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Cigar Box Fiddle
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Advanced member
December 4, 2014 - 10:10 pm
Member Since: April 19, 2014
Forum Posts: 79
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Inspired by two threads....



.... and to use during my other hobby which is as a member of the North South Skirmish Association (www.n-ssa.org), I'm setting my winter project on making a cigar box fiddle!


For the first one, I'm going to cheat a little and use a fabricated tailpiece, fingerboard, pegs, and a bridge.  Hopefully if I keep my sanity after one, future attempts will be more homemade in the same way that true civil war soldiers might have done while sitting in camp.


But being relatively new to the instrument and even more new to building them, I'm a little unsure which parts to go for.  Obviously on the first build I'm not looking for 200 year old pieces hand carved with George Washington's own pocket knife.  But if I am successful I would like to have something worth my time and effort.


I suppose it would be worth asking first if anyone has a few parts laying around which they might be willing to donate or sell to the cause.  But assuming not, what are good manufacturers to look for for loose pieces?  I know A Breton's are easily found on Amazon and Ebay.  And while I hear questionable things about their instruments I wonder if their individual pieces are OK?


Any suggestions from experienced builders out there?


December 4, 2014 - 11:05 pm
Member Since: May 4, 2012
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While I don't have any extensive experience with A Breton, I have owned one of their bows, and I bought a fingerboard from them.

The bow was ok, I think.  I liked it better than the ones I've seen come "free" with inexpensive violins.  No problems with it.

The fingerboard, I haven't used yet, it is in my parts box, towards a future project.  Sticker on it said it was made in India.  Heavy, hard wood.  Grain is nice, no noticeable imperfections.  Not a jet black, but a very very dark red brown that would look black under most lighting.  I'd say that most likely it is ebony, as advertised.  I tried lighter fluid, then denatured alcohol, then lacquer thinner on the back to see if any colour would wipe off.  None did.  Close examination under magnification I can see the fibers of the wood vary slightly in colour.  So I would guess it is not dyed.  It's a nice bit of wood, I paid I think 14$ for it, and I felt it was decent quality for that.    

Probably not much help for you, but at least it is something.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

California, the place of my heart
December 8, 2014 - 7:11 pm
Member Since: January 11, 2012
Forum Posts: 4180
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I am going to subscribe to the thread... I too will have a cigar box fiddle someday.. I want to make one. :)

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

Mark Bliss
January 28, 2015 - 12:58 am
Member Since: January 24, 2015
Forum Posts: 3
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These are actually fairly challenging to build well.

Several styles are common, the two most typical ones are the civil war "era correct" reproduction and the more "modern" cigar box style.

It is difficult to find a cigar box that is narrow enough to allow clearance for bowing, and long enough for a typical neck length. (One that is narrow enough is far too short and vice-versa.)

In both cases you will want to use a shorter 1/2 scale violin tail piece and an extra tall bridge blank.

To build the "modern" box type, you will need to either build a neck, or graft together a premade neck and maple block to lengthen it at the heal end by about 4" 

The common ply or masonite top is best replaced with solid cedar for improved sound.

The "era correct" civil war style is in general easier to build, using a premade neck, but build your own replica cigar or whiskey bottle replica box. 

Need more info? I will be following the thread, and will try to offer any assistance I can. But again, IMO this is NOT as simple an undertaking as one might first think. Be forewarned if you have never built anything like this before and want to create a reasonably playable instrument.

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