Handcrafted in Mentor, Ohio
Handcrafted in Mentor, Ohio
Bowed String Shop is proud to be the exclusive dealer of Bluejay Fiddles. These violins are handcrafted in Ohio by luthier Paul H. Martin. Paul specializes in creating a custom instrument uniquely suited to the playing style and desires of each player with an emphasis on reclaimed lumber from his or the musician’s collection. The unique inlay and carving techniques used not only create an unmatched resonance but lead to each instrument becoming a one of a kind work of art.
Tell Paul your story. He will build your instrument out of wood from your past, present or future.
Stories From the Bench of Luthier Paul H. Martin
The Drambuie Guitar
Years ago, I played music in a lot of small bars in upstate New York. The jobs were usually, 9PM To 1AM. My friends and I would drink coffee to keep our energy up, and then ask the bartender to throw a shot of Drambuie in our mugs. “Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end”.
Years later, walking through a flea market, I saw a Drambuie box. It was an original wooden shipping case in fine shape. I couldn’t believe it, so many wonderful memories came flooding back. It was pine – not great quality, but the printing was terrific. I knew exactly how I could use it.
Around that same time I happened to be talking with my mother on the phone. She still lived in upstate NY and she said, “They’re cutting down that old tree out back.” I had her ask the workmen for a few logs before they took them all away. The Drambuie box became the front of the guitar and that old tree became the back, sides and neck.
Long ago, in every town and city there was a big department store. Everyone who grew has memories of that up during those times store. In Dayton, Ohio the store was Rike’s. With the advent of “The Mall”, downtowns began to change and department stores all over started to close. People in Dayton tried to save the old building, but eventually they decided to take it down. The space left after the building was gone would be used for the new Benjamin and Marian Schuster Center for the Performing Arts. I watched the building implode on the local news, then I set my goal. I would build a fiddle out of wood gathered from the old Rike building, and that fiddle would be played on the stage of the new Schuster Center.
This picture shows the wood in the back of my truck just after the building was demolished. The softwood was Douglas Fir, the hardwood was Butternut and there was a little Maple for banding and what not. As I started telling people about my project it seemed everyone in Dayton who grew up during those times had a story of something good that happened at Rike’s. While building the fiddle I relived my own memories of shopping at the downtown department store in my own home town.
One of the greatest nights of my life was the opening of the Schuster Center. Leora Kline, a violinist for the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra played the Rike fiddle. That night, I heard Stravinsky’s “Firebird” played on a violin I made.
The Ice Cream Fiddles
Maple, walnut and cherry. I made these fiddles for the fun of it. Ice cream is fun. These fiddles are fun to look at and they are fun to play. The fronts are made of a beautiful piece of western cedar, look at the colors. The backs are baby blocks and ocean waves, patterns as old as the hills.
These instruments show my most recent design. The sound is exceptional, the harmonic overtones are always ready to come out and play. Sweet fiddles.
The Winston Fiddles
The phone rang and a woman started speaking quickly, “I want you to make some fiddles for me. They’re taking my grandparent’s barn down. I would love to have some fiddles made out of the wood from that old barn. It would be a great way to remember them..”
“OK.” I answered, “When are they actually taking the barn down?”
“Now” she said. “They’re out there right now. You’ve got to come here right away.”
I went right over, and sure enough they were dismantling the barn. I did my best to scavenge wood for some instruments. Some of the wood was over 150 years old, air dried to perfection, but in terrible shape. I kept looking for something useful. Mostly it was wide grain oak which I had to fill and stabilize. Some pieces were heavily stained lending real character. The soft wood was in better shape, and I got a nice down-home farmer’s fiddle tone out of it.
Turns out the barn belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Winston who were among the first settlers in Centerville, Ohio. It was a great project. I built two fiddles, the farmer and his wife. All the while I thought about the kind of people they must have been to journey to Ohio, build a farm and start a town together. In the fiddles at their grand daughter’s home they are remembered fondly and every once in a while they still make music together.
Interested in learning more about Bluejay Fiddles? We currently have several violins in the showroom that can be sent out on trial. Please reach out to us to see what’s available or to talk to Paul about bringing your ideas for a perfect instrument to life. Current waiting time for a custom instrument is about 3 months.
Hear the stories; write your own.