Peg Bushings

This fiddle had an old set of Roth machine pegs installed. It was reamed out almost to the hilt of my reamer, around 9mm. The holes were also somewhat crooked. After glue sizing and scoring the bushings/holes, I let it set over night. I'll start carving them out and flushing them to the surface tomorrow. Not sure if I have enough room to offset them from the old holes enough.

 I need to buy a spiral reamer.  I got the chance to try one out the other day and it had a far more stable feel than my straight cut one. I think the flat edge of the blade against the straight grain of the new bushings tends to catch and chip. On the other hand the curved blade on the spiral reamer cuts at a slight angle avoiding this chatter. That's my theory anyway.


Heel Graft and Neck Reset

The neck of this fiddle had been cracked loose and needed to be reset. To get the right amount of overstand* along with the right projection, I needed to add a little heel lift. I also needed to add some material to the ribs that had been lost when the neck was snapped off. Once this is stained and varnished it will be nearly invisible.

* Overstand is the distance from the top of the instrument to the flat surface of the neck. This small step gives the projection a little head start so that the angle of the neck need not be too extreme. Without this the end of the fingerboard could end up touching the arching on more voluptuous instruments. The angle of the neck would also have to be very sharp to accommodate a bridge of the correct height. Playing would be cumbersome at best, never mind fitting it in a case. The added stress on the neck and instrument would seriously compromise the strength of fiddle as a whole. a.k.a catastrophic implosion!



The neck of this instrument suffered a severe trauma. It was snapped off at a right angle. As a result the edges of of the top where the mortise flares out were snapped off with it. Luckily the neck and ribs were, for the most part, spared. After resetting the neck I cleaned out the gap to fit a new bit of edge to both sides. Here is the cleaned up gap.
And the dry fitted edge. I will scrape to get the final fit.


I almost have my fiddle back.

         The top is glued in place! Now I have a little repair under the saddle and I can begin to reattach the fittings and set it up.

Man, do I have a random set of clamps.


Finished Neck Joint

         Got a nice fit with an even bead of glue running around the edge of the joint. The neck projection and tilt all held up.  I only needed the two clamps to hold it in place. They were mostly for insurance against getting bumped while drying and to squeeze the neck into the mortise as it swells a little when the hot glue is applied. They also ensure no air bubbles in the joint. The neck actually fit well enough dry not only to lift the body, but hold it horizontally in any direction.

         Here it is 24 hours later with the glue dry. I can't see any gaps or openings all the way around, so now I have to clean up the button and glue the top. I'm going to leave the top block a little large to maximize glue surface (The last block was willow and very small.) I used spruce to save a tiny bit of weight while increasing surface contact. Even so, I can deal with a few extra grams in the body since I don't need that hideous neck wedge anymore.

Pegs, Alternatives and weights.

I think every new player, and some who have been playing for years, look at their pegs and think; "What a pain. Can't I just slap on some guitar style tuning machines?" Well, yes you can, but it will cost you. In my own quest for peg alternatives I have looked into some different options and found one consistent problem, weight. Lets run through them so you can get an idea of the pros and cons.

Double bass style tuning machines.
OK, so they look bad ass, and they may or may not be easier to use than regular friction pegs. The major draw backs are as follows.

A. Added weight, at 74 grams you will feel this. With these tucked in the peg holes of my fiddle I can't support it with just my chin, I need to lift it with my arm. 74 grams does not sound like much but think of it like this: You could hold a 1 pound weight all day right? For an exercise try to hold that same weight with your arm fully extended. Good luck! (try for 10 minutes)

B. Drilling more holes in your peg box is bad idea. Eight holes weakens it enough. Also keep in mind that you are putting metal screws in that do not expand and contract with humidity, over time this will cause small cracks. They also corrode and get stuck in the peg box when you try to remove them.

C. You most often have to bush and re-drill your existing peg holes just to get them on. Further weakening the peg box.

D. God, they weigh a ton!

Banjo/Uke Style Friction Tuners

A. At 66g these are only slightly better than the machines above. In fact they weigh the same as my entire neck.

B. You don't have to drill or bush to install these. but they rarely fit perfectly and could lead to buzzes and cracks.

C. I have found these to be less reliable than regular pegs. The problem is that they apply pressure across the gap in the peg box. This puts pressure where it was not designed to go. They were really designed to retain tension through a solid piece of wood. This tension if not closely monitored could lead to a catastrophic failure in the peg box.

D. They need to be tightened constantly,
so carry a screw driver.

Roth Tension tuners
Slightly better design and weight, these are the closest to being "acceptable" alternatives to real pegs. But there are still some serious draw backs.

A. Weight again. you can feel it. But not as acutely as the all metal pegs above. I know a great fiddler who has these and she plays just fine with them, She also kept me wondering how she could tune so much faster than me without fine tuners.

B. You have to ream out the peg holes all the way in order to fit them with small cork bushings. this weakens the peg box and makes it very hard to fit regular pegs again should you want to.

C. admittedly the design is much better they apply pressure in a similar way to traditional pegs. they also look pretty good.

Traditional Pegs
Finally traditional pegs. These are mostly here for weight comparison. Uncut they weigh less than half as much as the Roth pegs. They will weigh even less when they are cut down to size during fitting. As much as i don't like the humidity problems involved with them they are in my mind the best option.

As far as other options I have heard a lot of positive comments on Knilling Perfection pegs. I have yet to get my hands on a set of them, so I can't include a weight comparison or real review. I have heard they are close to real peg weight. Also they have a gear ratio that makes tuning quick. I will put up a review if and when I get some. Until then I will continue using regular pegs.

Neck Fitting.

I removed the neck (with great success!) and fit the new upper block. I first planed and glue sized the surfaces several times, paying close attention to the end grain. Here is the new block with the beginning of the mortise.

The glue needs to be cleaned up and the top surface dressed with a very sharp plane. I will glue size it once more.
The following photos are hard to tell apart mostly due to my camera. The first one of the neck heel rubbed with chalk for fitting. I use colored chalk to ease the process. White chalk is hard to see.

Below it the neck mortise with the initial markings from the heel. The blue marks need to be removed to get the final fit. Notice how the chalk has not touched the button yet. If it had I would have very little room for error. The neck needs to slowly slide into the mortise. If you over cut the sides you can't fit them any closer.

The process of chalk fitting is long but worth the effort as it gives a near perfect fit. Below is a brief explanation.
Chalk was initially rubbed on the heel of the neck and transferred to the mortise by inserting and wiggling the neck a little to transfer the chalk. The neck is then removed and cleaned. What you are left with in this process is a pattern of chalk showing where the neck fits the mortise. By slowly removing material covered in chalk you can achieve a perfect fit. The truly difficult part is that changing one surface during fitting always effects the fit of one or more of the other surfaces, as well as the geometry of the violins final set-up. This is a very very slow process with lots of checking and measuring.

Here is the mortise just before I clean it up for the final fit. Notice the button now has a dusting of chalk. Still some thin glue skin on the ribs that needs to be cleaned.

If you look close you can see the increase in surface contact between the two pictures. I will be gluing the neck today after a final check and a little scraping in the joint.


The Day of Reckoning

It's time for me to rebuild my violin. In keeping up with demand it has been put off to many times. Amongst it's many problems, that have been worsened by neglect, I need to remove the neck. Tricky business at best.

The Projection is wrong due to the upper block being loose from the table. That pressure started a crack on the center seam that I need to head off before it gets worse.
The neck had been fitted with a shim, to correct the projection, this did not solve the problem, as the neck continued to pull against the end grain and distort the top.

I hope I don't ruin it, I like this fiddle.
Let see... separating knife, mallet, courage..

How about some suspense music?

New toy.

I had been looking for a glue pot that was not integrated with electronics, I don't like to own tools I can't fix myself, and I found this lovely one from musicaravan.com. The thing is great! small enough that it wont monopolize your bench, big enough to retain heat in the reservoir for a good amount of time. He sells a little electric warmer that is really consistent with temp and fits the pot very well.

Here it is in all its glory.
by the way I don't work for them or anything I just genuinely like it.
here's a link if you want one for yourself.

The revived home shop a photo tour.

I redesigned my shop space for a more efficiency. I built a rack for fiddles, and following the law that if you have space you will fill it, the rack is now nearly full.

I also made very anal dividers in my desk to keep my tools safe, sharp, and where I can find them.