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Oh no- I notice something ELSE to tweak!!! Pegboxes and Label-ectomies!!!

Posted by fiddlepogo on Monday, August 1, 2011

Well, Booker the Bucharest was sounding pretty good, but somehow the E string had gone a little weak... and I started looking at the fiddle... oh NO- here we go again!!!  One thing that I've ignored up to this point is the INSIDE of the pegbox... not because it's not of interest, but because there is so much in the way, and not only is it in the way, you can't use my usual method of "tweak a little, play a little" to find out what sonic direction the tweak is taking the fiddle.

BUT somehow I angled Booker's pegbox JUST right... and there is was... two bits of what looked like broken off toothpick ends nestled in the finish in the bottom corner at the BACK of the pegbox between the A string peg and the base of the scroll.

So I dug out a little allen wrench I use for adjusting the bridge saddle height on my Stratocasters (MIM)- it's also useful for tightening and loosening chinrests if you hold it close enough to the end so it doesn't protrude and scratch the finish.  But the bits of wood wouldn't budge- imbedded in the finish as they were.  So I dug out the little pocket Swiss Army knife, the littlest keychain one, and gently scraped along the line of the bottom corner, and that did it- then blew out the scrapings... and not only did it help the E string, but it opened up something new in Booker's bass range.  Later, I took it to the mansion, and it's a GOOD tweak.... gives Booker yet more violinny capacities, yet retaining it's fiddle tune abililities as well.

Well, when I got back from the mansion, flushed with the success of Booker's pegbox cleanup, there was Stinky... hanging unsuspectingly from a little bungee cord under the scroll.  And I looked in the same place in her pegbox, and there were no bits of wood... but I did notice something in the corners... since the clearance was tighter, I removed the A string and it's peg to have a look-see. And I poked at what was in the corners, and what it seemed to be was sawdust buried under the finish.... I figured that could have a negative impact on the clarity of Stinky's E string tones, so I removed it, and replaced the peg and E string with high hopes.... and

YIPES!!! It made Stinky's E string sound NASTY... the worst it's ever sounded... hard to describe... each note was different, but ALL were bad!!!  So what's good for the goose is NOT always good for the gander, when it comes to fiddle tweaks!!!

Well, I HAD to do something, so I tried doing the usual balancing tweaks and they didn't work.... and then I SAW something.... actually a couple of things about the labels... there WERE two of them... the original Knilling label, and another label on top from Wilhite Violins in Knoxville, Tennessee.  That had always bugged me.... I figure ONE label might not hurt the sound much, but TWO labels HAVE to have a negative impact. Since Stinky is a bit beat up anyway, I had previously removed part of the the two labels. 

One thing I noticed was there was a fairly big glob of glue protruding from under the right end of the original Knilling label... and I thought- oh no- they didn't use hide glue!!! And too much of whatever it was, too.  Then I noticed a little ripple in what was left of the label towards the top near the center seem.  I got out a table knife, and it reached through the treble f-hole, and as I pushed at the ripple, the label slowly gave way.  (Don't try this at home on a good fiddle, it's a little rough on the f-holes!)  But the sonic results seemed to be promising, so I continued.  Once I'd done as much as the table knife would reach, I used a small blade end screwdriver to push the edge of the label, and sometimes pulling at the loose part with some very narrow needle nose pliers... and before long, the whole label was gone.

One surprise... there is LOTS of that original glue left.... it's tan, the close to color of beige masking tape and also of the wood, and it's VERY hard.... doesn't seem water soluble either.  Because it's hard, I don't think it's the worst thing for the sound sonically, so for now, there it stays... it's probably not sonically any more significant that a single label attached with hide glue.   I also managed to remove a big enough piece of the label intact to tell me that Stinky is Also labeled as a Bucharest 4KF!!!

The sonic results??? On one hand, it's a bit harsher, on the other, it is less nasal, has decent low end now,  and has a good Old Time  sound. I think the fiddle is benefitting both from having less mass riding on the back plate, and also from having a slightly greater internal volume.

  So Stinky may become my go-to fiddle if I want to sound more "Old Time"! It also may play in some more- I'm about to take it somewhere where I can try it out outside and get a different perspective on the sound.  I AM also hoping that some of the harshness will play out, since I've opened up new areas to greater vibrations, and have often experienced an initial harshness when this happens.

In an unrelated thing, one of the seniors requested "Don't Rock the Jukebox" by Alan Jackson, and I'm listening to it right now trying to learn it... I think it'll be easy, and I REALLY like it.  It also has a cool fiddle break!!! Don't let my long wordy posts fool you... fiddlepogo is a hick at heart!!!!

5 comments on “Oh no- I notice something ELSE to tweak!!! Pegboxes and Label-ectomies!!!”

richdissmore Says:
Monday, August 1, 2011 @1:54:20 PM

i had some thing like that in a amp.opened it up looked aroundspraed the pots still sounded like tin cans ratling on the in side looked around some more there was screw missing in the heat sink i put one on it was fixed. i play don,t rock the jukebox in (A) and sing it i play lead on my strad. 1975 made in the us keep fiddlen

mudbug Says:
Monday, August 1, 2011 @3:28:15 PM

Table knife and a screwdriver, and not only admits it, but revels in it. Have you no shame, man? Is nothing sacred? :-)

bj Says:
Monday, August 1, 2011 @7:47:26 PM

You're lucky you didn't chew up the F hole edges . . .

Ozarkian DL Says:
Tuesday, August 2, 2011 @7:09:28 AM

Tha "hick @ heart" is a very discerning fiddler....( to yer credit, now ). The tools used are required implements in MY tool-box. LOL. I have a sound post setter I fashioned by twisting, turning and bending from a long narrow pair of sissors ( works well ).

fiddlepogo Says:
Wednesday, August 3, 2011 @6:40:30 PM


Only a little shame (blush!), but no, nothing is sacred, not on a fiddle with a SPRAYED-ON finish!!!! Such fiddles retail new at around $400 or even less, and can be eBayed for about $150, which is about what I payed for Stinky. And both Booker and Stinky are 4KF Bucharests, which someone on the internet once called "the high end of student rental fiddles"!!!
The pay off comes when I play with someone with a more expensive fiddle and mine either does amazingly well considering and keeps up, or blows theirs out of the water. It's all the more fun because they don't LOOK like they should sound good. It's the "Little Nash Rambler" effect...

BJ, I DID chew up the f-hole edges a LITTLE, but Stinky has LOTS of dings, and it blends right in! ;^D
The important thing to a tone freak is: "does it sound better?"
And it does, so, it was worth it!

Rich, yup, your Strat outranks my Strat, but since mine is a MIM (Made in Mexico) I can tweak it to my hearts content. In fact, cheap Strats is how I got started in instrument tweaking, and cheap Strads are only fueling the addiction!

great minds think alike!!!

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