Chronology

Spread the love

Here (in reverse order, newest to oldest) are the five-string fiddles I have made: (More on the way!)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sound files:

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 #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.

5-string Double Bass with removable neck for safe and easy travel.
5-string Double Bass with removable neck for safe and easy travel.

 

Back view of Oliver 5-string travel bass.
Back view of Oliver 5-string travel bass.

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.

16-1/2
16-1/2″ five-string Viola. modeled after the Conte Vitale.

 

16-1/2
16-1/2″ five-string viola, back view.

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.

Front view of 15
Front view of 15″ Oliver five-string viola.

 

Side view of 15
Side view

 

Back view of a 15
Back view

 

Front view of Oliver Five-string viola scroll.
Front view of Oliver Five-string viola scroll.

 

Side view of Oliver 5-string Viola Scroll.
Side view

 

Back view of Oliver Five-string Viola Scroll.
Back view

 

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.

Front view of the 14" "Tertis-Style" Oliver five-string Viola.
Front view of the little “Tertis-Style” five-string Viola.

 

Side viewof Oliver 5-string 14" viola.
Side view.

 

Oliver 5-string viola 14" Back view.
Back view. Pretty wood, huh?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

Oliver Five-String Fiddle Front, showing Ipe fingerboard and nut.
Oliver Five-String Fiddle Front, with Ipe fingerboard and nut.

 

Oliver 5-string fiddle with Spalted maple.
The Spalted maple is also a choice the customer was delighted in.

 

Oliver Five String Fiddle back, with wild Oregon Maple flame.
Oliver Five String Fiddle back, with wild Oregon Maple flame.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

Oliver 5-string Cello piccolo front
Cello piccolo front with Ipe fingerboard, nut, and tailpiece.

 

Oliver 5-string Cello Piccolo Side view.
Cello Piccolo Side

 

Oliver 5-string Cello Piccolo back view.
Cello Piccolo back (notice the two-part neck)

 

Oliver 5-string Cello Piccolo Scroll back.
Cello Piccolo Scroll back

 

Oliver 5-string Cello Piccolo Scroll front, with Ipe fingerboard and nut.
Cello Piccolo Scroll front (Notice Ipe fingerboard and nut.)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

Port Orford top plate of Myrtle wood Oliver Five-String Fiddle.
Port Orford top plate of Myrtle wood Oliver Five-String Fiddle

 

Side view of an Oliver Five-string Fiddle, showing the myrtle ribs.
Side view, showing Myrtle ribs

 

Myrtle back plate of Myrtle/Port Orford Oliver Five-String Fiddle.
Myrtle back plate of Myrtle/Port Orford Oliver Five-String Fiddle

Fiddle #28 from Chester O. Bishop on Vimeo.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

Front view of Koa-wood Oliver five-string fiddle
Front view of Koa five-string fiddle

 

Bass side view of an Oliver Five-string Fiddle, showing the curly Koa ribs
Bass side view, showing the curly Koa ribs

 

Curly Koa back of an Oliver Five-string Fiddle.
Curly Koa back of an Oliver Five-string Fiddle.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

Front of an Oliver Five-string Fiddle in the sunshine.
Front of an Oliver Five-string Fiddle in the sunshine.

 

Side of an Oliver Five String Fiddle.
Side of Oliver Five String Fiddle

 

Back side of an Oliver 5-string fiddle.
Back side of Oliver 5-string fiddle

Daniel Forster on Instrument #26, a 5-string fiddle by Chet Bishop from Chester O. Bishop on Vimeo.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Five-String Instrument #3: Oliver 5 string fiddle

This handmade five string bluegrass fiddle is made from Oregon Big Leaf Maple and Sitka Spruce. 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 from that log, and I have a lot more of that wood, so there will be more to come.)

Front view of instrument #24, an Oliver Five-string Fiddle.
Front view of instrument #24, an Oliver Five-string Fiddle.

 

Side view of an Oliver Five-String Fiddle.
Side view of Oliver Five-String Fiddle

 

Back view of an Oliver five-string Fiddle.
Back view of Oliver five-string Fiddle.

 

Bass-side scroll of Oliver Five-String Fiddle.
Bass-side scroll of Oliver Five-String Fiddle

 

Daniel Forster playing Instrument #24 by Chet Bishop, Luthier from Chester O. Bishop on Vimeo.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

Oliver five-string fiddle front view.
I had to carve that tailpiece of Osage Orange wood, as I had forgotten to order a 5-string tailpiece. It now has a Wittner tailpiece with five built-in adjusters.
Back of an Oliver 5-string fiddle
And there’s the back! Pretty wood, huh?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

Front view of an Oliver Five-string Fiddle.
Front view of an Oliver Five-string Fiddle
Side View of an Oliver five-string fiddle.
Side View of an Oliver five-string fiddle.
Back view of an Oliver five-string fiddle.
Back view of an Oliver five-string fiddle.
Scroll of an Oliver five-string fiddle.
Scroll of an Oliver five-string fiddle.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~