Here (in reverse order, newest to oldest) are the handmade acoustic five-string fiddles I have made: (More on the way!)
For some of these instruments, I had a young fiddler (Daniel Forster) play sample recordings, so you can hear them on “Vimeo”. He lives some distance away, so he is not always available. Besides, some of these were sold before I could do more than snap a few photos, so that is all I have for them.
Five-String Instrument #13: Oliver Five String Fiddle
This instrument is also made from the scrap from the other side of the double bass, so it is the “sister instrument” of #12, below. It has a Douglas Fir top, a very powerful voice, very clear C-string, and perfect balance across all five strings.
Five-String Instrument #12: Oliver Five String Fiddle (SOLD)
This instrument is made from maple left over from the Five-String Double Bass built just before: Maple from just outside the Treble C-bout on the bass made up the back and neck of this fiddle. The top is Sitka Spruce, and it has a big voice, very clear and very well-balanced across all five strings.
Five-String Instrument #11: Oliver 5-string Double Bass with removable neck.
This bass was just completed in August of 2020: I am very satisfied with the new model. This is a personal design, and my first five-string double bass as well as my first instrument with a removable neck. It is strung C-E-A-D-G, which eliminates the need for an extension. It is a 5/8-size bass, with a D-neck and a 40″ scale.
Five-String Instrument #10: Oliver 5-string 16-1/2″ Viola
I haven’t any sound files for this instrument, yet, but I believe it is my best viola so far. Excellent voice, and well-balanced across all five strings.
Five-String Instrument #9: Oliver 5-string 15″ Viola
This is made on the same mold from which I made my very first instrument. The original was a four-string viola with abalone-shell inlay on the back, which I made for my youngest son. I have used the same mold at various times, but this is the first five-string viola from this mold.
The back, sides and scroll are of Oregon Big Leaf Maple, heavily flamed, and spalted as well, as it was salvaged from a tree in my wife’s parents’ yard. The belly is Sitka Spruce.
Five-String Instrument #8: Oliver 5-String 14″ ‘Tertis-style’ Viola .
This was begun as an experiment, with my not even being aware of what a “Tertis” viola looked like (though, of course, I had heard of Lionel Tertis, and his work.) Anyway, it turned out to be a pretty powerful little 5-string 14″ viola, and it sounds great. Well-balanced across all five strings.
The one-piece back, the neck and the ribs are all Big Leaf Maple, harvested near my home, while the belly is Sitka Spruce.
Five String Instrument #7: Oliver Five String Fiddle (SOLD)
This was a commissioned instrument. The customer was very specific in what she wanted (Oregon tonewoods, Ipe fingerboard, nut and saddle, wide nut, high bridge, etc.) so, after she had played all my instruments, she could also say which model she liked, and what color and other specifics she liked (e.g. Double purfling, with fleur-de-lis purfling weave.) The commission was begun on December 14th, 2019, and she took possession of the instrument on February 29th, 2020.
Five String Instrument (not numbered:) Oliver Violoncello Piccolo
I only made parts of this one: a fellow expressed an interest in a handmade five-string cello, and said he was leaning toward a violoncello piccolo, which was a relatively rare instrument from the early 1700’s, and is credited to J. S. Bach.
When I researched the instrument, I found that the originals were about the size of a modern 1/2-size cello, but they had five strings, and, in fact, it is thought that the Bach Cello Suite #6 is written for such an instrument. So…I had an old, Romanian factory-made 1/2-size cello, which had been languishing in my shop (and, for which I had years earlier made a new Spruce Top plate) and I simply knocked the original neck out of it, and carved a new neck and scroll, in a five-string configuration of my own design, and produced a “sample.” He ultimately left without placing an order, but the project was interesting, and now I have built a small 5-string cello! 🙂 I can build more from scratch, if there is ever a resurgence in demand.
Five String Instrument #6: Oliver five-string fiddle (Sold)
This one was also by request, but not a commissioned instrument…more like an experiment. Cliff Stansell wanted me to try making a fiddle of Oregon Myrtle and Port Orford Cedar. His brother, Les Stansell, is a guitar-maker and wood dealer, and donated the wood for the experiment (Thanks, Les!). The fiddle turned out to play quite well, and continues to improve as it opens up. It sold to a fiddler in Southern Oregon, who is thrilled with the sound and playability.
Five String Instrument #5: Commissioned Oliver 5-string fiddle (SOLD)
This was a special project, from the beginning, as the customer came to me with the wood, asking if I could build a five-string fiddle out of it. Turned out to be curly Koa, harvested in 1982 or before, as that is when he bought the wood, and had been carting it around with him for over 30 years. It was very difficult wood to work– very demanding of skill and patience. But it worked out well, and plays superbly. The belly (front plate) is Sitka Spruce.
Five String Instrument #4: Oliver 5-String fiddle
I can’t say for sure what kind of maple this is, as the wood was given me by a friend, who has no idea…but the spruce is Sitka. The fiddle is pretty, and sounds great. I made it to the same mold as my other five-string fiddles, but the wood will have to remain a mystery. It has played well from the beginning, and has improved with time.
Five-String Instrument #3: Oliver 5 string fiddle
This handmade five string bluegrass fiddle is made from Oregon Big Leaf Maple and Sitka Spruce on a personal model. It is unusual in that it has both a one-piece back and a one-piece front. The maple is from the same tree as five-string instrument #2. ( I have also made a cello, a bass and a viola from that log, and I have a lot more of that wood, so there will be more to come.) This instrument is easy to play and has a powerful big voice, a deep clear C-string, and good balance across all strings.
Five String Instrument #2: an Oliver 5-string fiddle. (SOLD)
This instrument is the first I have made from the log pictured in the “wood choices” blog post. It looks and sounds wonderful. Five-string fiddles seem to be rapidly gaining in popularity and demand. I hope to build many more 5 string bluegrass fiddles in the future.
Five String Instrument # 1: An Oliver Five-String Fiddle (or five-string violin) SOLD
This was my first attempt at a 5-string fiddle. An experienced and popular professional fiddler (Cliff Stansell) from a Southern Oregon band (the Pistol River Trio) had asked about them, so I decided to build one. It plays remarkably well…it is well-balanced, and all, but I am not used to the flatter bridge shape that fiddlers like, so it is difficult for me to get used to it. Other than that, I’m happy with it. As it turned out, it was loved by everyone who played it, and Cliff ultimately bought it. Now we are both happy. 🙂
I made the ribs deeper: 34mm at the end block, tapering to 32mm at the neck block. I also made the pegbox longer to accommodate the extra peg, and deepened the bass-bar to about 17mm, for more support on the lower strings. The archings are just a little higher than my usual, as well, but not out of the ordinary. The back is maple of uncertain origin, the sides and neck are Red Maple from Elon Howe, in Newaygo, Michigan. The belly is Sitka spruce. Not sure where I got the spruce, but it is quite dense. I usually do not use wood that dense for the belly. Turned out well, though.