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This Wonderful Fiddle Community

Posted by bj on Saturday, December 19, 2009

With Christmas and the general sluggishness of the economy, my discretionary funds aren't as much as I would like them to be. So when I developed a buzz in my favorite fiddle I was a bit dismayed. The last thing I need is a trip to the luthier. Especially since my favorite luthier is in Massachussetts.

However, I've learned to be resourceful over the years, and this is an incredible community of helpful people. First I did some reading on what causes buzzes in fiddles. The usual culprit is a seam coming unglued. So I did an inspection of my fiddle, and it turned out to be a really simple and small thing-- right at the corner where the ribs and top fasten at the bass upper bout, my fingernail could slide in between the rib and the top into that corner just a tiny bit.

I first talked to Charlie at the jam. Charlie's made some fiddles, mostly from kits, and done some repairs on fixer uppers. He said that given some hide glue, a razor blade, and a rubber band for clamping, he thought I could handle the repair myself.

So I asked the question on the forum here. And what I got was a whole lot of encouragement and some helpful suggestions, and some of them were from my aforementioned favorite luthier.

Dee had given me some hide glue awhile back, but I'd never really tried working with it. I read up on using hide glue and got to work. I dissolved the hide glue in the right amount of water until I had hide glue "jelly" in the jelly jar I used. A pot of water on my small simmer burner, a jelly jar lid in the bottom to keep the jelly jar containing the hide glue in it off the bottom of the pot, and a meat thermometer in the water to make sure the water didn't go over 140 degrees fahrenheit, and I was in business. Once the glue liquified, I used a boxcutter blade for inserting the glue into the corner between the plate and the rib, since the pointy blade was ideal for the job, then managed to use a rubber band for clamping. The first rubber band broke while I was trying to get it around the corner, so I had to hunt through the house for another one while clamping the dang thing with my fingers, then found that the cloth covered rubber band for my hair was a challenge, since it wanted to slide off that corner, but I finally got it configured just so, and it stayed on.

Since I had the hide glue hot and in the pot anyway, and since Bill had pointed out a wing crack near the treble f hole that was beginning to need attention, I decided to deal with that as well. I managed to work a sliver of wood into the open part of the crack, shaved from an old pine glue block from a piece of old furniture, though I don't think I did that very well, and I'm not even sure it stayed in there. But I did keep dribbling glue into that crack, and wiping off the excess. My fingernail can't go into the edge of it, and though it isn't sealed right flush to the top, it does seem that there's enough glue in there to keep it stabilized, at least until this baby needs more attention than it does now, and takes a trip to the real fiddle doctor. For now it's good enough for guvmint work. I let it set overnight before I played it.

Anyway, bottom line is that I didn't have to put out money to a luthier, and my fiddle no longer has a weird bass buzz, it's singing beautifully again. My fingernail won't slip into that corner anymore, it's nice and tight again.

Y'all are the best! Thanks!

10 comments on “This Wonderful Fiddle Community”

Mandogryl Says:
Sunday, December 20, 2009 @5:17:23 AM

Kudos to you for doing this repair, and not being intimidated by the whole. Some might have been tempted to use a different glue. The HHglue I use can go up to 145F, and by 'warming' the wood it doesn't act as a heat-sink, wanting to gel the glue before time runs out..
I have the feeling that you are a very resourceful person anyway.
I once sent a batch of spool and cam clamps on loan to a friend in Phiily, who was repairing her mandolin, and if I had known would have sent you some clamps. But you made out well. Again, very resourceful.
Good Job! Merry Christmas!

bj Says:
Sunday, December 20, 2009 @5:47:12 AM

Thanks, Stephanie! I'll probably make a set of clamps. I looked at the photos of them and I have a few old wooden spools kicking around that will do. All they're gonna take to make is some hardware from Miller's Hardware Store (which gives me an excuse to dig around in there, one of my fave places in the world. His cash register doesn't use electricity!)

carroll Says:
Sunday, December 20, 2009 @7:26:29 PM

You can make your own spools from a dowel - cut it into discs, and drill holes through the center for the bolts and wing nuts (a table saw and drill press are handy).

bj Says:
Monday, December 21, 2009 @5:06:01 AM

Looks like a trip to visit my friend Jerry, the tool guy, is in order, if I don't come up with enough spools, but I think I have a dozen or so already. Old sewing kits from estate homes usually cough up a bunch. :-)

janepaints Says:
Monday, December 21, 2009 @8:33:18 PM

Good advice from Carroll, BJ--my first set of homemade clamps used spools from the flea, then I realized large dowels, drilled through the center, worked fine. It seems many fiddlers slowly-but-surely develop fiddle-fixing & maintanence skills, at least the basics.
Synchronistically, the kinda 'hazards' that can befall fiddlers who don't get some of those skills was evidenced this afternoon. Stopped at Jeff's guitar shop. A woman came in with a fiddle she'd bought there last week. Jeff tended to her--her problem was a wolf-tone that howled when she'd play C on the A string. Jeff asked me if I knew anything about fixing that. She had one of those little string-sleeves on the A string at the bridge--that hadn't chased the wolf-tone, even after i adjusted where it sat. Then I noticed that one tightener was loose, so I tightened that. Wolf tone still there. I began to look at seams, check for loose joints, tap along the top and back...looked carefully at the A string to see if it was frayed. Then I looked inside: NO SOUNDPOST. Shook the fiddle, No rattle--the soundpost hadn't fallen over--there hadn't been one from the time she bought it. Jeff isn't very knowledgable about fiddles but neither was the fiddle's owner, even though she said she's been playing for years. The lack of soundpost was most-likely causing the weird overtone on that one note. A british artist had a good motto: "the artist is beholden to their materials." Don't gotta become a full-fledged luthier, but the more we understand our 'materials', the better for all aspects of the process.

bsed Says:
Tuesday, December 22, 2009 @7:47:57 PM

This past fall, I was teaching my fiddle class about the importance of the sound post, and related to them a story about a former student of mine who couldn't generate any sound out of her fiddle. After a little looking around, I noticed she didn't have a sound post. Mystery solved......After hearing that story, my students looked for their own sound posts, and Lo and Behold, one of them didn't have one! And wouldn't you know it was a rented violin!

bj Says:
Tuesday, December 22, 2009 @8:15:12 PM

I find it unbelievable those fiddles' faces didn't just . . . crack. Full tension on the strings with no soundpost? ACK!

Ozarkian DL Says:
Wednesday, December 23, 2009 @4:09:28 PM

ME too BJ, also tha unbelievable recognizance of this fact frum tha sound of such a fiddle by even an amateur. U'll get a hollow dead sound frum any without a soundpost.

Tennessee Tom Says:
Thursday, December 24, 2009 @5:30:47 AM

Glad to hear you got it fixed!

playmorebluegrass Says:
Thursday, December 24, 2009 @12:30:55 PM


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