steve fields violin
LITTLE DEER ISLE, MAINE Generational downsizing had Jeff moving fiddles. In the right place, I acquired a Johann Baptist Schweitzer Copy of 1813 in rare good condition. Down the Eastern Seaboard the Baptist (bap•TEEST) was shipped. To Pennsylvania for mild refurbishment, strings, set-up, then further south to William in Georgia. Its stop-over proved to be more than a quick pat on the back. The pegbox was wonky.
While this instrument may have been made for 1:20 taper pegs, someone had later used modern 1:30 taper pegs. The new standard has provided superior tuning performance and pegbox health since its inception about 1900. This narrower peg, however, will not fit simply by “shoving it in as hard as you can”.
In a fog, flummoxed by ratios and angles, we turn to two of the best luthiers and mathematicians in the world for answers. The question, “What’s the difference?”
From Ontario: Basic trigonometry gives tan(angle)=rise/run. The angle is then inverse tan(rise/run), which gives an angle of 87.14 degrees. The compliment is 2.86 degrees. Thus, your 1:20 reamer is 2.86 degrees. – Charles Tauber
Not to be outdone, we’re gifted the link to a “Taper & Angle Calculation” program from a reader in Tatamagouche, the village in Nova Scotia. A 1:30 taper is scarcely larger, 3.33%
Closer examination reveals it is no big deal. With existing peg hole damage, it’s not even six-of-one, half-a-dozen of the other. We’re saved the expense, for now, of an imported Old World specialty reamer. Bill is still waiting in Georgia; lead time leaps forward. My domestic Juzek 1:30 tapered reamer with three straight cutting flutes works perfectly. The Juzek peg shaver (USA production with some imported parts) produces both blisters and perfect pegs. A little pool cue chalk on the peg surfaces, along with D’Addario Kaplan Amo strings, completes the job.
Steve Fields played the finished restoration at Woodside Creamery Farm yesterday. He pronounces the effort, “Perfect!” Another All-Smiles-Day!
While visiting York Pennsylvania luthier Chris Bluett (blu•ETTE), a gent comes into the luthiery with a violin in a paper bag. For sale. Chris makes and sells violins but does not buy unless made by him. The B-Team steps forward. I offer a slim stack of dollars for the shabby fiddle, and walk away a hopeful man.
Tight unblemished top grain, casual adherence to scroll symmetry above the box, and matching pegs caught my eye. As I clamp down on refurbishment, it got better and better. Decades of grime gently removed, Behlen hide glue restoring separated back and top, this gem exposed promising pedigree. Labeled without origin, the top was definitely a better tonewood.
Over a century ago with excellent materials, a craftsperson put this violin together with attention where it matters. Ready again for strings, I consult the foremost authority. With D’Addario Orchestral Strings CSR on speed dial, we come to the same conclusion. Premium strings for this promising centenarian.
D’Addario Kaplan strings are selected. They feel good in the hand, as I string the violin. Almost silky, with superior peg end windings. Stretching “break-in” was minimal. The tone? Phenomenal! After Steve Fields gets used to the slightly different scale length of my set-up, his smile is never far as he runs through his favorites. If I ever get this violin back from him, I may remove the D’Addario Kaplan Vivo set and try the D’Addario Kaplan Amo set. Can’t wait!