The next step will be the construction of the third and final version of the project’s five-string cellos. The prototype both are conversions of instruments of a very low price range. They served their purpose of allowing numerous experimentations which led to important conclusions but cannot compare to an instrument handcrafted by a master.
The reason of the low price of both prototypes lies not only in the use of cheap material. The cost of the material needed for a high level instrument amounts to about 20 to 30% of the end price. The remaining percentage is the cost of labor the master has to spend in order to craft a unique, expertly made, beautiful new instrument. A cheap instrument is usually built by a group of people, sometimes even in a big factory. Different parts of the instrument are crafted from different people even when the instrument’s label will probably show only one name, the owner of the shop or the factory. Machines are used as much as possible in order to save time and money. But machines cannot recognize the special properties and differences of each piece of wood. They also cannot take in account the subtle asymmetries of the instruments of the masters. (See picture 21 and 22.) A master’s instruments will be lovingly cut, carved and varnished by two hands only, following the plans and experience of over 400 years of craftsmanship. It then will be tested, changed, tested again and changed again for many times.
It will take Ueda quite some time to produce a beautiful cello for our project and we will document each single step of it.

For the building of a fine string instrument the use of superior material is of the essence. One important factor is the age of the wood to be used:  The older, and therefore dryer and lighter the wood is, the better is its resonance. Old wood also does not change its structure anymore; a fact that makes sure the instrument itself will not change its sound properties over the years.

   For the belly of the instrument Ueda purchased two pieces of spruce wood24, cut in 1985, for the price of about 150 Euro. This seems to be a steep price for two pieces of wood but there are not many market places for old wood – most people tend to purchase new and cheap wood for constructing wooden devices unless they produce expensive furniture. Unprocessed old wood of high quality is very rare: one of the few places where one can find that kind of material is the shop of an established violin maker.  Master violin makers use wood that was cut in the first half of winter, when the amount of sap within the tree has reached a minimal level. They then let the wood dry for as many years as possible before they use it for building their instruments. Since they intend to use that precious material for their own instruments they generally do not want to sell it unless for a substantial price.

   Fortunately Ueda could obtain the necessary material from the stock of his former master and teacher for a very reasonable amount of money.


Picture 16: The two boards designed to become the belly of the final five string cello. They are already cut into wedges, facilitating the violin maker’s task of curving the final, arched shape of the instrument.



   For the bottom Ueda chose two maple pieces, also cut in 1985, for the price of 630 Euro. Maple wood is rather expensive because of its exquisite graining. A beautiful, symmetrical graining of the bottom of an instrument is a substantial factor for the esthetical property of a string instrument. It is also something like the calling card of a violin maker. The bottom pieces are also cut into wedges but are thinner than the belly pieces.



Picture 17: The graining of one of the bottom boards.


    The bouts/ribs (the side parts of the body), also maple, were cut in 1982 and were included in the price of the top and bottom set.



Picture 18: The boards that will become the ribs of the final five-stringed cello. They are about 120cm tall. The board in the middle was turned to show how thin it is.



   For the scroll and neck Ueda purchased a massive block of maple wood of the same age as the belly and bottom, priced at about 150 Euro.



Picture 19: The block that will be used for scroll and neck. Ueda already roughly sketched the shape of the scroll onto it.



   Instead of manufacturing a new fingerboard Ueda again will convert a bass fingerboard and adjust it to a size and shape that fits a five string cello. Manufacturing most parts of the final five-string cello will definitively cause a noticeable improvement of quality with the new instrument. However, manufacturing a completely new fingerboard is not a necessary part of our project: a high-grade bass fingerboard and a high-grade cello fingerboard are made from the very same material: ebony wood. Using a converted bass high-grade fingerboard will have absolutely no negative influence on the sound properties of the instrument but, on the other hand, will save time and money.


   The tailpiece too will be hand-made and, again, not be equipped with fine-adjusters. Instead, the fine-tuning pegs that have proved to be very practical with Prototype I and II will be used.

(Note: The fine-tuning pegs are very practical but they are quite heavy, a fact that might lead to some loss of sound volume. Ueda now [June 2015] considers using hand-crafted tailpiece adjusters.)

24 Spruce wood is light, strong and has excellent sound properties.