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Working with Hands - James E. Price

  Fiddle Maker Tools  

I sense an undercurrent  that many of you feel you lack the knowledge, skills, and abilities to make your own tools.



Tool making starts when you grab some materials and start making a tool. Your first one probably won't be pretty but you make another one and another one until you get it right. My post today is yet another one of my stories about tools and their uses.

Back in 1987 I had an apprentice under the Missouri Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program. He told me he wanted to learn how to make violins. I had never made one but was confident that I could so we set off on a trajectory that paid off in the end. Bernard Allen became a Missouri Master fiddle maker and has made dozens of fine instruments.

We started with some violin wood and some scrap wood and metal and first made a set of tools for each of us. The photos tonight show four finger planes I made. The one on the left was cast with the lost wax process from melted brass gas fittings. The wedge is made of ebony and and the blade is fashioned from an old Sears Crsftsman planer blade.

I carved the other three planes out of ebony and their soles are convex both ways. That is a nickel in the photos for scale. We proceeded to make a violin and it turned out just fine.

The point is, if I had said that I had never made a fiddle and that I couldn't do it, Bernard Allen would never have become a master fiddle maker. If I had said that violin makers's tools were beyond our budget and we can' make them, Bernard Allen would never have become a master.

 By the way, Bernard says that the difference between a violin and a fiddle is about $4,000.

You can search for him on the Internet and read more about him. Here is a photo of the Bernard Allen playing and a link to Missouri fiddle makers that mentions him.

And here's a link to a video of The Buzzard Run Bluegrass Band made recently. Bernard Allen is the fellow in the center playing, what else, a fiddle:



James E. Price
January, 2016

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