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Resophonic Fiddle Builder in Arizona

Posted: Mon Sep 19, 2016 10:30 am
by Charly Gullett
My name is Charly and I have just completed my first resophonic fiddle build.

This began for me some years ago when I heard comments from people who lived through the depression era of the 1930's that the "sound" of old time music and bluegrass had changed. It dawned on me at some point that most people in the thirties listened to these acoustic styles through a radio with fairly poor acoustic speakers. One of the reasons I was attracted to resophonic guitars (a.k.a. Dopyera-style or Dobro resonators) was that these instruments produced a sound quality that to me expressed this period of time. Last year I started putting the two ideas together.

I began with a Stewmac fiddle kit which was comprised of fairly inexpensive wood. This was a good choice for the experiment as resonator instruments do not rely so much on the wood for their sound (consider an all metal resophonic-guitar). I bought a belly blank and hand-carved the necessary inlets/outlets for the resonator and sound screens. This first model (I have two more variations on the work bench) does not have a bass bar as the resonator conflicts with that space. I did install a sound post, but I believe the direct connection tonearm I designed between the bridge and the resonator actually produces more of the sound quality. I used a brass resonator designed for cigar box guitars. It works and produces good tone, but its heavy and the volume is not as full as I would like. The new one on the bench is going to use a National Tri-cone resonator which is much thinner and lighter and should produce more sound volume.

I spent this last weekend showing this fiddle at the Pickin' in the Pines Bluegrass luthier showcase in Flagstaff. It was a head-turner ("What the...?") as almost anyone who was in eye or ear contact with the fiddle stopped and looked. Two really excellent Arizona fiddlers spent some time playing it, both with encouraging comments.

Doing something the first time is always an education and I really learned a great deal. Any comments or criticisms are appreciated.

Re: Resophonic Fiddle Builder in Arizona

Posted: Mon Sep 19, 2016 10:32 am
by Mark Swanson
Welcome to the MIMForum Charly. Tell us all about the fiddle and how you built it.

Re: Resophonic Fiddle Builder in Arizona

Posted: Tue Sep 20, 2016 11:46 pm
by Jason Rodgers
That's funky! Do you have any shots of the guts, especially this "tonearm" thing you describe that connects the bridge pressure with the cone?

Re: Resophonic Fiddle Builder in Arizona

Posted: Wed Sep 21, 2016 10:44 am
by Charly Gullett
I'll add a photo of the unfinished tone arm being fitted in the prototype I posted earlier, but this design has changed for several reasons. First of all, the newest fiddle on the bench will use an entirely different resonator (moving from the heavy brass cigar box resonator to a much lighter National Tricone). I am also enclosing the resonator with a cover and all this requires the new tone arm to necessarily connect to the bridge differently than before.
Tone Arm.jpg

Re: Resophonic Fiddle Builder in Arizona

Posted: Tue Nov 15, 2016 7:00 pm
by Charly Gullett
Have completed two new builds, another resophonic fiddle from scratch and an Epiphone F5 mandolin that I modified into a reso. The fiddle has two resonators this time, a bass under the copper cover and a tenor between the bouts under the fingerboard. The new tone-arm design is working very well and I was able to modify it for use in the F5.

Re: Resophonic Fiddle Builder in Arizona

Posted: Tue Nov 15, 2016 7:14 pm
by Charly Gullett
Also, if you are interested in photos of the builds, I have posted pics on my Facebook page:
ResoMando Rotated.jpg