For this instrument I was lucky enough to be given a big enough piece of boxwood (thank you Al Ginsberg!) for the fingerboard (ebony would be too heavy, as well as historically incorrect ) and this was hollowed substantially underneath to make it even lighter. Crwth fingerboards and their length are a matter of some debate – there’s no doubt in my mind that the fingerboard (long) of the Aberystwyth crwth is a later addition. In this case, a full length fingerboard was made, as, preconditioned by violins probably, I like this aesthetically. A nut and saddle were prepared from my stock of recyclable black piano keys, and glued in their positions. And all those overlapping table edges that looked so homemade? They all goes as the final outline is established, little niggling points such as the table to yoke step are reconciled and all is cleaned up. I tend to gently blunt sharp edges of the whole instrument during cleanup – I find it gives the instrument a subliminal friendliness absent when sharp edges are left.
You’ll notice, if you look closely, that the string holes have been drilled. Like hollowing the yoke arms, this is another tricky one. I try to avoid the strings seeing right angled bends as much as possible (they are death to expensive gut strings), drilling diagonally, as this helps. I mark front and back entrance and exit holes, then drilling from the front (on the basis that poor accuracy would be most visible here) I use an Archimedian screw drill into a hole started with a bradawl, aiming the long drill towards the desired exit. As you can see, it came out pretty well.
So, with all the woodworking finished the next procedure to be addressed is varnishing.
The National Library of Wales crwth is varnished, and the varnish is typical of stringed instruments with a late 17th – early 18th century British attribution. It also seems to have followed the usual varnishing system of that period, that is to say a ground has been used which seals the wood prior to the application of the varnish proper. This can be clearly seen on unrestored areas where the wear has gone down to bare wood. This is both a sealer and protector, should wear go through the varnish – early varnish, particularly the good stuff, is soft and fragile.
There is a school of thought, to which I subscribe, that the right ground can also have a beneficial effect on a stringed instruments sonic character.
Aside from the ground and its visual effect on the white instrument, here you can clearly see the non aligned entrance and exit holes for the strings.
The varnish I use is one I make myself – the crwth ultimately had about a dozen coats, but here has had about half that.
After varnishing, I finished the neck as I would a violin – it’s a different finish to the varnish, using, among other things, bee propolis. There’s nothing wrong with a fast, smooth neck than feels silky under the hand – on a violin or a crwth!
Varnishing finished, there’s just the fittings to make – tailpiece, tuning pegs, endpin, and bridge.
Then string up, tune up and….finished…