5/21/2012

c.1900/2012 Cigar Box Violin 4/4 Scale


I put this fiddle together over a few hours today and yesterday (on some of my "off" time) from an old crushed-fiddle Stainer-copy neck from the late 1800s and a cigar box I picked up on Sunday probably from the 1920s. It's a pretty straightforward build -- dowel reinforcement through the body, added neck reinforcement and screw/glue neck attachment, and then of course the addition of a pickup to make it tres cool in the situation you'd want to use this for -- live!


It's really hard to find a cigar box with a length that fits a fiddle neck. This is about the size of a "pochette" or pocket fiddle -- the type dancing masters used to stick under their great coats and play when teaching. Unfortunately, the short body means that this is best played propped up against the shoulder or chest in old-time fashion, though I suppose an enterprising fellow could build a chinrest that comes out to make it more useful in a standard violin hold.


Amazingly, this Aubert bridge fit perfectly right after sanding the feet for a flat-top profile. I might sand the top profile a bit thinner, though, to liven up the tone.

And speaking of tone? Remarkably warm, sweet, and with decent volume for the small size of the soundbox -- it'll play nice alongside a guitar without overpowering it. The pickup I installed (a nice Schatten violin pickup) sounds really good as well, with a smooth and warm response and fairly true voice. It's also hot enough to plug directly into an amp and sounded great through both acoustic amps and also pretty fun through a dirty electric amp.


The tailpiece is a cut-down tenor guitar tailpiece from my parts bin, c.1930.

The box is all that "cigar box cedar" which is related to mahogany, and thankfully all solid, which provides a good warm tone.


I folks-i-fied the drilled-hole soundholes for a proper look. Oh, and right, this has a good flamed maple neck with an ebony board.

The pegs came with the parts-bin neck. Ebony nut, too. Strings are new John Pearse "Artiste" -- a good, gut-sounding (synthetic) set.



It's a fun-looking instrument!



That screw/washer on the side next to the heel attaches to a banjo-style "dowel" inside for support.



Of course, no cigar-box fiddle is complete without a crazy-lady period decal on the back of it!




I didn't add or subtract finish from either part of the fiddle -- just left it "as found."





Fun tailpiece, huh?


Here's the inside! Check out the banjo-style support dowel running the whole length. This keeps the tone non-spongy and of course keeps the neck joint from collapsing into the top. With a hinged, opening back one really needs this extra strength because in a traditional instrument the back acts as this dowel.


Rather than gluing the soundpost to keep it from falling out when opening the top, I used a tiny screw through the top to hold it in place. This doesn't change the tonality much at all and means that soundpost setup is really quick and easy -- it can simply be unscrewed to replace or modify it. As far as bracing goes -- I didn't add any braces to the top as the top is narrow enough and thick enough to deal with the tension.

The Schatten pickup is made for violins and while it should technically be glued or otherwise-adhesive-d to the bridge itself, this under-bridge mounting sounds really good and has great signal strength.


"Mild and mellow" -- a good way to describe this box's sound...!


The ebony heel-bracing plate gives better stiffness at the joint.

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