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I now have four fiddles again.

Posted by bj on Thursday, December 4, 2008

I always watch ebay auctions on fiddles, and don't ever bid since I already own three very decent players. But when a fiddle that looks like it just needs some regluing comes up and there's lackluster bidding, what's a girl to do?

Well, I put in a lowball bid at snipe time and . . . I won the dang thing for $23.07 plus 12 bucks shipping. It appears to be an early to mid 20th century german trade fiddle. No markings anywhere though, so that's a guess. And the German fiddles were usually well marked.

The good news--

Despite the "measurement" in the listing that threw doubt on the issue, the fiddle is a full 4/4.

Nice medium grain spruce top is crack free, other than a very tiny saddle crack on the treble side, which isn't open at all, and when held sideways to the light, shows some evidence it's been repaired or filled in some fashion.

Real purfling reasonably done.

Nicely fitted bridge, obviously luthier done.

The neck feels good and solid and has enough angle to the fingerboard, with pretty decent action. It might not be to classical standard, but I doubt highly that it's more than a slight fraction of a fraction off.

The Maple sides and the two piece back are nicer in person than in the photos he had taken for the ebay listing. Though the back only has minimal tiger striping the wood is somewhat figured and quite pretty.

The whitish haze on the one side of the fiddle in the listing photo was nothing but attic dust. Lots and lots of attic dust.

This is the ONLY fiddle I own with all four corners totally intact, with no dings or chips. Geez, that's a first!

The BEST news--

SWEET tone! Not very loud, but this one sounds very nice under the ear! And that's despite needing a soundpost adjustment, since I can see it's not ideal (and still has the string in place!) This one is very mellow, and balanced in tone. Would actually make a great first fiddle for someone, since it isn't that loud, though I guess when it's repaired it might gain some volume. Right now the bass side resonates better than the treble.

The not so good news--

Yes, the back is coming off the ribs down on the button end. There's a very slight gap. I'm going to do some reading and see if this is a job I can do myself. Maybe. Maybe not. One good thing was that the ugly black librarian's tape on the edge of the back down near the button wasn't there because of any wood breakage (YAY!) but simply to keep it from separating more. Hopefully the chinrest bracket will now perform that function until I do my reading and determine if I'm going to attempt the repair myself.

I think a monkey fitted these pegs.That's if they were ever fitted at all! I managed to get them working, kinda sorta, but it was not a fun chore, especially since the A peg's hole was only halfway in the pegbox, so I couldn't stick the string through. I gently sanded the peg until I could push it in just that hair further, but then the peg wanted to slip. UGH! Luckily a bit of chalk (twice) seems to have made it work well enough.

I wanna kill the person who stuck the bridge INSIDE the fiddle, especially since it kept catching on that dang soundpost string every time I was close to getting it out! Oh well, at least it kept it from getting lost, since this baby didn't come with a case.

Corners don't appear to be blocked.

NO finetuners whatsoever, and with those awful pegs! Crappy plastic tailpiece. Tuning was not fun. And of course I had to put new strings on it, so I'll have a lot of unfun tuning with this over the next 24 hours.

A coat of Bullseye Amber Shellac directly out of the can. And over the ugly black tape. And along the sides of the fingerboard.

What was funniest in this whole thing was the "strings' that were on it. They weren't. They were some sort of packing or baling wire, with big knots to hold the ends into the tailpiece. Consequently the bridge's notches are a little deeper than they would be otherwise. That bridge might need a slight taking down just to fix that. I'm currently using it as is. Doesn't seem to hurt the sound any. I am using those little plastic sleeve thingies on the strings though, which I usually don't.

ACK! How did they ever PLAY it with those on???

Anyway, I'm not keeping this one. It will be the bait on our flea market table when Jane and I go busking at the country markets next summer, in search of old fiddlers. I'm hoping I can repair this one myself. If not, it does sound sweet enough to maybe find a good home anyway.

17 comments on “I now have four fiddles again.”

PeachyPicker08 Says:
Thursday, December 4, 2008 @10:46:16 PM

LOL! can't believe you search for 'old fiddlers' at country markets-young ones are ok too-just joking bj, I think you meant 'old fiddles'. As usual you give me some good laughs. Better proof read that one. Nice to see someone else isn't afraid to tackle something to learn on. I put some fine tuners on a couple myself, they are under $2.00 a piece to order.

fiddlepogo Says:
Friday, December 5, 2008 @12:33:08 AM

A coat of Bullseye Amber Shellac directly out of the can?
Did you put that on? No, bj, tell me you didn't do that, did you?
(the way you wrote it was ambiguous who did it)

bj Says:
Friday, December 5, 2008 @5:10:57 AM

No, Peachy, I actually MEANT "old fiddlers". Jane and I are on a quest to find the elusive Pocono Style of Oldtime Fiddle, which is only played by the really old players. She heard it years ago when first starting out into oldtime.

fiddlepogo, wash your mouth out with soap! Of course I wouldn't put that crappo Bullseye on a fiddle (or anything but a worthless piece of furniture, and then I'd thin it down a LOT) but I recognized it the second I saw it! Beginner Antique Dealers should be banned from buying the stuff! Come to think of it, they should be banned from buying fiddles too, since I'm pretty sure that was done by the antique dealer who put this on ebay.

Fidla Says:
Friday, December 5, 2008 @5:38:52 AM

Wow you're worse than I am ;) Nice to find a fellow addict here.


ChickenMan Says:
Friday, December 5, 2008 @3:17:43 PM

No corner blocks makes me think very low end model. But for $35.07 you have a nice new project that will requires some research and learning of new skills - always a good thing in my book. The BRIDGE was inside the fiddle? Is that the bridge in the picture? You narrative makes it sound like it might still be inside... You put reg-lar strings on her then, or are you sawing the bailing wahr?

bj Says:
Friday, December 5, 2008 @3:32:42 PM

Yes, the BRIDGE was inside the fiddle! And it kept catching on the string tied around the amazingly IN PLACE soundpost when I was trying to shake it OUT!

Yes, ChickenMan, it's somewhat low end, but not at all bad for what it is, and will actually be a decent enough beginner player when done. And yes, I put regular strings on her just to try her out. I had to detension them though since that bottom needs reglueing, and the ribs were pulling up just a tad with the strings tensioned. Good news is I think I can do this clamp and glue job myself and not incur the luthier fee. Re new skills, it's mainly repurposing skills I already have. I've done major antique furniture repair and restoration for many years. I now know why the luthiers build the form to do the glueing. I never realized how skinny those ribs are! I may be able to get creative with all the bar clamps I already have though, along with all my c clamps, wedges, shims, glue blocks, large and long rubber bands (which might actually be easier!) and other furniture repair paraphernalia I've accumulated over the years. It'll be trip working with hide glue though. I hear it's a b!tch!

Rene Says:
Friday, December 5, 2008 @4:07:50 PM

Fiddles happen!!! somehow I've acquired 4 also, and they all have names and there is a little jealousy among 2 of them, they had a little scuffle and one shoved the other off the piano, which it in turn ripped the shoulder rest wonder they were called the devil's instrument.
Make sure and keep them seperated and watch for those tell-tale signs of sibling rivarly.

bj Says:
Friday, December 5, 2008 @4:21:09 PM

Rene, the trick is to treat them just like you treat the kids-- EQUAL TIME! And hide the others in the case when you're playing favorites.

I wish decent bows would start coming to me the way fiddles have . . . I only have half as many bows as I do fiddles.

Tennessee Tom Says:
Saturday, December 6, 2008 @6:41:36 AM

Hmmm, This reminds me of a hand-made mando I picked-up in TN. You've inspired my next FHO post.


bj Says:
Saturday, December 6, 2008 @7:15:56 AM

Well, folks, I heard from Johnny Thomasson, who saw ALL the photos (and had a few choice words for anyone who would use baling wire for fiddle strings!) and declared that this was the perfect beginner project, with just enough challenge, but simple enough for me to do myself. He pointed up some interesting stuff. Apparently a production fiddle. He gave the guy who cut the F holes an A-, the guy who did the purfling an A, and the guy who carved the scroll a D-! 20th century, but we're not sure when, and hard to say from where. It's just a tad more complicated than clamp and glue, since I have to remove ALL the old glue (I knew that!) and have to brace the ribs with something, either a form or a band, when clamping the plates, and I of course have to work with a luthier glue (this is a NEW skill) but most of it is just adding a few tricks to stuff I already know how to do from when I restored antique furniture. YAY!

Rene Says:
Saturday, December 6, 2008 @7:51:31 AM

We use baling wire to repair everything here, I can't believe it didn't work on the fiddle :)

FiddlerFaddler Says:
Sunday, December 7, 2008 @11:26:57 PM

I second the motion to kill the rascal that put the bridge inside the fiddle. I'm in Texas this week, where He needed killin', is a reasonable defense. Makes sense to me!

I've never tried repairing an open seam on an instrument as small as a fiddle, but for my foddle (AKA violoncello), I would put the hide glue in the open seam, and then stack telephone books and textbooks on the edge until the seam closed, wipe off any excess and then let 'er dry, usually overnight.

I think a repair person would do the job cheaply enough; it's worth asking for an estimate.

bj Says:
Monday, December 8, 2008 @7:07:55 AM

Why pay someone else when I already have 90% of the skill level to do this? It's why I bought this, actually. I wanted a learner that the investment was small so that if I screwed it up it wouldn't matter much. This really is the perfect learner. Having Steve do it would be counterproductive. I wouldn't learn anything.

janepaints Says:
Monday, December 8, 2008 @8:31:00 PM

BJ, it's starting to occur to me that people of our generation ARE 'the old fiddlers'--or about to become so. Anyway, seeing how ya got about $32 into that fiddle and aim to sell it, I'll offer ya $33 for it right now as-is.....Joking aside, in any flea-market/yard sale wanderings, try to acumulate fiddle parts. I save pegs, bridges, tailpieces, bits of wood, parts. I also collect/save guitar/banjo parts. Amazing how much wood can be salvaged thus and re-used for other instrument purposes. The rosewood from guitar necks & bridges can be sources for nuts, saddles, new bridges etc. Anytime I buy a junker fiddle, any extra bridges/pegs/ in the accessory pocket of the case (a common happenstance) go right into my 'parts bins'. Ditto for cello & bass bridges found at the flea (which is common, lord knows why). I've made all kinda instrument parts from the wood gotten-thus. Another path to pursue thus: seek out oldschool music stores--the 'mom and pop' kinda joints which primarily give lessons--the kinda places where there's more trumpets, clarinets or accordions than electric guitars and amps. (hint: look in the yellow pages for places only listed under 'music lessons.') Ask if they have any violin parts/strings. I've found quite a few like that, with violin stuff--often bearing 20-year-old prices! Sure I'll take ten violin bridges for $1 each. And three sets of fiddle strings for $7 each. etc. Once in Manville Nj, at an 'Accordion Shop' I got a 1950's Premier archtop jazz guitar for $40! And don't make me recall the North Brunswick School Of Music, whose owner had a closet filled floor-to-ceiling with ORIGINAL Danelectro guitars--$15 each. Tossed in there willy nilly. He had no clue they'd become sought-after vintage guitars. He thought of them as ultra-cheap 'learner-rental' instruments from Sears. Jeez, I dream of finding similar joints & deals now--finance the next few years of living with one bulk purchase-to-resell. Why I hate to recall it is I only bought 4 of the Dano's, instead of the entire closet's contents. What a nearsighted dope I is!

janepaints Says:
Monday, December 8, 2008 @8:36:36 PM

Nothing a little bondo, superglue, sandpaper, duct tape, screws-n-bolts and Liquid Nails can't fix. That Sheetrock & Wallboard Screen-Patch stuff comes in handy too....(no kidding) Tip for SMALL cracks or seam-separation: take yer fiddle into the bathroom, run a hot tub/shower, get the very air hot & wet...the crack/seam will open a bit...moosh glue into the crack, wipe off excess....take fiddle back into drier climate...let it sit for a day or two...Note: only use this method for minor/non-critical cracks on non-valuable instruments.

bj Says:
Monday, December 8, 2008 @8:42:31 PM

You say WE are the old fiddlers, Jane, but I just posted a vid of a guy playing who is 36 years older than I am, and having at it. Even better, he's anxious for Mark to stop flapping gums at him so he can get onto the next song. Joe Coe is in WV. If I can't find anyone like him to play with around here, the next move will be out that way . . .

By the way, I don't GO to fleas anymore. Not since I stopped selling at them. And, unlike you, I can't roll out of bed and dang near be there. Any of them around here is a distance away, just like fiddlers.

Re the mom and pops. I'd love to find one. Alas, I think they're already all gone around here.

janepaints Says:
Monday, December 8, 2008 @10:16:17 PM

Alas, yes, oldschool storefront music joints are ever-more victims of mall/highway/bigbox mentality....
however there are sacred zones for finding thus. NE Pennsy coal areas is one. Sadly, 'left-behind' areas seem to have more such joints these days. Places where this Glorious Future never got to, even before it went bust. But keep on looking--I've located a few around here without even trying to. Oh sure, go south (and up in altitude) and you'll find plenty more old fiddlers, mainly cause there's plenty more fiddles and homemade music down there, period. Melvin Wine lived in tiny Copen WV. On friday nights there's a musical get-together at the Copen Community Center--like a VFW or rescue-squad kinda building. How many folks in the 'greater Copen area'? 1000? 2000? But every friday there'd be many players, all kinda instruments. Plus many listeners or dancers. No booze--coffee, soda, hot dogs, pastries. Jeez, try to have something similar in this town and MAYBE 5 people would show up, mostly 'singer-songwriters' hauling electric-acoustic guitars, with NO knowledge of any music beyond an extrmely-narrow xenophobic scope.The north is culturally-deprived IMO. (to make a sweeping generalization, (with exceptions within inner cities and ethnic enclaves such as the huge asian influx in central NJ etc. Large parts of Edison are now Beijing West) That's not said ironically or sarcastically--I mean it. IMO culture is participatory, a function of genuine deeply-rooted BONAFIDE COMMUNITIES, NOT something only consumed passively or purchased; not only to be gotten from distant (self-proclaimed) 'artistic and intellectual centers.' Hit films, bestsellers, media and pop hits ain't much culture. Culture is what people create themselves. I'll get off my soapbox now. I'm just getting old and ever-more curmudgeonly. :)

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