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Monthly Archives: December 2010

Richard Nice, who among many other things makes guitars, recently showed me this attractive plane that he had designed for shaping soundboard braces and harmonic bars. He made it from an off-cut of beech and a discarded cutter from a plough plane and, so that there could be no doubt about its provenance, he signed it too.

The screw adjustment is simple but ingenious, depending only on a carefully sited screw tapped into the back of the plane and a slot cut into to the upper end of the iron.

The plane is comfortable to hold and works well. Its narrow cheeks enable it to take shavings from the lowest part of the brace and produce either a triangular or gothic arch section according to your preference.

A few days ago, my friend Michael Lavelle, surgeon, cellist and luthier, dropped in to return a plane that I had lent him and to try out the cello that I have been writing about recently. He brought with him a beautiful pochette, a copy of the famous Clapisson pochette made by Antonio Stradivari in 1717, that he had completed last year. Mike’s instrument has an owl’s face instead of a scroll.

He tells me that these instruments were used by dancing masters in the 18th and 19th centuries, presumably because they were so much easier to carry around than a full-sized fiddle. They’re held, not under the chin, but between the left chest and elbow and they’re played mainly in the first position.The name ‘pochette’ obviously comes from the French word for pocket. In England and Scotland they were known as kits or kit violins – which is probably a diminutive of pocket violin.

There are a few pochettes in musical instrument collections. The Burrell Collection in Glasgow has one, which can be seen here, but it’s not nearly as attractive as the Clapisson. And I believe that the V and A in London and the Edinburgh University Collection of Historical Musical Instruments have examples too.

Not many modern makers however, seem very interested in pochettes, although Owen Morse-Brown is an exception.

Mike hinted that his pochette might be for sale so, if you are interested, email me at info@finelystrung.com and I’ll put you in touch with him.

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