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fiddle project

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Garyth, Sep 26, 2013.

  1. Garyth

    Garyth Now What ..?

    Sep 9, 2013
    Punta Gorda Florida
    The summary for this forum didn't specify bass only, mods are welcome to move this if that is not the case or feel it just belongs somewhere else since I am not actually asking a question. thanks

    I picked up an old fiddle, mid-1900's, looked like a first build for someone - pretty rough build even without the damage and previous poor repair. A bit mis-shaped and I didn't notice until after I remounted it that the scroll is twisted. The neck and fingerboard is straight though so I won't be taking it back off. It had a refinish coat of something black, perhaps to cover up the fact that the top was turning black? Anyway, the black was worse then what the pictures reveal - very ugly and splotchy.

    So anyway, I grabbed it to learn on. I won't win any awards but I am rather proud of my amateur repair work that I did.

    3f6489Kl. cCDAxTcl. zYb0ntfl.

    FaAQLhpl. yFT1vN9l. TfAFJKpl.

    The front looks better in person, the picture doesn't do it justice, I think it has character :) The neck repair picture is just before I smoothed it out and put the first base coat on (the full back picture is after).

    I still have a little bit more to do on the finish work so am probably 2-3 weeks from stringing it up to hear how it sounds - since the neck was broken when I got it I have not heard it at all.

    For anyone curious, THIS is the full album
  2. if it's on this forum, you have to call it a short scale upright bass, then it can stay. lol

    Seriously though, that repair looks great.
  3. HaMMerHeD

    HaMMerHeD Supporting Member

    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    Short scale shoulder mounted piccolo bass.

    Repair looks nice. I've been wanting to build a violin for my daughter. It's a bit intimidating.
  4. Hi.

    Looks very nice, congrats.

    I've seen/heard fiddles like Yours referred as "gypsy fiddles". To be played, enjoyed and to help spread the enjoyment around.
    The aesthetics are usually not that important :).
    Nice flame maple back on Yours though.

    The folks on the dark side (DB side of TB) usually get more kicks out of fiddles and cellos than the slab side people, after all they usually play with people who have 'em as main instruments.

    The mods will probably move this thread over there, where it will be appreciated more.

  5. Garyth

    Garyth Now What ..?

    Sep 9, 2013
    Punta Gorda Florida
    hah, ok then. I'll put low tuning strings on it.

    This is my custom built/modified chin-bass. It took a bit of work to convert it from violin and isn't quite finished. Any recommendations for strings that won't sound flabby?
  6. Garyth

    Garyth Now What ..?

    Sep 9, 2013
    Punta Gorda Florida
    at the risk of being noticed and moved, I show my completed? fiddle.

    I completed the finish work on the violin, at least as far as I am taking it. I have a dull sheen on the top, which I like. The back was a bit rough but I got it down to a light orange peel effect. I like the looks in-hand so I stopped there. I could have got it completely smooth but I think it adds to the look, I didn't want a mirror/glossy finish anyway. The ribs are a bit shiny, but they are a pain to work on :)
    FYI: I used Hidersine VF-41H for the top coats, thinned approx. 50/50 with mineral spirits so I could wipe it on.

    I messed up on the pegs a little. I wanted to avoid bushing so I ordered oversize'd pegs. They work well enough except I mis-judged on the lengths. So, D, A, E are a tad short to the head (33) and G is more-so (31). The shanks are a bit long on the D-A-E. I can trim those when I unstring it the next time. I didn't allow for the 'settling in' - oops. The oversize pegs also make it a bit harder to fine tune. If I get adventurous in the future I'll try my hand at spiral bushings.

    I couldn't use the original tailpiece, I forgot to get new tailgut for it. I needed fine tuners anyway, due to the pegs, so I robbed a cheap tailpiece off a VSO I had sitting here until I can get something better.

    I carved a bridge, did rather well until I tried to clean up the heart area and broke it. I glued it back on so it at least holds the strings up until I start a new one.

    I edited together some before/after pics. Let me know if you are curious about any aspect and I'll take better pictures. the finished pics are still a bit dark, I'll have to get a real camera.
    NOTE: for those that noticed, yes, I have a pair of Allison CD-8 speakers and they sound great.

    4xM7Qpfl. wXDahYzl. vDjLsEDl. nvZgX8hl.
  7. Deep Cat

    Deep Cat Supporting Member

    Love the new finish on that short scale shoulder mounted piccolo bass. How did you do it?
  8. Garyth

    Garyth Now What ..?

    Sep 9, 2013
    Punta Gorda Florida
    with effort :D

    I did the repair work to it first - never strip/refinish until the new stuff is in place and instrument glued together. With hide glue you don't want any finish between it and the wood.

    I then tried stripping with brush cleaner and elbow grease - no go. It got some but whatever black goo was used to "refinish" before was stubborn. I then switched to citrustrip, now that is some good stuff. The first time I applied and and let set overnight. Subsequent times were just long enough to allow me to scrape more off - a couple hours or so. I think I did it 4 times, until I had enough off to be satisfied that it wouldn't be too dark. I did not try to get all the black out of the top. The black had leached into the wood and I would have had to either sand it out (bad idea, they are thin to start with and you can ruin the tone) or bleach it. I didn't have anything on-hand strong enough to bleach it (and diy concentration of hydrogen peroxide seemed a bit scary and time consuming), so I left some of the black - call them age spots :)

    With that much striping you have to put a new ground layer on. After much research and penny pinching, I found a simple formula of .... SUGAR. Yep, I used 3 teaspoons of light brown sugar. Heat it slowly by itself until it melts down then keep stirring as long as you can handle it. Get it as dark as possible or the result will never dry and it'll remain sticky. Have some water boiling nearby to add to it.

    Why cook the sugar? You have to get all the water out of it before you add water. Sounds odd, but when the boiled water evaporates the sugar goes back to what is was before you added it. So, cooking the sugar crystallizes it and it will be hard after the water evaporates. In the water I boiled in some black tea for coloring ( can do this before or after adding it to the sugar, but easier before). This is what gave most of the golden color to the fiddle. Extra long cooking of the sugar will add color, but the tea enhances it more. When you poor the water into the sugar, do it very slowly - too much at once and it'll foam up making a big mess. Yep, I had to clean up my first batch.

    Then you just wipe it on, as many layers as it takes to get what you want. If it is lightly sticky no matter how long you wait, simply wipe the sticky off with a damp cloth and re-coat. I did about 5 layers before I was happy with it.

    Now you say: "But sugar will wash off". Yes it will, until you bond it. (makes for an easy fix if you didn't cook the sugar long enough - just wash it off and try again). You bond it with a thin mix of varnish and mineral spirits. I did 25 parts spirit to 1 part varnish. Let it cure completely. I did this in 4 layers. I am no chemist so the 'how' this bonds in the sugar, I don't know.

    My final finish was about 6 coats of 50/50 mineral spirits and varnish applied with a lint free cloth. Apply second layer as soon as the first one sets. If you wait too long (several days) you will need to go over it with your varnish solution and 0000 steel wool - then apply your next layer.

    If you want a dull sheen, then on the final layer when it is just barely sticky, use a cloth on the tip of your finger dipped in varnish and a drop of mineral oil then rub the whole surface down. I did it circular for spreading then ended with following the grain.

    If you want glossy, wait until it's fully set, use your 0000 dry to polish down the bumps. Or use 4800+ sandpaper - I have bad luck with sandpaper for this so I stick with the steel wool. Apply your next layer and let it set. Repeat until you have a mirror/glossy finish. you have to balance how much you apply in each layer, too much and you get puddles and runs. not enough and it'll take many more layers to get the result you want.

    Disclaimer; I in no way imply that I did things the best or most productive way. I did what felt right for me with what I had on hand to work with.
  9. Deep Cat

    Deep Cat Supporting Member

    That is astounding. How does it feel after it's set, say relative to polyurethane or nitro?
  10. Garyth

    Garyth Now What ..?

    Sep 9, 2013
    Punta Gorda Florida
    It doesn't feel like a thick protective coating, nothing like the coating on my guitar(s). It it's thin but durable. I have banged and tapped and hit it with my fingernails to no effect. My other fiddle has an oil finish but if I hit it with my fingernail edge, it leaves a mark that I have to buff out - to hard and I have to touch it up. I can tell you that the top still 'feels' like the wood grain, whereas the back does not. But I did finish the back a bit thicker.

    sorry I can't be more specific. I am very unfamiliar with the different finishes. total noob at woodwork. If I happen to damage it, I'll try to remember to post the effect it had. i.e chips a flake off/crack or just scrapes the finish. I would assume the second where a touchup is easy. It does not feel like a finish prone to spider cracks.

    oh, and I'll edit my previous reply to reflect something I left out: for the dull sheen look, along with the dab of varnish, you want a drop of mineral oil for lubricant.

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