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The Utah Fiddle
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Sofia Leo
Lebanon, Oregon
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February 18, 2012 - 7:53 pm
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Here are some "before" pictures of a fiddle that recently came into my possession. I'm calling it the Utah Fiddle because that's where it was made -

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The spot at lower left is a bit of paper that was under the chinrest. These pictures are all before it was cleaned up a bit. The varnish is crackled and very dirty, but a lovely, subtle color.

Treble side

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The back is a lovely bird's eye maple with a beautiful honey-brown varnish. The spot at lower right is more paper that was under the chinrest bracket.

Bass side view.

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Bass side scroll. The peg holes are huge and will need to be bushed.

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Blurry scroll front. The fingerboard is quite narrow and does not meet the sides of the pegbox. The ears on the scroll are flat and narrow, but they do have two turns, which is nice. Not "classical" work by any means, but not carved by a complete novice, either.

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Treble side scroll.

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And the back of the scroll.

The label inside says:

Made by A.G. (illegible) tereau?

Salt Lake, Utah 3/20

The label looks original and is in old-fashioned script with faded ink. The fiddle does look and feel old, but so far I have not been able to find any information on the 'net about who the builder might have been. The belly has many cracks, most look like they've been repaired and they appear to be closed. It has been dropped and has a break on the upper bass bout that will require some careful repair. There are several seam separations on both back and belly and I haven't yet decided if the top or belly need to come off - I kinda want to take a look inside smile just to see how well it's put together. The neck angle is very low and probably should be re-set. Another option is to replace the neck altogether, but that would alter the look of the fiddle a lot. It will require at least a new fingerboard, which could be wedged to give the proper neck angle and that's likely the route I'll take.

This fiddle has been displayed for at least 10 years in a house with central air, so it's quite dry and smells like my friend's dryer sheets yell He found it in an antiques shop here on the Oregon Coast for not a lot of money and gave it to me to see if I could fix it up. He also let me fit new pegs, tailpiece and bridge on a really nice "Conservatory Violin" that I may have to buy because I think I've fallen in love with it dancinbunny

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cdennyb
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February 18, 2012 - 11:48 pm
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WOW Mary, that is awesome wood grain! I love the back of that thing. Birds-eye maple...

Are the peg holes cracked on the E & A string side? Sure looked seriously in question in the blurry pic at the end. 

I'm no expert but it looks like the varnish is spirit based, meaning it will dissolve with 180 proof ethanol alcohol. A good luthier might be able to blend that finish into a good-as-new condition. Certainly wouldn't take it off and re-apply, that might ruin the whole thing.

 

Good luck with your project and look forward to more pics as it progress. 

"If you practice with your hands you must practice all day. Practice with your mind and you can accomplish the same amount in minutes." Nathan Milstein

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Kevin M.
Nicholson, Pa
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February 19, 2012 - 11:02 am
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It's a keeper,  makes me wish I found that one.

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
February 19, 2012 - 12:27 pm
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I like the back too. Very nice pictures. Thanks smile

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Sofia Leo
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February 19, 2012 - 1:59 pm
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cdennyb said

WOW Mary, that is awesome wood grain! I love the back of that thing. Birds-eye maple...

Are the peg holes cracked on the E & A string side? Sure looked seriously in question in the blurry pic at the end. 

I'm no expert but it looks like the varnish is spirit based, meaning it will dissolve with 180 proof ethanol alcohol. A good luthier might be able to blend that finish into a good-as-new condition. Certainly wouldn't take it off and re-apply, that might ruin the whole thing.

 

Good luck with your project and look forward to more pics as it progress. 

Yep, there are a couple of pegbox cracks - one goes all the way through but the others don't. It will likely require some sort of patch, but that's a long way off - gotta get the Red Fiddle finished first!

Spirit varnish, eh? It's certainly quite thin and I would hate to lose the color. Guess I'll have to do some research and learn to French polish on this one. Lots of opportunities to learn some real luthier tricks and play with new tools smile So far all I've done is clean it up with a soft cloth and water - it still smells hopelessly like dryer sheets and it's too cold and wet to put it outside to air. Gack!

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cdennyb
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February 19, 2012 - 4:26 pm
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A note on cleaning....

I'm sure others here share my thoughts about this... using water in the cleaning process might be a bad idea. The surface is full of microscopic (and not so microscopic!) cracks, or openings into the wood beneath. Add water may cause the wood to swell and make refinishing almost impossible. Be careful doing that... pure alcohol (french polish) on the other hand is a slow process, once applied you have be very patient and allow the solvent alcohol to evaporate completely or you risk pullin gup the underlaying layers of varnish and end up with a gooey mess and a runing violin.

 

Just a thought to watch out for.

"If you practice with your hands you must practice all day. Practice with your mind and you can accomplish the same amount in minutes." Nathan Milstein

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Sofia Leo
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February 19, 2012 - 5:59 pm
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Thanks for the advice, cdennyb! There was such a thick layer of dust on it that I'm sure I didn't even touch the varnish - just a barely moist cloth while sitting near the wood stove...The Real Cleaning will have to wait until MGN's fiddle is finished.

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pky
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February 20, 2012 - 12:04 am
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Cat, would it be better to replace the top? The back looks great to me but all the cracks on the top just made me think that a new top would be great. BTW, your violin looks very similar to the violin in the post "my grandpa's violin." The peg holes that are too big on yours, you think it might be possible that it once also had some mechanical pegs on? 

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Sofia Leo
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February 20, 2012 - 12:13 am
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There are no screw holes where mechanical tuners were installed, so I think the pegs just wore the holes big over time, which is a good sign that it was heavily played at one time. It did have three mis-matched regular pegs.

As for the top, I will repair the cracks just for the experience. I doubt very much that I could carve a top that would be the same - the wood is old, and you just can't buy that. The cracks look kinda scary in the photos, but in Real Life they really aren't bad, and the majority seem to be properly repaired and closed. We'll see what happens when I have more time to make a detailed assessment.

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Fiddlerman
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February 20, 2012 - 7:31 am
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I think the whole project sounds exciting and I look forward to seeing the work in progress. I really wish I had a workshop. But then again, when would I find time..... SUMMER!!! smile

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Kevin M.
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February 20, 2012 - 10:24 am
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I had a violin with as many cracks as that and I pieced it all back together and cleated it then to my surprise it sounded good.  The cracks in the pegbox, the holes are so worn they will need bushings and once you put in the bushin it helps to strengten the pegbox. just to make it a little stronger  you could verneer the inside but having the bushing grain oposite the pegbox grain should be fine.

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cdennyb
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February 20, 2012 - 10:33 am
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Kevin M. said

I had a violin with as many cracks as that and I pieced it all back together and cleated it then to my surprise it sounded good.  The cracks in the pegbox, the holes are so worn they will need bushings and once you put in the bushin it helps to strengten the pegbox. just to make it a little stronger  you could verneer the inside but having the bushing grain oposite the pegbox grain should be fine.

A question sir;

 

would you use the hide glue in a peg bushing installation that's as major a deal as hers? or something else since you want to completely merge the two woods to be as one before running the taper cutter in there and make new holes of the correct size.

 

dennisduncecap

"If you practice with your hands you must practice all day. Practice with your mind and you can accomplish the same amount in minutes." Nathan Milstein

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Sofia Leo
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February 20, 2012 - 2:54 pm
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cdennyb said

would you use the hide glue in a peg bushing installation that's as major a deal as hers? or something else since you want to completely merge the two woods to be as one before running the taper cutter in there and make new holes of the correct size.
 

dennisduncecap

Over on Maestronet they talk about using TiteBond to construct spiral bushings. Hide glue is used for solid bushings, but there's also a discussion on what to do about pegbox cracks that involves carbon fiber rods and epoxy. No idea yet which method will be best for this fiddle.

The Luthier Helper is a fantastic subject-specific search engine for all of your stringed instrument building/repair/adjustment questions.

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Kevin M.
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February 20, 2012 - 5:42 pm
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I like to use hide glue and inject it into the crack with a hypodermic needle.  Heat the wood first and I use tapered maple dowels and first ream the holes so I have good contact with the peg. As you put the peg in you can open the crack slightly and then back out the peg while the glue is still hot just enough for the crack to close.

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pky
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February 22, 2012 - 11:10 pm
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Cat, take a look at the violin under the post "my grandpa's fiddle" you will see what I mean, but it is just my guess that your utah fiddle used to have mechanical tunning pegs on.

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Sofia Leo
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February 22, 2012 - 11:39 pm
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pky said

Cat, take a look at the violin under the post "my grandpa's fiddle" you will see what I mean, but it is just my guess that your utah fiddle used to have mechanical tunning pegs on.

I don't think so - there are no filled holes where the mounting screws would have been. I do have some peg blanks that will fit, so I don't think the holes were drilled larger, just worn.

It's raining old fiddles here - found a nice German trade fiddle in a local thrift store today. It has a scary looking belly crack that will be a ton of fun to fix. Otherwise it looks really good.

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