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Craig Cowing

French or Belgian bridge, and wood ID

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I'm putting a smallish cello back into working order for myself. It's ca. mid 1830's, sold by the Klemm music store in Philadelphia. The body is just a hair shorter than 4/4 but the body is narrow and the neck is shorter. Total length is 47 " so I am treating it like a 3/4 instrument. The front is probably pine, and the back is either poplar or willow. I don't believe it's maple. I'd be interested in thoughts on what the back is made from. I don't know if it is European or American in manufacture. I understand that poplar and will tend to give a warmer, darker tone. Would a Belgian bridge be good to provide some balance in sound or would a French bridge be preferable? I'm putting Helicore strings on it. It has geared pegs rather than wooden pegs. This setup appears to be original, which I could see because I removed the plates with the pegs to take them apart and clean and polish them, and I could see the original finish under the plates.

 

klemm.2.jpg

klemm1.jpg

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2 minutes ago, MarkBouquet clearsky said:

Your photos, particularly of the front, are too poorly lit to reveal much. The back is slab cut, and might be maple.

I only took a closeup of the back because I'm pretty sure about the wood for the front. The wood for the back is what puzzles me. I included a photo of the front to give an idea of the overall shape and size.

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The back appears to be made from beech, and is quartersawn. I think you really need to revise the date of mid 1830’s!

The machine heads will not have been fitted from new.

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3 hours ago, fiddlecollector said:

The wood  maybe what Americans call Sycamore.

 

My first thoughts as well but need better pictures. What ever it is I am quite sure it is neither willow nor American poplar.

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4 hours ago, fiddlecollector said:

The wood  maybe what Americans call Sycamore.

 

Yes, certainly could be. It’s quite like our plane tree, do you know if they are the same?

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6 hours ago, Dave Slight said:

The back appears to be made from beech, and is quartersawn. I think you really need to revise the date of mid 1830’s!

The machine heads will not have been fitted from new.

The documentation comes from the label from Klemm inside. The specific wording dates it to 1834-37. What would you suggest as a date?

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2 hours ago, nathan slobodkin said:

My first thoughts as well but need better pictures. What ever it is I am quite sure it is neither willow nor American poplar.

I just looked at a few images of quarter sawn sycamore and that's exactly what it is. Thanks!

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2 hours ago, Dave Slight said:

Yes, certainly could be. It’s quite like our plane tree, do you know if they are the same?

I think the London plane is very similar but a hybrid species

 

plane.JPG

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2 hours ago, Shunyata said:

Hopefully no one made a cello from sycamore.  That stuff is really toxic if you breathe it in!

I used to have a Sycamore at the bottom of my garden and I  pruned branches off it without ill effect.

It does  produce helicopter seeds which are toxic to horses if eaten.

 

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American sycamore is a Planatus species. European sycamore is an Acer pseudoplanatus ( a maple).

European sycamore may have toxic properties, but American sycamore is used for cutting boards and other things that come into contact with food, apparently because it doesn't have an odd taste.

I learned that American sycamore is best used when quarter sawn because if it is flat sawn it shrinks quite a bit when drying, but is stable quarter sawn.

 

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3 hours ago, Shunyata said:

Hopefully no one made a cello from sycamore.  That stuff is really toxic if you breathe it in!

The level of toxicity varies depending on the variety of sycamore, I believe.  For what it's worth, I have seen a number of instruments (some rather noteworthy) with sycamore or plane backs and/or ribs. Wasn't Aubert making one of their bridge blank models out of the stuff? Woods like pernambuco have harmful dust as well.

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I don't know much about this but would have thought that an American instrument (church bass) with original machine heads from the 1830's is very possible.

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11 minutes ago, Mark Caudle said:

I don't know much about this but would have thought that an American instrument (church bass) with original machine heads from the 1830's is very possible.

That's my thinking. Prescott was certainly using them by that time.

 

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1 hour ago, Craig Cowing said:

American sycamore is a Planatus species. European sycamore is an Acer pseudoplanatus ( a maple).

European sycamore may have toxic properties, but American sycamore is used for cutting boards and other things that come into contact with food, apparently because it doesn't have an odd taste.

I learned that American sycamore is best used when quarter sawn because if it is flat sawn it shrinks quite a bit when drying, but is stable quarter sawn.

 

European  maple is  not very toxic ,unsure what ` Shunyata`  meant by toxic. All wood dust isnt healthy. Beech is supposed to be irritating, but not  anyway as irritating as exotic bowmaking woods.

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4 minutes ago, fiddlecollector said:

European  maple is  not very toxic ,unsure what ` Shunyata`  meant by toxic. All wood dust isnt healthy. Beech is supposed to be irritating, but not  anyway as irritating as exotic bowmaking woods.

I would agree that wood dust in general isn’t healthy. I have to wear a respirator when I’m in the shop or I will be sick all night, as if I have a really bad cold. I’ve done a lot of turning and the warnings about dust tend to apply to hard tropical woods like teak and ipe. Ipe in particular is quite hard and is full of silica which is really bad for the lungs. 

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