This is not a cello I have built from raw wood. It was an inexpensive, small Romanian Cello I salvaged years ago (I had forgotten that it was Romanian… I thought it was Chinese) and for which I had never found a buyer. Currently, there is someone interested in a handmade five-string cello, and leaning toward the piccolo model, as that is the traditional size from the time of J.S. Bach. But there is no standard size of which I am aware, so I removed the neck of the little old cheap cello and made a 5-string neck and scroll with which to replace the old neck.
Here is the result:
It plays fairly well, for what it is. I have a difficult time becoming accustomed to the sound of the High E string in a cello, but I can see the value for certain applications, as it would effectively eliminate “thumb-position” in a lot of pieces.
If a person wanted a full-size five-string cello, or a 3/4- size, a 7/8-size, or what have you, I can make those, too.
I see that Helicore is now providing a five-string set for a full-size cello, so I may have to try one, just to see how the new strings sound. 🙂
We had a few break-downs this summer. The lawn tractor, a faithful beast of thirty years, suddenly quit working. Turned out to be a bad PTO clutch. I was eventually able to order new parts online, and do the work myself, but it was a discouraging project, as I am really not a mechanic, by inclination. But it works again.
Meanwhile, it also turned out that one of our toilets had been leaking under the floor, and had ruined the floor, so the whole underlayment had to come out. I replaced it with something called “wonderboard”…a concrete product, reinforced with fiberglass… nasty stuff to work with, but relatively impervious, so I was glad to go ahead with it. mudded all the screws so they were flush, and all the seams, etc., then sanded the whole mess flat. Then linoleum, and sealer, and wallpaper. Finally got everything back in place, working, no leaking pipes, etc., just Wednesday of this week. Glad to be done with that.
5-String Violoncello Piccolo
A fellow called me a while back, having seen my 5-string fiddles, and asking for a custom-made five-string cello, using all Oregon woods, if possible. (No problem…but most of the historic 5-string cellos I am aware of were piccolos…considerably smaller instruments, and quite rare. Only a few surviving models.) Nope, he wanted a full-size. Okeedoke, no problem. They even sell Cello-string sets for full-size 5-string cellos.
But he thought it over, and now is leaning toward a piccolo, just because. (They really are a special instrument!) But, now I do have a problem: I don’t have one to show him.
So, since I am short on time, I am making an experimental mock-up of the correct size, using a fractional-size hybrid cello (laminated sides and back; carved top), and replacing the normal neck with a neck and scroll specifically designed for a five-string instrument. It will not be the quality instrument he will expect in a custom-made cello, but it will give him the opportunity to experiment with the smaller size and the five strings.
I had plenty of maple on hand, but not thick enough for the neck, so I laminated two 1-1/2″ slabs, side by side, to make a thick billet, and then sawed out the blank.
I laid out the details of the scroll and neck; then used a saw to begin removing excess material. It is hot and humid, today, and I tired pretty rapidly, so I only got partway done:
Piccolo Scroll with more cuts.
I hope to have the scroll and neck complete in a day or two. I then intend to make a fingerboard and nut of Ipe, a non-threatened hardwood, and install the assembly on the hybrid corpus, immediately thereafter.
At that point, it should be down to the final finish of the neck and fingerboard, and set-up of the instrument in its new life as a five-string cello piccolo. The corpus is already in good shape, so it should not require additional attention.