Nearing Completion of Two New Five-String Bluegrass Fiddles

5-String Fiddles Nearing Completion

First, I apologize for the long hiatus. Lots of things have been going on, so I haven’t taken time to post progress reports on the two instruments I began in late July.

Initially, I had anticipated being done with both by the second week in September. Unfortunately, there have been sufficient interruptions and side-tracks that I am still not done. (Rats...)

When I last posted, I had just recently set the necks in the instruments. Initially, I progressed fairly rapidly for a bit, thereafter, but failed topost progress reports for  “Show and Tell.” Therefore…I will try to catch-up.


First, I carefully removed the molds. Then, I cleaned up the interior of the two fiddles, so they were essentially finished. Next, I bent and installed the back linings. Usually, I try to use willow for my linings. I had thought these were willow, but I am beginning to believe they may be some species of poplar.

Handmade Five string fiddles in progress, by Chet Bishop in Oregon
One set of back linings installed. Other corpus ready for back linings.


Two handmade fivestring fiddles in progress by Chet Bishop of Forest Grove, Oregon
Both fiddles with linings installed. Notice the linen reinforcements of the purfling-weave areas.

Back Plates

The next step was to install the back plates. I had already laid out and installed the back purfling weaves, but, because the rib garlands sometimes change shape a little after the molds have been removed, I avoided “locking in” the shape of the back plates until the plates were already installed. After that, I could do any final trimming of the back plate, and afterward lay out, cut and install the remaining purfling.

Purfling weaves incised
Purfling weaves incised.

Subsequently, I went ahead and installed the back plates, and trimmed them to accurately match the ribs. Then I began layout and installation of the back purfling. I bent the purfling, using heat, then began gluing the sections in place in the proper order.

purfling weave beginning
Beginning back purfling weaves. The idea is to produce an illusion of an “over-and-under weave.”


purfling in progress on two 5-string bluegrass fiddles handmade in Oregon by Chet Bishop, Luthier.
Purfling in progress.
trimming purfling weaves on 5-string bluegrass fiddles handmade in Oregon by Chet Bishop, Luthier.
Trimming the purfling weaves. I inlaid  these to a shallow depth, because the plates are thin.


scraping the purfling weaves on a 5-string bluegrass fiddle handmade in Oregon by Chet Bishop, Luthier.
Scraping the Purfling Weaves.

Final Varnish Preparations

Before I could begin varnishin, the purfling channels and all the edgework remained . Also, I turned off the artificial lighting, and used the dim light from a window to cast soft shadows across the wood. I knew this would reveal any humps and hollows I may have missed earlier. After completing all that work, I began the varnishing process.

five-string fiddles handmade in Oregon by Chet Bishop, Luthier.
Both fiddles ready for final varnish preparations.

I will outline the process and show pictures in my next post.

Thanks for looking.