After the varnish is safely dry enough to work with the instrument, the fingerboard will be glued on and the saddle and nut installed. The pegs are fitted to the pegholes, the endpin is installed, the soundpost inserted, a bridge fitted and strings stretched onto the cello.
1/8/2001 – Installing the fittings requires care, not to damage the finished and now varnished surfaces. It requires accuracy to place the fingerboard as shown in these images at an exact measurement for the specified neck length. Here in (1), the fingerboard is glued and clamped and in (2), the clamps are off and to my great delight, it didn’t fall off.
Usually by now, I have put on the nut, which sits at the upper end of the fingerboard but this time I’ve installed the pegs first. In image (3) they are being fitted with a reamer. This process requires more nerve than I can sometimes muster in order to get the pegs in looking really straight from the front, the back and from above. This is THE most challenging optical illusion puzzle in which the installer must “see” an invisible center line on tapered pegs and install them perpendicular to an imaginary middle line as “seen” on the pegbox which tapers from bottom to top. The alignment and direction of the peg head can be shifted by applying pressure on the reamer in the direction of needed change while turning it.
In (4), the pegs are roughed in, yet requiring their ends to be finished and polished and the string holes drilled and filed.
1/9/2001 – Fitting the saddle requires cutting out a small section of top right at the bottom. In (5), the cuts have been made with the knife and in (6 & 7) that incised wood is removed. Photos (8 & 9) show the ebony saddle fit and glued in.
The nut is fitted to the bottom of the pegbox and the top end of the fingerboard to convey the strings out of the pegbox and onto the playing surface of the fingerboard, as in (10 & 11).
Next the soundpost is fitted. The two ends of the soundpost are fitted to the inside of the top and back and checked with a mirror as in (12). The soundpost wedges itself between the top and back at this part of each arching where the two try to converge.
The last task on this cello is the bridge. The feet are fitted exactly to the surface contour of top at the place where it stands by cutting with a sharp knife. Once fit, the top arch is gauged from the fingerboard to achieve the correct string height for playing. The outlines of the bridge are then greatly enhanced and enlarged to lighten the bridge and make it look more elegant.
Drum roll: then the moment arrives that I’ve thought about countless times, namely the time when the cello makes its first sounds. So much hope is pinned on the outcome of how the cello will sound, etc. So much rides on that result. Strings are wound onto the pegs and the tailpiece is attached for the string to hook into below. With the strings in place and finished bridge lying beside the cello (13), there is nothing else left to do but raise the bridge under the strings (14) and start pulling the tension up on the strings. As the strings are pulled up the bridge is likewise pulled toward the pegbox, requiring that the bridge be pulled back down toward the tailpiece (15). The bridge is fit “just so” and therefore must be standing exactly in the relative perpendicular position in which it was intentionally fit.
It is a wonderful thrill to sit down with the new cello after it is in tune and discover what all that wood, varnish, and hundreds of decisions sounds like. With this particular cello, I was immediately aware of how light weight the cello feels. It is important to remember that a cello is fairly large as an acoustical chamber and receives fairly substantial stress loading from the strings. There will be some formative settling and stretching taking place over the next few days as the structure begins to settle in to its reaction to these new stress loads. Until those have happened, assessing its sound is not unlike assessing a cake right out of the oven before it has fallen and settled as it cools.
So it’s not unusual to find the very first voice to be somewhat less representative of the cello’s full potential for the first few days. Still, it’s hard ot not taste the wine before it’s ready, “just to see”. And in many cases, instruments will excede those diminished expectations and start out with considerable poise and apparent maturity almost right away. While not getting it is not really a negative thing, getting the roar almost right off is definitely a plus!
When I played this new cello, it sounded very deep and full. Its response was surprisingly easy. It has edge and clarity and the A string feels turbocharged. But it sounds a little uneven. I dont even care yet. I put on Tungsten C mittel, G tungsten stark, Permanente D solo, and Jargar A stark. It sounds very strong everywhere. It feels flexible. Overall, I’m very gratified that this cello, in its first hour, offers enough raw potential to keep it in good stead. Mainly, I’m very glad it’s done!