Thursday, January 18, 2018

Too Far

"Having lost all sense of direction, we were able to double our speed."

I was having so much fun looking through Brian Derber's new Violin Making book, trying familiar things in different ways, that I forgot I was making a Hardanger fiddle and not a regular violin.  I woke up one morning on the weekend, suddenly thinking about those different, overlapping Hardanger f-holes, how high they were, when, dang!  I have been arching the middle section as normal.  I quickly laid out the ff's and determined that I had, for me, gone too far.  Maybe someone who had made Hardangers before could see there was enough wood left, maybe not.  For me, I needed a fresh start. 

So, I joined another set of spruce halves on Monday.  On Tuesday, flattened the inner surface, then traced the outline, sawed it out, cleaned it up a bit and took down the edges, leaving the piece nice and fat in the center.


The new top is at top in this photo, the previous version below, with typical f-holes drawn in place.  I can salvage that top for a new fiddle.  The overhang is still a little wide, and if I'm careful with the corner blocks, using the same mould, I should be in good shape, even a little ahead on that one.

Wednesday, I pondered over the Hardanger holes, using a few resources I've gathered up.  Not much really on the placement of the holes themselves, so I did the best I could, closed my eyes, and plunged a few holes.

Today, Thursday, I started cutting wood around the arc of the stems.  Trying to follow Salve HÃ¥kedal's nicely illustrated tutorial.


Sunday, January 7, 2018

Saturday in McCall

No fiddle work in this post, just a view into our neck of the woods.

We took advantage of free introductory classes in cross-country skiing offered at Ponderosa State Park near McCall, Idaho.  Splendid instruction, and, after years of snowshoeing, nice to be able to slide about.  We did ok on the classic cross-country class,  fell a few times during the skate-ski class, and got up just as often.

My wife doing the no-pole shuffle --


She got a very brief video of me not falling down.


Skis, boots, and poles provided by HomeTown Sports in McCall, all in great shape.  We'll be renting equipment from them in the future

A couple of the local boys, not needing skis --


We had a great lunch at Salmon River Brewery in McCall.


A light snow amount so far this year.  Usually Payette Lake is frozen over, and we're out walking on it in our snowshoes, other folks out there ice-fishing.  Not so this year.  Hoping for more snow and cold temperatures to come soon.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Out with the old


This is a violin top I made a couple years ago.  It was on a Guarneri del Gesu inspired violin I was making, and in the spirit of Paganini's del Gesu, "il Cannone", I left the plates thick.  An experiment.

As I was carving it, I uncovered a small branch in the lower bout, treble side.  Very frustrating to find it at that point in the process.   I did learn to look for the tell-tale sign, the cross-section of a branch on the outer edge.


Flustered but not defeated, I continued carving, being careful around the rapidly changing grain.  I managed to get under it, without much distortion to the arching.  The weird grain was still there, and I grew to like it somewhat.  It did bother me, wondering what sort of sonic impact it would have.

So then I went on.  Here it is at the point in time we'll call "X" with my Brothers Amati plate underneath.  I like to build two at a time.


So I finished both of them, strung them up.  The Brothers Amati I liked.  The del Gesu I hated.  Give it a couple weeks to stretch and compress.  Still hated it.  No volume, unpleasant tone.  Ok, it was an experiment, heavy plates.  And there was that weird branch grain.  Maybe it was to blame. So I pulled the top and thinned it down.  Put it back together.  Now it was louder, but still an unpleasant tone.  Matters were worse.

Took it to a show in Portland, Oregon.  Folks played it.  Other makers played it.  Most didn't mind it too much, but generally a polite bunch.  It didn't sell, but not many violins sell there in a good year.

Moved the soundpost around a bit.  Made a new soundpost.  Still hated it.

I pulled the top again.  Thinned the top more. Thinned the back.  Put it together and strung it up.  Now it was even louder, still hated the tone.  Nasal, maybe, though with a head cold or bad allergy.  Bad diction.  Like listening to someone with a loud, sloppy voice, telling boring, long-winded stories.

Was it the branch grain?  Nothing I did seemed to help.

Took it to Weiser.  Folks played it. Some were complimentary.  It didn't sell.  Not much did that year at Weiser, either.  Still, I hated it.

Brad Holst, a fellow violin repairer from Medford, Oregon, was there, had put a few of his violins on the table at my temporary shop at the Weiser Fiddle Contest.  He said: "What's the spacing between your upper eyes?"  42 mm, I answered.  "Hmm, " he said.  "I'd be curious to see what it measures to."

So I pulled out a tape measure, and it came out at 39 mm.

Back to "X" point in time.  I laid-out the terminal holes incorrectly on that plate.  Distracted by the branch, perhaps.  Well, shoot.  I kept the fiddle around for a couple months after that, then finally said "no" to myself.  I wouldn't sell something like that.  Pulled the top off, made a new one.

I still am not crazy about the tone with the new top, but I don't hate it now. I could even play it for a few weeks and maybe learn how to handle it.

I thought about keeping the old top, with its too-close eyes, in the shop as a reminder of my mistake.  Then, I realized, I make new mistakes every day, so don't need some reminder hanging on the wall. I'd rather have something nice to look at.

Last night's contra band rehearsal was at my place, a cold night, snow on the ground, so we had a nice fire in the fireplace, and cleared out some old debris, including not just that top, but a top from an old factory fiddle that had been badly cracked and put back together with Gorilla (TM) Glue.  That was not my repair.  I tried to clean it up and put it back together, but it was too far gone, and frankly not that good of a top to begin with.  So I made a new one for that old fiddle, strung it up, and it sold within a week.

Here's the old top, also on its way to the afterlife.

I was wishing for a viola top, to test whether they actually do burn longer.

Life goes on.  Things are created, exist for a while, then are gone, elements to be recycled into something else.  Here's a photo of some bread I pulled out of the oven while writing this blog post.







Thursday, January 4, 2018

DIY Marking Gauge


Not my idea, probably an old one at that, but simple and effective.  An adjustable marking gauge you can make in a few moments.  Good for putting that running dent in the wood, something to cut to.  The little screwhead lets allows you to get into the curves, which is nice at this point in the making.

Handy little adjustment tool, too.