Old World or New, Sacred or Profane

Saturday, March 22, 2008

5-String Conversion, Part Last

"Ok, so what about the peg?", you say. Did I install another hole and peg? Well, I did drill a hole, but no peg. I threaded the D-string through a small hole, using a small washer that I bummed from my wife's supply of little hardware leftovers to prevent the string ball from slipping through the hole:

Actually, I did this all a few months ago and thought, "Great, all I have to do is tune this puppy up and I've got myself a home-mode 5-string, Laszlo Varga style (Anybody know how he made his 5-string? I know he used a 3.4 size cello for it, but that's about all I know about it).

Well, just as I was approaching pitch on all five strings, just within a quarter of a tone across the board, the neck snapped off. Bummer. The neck came off cleanly at the glue point except that the little tab coming up out of the cello back was sheared off. That is the structural main strength point. The glue under most of the neck has no mechanical advantage, it's that meek little tab on the back that does the real work of keeping it all together.

So I glued the neck back on with hide glue I found on the Internet, using a candle warmer to keep the glue hot. Then I attached a splint made from doorskin and three little screws, again raiding my wife's hardware leftovers. The split I attached with regular carpenters wood glue underneath. That stuff is much stronger than wood when it cures. Hopefully, that splint will never, ever part from the back tab.

So there it is: A project no doubt worthy of a spot on the Red Green Show. I think I can expect a congratulatory call from ol' Red Green any day now.


Maricello said...

Very creative! Thanks for all the photos and details. Did you ever consider a four-string cello (GDAE) for fiddling? I have an old cello too, and was considering that. But my old cello was made in 1888, and, though it is not of great value, I'm not sure I'd like to make it permanently a 5-string.

Do you find it any more difficult to play with the closer spacing of the strings?

Terry said...

Yes, I did have it strung up as GDAE for about a year. It is not much harder to finger at all, but it is harder to find the G and D strings with the bow. I want to go to far left for the D. For the G, I have to think for a moment on where it's at. And for the C, I have to take take the I don't hit my upper leg with the bow. It turns out the upper leg is an obstacle before the bout. On the E side, it would be the bout.

If I could find a wider bridge, with more curve, it would be better.

Dury said...

A very resourceful build. I can't stop wondering, though, whether the neck snapped because the extra string was pulling forwards/downwards on the scroll? Unfortunately my cello lessons in school were during physics, so my understanding of forces is limited though!

I like experimenting with different tunings of the strings (B minor chord tuning works well), and Peter Sculthorpe has written a few pieces that way. Would love an extra low string thought to take me into bass pitch!