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Cutting Michigan Maple

Cutting Michigan Maple

by Elon Howe

Originally published in American Lutherie #37, 1994

In 1983, I had the guts to try to repair my dad’s old fiddle. I reglued it, sanded it, sprayed on a varnish — it looked great. I was later advised that I had spoiled the fiddle by doing the wrong things.

Later on, I bought a fiddle kit. It had the wood, a machine cut scroll, four ounces of varnish, and a half-pound of glue. About six months later I turned out my first fiddle and of course it sounded great. Dan Erlewine, who ran a shop north of us at that time, had to admit that it looked pretty fair. He later admitted he was afraid to see what I might turn out because he knew he would have to be honest. He seemed to be relieved that it didn’t look like a shoe box.

At first, information was hard to come by. Finally, we found an address for Hammond Ashley. He recommended a book called The Techniques of Violin Making by Harry Wake. I got to meet Harry at the Arizona Violin Makers’ Association Competition in Tucson — he even bought some willow wood from me.

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