Build a Mellow Cello
- by Jack Hinkley
All I know about a cello, never ever having been close to one, that it is too big to tuck under the chin to play and too small to play without sitting down. But having a friend who plays one and having found a suitable bottle, a table vinegar cruet, I thought it would be nice to put a cello in the bottle for my friend who was away at college. In order to help provide a mix of mail to keep dust from settling in the bottom of her mail box I created a cartoon character entitled THE MELLOW CELL0 FELLOW which I send along with greetings from home from time to time. This Cello Fellow does pretty much what I want him to and reports are that he is welcome on campus.
My "CELLO FELLOW'S CELLO" is a cartoon instrument so I decided that my cello in a bottle would also be a cartoon. In place of the regular scroll and key box at the top of the fingerboard I have a three fingered cartoon hand delicately holding the strings between the thumb and fingers with the ends exposed. One of my instrument strings is broken and flying loose. The strings of the bow are fastened at the near end and flying loose at the far end and the "F" holes (so called because they resemble a lower case letter f) in the top of body of my instrument are dollar ($) signs. On my cartoon cello I have drawn a patch, a kind of trademark of mine.
Before I could start my project I had to find out a little about a cello so I started with a drawing in a dictionary and fortuitously, from a friend, along came a postcard of an animal playing a cartoon bull fiddle. Just the thing. The postcard and dictionary picture became my guides. Next I called a local music instrument distributor to learn the nomenclature of the parts of cello that I would need.
The finished product of my plan was to have the cello standing erect and unsupported but at a slight angle on a small, red felt covered platform inside of the bottle and fastened to the sides of the platform, beginning at the front of the instrument and reading from the right, four small panels bearing the legend "The MELLOW CELLO FELLOW'S CELLO."
My bottle was a very nice clear glass table vinegar cruet that came across in a small restaurant in central Ontario in Canada. It measured five and one half inches high and two inches square upward from its bottom for three inches to where it tapered upward nicely to a three quarter inch inside dimension opening.
The platform was 30 mm square consisting of 3 planks 10 mm x 10 mm x 3 mm thick. In the exact center of the center plank I inserted a pin which would extend down into a hole drilled into the center of the post supporting the platform. This post was a one-half inch length cut from a one-half inch dowel hollowed out slightly on its bottom end to conform to the inside shape of the bottom of the bottle and glued in place to the bottom of the bottle with Elmer's White Glue.
With the three platform planks in place with the center one located by the pin extending down into the platform support there was little support for the two outside planks. I solved this problem by making a ring of wood , 4 mm thick, that would fit down around the top of the center supporting post and extend out wide enough to provide support for the two outside planks. Two problems arose however; how to get the wooden ring into the bottle as it was much larger than the bottle's neck, and how could I keep it from sliding all the way down the supporting post? First, I painted the supporting post red and then I cut short lengths of round medical throat swab sticks which, when glued to the center supporting post would prevent the ring from sliding all the way down but would leave the top of the ring flush with the bottom of the platform planks. I painted these small pieces white and glued them at intervals to the red center post and the center post to the bottom of the bottle. The wooden ring I cut exactly in half and holding the two pieces together still in the form of a circle, I drilled through the thickness of the ring at opposite sides, small holes for the wooden pins. One of these pins I made so that if could be pulled back enough to allow one side of the ring to be disengaged from the other and then twisted to form a letter "S" which would slide comfortably down the neck of the bottle. After the "S" was inside of the bottle the open sides were rejoined and the pin slid back in place to hold them together. The closed ring was placed over the top of the center post, fitted and glued into place. The three planks were soon securely in place. The red felt carpet was added after having a small hole cut into it so that the peg at the bottom of the instrument could extend down through it so to be glued solidly to the wooden platform underneath holding the cello erect.
The difficult part was now over. The body of the cello was cut in half lengthwise and the blanks glued lightly together and shaped so that both sides were exactly alike and then pulled apart and sanded. There was no question that the pieces of the cello's body would fit without difficulty into the bottle. The two sides of the body are pinned together with two wooden pins. The three fingered cartoon hand was carved at the top of the fingerboard and the "peg" or metal leg or support for the instrument was attached to the lower part of the fingerboard. A bridge made from black glue-stiffened thread supports the strings that run from the top to the bottom of the fingerboard. After painting the body of the cello, half of both sections of the fingerboard and the peg were glued to one side of the body of the instrument. The other side of these parts would be glued in place after the two sides of the body were joined. The bow had a wooden pin in it that was located just at the bridge so that it could be sent though the neck of the bottle parallel to the fingerboard (similar to preparing a yard on the mast of a bottleship for entry into the bottle) and later moved into place across the strings. The strings on the bow, flying loose at one end are made with goat hair. The dollar sign "F" holes were created on my computer and pasted to the face of the body of the cello. The last item to be added was my trademark patch to the back of the cello.
The two body parts were joined inside the bottle and the instrument is raised to its vertical position with the peg holding it permanently in place. The panels around the platform's edge read, from left to right, "The Mellow ...Cello...Fellow's ...Cello. I turned the platform just slightly off the square. Artistic license, I guess.
The front of the body is painted white with gold trim. The back is painted black and carries a small panel with my ID. The fingerboard and bow are black. My patch is black and white checkered and the fingered glove at the top of the fingerboard is red. The bottle is sealed with red sealing wax impressed with my Old English style "H" for Hinkley.