Archive for May, 2016

Progress report on two new fiddles

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Progress Report on the 14″ Oliver Viola, and the Violin Modeled after the 1735 “Plowden” Guarneri.

“Life is what actually happens while you are making other plans.”

Well…company came and went, and the week didn’t happen exactly as I wanted it to; There were other things to do, and people to spend time with. My only daughter was here all week, which was nice– she flew in from Switzerland, with about a week’s notice. We went to the beach, Monday, and spent the day infiltrating all the art and clothing stores in Cannon Beach, then had fish and chips and headed home. 🙂

My younger brother dropped in for a surprise visit today, with my young neice. That was a nice visit. While they were here, a neighbor couple showed up, too. We ate and visited, and had a nice evening. Afterward, I helped Ann trim a hedge and haul the branches to the burning pile. All good things.

So! Progress report:

I am trying to keep the two instruments on parallel tracks for completion…hoping to keep them no more than a few hours apart in terms of progress.

Progress in building 14” Guarneri-model Viola and Violin:

(Hand-carved instruments begun on May 25th, 2016)

  1.  Cut and install the blocks. (May 25th)
  2. Prepare the ribs, by sanding (using a plywood jig I made to use with my spindle sander). (May 25th )
  3. Bend the ribs, using the bending iron, and install them on the blocks (several steps). (May 26th, 27th)
  4. Prepare, install and shape the front linings. (May 27th, 28th)
  5. Use the sanding board to flatten front of garland. (May 30th)
  6. Prepare the plate stock (book-match and flatten inner side) (Front only—one-piece backs on both fiddles.) (May 30th)
  7. Use the completed garland to establish the shape of the plates. (May 30th)
  8. Cut the front plate exactly to size, including filing and sanding. (Only got the viola cut out. I will cut out the violin tomorrow night if it isn’t too hot when I get home. )
  9. Lay out and cut out scroll and neck. (May 26th)

(Began carving both scrolls using gouges and small finger-planes—spent a good part of May 28th doing that, while waiting for bending irons to heat up, etc. More time as time and strength allow. That maple is tough stuff, and my hands tire quickly anymore.)

Here is the photo-evidence: Handmade in Oregon 🙂

two instruments in progress-viola and violin

May 30th Progress Report.

 

The instrument on the left is the 14″ viola, and is made of Oregon Big Leaf Maple, and Sitka Spruce. The one on the right is the violin, and is made of European Maple and Spruce. Both have blocks and linings of weeping willow.

I ran out of time and energy, so the cutting out of the violin plates will have to wait until later. Once they are cut out, I can begin arching the front plates, and get these things looking more like fiddles.

As you can see, I am trying corners that are a little longer, this time. I may end up shortening them after all, but I left extra in case I wanted them longer. Usually I make pretty short corners.

Vacation is Over– Back to Work!

That’s all I have to show, for today. I go back to work tomorrow. Classes are over for this term, but I still have to prepare certificates, and arrange make-up tests for those who need them.

(For those who don’t know, I teach Welding Supervision classes at Gunderson, Inc. where I have worked for the last nearly 30 years. I began there as a welder, but nowadays I mostly lecture. Print-reading classes, remedial Math classes, Welding Inspection classes, Safety, Metallurgy, etc. It is not as fun as making fiddles, but it is steady. :-))

Thanks for looking,

Chet

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New Instruments Beginning

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What’s New?

I had a fair amount of positive feedback on two particular instruments at the Maryhurst show: a “1735 Plowden” Guarneri model violin, and a 14″ Oliver viola that has pretty amazing sound. So I decided to see if I could repeat the successes, and am building a new one of each model.

1735 Plowden Guarneri model

This is a very powerful instrument, pretty classic Guarneri style and sound. I took my measurements from the Strad poster and technical drawings, and copied the archings from there, as well. The first one had a rich powerful tone from the day it was first strung up and playing. So, I hope the second try at the same instrument will be even better.

This one (like the first one, and, like the original) is European maple (one-piece back) and European spruce. I am using willow for blocks and linings. I am always impressed with the difference in how the European wood handles under the knife, gouge or plane. I have been told by all my mentors and teachers that, at least for violins, the European Maple is definitely superior in terms of tone. I am going to take their word for it…they are all very experienced makers who really ought to know. They did say, however, for violas, cellos, and basses, that domestic woods seem to work fine. Must have something to do with the higher-frequency sound or something like that. Although, that last five-string fiddle I made, of Myrtle and Port Orford Cedar, has very good high end tone, as well as good low notes…so I don’t know why one is better than another. The Myrtle is definitely harder, heavier wood…maybe that helped.

14-inch Oliver Viola

This will actually be off the same mold as the Guarneri violin (a duplicate of it), so it will have exactly the same “footprint”, but the arching and graduations, as well as the rib-height and other differences will definitely make it a viola, not a violin with viola strings. It is comparatively easy to make a large viola that sounds great, but much more difficult to make a very satifactory small viola. Fortunately, I fell into (quite by accident) an arching pattern that worked very well, and later had it confirmed by one of my teachers, so I had early (accidental) success with small violas, and have gotten better as I learned to understand what was happening with them.

I like the viola sound, and I am big enough to play my largest viola model (16-1/2 Guarneri model) comfortably, but I can see where a professional player could encounter some problems holding his/her arm out at that distance for hours of practice or orchestral performance. So, the small violas have a special attraction in terms of comfort…and if they can sound comparable to a larger instrument, so much the better. I also make a 14-7/8″ viola, but the 14″ viola is the smallest I have made.

This one is Big Leaf maple and Sitka spruce. Willow linings, same as the other new instrument.

Parallel Processes

I will be attempting to complete the two new instruments side by side, step by step, so that whatever stage I am at in one will be where I am on the other, as well (give or take an hour or two.) We’ll see how that plays out.

I’ll post pictures in a few days.

Thanks for reading.

Chet

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The 2016 Northwest Handmade Musical Instrument Show

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Musical Instrument Makers’ Show at Marylhurst University

We had about 80 makers exhibiting at Marylhurst again, this year, and about 800 visitors over the two afternoons that weekend (April 30th/May 1st). It was a very positive experience, though physically and emotionally exhausting.

Ann took a few photos the second day, mostly before the visitors began showing up, so you are seeing the exhibitors setting up.

 

 

 

Our table

Our son Brian’s table.

 

Doc’s Banjos…his kids were watching Seth Kimmel set up his Bass-making exhibit.

 

 

Another bass-maker…all the way from Seattle.

 

Traditional Latino Instruments

 

Flamenco guitars

 

Classical Guitars

 

Other instruments

 

Modern Ukuleles

 

Every kind of guitar imaginable.

 

Flutes and Drums

 

Violins

 

More violins and/or fiddles

 

Violins, violas, and a cello

 

And Bows!

 

Pochettes and fiddles.

 

Visitor test-driving one of my violins

Obviously there was much more to see. I stayed pretty close to my table virtually all the time, and was very busy, so I missed seeing all the great work people did. For three bucks, that show is the best deal of the year, though. Plan on attending next year, if you can come. It is the last weekend of April every year.

Thanks for looking.

 

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