Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Jacobus Stainer in Absam prope Oenipontum 16, pt 3

 With the cracks glued and cleated as I thought needed, time to fit the new bass bar.

First, layout in pencil.  We want the bass bar to be under the foot of the bridge, 'east to west',  in a sense as measured from center-line, or from the edge of the f-hole, or some place to hook the tape-measure, as it were.  I also don't want it to overlap the upper terminal hole of the f-hole.  With these two constraints, there is usually not much choice.  We also want it angled relative to the spruce grain, for strength purposes.  Lining the bass bar along the grain is a great way to crack the top.

The problem with old tops is that they are not always normal.  

Here are some of my pencil marks.  The line connecting the notches of the two f-holes is nominally where the bridge would sit.  But you might see that this line is not perpendicular to the center line, meaning at least one of the notches is not in the right place.  What's the right place?  A normal stop length, these days, is 195 mm.  The line below the line connecting the two notches is at 195 mm.  So in some sense, neither one of the notches is where we would think they should be.  

And yes, the top is normal size.  14 inches.  Mixed measurement units, it's how we do things in the US.

Unfortunately, the notches are convenient and easy to see from the outside, when positioning the bridge.  Or repositioning some time in the future when it comes off or is replaced.  

I'm not sure where the bridge will end up on this fiddle.  But with a ruler, I can put it at 195 mm if I want to, even if it doesn't line up with the notches.  And with an inspection mirror, I will be able to see the pencil lines inside, to help with soundpost adjustments, that sort of thing.

For placement, right now I don't really care where the bridge sits.  I can work with that later.  On the other hand, we think we should know where the bridge is so we know how long to make the bass-bar, how far it extends from the bridge both north (towards the neck) and south (towards the end-block).  

Pencil, calculations, guess, and make a couple marks.  

Next to plane some spruce down to thickness, with the growth lines vertical to the top, again for strength.  

With the thickness correct, I cut it a bit longer than my carefully calculated length.

Next, rough-fit the bottom, and when that is close, temporarily glue in a few cleats to help place the bar in the same place for final fitting.  It needs to fit extremely close the entire length.  And that will take longer than what I've done here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Jacobus Stainer in Absam prope Oenipontum 16, pt 2

So out with the old integral bass-bar.  Kinky grain right around the area of the upper terminal-hole, so I have to approach it from many angles in order to not dig in too deep.

The area is so kinky & twisty, in fact, that the original carver decided 'to hell with this' and left it quite thick.  6-1/2 mm, when the normal top thickness here might be around 3.

Cleaning up the top with thumb-planes and scrapers, I discovered an original repair.  This little section of wood was pulled out, somehow, during the original carving, then glued back into place, prior to the (original) final graduation of the top.  It is open along one side and will need to be re-glued.

In the course of the planing and scraping, I had to remove the original cleats holding the saddle-crack together.  The crack came open, so here we are, good enough to start thinking about the new bass-bar, so I have re-glued the crack, and installed 3 new cleats.

There is also a wing-crack to repair and the open crack at the neck, but I don't like to do too many cracks at the same time.  I'll get them after this sets.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Jacobus Stainer in Absam prope Oenipontum 16, pt 1

 Another old factory fiddle, well-loved by someone who played it years ago. 

Wanting to see it in the hands of someone who would love it again, as well as freeing up closet space, the owner sold it to me.  I didn't pay much.  A rather plain fiddle, mostly in good shape, but it will take some work before I can feel good selling it.

The fingerboard is not ebony, but hardwood stained to look like ebony.  And it is crooked on the neck, overlapping the finger-side.  On the thumb-side, the stain is also worn away.

It was a little loose as well, and came off easily. A generous glue channel in the fingerboard and in the neck itself.

For comparison, when I make a new fiddle, I don't make any glue channel.  Perhaps the slightest scraper hollowing on the ebony.  One could almost fit sympathetic strings in that channel.  I'll fit a new, ebony fingerboard to this fiddle.

There was a saddle crack, repaired, and a wing-crack, not repaired.  I could also see through the endpin that it had an integral bassbar.  So off with the top.

Note the cleats for the repaired saddle crack, on the treble side.  And the wildly carved bassbar.  One can imagine that took a good 15 minutes to shape.

The top was roughly gouged, though not as rough as many I've seen.

And the top is rather thick.

I might be around 4mm here, if I thought it needed it.  But usually less than that.  And about 2.5 in the upper and lower bouts.

So, I think I will take some meat out of this top after gouging out the integral bassbar.  It will be replaced with a new, standard bass-bar.  Both changes will improve the sound.

No corner blocks, not even foolers in the bottom corners.  I'll probably leave it that way.  Not convinced that blocks would change the sound quality of this particular instrument. And it is a fair amount of work to do so.  The corners have held together for sometime as-is.

It's weird that Jacob forgot to add the '42' or whatever after the '16'.  That's a joke.  Possibly late 1800s, early 1900s.  Could be pre-1892, since no country-of-origin on the label, but if so, not by much I'd say.

The back could use some cleaning-up as well.  The graduation pattern was 'make it thin but not too thin everywhere'.

So, is this worth working on?  I never know.  It's something I can do when I'm not doing something else.  Maybe keep me out of trouble I might otherwise get into.  The fiddle will end up being interesting to someone, some time.