A Stradivarius it's not, but a sign of American ingenuity it is. Charles Baker of McLean, Va., has come up with an easy-to-assemble fiddle kit -- nine pieces of sanded white pine needing only glue, a personalized finish and a little elbow grease. According to his wife, Karon (Fiddle Works' chief salesman and shipper) the former violin repairman "spent two years trying to get it down to the minimum number of parts and the simplest possible way to make a fiddle out of a kit." Since beginning production a year ago, they've sold more than 350 kits (at $63.45 a piece).
The sound is no match for an expensive handmade fiddle, but it's reported to have a nice, earthy tone. And in the world of do-it-yourself instruments, it is the first fiddle kit.
Charles Baker went through a refining process, deciding which violin components could be left out to make it simpler. Traditional violins have more than 70 pieces and involve complex cutting and fitting that can be done only by craftsmen. The answer was consolidation: "With us, all of that work is eliminated. The fingerboard, scrolls, side and back are all one piece; that took some thinking."
Baker, who has repaired violins for 25 years, still produces each kit individually in his shop. "It's a cross between individual and mass production," says Karon Baker. "Sometimes he runs five tops through at once, or five frames, but it's not really a factory yet."
The Bakers have expanded their mail-order service to include fiddle-oriented books, tapes and records. For information, write to The Fiddle Works, P.O. Box 1250, McLean, Va. 22101.