First off, let me admit that I'm a grownup, that I started off playing fiddle (with no ambitions, just for pleasure) and then had to back away from it due to shoulder/neck problems (a long story). I also found the treble sound very shrill and a bit unpleasant up close. I tried building an octave fiddle from a cheapie large-body violin, and that was easy on the ear... but still physically painful.
I then tried the cello, which was way more comfortable, but a lot more work :-) and not portable. I spend a lot of my summer on a small sailboat, where a cello would be definitely de trop and at some risk of injury. That's when I have the most leisure time to practise and learn new tunes.
So I became interested in "lap cello" instruments like gambas -- but they are very specialised and quite expensive... except for Ebay-from-China gamba-shaped-objects which I'd be scared to buy unseen. (Unless someone here has a solid recommendation for a particular seller.)
Gradually I came around to scale celli for kiddies, like a 1/10 Euro (a bit bigger than a viola -- maybe comparable to a viola pomposa?). The dimensions seem fairly comfortable and I think I could play it sitting in a chair or crosslegged, like the erhu and some other bowed Eurasian instruments. I don't care much about playing with other people, so tuning is not that critical; I could pick any pitch to get the best tone, and still read as if violin-tuned (not having perfect pitch is sometimes a blessing).
A kiddie cello is attractive partly because it's a standard (not exotic) instrument, available in various price ranges, usually not too spendy because it's only a student instrument. They are easy to find, and even fairly easy to find used.
So far so good. But the next problem is strings. None of this will be worth while, and I won't want to play, if it sounds awful. I have read a few forum posts that suggest the standard strings installed for child learners are pretty bad -- muddy, too heavy for the small instrument. But what alternatives are there? the Euro 1/10 cello seems to have a vibrating string length unlike any other. The obvious alternative would be viola strings, but... seems like even the full 16.5 viola string would be too short. Alto gamba seems about right for length, but those are fairly rare, expensive, and most I have seen are all-gut (oh dear, high maintenance).
I'm just a giddy amateur, very casual (as you can tell) -- the very opposite of expert in any of this stuff. If anyone can reassure me that 4/4 viola strings do indeed fit, say, an Eastman or Stentor or Hoffman 1/10 kiddie cello, then I may have the courage to pursue acquiring one. Or if you have a source for steel core gamba strings. Or if you have some other string that would suit...
You are also, of course, free to ROTFL and tell me this whole idea is ridiculous :-) But in my own defence: I am not quite alone in my madness. I was inspired by http://cello.godiskind.com/2010/04/18-cello/ -- someone whose relationship with music seems similar to my own. I could, actually, blindly follow his recipe for strings (http://cello.godiskind.com/2010/10/strings-strings-strings/) but he was using a 1/8 instrument not 1/10, which might change things slightly. And besides... it's always better to get multiple opinions.
Insights, warnings, hoots of skeptical laughter or viola jokes all welcome :-)