Category Archives: Practical Articles

Grip: How to hold the fiddle and bow

Grip the fiddle and bow photo
Grip the fiddle and bow so that the bow crosses the strings at a right angle

Once you have the grip of the instrument under the chin sorted out, the next thing to address is the right hand’s grip on the bow. This can cause a great deal of trouble though in my opinion is not as tricky as the left hand. Again, the secret is to avoid tension; the hand must be relaxed. To do this, all four fingers and the thumb must be in contact with the stick, and all must be curved. This is hugely important. The most common grip errors are for the little or pinkie finger to lock and become straight and rigid. Do not allow this to happen. Another is for the pinkie to lift off the stick, which is also wrong. More subtle and harder to see but just as damaging is for the thumb to become stiff.


Continue reading Grip: How to hold the fiddle and bow

Originally posted 2013-07-03 19:59:34.

Peg Replacement on a Fiddle or Violin

peg replacementTo replace a peg, you’ll need the right tools.

Some of these are  specialised, and can be expensive, but even after just one set of pegs, you’ll be ahead, and believe me, then you’ll want to do more.

One of the most common problems with old violins is that the pegs are poorly fitted, are not a match to the violin or are just plain old worn out. A fiddle that won’t tune because the pegs jam or slip is a curse. Fitting new pegs is not difficult to do.


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Originally posted 2013-06-27 22:56:04.

Penetrating Damp in your Traditional House (Damp 3)

penetrating damp walls
Typical French house with damp walls Pic: Rod Fleming

Penetrating damp is the result of  water coming through the walls.

Once you’re sure no water is coming through the roof by following the previous articles in this category—and the saving grace of that kind of leak is that it is very obvious and marks its presence clearly—the next issue is this one. Here’s an excellent overview of the problem.

I’ll take time for another of my provocative asides here. I’m pretty convinced—actually I am totally convinced—that there is no significant problem of rising damp in most traditionally built houses, at least as long as they have been left that way. Note that last bit. I’ll come back to this later.

 Meantime, if we discount the possibility of rising damp in most cases, we must look elsewhere for the source of water and there are two issues to address here.

french onion soup rod fleming

Continue reading Penetrating Damp in your Traditional House (Damp 3)

Originally posted 2013-06-17 20:37:29.

Why your house is damp and how to fix it 2

damp roofs france
Three different types of tiles: tuiles mecaniques, tuiles plats and modern cement tiles Pic: Rod Fleming

Damp in your old house and how to deal with it. Part Two in a series explaining where damp in old buildings comes from and what you can do to combat it. Most of the advice is applicable anywhere.

Before worrying about how to get rid of dampness that is already in the house, it makes sense to make sure no more can get it first. There are a number of important areas where unwanted moisture can make it into your house. The roof is the easiest to deal with so we’ll tackle it first.

french onion soup rod fleming

Continue reading Why your house is damp and how to fix it 2

Originally posted 2013-06-11 21:48:26.

DIY In France–Where to Get Stuff

DIY works in progress
DIY works in progress

DIY materials for your house in France

 

A good many incomers to France have no idea where to go to get the materials for their DIY restoration of an old French house. I have even heard of British second-homers filling the car boot with bags of cement and bringing it with them, which is laughable. This article is intended to help.

french onion soup rod fleming

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Originally posted 2013-06-07 17:16:53.

Why Your Dream House in France has Damp Walls

Rainy Day at Cirque du Bout du Mondein Burgundy
Rainy Day in Burgundy

Just about the first thing that everyone notices when they get their dream house in France, and I base this on an admittedly unscientific but extensive post-prandially-conducted survey, is the damp. Unless they have bought in the Midi, of course. For those further north or west, it is a big issue.

 Ask anyone yourself. You’ll soon see that this is the case. You might be forgiven for thinking that parts of France were perpetually under water, from the stories you hear. They’re not; it just can seem that way.

 In order to get some sense of perspective on this, let’s examine a few facts. Large areas of France are indeed very wet. A quick glance at the map will show that weather systems coming in from the Atlantic under the prevailing westerly wind have a choice; they can either swing up north and east and drench Wales, Ireland, the north west of England and of course Scotland, or they can slip in over the Bay of Biscay and take up residence in France, where they will be nicely bottled up due to the fact that from the Med to the Rhine Basin there is a rampart of mountains which prevents any further progress.

 I understand that this is to do with the exact position of the jetstream, a system of ferocious winds at very high altitude.

 Normally, summers in Central France are reasonably dry and very warm. Just what the holidaymaker likes, apparently, and perfect for ripening all that lovely plonk.

french onion soup rod fleming

Continue reading Why Your Dream House in France has Damp Walls

Originally posted 2013-06-07 12:19:52.

Fiddle Repair Can Be Fun Part 2

fiddle pegbox
The pegbox

It’s a lot of fun to repair your own fiddle.

I have one fiddle that is over two hundred years old, which I found in bits, with all her varnish stripped. She would surely be worth more financially if I had had a restorer fix her, but I did it myself, she sounds and plays wonderfully, and I get a real kick out of the fact that I saved her myself. Because, believe me, she was kindling-wood before.

 That brings me to an important point. There is one rule which you should bear in mind whenever you touch an instrument with a mind to fixin’ her.


Continue reading Fiddle Repair Can Be Fun Part 2

Originally posted 2013-06-11 20:59:48.

DIY Fiddle Repair and Maintenance

DIY fiddle repair
DIY fiddle repair

After a little while in the violin world, I know you will have seen this reaction: you have just gone into your friendly music shop and said, “My fiddle needs a new bridge. Can you sell me one?” You are shocked as the light outside dims, the interior of the shop becomes gloomy and the owner, in a voice that would render the bravest heart weak, intones, “You must never, ever, attempt to do any work on your violin yourself. Oh no. That is for the luthier to do. Now get ye hence and practise your scales.” And he refuses to sell you a bridge blank and you scuttle off with your tail between your legs thinking that everyone else in the shop must now consider you an uneducated oaf.

Well, you’re not.


Continue reading DIY Fiddle Repair and Maintenance

Originally posted 2013-05-14 16:40:34.

DIY Fiddle Repair and Maintenance 2

fiddle repair

Part Two of the series on how to repair your own violin

Basics of repair

There is a grand tradition of fiddlers who repair their own instruments, as I said. Just because you happen to be a player does not make you useless, after all.

To repair your own instrument gives great satisfaction. I have one fiddle which is over two hundred years old which I found in bits, with all her varnish stripped. She would surely be worth more financially if I had had a restorer fix her, but I did it myself, she sounds and plays wonderfully, and I get a real kick out of the fact that I saved her myself. Because, believe me, she was kindling-wood before.

That brings me to an important point.


Continue reading DIY Fiddle Repair and Maintenance 2

Originally posted 2013-05-24 19:21:02.

Damp Walls–How to get them dry

damp walls photo
Houses in situations like this often have damp walls. Pic: Rod Fleming

In the past walls were rendered and plastered with lime. Lime is a truly wonderful material that can be bent to a whole series of uses, but as a render on stone it is unsurpassed. It ‘breathes’, allowing moisture to escape and suppressing damp walls. This is because it is very porous. So why are there damp walls in so many old houses today?

french onion soup rod fleming

Continue reading Damp Walls–How to get them dry

Originally posted 2016-07-30 18:45:38.