Sunday, October 14, 2012

stove pipe fiddle

there's a new fiddle in town!

 I'm taking a class this semester in the glass lab called Glass Band.  The goal is pretty amorphous: make glass instruments.  Anyway, one of the guys who's integral to the class is Mark Stewart.  Put simply, this guy loves sound.  When he first met with us, he brought a case stuffed with strange and awe-inspiring noisemakers.  They included bouncy balls with coat hangers poked through them (more about this later), single reed plumbing saxophones (not in any particular tuning), and a daxophone (feed that to YouTube).  I'd been toying with the idea of making a bowed instrument for a while, but that did it for me.  I first browsed craigslist for bows, but all of them were way out of my price range.  I ended up buying the cheapest bow from Amazon that had decent reviews.  When it arrived, I gave it a good scrubbin' of rosin and started bowing things.  Ceramic bowls are great, glass bowls are also fantastic. Almost anything metal and hollow is interesting.  Bicycle spokes are beautiful and eerie when bowed.  I bowed my guitar and my uke - what a change in sound!  I have to make a bowed bass soon.  But first: fiddle.  The guitar and uke have no curvature in the bridge or nut, meaning that the fretboard is flat and all of the strings pretty much lie in plane.  This makes it hard to bow any of the strings individually.  The fiddle I made has two strings, raised well above the resonating membrane, to make for easier bowing.
 the bridge is a sliver of oak, nothing fancy about the grain direction
 the fingerboard has a slight radius, but it's not really necessary since there are only two strings
 one screw holds the strings and fastens the resonator (an 8" stove pipe endcap)
 the machine tuners are arranged in the least intuitive way possible

For a one evening MITERS job, I'd say it's not bad.  I don't know the first thing about playing bowed strings, so I'm at a slow start to learning to play this.  It's pretty small, and pretty sensitive as a result.  I figure that if I can learn how make this not sound awful, making the switch to a larger set of bowed strings will be easy.

1"x4"x18" maple board
machine tuners
any kind of screw
oak scraps
2 pieces of fishing line
a $40 bow

I sure do like to build em cheap.


  1. This is a naw Daxophone: