Let’s take a detailed look at the corners of the Red Fiddle kit. The SFF kit had really good, snugly fitting corners. The Red Fiddle corners are not so neatly done, which has given me some anxiety. Upper bass corner:

Not bad, but not very well fitted to the ribs. Outside mold maybe? Lower bass corner –

Lots of glue residue, even worse fit, but everything is tight, no loose wood bits.

Upper treble, the most troubling corner –

There’s quite a gap where the block should meet the ribs. The linings end behind the block, accounting for the poor fit of the block. This is what the outside of this corner looks like –

That gap extends into the inside, behind the block, showing that the fit is not good at all. More on this corner in a bit. Lower treble corner –

Better fit than the upper corner. Note the rough cut linings, top and bottom. They are quite thick and not tapered much.

I had thought to purchase some maple rib stock and construct an outside mold and rebuild the garland, but the bottom would not come off – it would appear that what I thought was hide glue is really something else that isn’t water soluble and so an Artful Dodge is in order.

After much internet research, the consensus is:

  • some really great historical fiddles don’t even have corner blocks
  • carving out existing sloppy blocks is a messy, bad idea
  • cutting the back off the garland would likely lead to more problems than it would solve
  • so long as nothing is loose, leaving things as they are is not a bad idea
  • there are easy ways to close gaps that will hold for a long time without compromising the sound. Enter a modern* glue –

I neglected to bookmark the site where this advice was found, but a reputable builder/restorer uses this technique to repair and reinforce fiddles that have no (or inadequate) corner blocks where a more detailed restoration would be cost prohibitive. The painter’s tape on the outside will keep the glue from dribbling all over. Glue is slowly squeezed into the gap behind the block on the inside and then the fiddle is left standing up until the glue is dry. This glue dries the same color as the wood, but I’ll be highlighting the rib joins with black paint, so this repair won’t show. The gap is closed, but the pictures are crap, so you’ll just have to believe…

* This particular brand and type of glue was recommended for this particular repair because it dries and stays somewhat soft, providing a bit of “cushion” to delicate corners. Hide glue, OTOH, dries bone dry and harder than the wood it holds together, which is why it’s superior to modern glues for instruments that vibrate – the hardness of the dried glue lets the instrument vibrate in harmony, while modern glues dry soft, allowing for vibrations that can be inconsistent and inharmonious.