, I mean that I cut a soundpost to fit the typical starting position (3 mm behind the bridge, 1 mm inside), cut the bridge to a standard shape, put the afterlength (between the bridge and tailpiece) at approximately 1/6th the string length (between nut and bridge), and played it. I have made no adjustments since. Still, it's not perfect, or maybe even optimized, but it seems ok to me right now. All my previous instruments I would string them up, play them, adjust the soundpost, afterlength, bridge, until I got it closer to what I wanted.

So, I was not unhappy with it. The next one will be better. :-)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Varnish on Titian #4, Gourd banjo part 3

I've managed to get a couple of coats of varnish on Titian #4 and grabbed a quick snapshot of it, similar setting to the ground photo in my previous post.


We've also made some progress on the gourd banjo. Fit the neck to the gourd.


And then got the skin on the gourd itself, held in place with hide glue and tacks.