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A Master Builder

Sunday, February 1, 2009

I have been watching and participating in an argument on this site this week concerning builders. This cat fight was started by a new member innocently asking for a list of current fiddle makers and we took it to World War Three, arguing and defending positions and ideas. Points were argued that a master work should be expensive and an $1800 fiddle could not possibly be any good. Points were argued about power shop tools versus a sharp pocket knife, and an imported white instrument versus an instrument  made by someone who would go to the woods with a chainsaw to begin a build. 

Yesterday, I had the privilege to play one of the best sounding fiddles I have ever heard. The builder is old. I don't know how many instruments he has made in his eighty plus years but its obvious he has mastered the craft of sound. This instrument is to be sold, asking a fraction of that $1800 figure. This builder does not have a shop full of impressive tools and machines. Most of his tools are kept in a cigar box. His finishes are limited to varnishes at a local hardware store, obviously brushed on with arthritic hands. I would bet this builder has never contacted StuMac or International Violin, first, he has probably never heard of them and second it would be long distance. He remembers that tonewoods come from trees, not supply houses.

We defend what we do. We think credibility comes from prices we command or the importance of a musician playing our instruments. We can argue the amount of sawdust we produce someway gives credit to what we put on the market or how pristine finishes make a better sound. Yesterday, I learned a lesson. A masters work does not need an impressive label or an expensive price tag. We could all learn from a man who produces quality sound with a chainsaw and a pocket knife.



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Experience Level: Novice

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My Instruments:
Martin D18VSC, 1970 D35, Doc Watson Gallager, 2 old Yamahas, Englehart Bass, Tut Taylor Dobro, Horner A Mandolin, Eastman F Mandolin, Angels Cello and a bunch of fiddles.

Favorite Bands/Musicians:
Keith Williams, Kenny Sears, Jay Ungar

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Visible to: Public
Created 7/25/2008
Last Visit 5/25/2012

Fine Arts major in college in the 70's. Being a slacker was popular then and I've managed to make a career of it.

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