Some years ago, a neighbor brought me some very nicely figured hardwood slabs for a violin project. He had cut them from a fallen branch of a local tree species. I was quite impressed with the wood, but when I inquired after the type of tree it had come from, he was a little reluctant to admit that it had been a cottonwood, populus fremontii I believe, “suitable for pallets.”

This violin– or VSO, if you are a stickler for “the rules”– has been a few years in the making, through some life-changes and a move. I did much of the work during the June 2017 Southern California Violin Makers Workshop.

For the top, I chose a knotted piece of firewood, selected from a $6 box I acquired at a nearby grocery store. There was a knot right where I needed to cut an f-hole, and it presented a challenge but was worth the effort once I succeeded in it.  I sealed the surface with a polyester resin– more commonly found on sailboats than on violins– and french-polished over that with a hint of amber shellac.

It happened that my work on the f-holes coincided with many exciting photos of Jupiter being published in the news at the time, and I imagined my striated firewood top with its reddish knot-holes as the storms of that interesting planet, hence my name “Jupiter” chosen for this instrument, and the astrological signs inlaid into the back plate.

Here are the results of my work: