Wood in Traditional Building 2: Poplar and Pine

Everyone will be familiar with the beautiful poplar trees that make valleys in Burgundy and elsewhere so charming to the eye. Poplar produces straight-grained timber of prodigious length. The wood is soft and easy to cut, and it holds nails very well. It resists splitting firmly because is has an interwoven grain, so it is tricky to plane well; better to use a power plane. But poplar is in any case best kept for rough work.

It has two big disadvantages; it can to warp severely as it dries, so great care must be taken in stacking; and insects just love it. Poplar should never be used unless it is treated or painted, or else the woodworm will have a field day. However, it is reasonably resistant to rot, and as long as it is used with care, is a useful timber. It is cheap and plentiful, light and easy to handle.

Unfortunately, poplar is usually grown individually, in long thin avenues, or as windbreaks along the edges of fields, and more rarely in plantations. Its presence in the beautiful valleys of central France is a great asset visually. However, this causes a problem when it is cut for timber.

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Wood in Traditional Building 1: Oak

Wood is, along with stone and earth, one of the principal materials used in the construction of buildings, and particularly older buildings. The principal varieties used are oak, poplar and beech, known as hardwood in UK.  Spruces and pines(softwood in UK) are also much used, especially in new-build.  It is important to have some understanding of the nature of wood, its uses in the older house and some sympathy for its virtues as well as its limitations.

Wood is used in a wide variety of applications, and the most important of these are the support structure for floors; the roof timbers and associated work; and the interior finishing timber. Timber is also used in the construction of interior walls and in many areas in the construction of supporting walls.

There are three timbers commonly found in older buildings in France, namely oak, poplar and pine. Other timbers are often found as parts of outhouses and sheds.


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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.


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Peg Replacement on a Fiddle or Violin

To 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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