Violin Blog 150 150 Keith Newton

Violin Blog

It was the mid 1990’s and I was still beekeeping for a living. I had a bit of free time in the off season and I had a large shop and a little spare room. I had done other woodworking projects, bird carving, furniture projects, etc but I had never attempted an instrument. Thus began my self imposed, 5 year apprenticeship of violin making.

My first attempt at “instruments” was a “Hardonger” fiddle. It is a fiddle that has 8 strings instead of 4. (4 are “sympathetic” strings of the 4 major strings to enhance the sound of the fiddle.) I am not timid nor afraid to jump in with both feet and proceeded to produce what looked like a “Hardonger” fiddle with all the beauty of inlays with mother of pearl and beautiful India ink tracings. That is approximately the time I learned that fiddles (and by extension all violins) have exact measurements and thicknesses for sound reasons. Although my fiddle was a piece of art, it was primitive in sound. I found out 2.6 mm on the upper bout, 2.4 mm on the lower bout and 3.3mm at the waist are the measurements of a violin’s face thickness. And these were just some of the intricacies. I proceeded to make 14 more violins over the course of 5 years. To my satisfaction, I did earn the respect of my mother in law regarding polishing and finishing wood. I also was honored to give Delise Ricter, the 1999 state champion fiddler, my last and best violin, the Scorpion (named for the scorpion inlay on the finger board. I gave it to her at a bluegrass festival in Hobbs Grove, CA. When she played it, she said it sounded better than her own violin on which she won the championship. That was September 9, 2001. Two days before 9-11. I will always remember.

Now, here is what is left of my apprenticeship. Instead of a memory in a box, art on the wall.

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