Full Size Neck on Smaller Cello?


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Hello Maestronet! Hoping you can help me with an idea I’ve been kicking around. Please forgive me if this kind of thing has been asked about before, I searched for it but couldn’t find much.

Basically I am very interested in finding (or more likely cobbling together) a frankenstein cello, with a full length fingerboard (and 4/4 scale length) but on a smaller body (perhaps 1/4 or even 1/8 size). This would strictly be a cheap knock-around instrument. Something to take camping, to jam sessions, etc.

The idea is that the smaller body  would be advantageous for portability, but the 4/4 fingerboard would ideally retain all my normal muscle memory. I understand that this would throw all the contact points of out of whack, but I think I can reasonably adjust for that.

The other part of my wanting to do this is that I’m looking to drastically increase the length of fingerboard before the stop—somewhat similar to how an NS cello is designed, but acoustic. I like that I can keep my thumb underneath the neck in the higher positions on NS cellos, and while I know that is not the proper way to play, at this point in my life I’m just looking for an acoustic instrument that is comfortable and fun for me to play non-seriously. I understand that the stop has to happen somewhere, but my thinking with the smaller sized body is that it could come in much farther down on the neck.

So I guess the first thing I’m wondering: is there any precedent for something like this? I was unable to find anything after numerous searches, although I did find the opposite: a company that manufactured a shorter scale cello on a full-size body.

I did find a lot of examples of people slapping upright bass necks onto cellos, which I suppose is somewhat similar to what I’m looking to do, except smaller.

If I go the DIY route (which seems most likely), I understand that it won’t be as simple as slapping a 4/4 neck on a 1/4 size body, if I want to keep the bridge generally located where it should be. What I’m thinking would be optimal would be to cut off the stop on a 4/4 neck and add more wood to it, making the stop happen further down the neck, where I would affix it to the smaller cello body.

I suppose there are some issues that would also come out of using a bridge that’s meant for a larger body than the one it’s on, things like bass bar and sound post placement relative to the bridge’s position, and structural integrity—the feet of it would be closer to the f-holes than normal.

Again this won’t be a beautiful instrument. It’s something that’s gonna be out in the sun, get left in the car, inevitably broken, and re-built in a few years. So I’m also not looking to spend a ton—thinking I’ll most likely end up hacking up some cheapo student instruments to make the monster.

Do you think this is a good idea? Do you think it’s the worst idea of all time? Any huge problems with it that I’m not thinking about? Any ideas, suggestions, or recommendations are super appreciated! Thanks so much.

Edited by DoubleStopHammertime
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It seems to me like you are just going to be fighting the geometry of the smaller body at every stop. I would consider something more like a trench cello, since you are basically going to get a much lower acoustic output anyway. They can also collapse for transport!

Westminster Abbey on Twitter: "RT @vanorissima @StevenIsserlis rehearsing  for #RemembranceDay playing "trench cello" made out of a WW1 shell case  http://t.co/6LHS7mlP9q"

Victorian Military Campaign Collapsible Trench Cello by WE Hill & Sons |  Jason Clarke Antiques

 

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Those trench cellos are very cool, I’m not aware of a luthier making modern reproductions. I did find a luthier who makes a “walking stick cello” on Etsy, seems very cool but I’m not sure it’s exactly what I’m looking for. 

I’m considering abandoning the idea of grafting a full-size neck to a smaller cello body, and simply fabricating an entirely new body instead. So a cigar box cello, or something to the like. I think a novel approach to the issue of contact points could be make the whole thing mountable to one of these NS cello endpin stands. 

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I'm only a cellist, not a lutier...

I understand that you'd like a full size cello string length (69,5 CM) right? If you wish to add a long neck to a small body (the neck will need to be a lot longer than on a 4/4th cello!), you need to think of the fact that a longer neck is going to have a greater pulling force at the neck base. One of the problematic things about cello necks is that they'll have the tendency to deform due to the pull of the strings. There are people (also high profile cello makes) that insert carbon fibre rods or other carbon fibre supports into the neck, in order to prevent this from happening in a 4/4 cello. For sure, with an even longer neck, you would need that, or you would need to make a much thicker neck.

Another option would be to simply use a 4/4 neck on an 1/8 body, but place a high bridge rather far down onto the body. You may just get enough bow clearance then. Not sure how that will sound.

As a basis for a trench cello you could use a prakticello. If you'd add something similar to a sound board to it, it should sorta work.

 

 

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8 hours ago, baroquecello said:

As a basis for a trench cello you could use a prakticello. If you'd add something similar to a sound board to it, it should sorta work.

Prakticello was what I was thinking of when I found the trench cello pics. As a cheaper alternative I wonder if one could take a CSO and cut lengthwise down the body to about the width of the bridge and then make some side panels to complete the box. I have done such things to make travel drum kits, and always felt weird about taking a saw to a working instrument, don't know if I could do it to even the cheapest cello. 

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I do have a very low quality student cello that I normally use for this purpose, but size is still an issue and I’m just waiting for the day where it gets too hot and completely falls apart.

Prakticellos are very cool. I think they would probably have the best playability of any of my options. Not sure about how well they would take to having a soundbox added, seems like it would probably need to be removable to get to the inner workings for assembly. Also the price is maybe a bit high for something that’s going to be a knock around instrument.

Right now I’m leaning most toward building/commissioning someone to build a kind of banjo cello, similar to this. I think I could reasonably pull it off myself, tension on the neck is probably the biggest hurdle as mentioned previously. 
 

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On 2/23/2021 at 12:40 AM, DoubleStopHammertime said:

Hello Maestronet! Hoping you can help me with an idea I’ve been kicking around. Please forgive me if this kind of thing has been asked about before, I searched for it but couldn’t find much.

Basically I am very interested in finding (or more likely cobbling together) a frankenstein cello, with a full length fingerboard (and 4/4 scale length) but on a smaller body (perhaps 1/4 or even 1/8 size). This would strictly be a cheap knock-around instrument. Something to take camping, to jam sessions, etc.

The idea is that the smaller body  would be advantageous for portability, but the 4/4 fingerboard would ideally retain all my normal muscle memory. I understand that this would throw all the contact points of out of whack, but I think I can reasonably adjust for that.

The other part of my wanting to do this is that I’m looking to drastically increase the length of fingerboard before the stop—somewhat similar to how an NS cello is designed, but acoustic. I like that I can keep my thumb underneath the neck in the higher positions on NS cellos, and while I know that is not the proper way to play, at this point in my life I’m just looking for an acoustic instrument that is comfortable and fun for me to play non-seriously. I understand that the stop has to happen somewhere, but my thinking with the smaller sized body is that it could come in much farther down on the neck.

So I guess the first thing I’m wondering: is there any precedent for something like this? I was unable to find anything after numerous searches, although I did find the opposite: a company that manufactured a shorter scale cello on a full-size body.

I did find a lot of examples of people slapping upright bass necks onto cellos, which I suppose is somewhat similar to what I’m looking to do, except smaller.

If I go the DIY route (which seems most likely), I understand that it won’t be as simple as slapping a 4/4 neck on a 1/4 size body, if I want to keep the bridge generally located where it should be. What I’m thinking would be optimal would be to cut off the stop on a 4/4 neck and add more wood to it, making the stop happen further down the neck, where I would affix it to the smaller cello body.

I suppose there are some issues that would also come out of using a bridge that’s meant for a larger body than the one it’s on, things like bass bar and sound post placement relative to the bridge’s position, and structural integrity—the feet of it would be closer to the f-holes than normal.

Again this won’t be a beautiful instrument. It’s something that’s gonna be out in the sun, get left in the car, inevitably broken, and re-built in a few years. So I’m also not looking to spend a ton—thinking I’ll most likely end up hacking up some cheapo student instruments to make the monster.

Do you think this is a good idea? Do you think it’s the worst idea of all time? Any huge problems with it that I’m not thinking about? Any ideas, suggestions, or recommendations are super appreciated! Thanks so much.

I have a 7/8 cello with a full size neck.  But it seems you need something smaller.

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