Video Interview with Gary Cornett

Kentucky Historical Society


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0:27 - Early Life / Music Mentors

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Keywords: Bill Goldsmith; Bowling Green, KY; gun maker; Harry Bickel; John Rice; Kentucky Arts Council; lathe; Roger Cooper; Tom Hale; Woodberry

6:05 - John Rice's 1924 Mandolin

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Keywords: antonio Stradivari; Bluegrass; Classical; F5 Maste Model; George Gruhn; Gibson Company; Herschel Sizemore; John Rice; Kalamazoo, MI; Lloyd Loar; Stradivari; Tuck Taylor

10:13 - Working on World-Class Instruments

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Keywords: California; Don Teeter; Frank Ford; Oklahoma

17:17 - Learning The Art of Repair

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Keywords: 65 J50; Jeff Guernsey; Steve Wariner; Tom Hale; Vince Gill; Violin; Violin Society of America

22:07 - CT Scans of Mandolin

30:11 - Collecting Fiddles

32:35 - Process / Restoration

Play segment Segment link

Keywords: coating; finish work; Ford; Ford Trucks; laquer; refinish; varnish; Violin Society of America

39:56 - Special Instruments / Set Up

45:04 - Fiddle Players / Craft of Luthiery

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Keywords: Bluegrass; Buddy Thomas; Charlotte Cooper; George Gruhn; Jeff Guernsey; Liquid Hide Glue; Paul Smith; Roger Cooper

56:31 - Close Up of Mandolin Made in 1924


JW: (Video begins after interviewer has started announcement)-- Interview

with the Kentucky Craft History and Education Association, May 30th, 2012, with

Gary Cornett and John Rice. Thanks for being here.

JR: You're welcome.

GC: Thanks for coming. You've made a long trip.

JW: It's a beautiful day for a trip. We'll start with Gary. Give us a little

background about your personal life, your childhood, when and where you were

born, some of your family background.

GC: Yeah, I was born in Bowling Green, KY. We actually lived in Woodberry.

Bowling Green was the nearest hospital, 30 miles away or so. And, other than

that, there's not a lot that I would care to talk about. Did get one lucky break

though, I 1:00met my wife of, soon to be 40 years, when I was 16 and she was 14 so I

kind of used up all my luck right there. But, like so many other people of our

generation, John and I have talked about this a lot-- all of us boys developed

manual skills working on old junky cars and anything that came along. So you had

a whole generation that started out building models anytime that you could scrap

the money together and keeping cars running. John still keeps one running to

this day. I think, in a lot of ways, kids of the 50s had childhoods very similar.

JW: Did you play music first or did you work on instruments as a 2:00luthier first?

GC: No, I played, I was trying to learn how to play first and I've had a lot of

people who were really kind to me. Harry Bickel, if you want to go back far

enough, if you want to trace a path back far enough, Harry would be the one

responsible for me doing what I'm doing. I met him and he put up with me and

introduced me to Tom Hale. So that's where I first got my started. Tom was

really kind. By that time of his life he was getting older and he would let me

come over for hours on end. I just thought everything he did was magic. To this

day there are times that in my mind I go back and watch him hair 3:00a bow and laugh

and joke, carrying on all the time he was haring it. I just wonder how on God's

earth did he do that because to me it's one of the most frustrating things that

there is. It requires absolute attention. At the time, it is one of the most

boring things you'll ever do, sort of like doing a fret job - they require the

same set of skills, just absolute attention while you're bored to tears.

And so, Harry was responsible for me being acquainted with Tom. Tom really was

kind. I look back on it and I guess you have to get this old to see how kind he

was to put up with me hour after 4:00hour, digging through all his drawers and

asking him endless questions, and he was kind and generous through it all.

JW: Are there other people who served as a mentor in your quest--?

GC: There are. I've been really fortunate. I've had a lot people who were kind

to me. One very important person was Bill Goldsmith here in town. He wasn't a

famous gun maker, although he was a good gun maker, and he'd let me come over to

his shop. And I remember the first time I saw lathe work, Bill was doing it and

there was, to me there wasn't anything more magical than watching a lathe at

work. So he did the same as Tom, and those two were kind of in conjunction. I

would go to Tom's house, and I'd go to Bill's house, 5:00 and--

GC: So, to pick back up where we were. For several years, we would get together

over at Harry's house every Friday and Saturday night and play music. Harry

actually planted the seeds of everything I know now about old time music. So,

from there I had Roger Cooper, I got an apprenticeship from the Arts Council and

spent, actually, 2-3 years with Roger. So I've had a lot of people be kind to me.

John Rice has been very kind to me. Anytime you take somebody with $100,000

dollar plus instrument and they trust you with it, that's a huge kindness.

Although I'm sure it's one they 6:00would rather not have to participate in.

JW: John, would you like to tell us a little bit about your mandolin?

JR: February 18, 1924. It's a Lloyd Loar signed F-5 Master Model Mandolin made

by the Gibson Company, Kalamazoo, Michigan, and it was one of somewhere between

250 and maybe as many 300, probably less, that were made between 1922 and the

end of 1924. These are generally considered to be the equivalent of a

Stradivarius for mandolins. Now Stradivari did make mandolins, but his weren't

very good by today's standards. These instruments were made, as we were talking

earlier, at the tailend of the era when music became 7:00electrified and amplified.

As a result, the design of this instrument is to project to the very depths of a

large concert hall, and it does that very effectively I think. These instruments

are loud and they are very focused in their tone and their loudness and that is

something that is unique and very desirable for all types of mandolin players. I

play Classical music on mandolin in an orchestra, and I play in a Bluegrass

band. I try to use it for both of those purposes. This instrument is in a batch

that was made in early 1924 and it's very close in the serial numbers to some of

the most famous mandolins that 8:00are being played today by a variety of mostly

Bluegrass musicians. I am very proud of it. I've had it for a little over 10

years. Before that it was owned by a man named Herschel Sizemore in Roanoke,

Virginia, who is considered to be a mandolin player's mandolin player. Very

stylish, technically superior player, and before that it was owned by a

gentleman named Taylor who was involved with an instrument shop in Nashville

with George Gruhn, who we've heard some about today, who is probably the most

knowledgeable person about acoustic instruments in the country.

JR: Before that, the instrument was owned by 9:00a man in Atlanta who had an

instructional shop where he taught people how to play. I don't know much about

what use he found for it, but I'm grateful to all those three people who have

owned it and kept it in good shape. I'm very grateful to Gary for putting it

back to rights when the inevitable wear of 80, now almost 90 years, has caused a

few defects to show up and unlike museum pieces this instrument has been played

professionally for a long time and has shown wear, but that's also preserved its

tone and sound quality. Gary has been instrumental, I hate to use that word but

that's his role in keeping this instrument healthy and stable and able to stand

up 10:00to rigors of whacking away at it in a Bluegrass band or tinkling away in the

3rd or 4th position in the Classical setting.

JW: Gary, what are some of the benefits of being able to work on such a classic

instrument by Lloyd Loar?

GC: I think, for anybody doing this sort of thing, there are a couple of

requirements. Probably the first requirement is that no matter where you live,

say if it was where I came from in Butler County, or wherever you're from, you

have to get up every morning and try to work at a world-class level. If you

don't do that you are lying to yourself. In order to work at a 11:00world-class level

you have to get better every day, but you have to have some good luck, and good

luck is that people would trust you with world-class instruments. When you do

get the opportunity to work on a world-class instrument, it becomes a lot more

than about money. While John was right, this instrument has been used hard all

of its life, it has never had any serious trouble. That says a lot about the

people that made it. You'll start seeing some instruments, as it became more and

more about money, you'll see instruments with more and more problems. But,

nothing serious has ever gone wrong with this. 12:00Everything wrong with this

instrument could be tracked right back to the fact that it was used daily. It

was just ordinary wear. So it's a remarkable good solid instrument. From what I

can gather it's one of the loudest Loars and it's certainly a wonderful

instrument to own. I've gone to see John, he and Mike Schroder are kind of in

charge of the mandolin orchestra, and they do a wonderful job with it. I know

that there are some people who have their ideas of what their instrument sounds

like, as you well know when you get out in the audience it's a different story.

So, you can hear this instrument above everything, even when other people are

thinking to the 13:00 contrary--

JW: Wow.

GC: You can always hear it. And so really, you need to get people to trust you

with world-class instruments and that's asking a lot of somebody. They've got

this fabulous instrument that's a huge part of their life and they're gonna just

hand it to you and that's one thing that I don't allow to happen. Anytime

something special comes in I refuse to make decisions. I will discuss options,

but I won't make decisions. So, once all the options are discussed and learned,

I think it's a huge benefit to the instrument that the owner and myself 14:00 know

exactly what can and can't be done. Then hopefully we will make the right choice.

JW: Do you have a preference for instruments you work on? I know you do a lot of

fiddle and violin work.

GC: I do. I think I get the most enjoyment out of working on fiddles and

violins, but it's really a selfish enjoyment because they are more forgiving.

When you have a mandolin, there's no overhang. There's no forgiveness in

mandolin. A fiddle, fiddles were made to be repaired. They have an overhand even

thought that, in most cases of factory instruments or instruments that we see,

they'll shrink maybe from 3-5 15:00mm in the first 100 years and then it kind of

stabilizes. If you had a mandolin that shrank 5 mm you wouldn't have a mandolin.

So the reason I like to work on violins is they're just more forgiving, lower

stress. The most difficult thing you could work on, I guess, would be a

mandolin. I think Mike Schroder said it right, he said the stresses they're

under, everything about them makes it very difficult and a guitar is not far

behind. A guitar would be a little easier to work on but there again; they

weren't made to be worked on. Really we would have to go back to a 16:00repairman in

Oklahoma named Don Teeter who I would call the father of modern guitar

repairing. I'm sure Don's long ago gone. He wrecked his health breathing

lacquer, but he is the father of modern guitar repair and he did two books on

it. A lot of it just is just treatment of the instrument has long ago been set

aside. He just treated them as old guitars, and now those old guitars have

become important instruments and they can't be treated that way anymore, but Don

deserves all the credit in the world.

There are a lot of very unselfish luthiers across the country, like Frank Ford

in 17:00California. If you try to study on a world-class level, it involves spending

a whole lot of your life on more than just working at the bench.

JW: Are those materials what you've used most to study the art of repair or

working with other people? What methods have you used?

GC: Books. Fortunately, like I said Tom Hale was really kind, but Tom Hale

didn't have the Violin Society of America. The Violin Society has done a huge

amount for everyone because they're the only organization that has had the money

to fund and try and analyze how an instrument actually works. 18:00So, we know a

great deal about how a violin works. You can't, nobody knows how each individual

one is going to work-- So, we have to thank them because of the spill over into

other instruments and I've been really fortunate having started on fiddles and

then taken on other things you gain all this cross-knowledge. The main thing is

that they become valuable and it's your responsibility to see to them. It's not

always pleasant.

JW: What are some of those unpleasant experiences?

GC: Well, I've got one lying over there waiting for me right now and it belongs

to a world-class musician, Jeff Guernsey. He's played with Steve Warner and

Vince 19:00Gill. Unfortunately, musicians are not always the best judge of what kind

of shape a musical instrument is in. They see it and they love it and that's as

far as it goes. Then they bring it to you and you start pointing out things and

you can see their minds start to work. I've got a real neat old 65' J-50 that

looks like somebody just took a glue bottle and poured in it. So, when you take

an instrument apartment it absolutely has to be together by the third day.

Actually, ever hour after the second day gets critically important. There are a

lot of times I'll stay up 15 -20 hours a day working on it 20:00just because I know

my deadline. But that's under ordinary circumstances. Something like this, where

somebody has poured a glue bottle in there, you start to wonder what you are

going to do. I've got one policy that has served me well throughout my life and

that is, I never touch anything until I've repaired it in my mind. Once I have

worked out all the steps and I know how it's going to be I will physically start

on it, but if you don't have it worked out in your mind you're going to get some

unwelcomed surprises.

JW: Is that true for every instrument?

GC: Every one. Yes, positively, it is. And the one thing you don't want is

unwelcomed surprises when you are working on a three day 21:00deadline. It's like we

were talking earlier, I had a guitar here one time and a lot of times people

will tell you, oh you just take as long as you want and three days later they're

calling you. I had this guitar and it lay there six weeks, unless a miracle from

heaven happened it was going to lay there another six weeks. It just struck me

and I was able to attach a piece of metal to a brace, and get it in place with

some magnets, therefore I didn't have to take it apart. You really have to be

extremely careful. 22:00Interruption by videographer - inserted new tape

JW: Were those your CT Scans in the article?

JR: Yeah, in the Mandolin Magazine.

JW: I'll go back and--

JR: If you have that issue--

JW: Yeah, I have it.

JR: It was a few years-- Actually, what happened was that somebody wrote a

letter to the editor saying boy, if you really want to see that you ought to do

an MRI of the mandolin. Of course, you could never do that because this [points

to mandolin] has some ferromagnetic components. If you put it in magnet it would

literally explode. So I wrote a letter to the editor, I forget her name, and I

said please don't do that. But at the time I said, I had done several X-ray CT

Scans which is a totally non-destructive technique, unlike the MRI.

JW: Like the MRI--

JR: And it shows a lot of information about thickness obviously, there are a lot

of cross-sections. You can see the grain patterns, and another thing you can see 23:00are repairs. The glue is very dense. It looks like somebody painted a white

streak in a crack that has been glued, whereas somebody might tell you oh that's

just a finish crack but when you scan it and there's, whoops, there's glue, how

did it get there? Anyway, it was kind of interesting stuff, but there have been

a number of people I've talked to. There's a fella over in Slovakia, a guy name

Adrian Minarovic; Hogo they call him. He has published a very detailed set of

plans of a Loar and they're based on his analysis of instruments. I sent him the

CT scans and he was able to use that to some extent. That and a Hacklinger gauge

will get you a lot of information.

JW: Yeah. Have they done that with violins?

JR: Yes, that's actually the first piece of it. A guy at 24:00Michigan State whose

name is escapes me, but another brother of a radiologist who wrote an article

about it. He actually, they actually made a fiddle and a cello based on their dimensions.

JW: What were the results, do you remember?

JR: Mostly what I remember is that the article that he wrote was very

self-aggrandizing. He was patting himself on the back for such a cleaver thought

and how carefully it was being used to turn into these wonderful instruments,

but I don't know what's become of it since then. It was a year or so before I

started doing it. I had already thought about it before then, but never got

around to doing it.

GC: There have been a couple of updates. You want to tell the new stuff they are

able to do--

JR: About 25:00 what?

GC: You know, doing the X-rays, there's apparently some new way of going about

it that gives clearer pictures.

JR: Oh well, on newer scanners it gets better.

GC: Yeah.

JR: You get thinner slices and greater spatial resolution so you get better

pictures than we did in 1996 or '97. That was ages ago in terms of medical

imagining technology.

GC: As a matter of fact that fiddle that I've got started is from a poster is

Strad Magazine and it's got the new images of the original Strad on there.

JW: Is that the one you have the bolt for?

GC: Yeah. You know, one thing, I know people beat themselves to death trying to

slavishly follow dimensions. I've 26:00seen two pretty expensive fiddles, you know,

$10,000 range, that's pretty good money for a new maker, where they had just

slavishly followed these dimensions even to the point of putting in an

excessively thin spot that slipped through the Stradivarian shop, shouldn't have

been there, but it was-- What they're failing to consider, and John is really

good at this stuff so he can correct me anytime he wants, the coldest part of

the little ice age actually corresponded to Stradivari's life. Stradivari

actually outlived it. I think the coldest 80 years started in 1645, 1650, and

Strad's birthday they argue was between 1644 and '48, but then he lived 27:00to 1737.

So, that was the coldest 80 years. But the little ice age went on and I think it

finally came to an end around 1840. When you think of trees, and you think of

Martin Gibson Company and other companies in the 20s and 30s, they were probably

harvesting trees that we growing in the little ice age. Now enough time has

passed that Red Spruce is not the same, nor is anything else the same. We're

dealing with, for practical purposes, just entirely different species of wood.

You can't just follow numbers and hope to come up with some wonderful. I know

that if you look 28:00at John's, we've measured it countless times, it's a healthy

instrument. If I remember correctly its 4 -- 4 ½ mm in the center and it's just

a healthy instrument. I know we've seen others, John and I went to Gruhn's one

day and he had one or two there didn't he John? And then, Ronnie McCory was

telling us about his, but one thing I noticed was Ronnie couldn't put John's

down for about 40 minutes.

What I've, you spend your life, if you're going to do this you spend your life,

and you have to start somewhere so maybe you do start with given numbers. From

there what you devolve into, or 29:00evolve into is, you start recognizing

characteristics of wood and maybe this is really light and flexible, and maybe

too light and flexible, so maybe you need to add stiffeners. And then for

everything you've learned, there will come a time where something will come

along and just call you a liar. Al White got a fiddle from me that when I got it

together I had no hope for it at all, it was so heavy and stiff, and it is

fabulous. He wouldn't take anything for it. So, for everything you believe there

will be an 30:00exception. Al said nothing made him happier than to pay money and be

a better fiddle player.

JW: What do you look for in fiddles when you're buying them? Do you find them--?

GC: I look for workmanship. If the original workmanship is good, you will have a

good instrument. There is one thing that we talk about, Harry and I talk about,

John and I talk about, this whole circle talks about, and it's something that I

don't ever see mentioned and that is with any instrument, doesn't matter what it

is, you have a physics equation. You have, when someone is hunting for an

instrument, you have a physics equation solvable only through trial and error.

You take that person's makeup, added 31:00to an instrument, and then, if it comes out

the end with a wonderful sound you've solved the equation. So, just because it's

a good instrument doesn't mean it's going to be a good instrument for everyone.

Each person has to go through that hunt.

JW: Where do you find instruments most of all?

GC: There are some people I know in different parts of the country. I have

bought a few off of EBay, but I think I've been sadly disappointed for the most

part. It's getting harder and harder. You know, how many good instruments have

we lost just because they were played to death? Maybe this 32:00is the right place,

maybe it's the wrong place, but I have read and found it to be true that a

luthier can do more harm in 5 minutes than a player can do in 50 years. So, if

you don't take the right approach in removing a fiddle top you'll break it, it

will just split from one end to the other. It's something you have to be very

careful with.

JW: Are there any unique methods that you use for building? Any shop secrets

that you'd like to share?

GC: No, I think the Violin Society of America has really laid down a set of

seriously good guidelines. One thing I do that is different 33:00from what has been

tradition in violin making-- The traditional way in violin making of repairing a

sound post crack is to, of course, scoop it out to about one mm thickness and

add new wood. You chalk fit it and do the whole thing.

GC: And so, one way I differ from that is, anytime I take a top off I put a 34:00prophylactic violin patch in there that does not involve removing wood, it's

just to keep it safe so that an ill-fitting post won't crack it there. It's just

to try to make it last longer.

JW: Do you find a difference in the sound quality with that type of repair?

GC: I think that you do. I think that, from what I've been able to tell, it adds

a little stiffness and I think you get a little better sound. I think it's just

something that's necessary to live with. You know, this far removed, a good

number of instruments have sound post cracks anyway. I know Bruce Greene sent

his up with a nasty crack, and 35:00ended up doing that, but I think that's actually

a better way just to put that patch on rather than scooping out the top because

the question arises how many times can you do that scooping out method? Each

time you would have to make sure that the glue is removed, so each time you

would get thinner because you're simply putting it right back to the way it was

and the same thing can happen again. So no, I don't have any secrets, it's just

hard work, and the secrets would be to maintain high standards.

JW: What are your thoughts on finish work on a violin?

GC: That's one place I've been lucky. I retired from Ford after 30 years and the

last 36:0010 years I was there I was a metal man and a paint repairman. That's pretty

much a dying art. The work I did was with lead. So, I got to practice on

hundreds and millions of dollars' worth of Ford trucks and went to, got trained

with very good painters, and so the last ten years I was at Ford I got a really

good education in chemicals of all kinds. That has enabled me to be better than

someone who didn't get that opportunity. I'm not saying that I'm any better, but

I did get the opportunity. I'm constantly exploring new finishes because they

come out with some all the 37:00time and you'll read an article and somebody will

swear how wonderful it is and you'll invest a hundred bucks and you'll say that

that needs to go in the garbage can because it isn't so wonderful.

One thing we all need to know, and I know in the interview with Harry Bickel he

used the word restoration just like I use it, we all use it, but really we have

to keep in mind that once damage is done it can never truly be restored. You

might touch it up to where it's nearly invisible but once it's done, it's done.

There's no restoring it, there's only repairing it to the best of your ability.

So, with finishes what I do is whatever is required. On some 38:00instruments, on

violins, I would prefer to use an oil varnish although sometimes spirit varnish

is required. Sometimes one thing you hate to use is lacquer, but sometimes you

have to. And so, there is a multiplicity of coatings out there, and it requires

a lot of study and updating of your knowledge, and its one place where a person

can go wrong. If you choose the wrong one, you've made a mess. And I've chosen

the wrong before. I always try to practice on things that belong to me so when

I'm working on someone else's I'm sure of what the results 39:00are going to be. But

you actually asked the most difficult thing any luthier will deal with is coatings.

JW: Finish works seems to be the--

GC: Yeah, even modern factories are having trouble with finish work. You get

into water-based coating because of the health of the workers is at stake and

they fail to adhere. There are a lot of problems with new instruments right now.

The old finishes were fabulous, but they'd just kill you.

JW: So that's the difference, the health risk of--

GC: Yes.

JW: Health risks and using water-based-- What are some of the best 40:00 instruments

you've worked on that you can--?

GC: Depending if you are talking monetary value of course John's instrument was

the most expensive I've ever worked on.

JW: Sure.

GC: I've had an opportunity to work on several really nice guitars. I'll

probably, the most expensive one would probably be $25 -$30,000 dollars and

fiddles, not so much. Probably the ones we see around here, the ones that most

people can afford run $5 - $10,000 dollars. But run of the mill instruments, I

don't want to give the idea that everything is that much, you can get a very

good ordinary instrument for $1,000 bucks. You know that yourself.

JW: Sure.

GC: You've run across some steals I'm 41:00 sure.

JW: Yeah, absolutely.

GC: With a fiddle it's all in the set-up.

JW: What are some of the specifics to a set-up that you, that you've tried to achieve?

GC: You know it's a funny thing, but the thing that actually doesn't matter at

all as far as money goes-- There are a couple of things. One of them is you need

a bridge that's big enough. One of the biggest mistakes that I've seen and I

didn't learn this myself I read about it in the Violin Society where they

studied a hundred different violin bridges from the Rembert Wurlitzer shop, and

everyone had 17 mm between the kidneys. Once I read that I found a blank 42:00 that

would allow me to have that much and it matters. And so, you want to start with

a big enough blank for a bridge and then you do want everything to be as light

as possible. These composite tail pieces and chin rests they all add a lot to

sound. Most of the things that we would see day to day would be, over time, the

neck set is wrong, and so you start there. Ideally you would start with a modern

base bar. Everything we see and like, you see and like. I see and like every

fiddle 43:00player-- is usually German, turn of the century, something affordable,

but you have to keep in mind that the base bar was smaller for gut strings and

modern base bars are bigger. If you found a really nice fiddle you could pretty

much imagine that it would sound dramatically better with some bringing up to

the present time done.

One thing I have learned is that the basic core sound of any instrument never

changes. John's, we've done work on it and, as a matter of fact I've developed a

little gauge based on John's instrument. If John can play that up to the very 44:00last fret in the mandolin orchestra, then there's something wrong with a

mandolin player that can't play with that string height. And so, little things

like that matter. On a mandolin you can't get a lot of change, but if you were

to move the bridge slightly to the base-side you can't ever move it more than a

1/16th, you can make it a little more "basier" or "trebly", but there are some

hard and fast rules that you don't violate.

I know that I've seen you on TV enough with some very good fiddles to know that

you know a good fiddle when you see 45:00 it.

JW: Well, I'm learning.

GC: But, one thing you have to be aware of, and it's what I tell everyone-- When

a person is going to buy an instrument, whatever it may be, they're going to buy

an apple. The person selling it is selling oranges. The people selling it have

their own criteria. George Gruhn has his own criteria; it has nothing to do with

the sound. So the person buying it is after something else. It's difficult to

make that connection.


JW: Who are some of the people that you've heard that have attracted you to a

certain sound with the fiddle? Some of the fiddlers you enjoy listening to?

GC: Oh I enjoy listening to you every time I see you! Roger Cooper, Roger and

Charlotte were kind to 46:00me for three years. There were times that I spent every

weekend at their house. And then for Bluegrass, the last four or five years I've

been going to Jeff Guernsey trying to learn some Bluegrass. Through Roger I've

really gotten acquainted with Buddy Thomas and a lot of those recordings that

never made it to record. You know, that's my personal favorites but we have some

wonderful players. We just lost Paul Smith which was a shame. Paul was a smart

man and a smart fiddle player. He knew when he would be losing something and he

would call me and we would discuss what could be done to address the issues he

was having and so Paul followed hard his whole life 47:00to compensate what age had

been doing to him and really succeeded at it. You know, I think it's kind of

remarkable for those of us in this generation to look at what a hard time we had

learning music and then to see how many aids are available now and its, I think

I would call is jealously, but we probably have some healthy envy of the aids

that people in your generation have and it just makes younger players better and

better. I don't think there's ever been a time when players could be any better

than in your generation.

JW: Do you find that true with luthiers and 48:00builders and repair people who--

GC: Luthiers is a touch thing. There's a guy in California, Irving Sumagi, and

he just put out a couple of books. Apparently he is a wonderful guitar builder

and his instruments sell for $25,000 bucks and he said it right. He and George

Gruhn had said it years ago, I read what George said, and both of them said they

didn't have high hopes for the craft of luthiery because, like George said, a

child needs to start out at six or seven years old putting model cars together

and developing his skills that way and basically Irving was saying the same

thing. It's just like I said earlier, from model 49:00cars we graduate to real ones

and it's very difficult to get children to work with their hands anymore. It's

just, the culture has changed. So you've got to get manual skills somewhere and

I don't know where on earth you would get them. And so I feel like George, I

think George has a tough time keeping luthiers. I don't think there's ever a

serious abundance of them. I know some things I've seen from Tom Hale I think,

all of his repairs I saw were well thought out. I've seen some failure that were

caused by bad glue and there again 50:00people don't understand hide glue has a pot

life of eight hours. At the end of that, if you use it, it's going to fail down

the road and it has to be dumped. So if you, I don't care if you stick it in the

refrigerator like a lot of people are saying to do, you are talking about

pennies and why would you risk a failure for pennies. There are some certain

hard and fast rules that you need to adhere to and if you violate them somebody

is going to pay.

JW: What do you think about liquid hide glue?

GC: It has the, what makes it liquid hide glue is urea. Urea is an extender that

prevents it from ever gelling. And 51:00so, hide glue has gram strength. I think

normally for lutheir work, for violins the gram strength would be 251, and it

will run up to 378. Pass 378 it becomes glass chipping grade and that's how they

make fancy glass, they just put hide glue on it and as hide glue dries it will

chip the glass it's so strong. Depending on the purpose on a fiddle I would use

the lesser strength. A fiddle is made to come apart. On a guitar I would use the

strongest. People are under the illusion that hide glue is reversible and it's

not. If you glue something with 52:00good fresh hide glue you aren't going to get it

apart. It will come apart a lot easier with tight bond that it will with hide

glue. So, all these things have to be taken in to account.

JW: Yeah, it seems like a really powerful adhesive. I read somewhere where

somebody got there violin back together with just hide glue and no clamps.

GC: Oh yeah, it will grab fast, but that glue you are talking about I think that

would be good for nuts and things like that, but one thing that has to be done,

there should be an expiration date and it should be six months. You have to

periodically throw it away. One thing, the only problem with hide glue is you've

got a one minute working 53:00time and if you want more than a minute you've got to

clamp this all up in advance and if you're going to require more than one minute

then you should put some urea in it and maybe you can get it up to a minute and

a half, a minute and forty seconds, but that's the drawback no working time.

JW: Do you have any other thoughts?

GC: No, I just think that in addition to luthiers that we have to say luthiers

wouldn't even be here if we didn't have customers and I think it's critically

important that all of us have a healthy respect for the instruments that the

customers own. John has some wonderful instruments that would be well worth

looking at. John has that old snake head and some others 54:00and one thing we all

have to know is that all these instruments made in the 20s and the 30s, they

were just work horses through the 70s and now they've become valuable and all of

a sudden we have to take care of them. Harry and I had this conversation before

and I told him that when I tried to fix something I tried to fix it for the next

hundred years or so and he said--.

Interruption by videographer -- background noise

GC: And so, we had this conversation about how long we were responsible for the

instruments. Harry very succulently put it; you can't be responsible after

you're 55:00dead. So I think that what we've got here is one generation trying to

pass on to the next generation some good instruments in good shape and if we all

do our best maybe it will work out.

JW: Absolutely. I hope so.

JR: We're just the stewards, we're not the owners and Stradivari instruments, if

you look at something there its three hundred years old. These mandolins are

made every bit as strong and, given proper care will probably last that long and

who knows what kind of music they are going to be playing. Bluegrass is just a

few decades old. Classical music, you know, some of the stuff goes back to the

15th century, and there will 56:00be somebody out there that wants to be able to play

on an instrument like this hopefully in a couple hundred years. So it's our

responsibility as the stewards to turn it over to the next person in excellent

shape because they won't be able to buy another one. Lloyd Loar left the

building a long time ago.

JW: Absolutely.

GC: And if your work today is a success you'll be able to buy one of these.

JW: That's right.

Interruption by interviewer and videographer -- JR asked to hold mandolin up for

video purposes GC leaves the video area Background conversation

JR: It has some politically incorrect material. It has some ivory pieces on

here--. The finger board is 57:00ebony and the top is Red Spruce. Picea Rubens, which

is the gold standard, but the Spruce that they had in 1920s may not be the same

as they have today.