A few months ago I picked up a fiddle from craigslist for $50. I’ve wanted to learn to play fiddle for years, but a good fiddle generally starts at over $500. So, I thought, why don’t I try to rehab this one and see what becomes of it. It was made sometime around the civil war and came over from Austria. This fiddle was well loved by a sweet family. But when they moved into the area it got bounced around a bit and parts fell loose and cracked.
And worst of all of it, the peg box and scroll had little cracks all through it. Some of it had been repaired in the past and was re-cracking, some of the cracks were new. (I only pointed out one large one here.)
I took the fiddle to a local luthier (violin maker), Danny Bishop, and he walked me through all the steps to fixing it up. (I think he got sucked into my enthusiasm and wanted to hear this fiddle sing again.)
The first thing I did was place an order with internationalviolin.com. I got some hide glue and a couple of different types of clamps. I worked on the back first, re-glueing it. Isn’t it lovely?
Then it was on to the peg box. This is a pretty delicate area, but it takes a whole lot of pressure with the strings pulling on it and the pegs pressing inward. You can see where a repair had been done on an old crack.
We used a very sharp razor and took this piece off. Then I used the razor and carved out part of the box on each side so that I could replace it with a large piece of maple.
Once all of this was done, I took it back to Danny for a bit of help getting it ready to string up. We drilled and reamed out the new holes.
When I was fitting the pegs for the last time, I heard a loud crack and my heart stopped. CRAP!! Another crack in the peg box! With nothing to lose, Danny drilled a small hole through the crack and superglued in a piece of paperclip. This held the crack tightly! Yay!! He used a tiny jewelers file and cut off the top of the paper clip. You could barely tell it is there.
Then it was time to set the sound post. The sound post is a little piece of wood that fits between the top and bottom of the violin. It’s very important in getting a full, strong sound. Danny had made his own tools for this and made it look super easy. He slid the post in through the sound hole and pushed it into place with the fork.
Then we took some time with the top nut or top block. It was very tall, so he filed it down a bit and then made new notches for the strings to sit on.
Finally, it was time for the bridge…. SO close to stringing it it up! Danny took a brand new bridge and fit it perfectly to the top of the fiddle. Then he carve it up a bit to enhance the sound. (I made him initial it before we put it on the fiddle.)
FINALLY, the moment of truth! I attached the fine tuners to the tail piece.
And the sound? Well, Danny wanted to buy the fiddle from me. When he was tuning it and testing it out, he couldn’t put it down. The sound is rich and full and warm. It’s just beautiful!! I am SO glad I took on this project. I now have a 150 year old Austrian violin that couldn’t be more lovely!!
Here’s a little video of Danny fiddling around 😉 I can’t express how thankful I am to him for taking the time to work with me. He was a patient and knowledgable teacher.