Junk Store Violin 2

Morning, readers.

A piece today about the restoration process with that 94.50 antique store violin I picked up. These are fun projects for me, and I don’t mind writing them up for you all.

Something I am always curious about is the relative age of what I find, sometimes it’s impossible to know. However, there are clues. With Twist the mountain fiddle I could only guess as to its age and origin. Old, and probably of local manufacture. But I don’t know, and I never will. I just know that it’s cool and sounds pretty good.

With this antique store violin, at least it had the standard tag beneath the left F-hole. Of course, the tag wasn’t helpful. It just says Stradivarius, like many old violins do. No, this does not mean that the famous violinmaker Stradivarius made the violin. It just means that the violin was copied from his pattern.

While the tag is nice, it is well known that the tag is unreliable when it comes to identifying a violin’s provenance or possible worth. After all, the tag is easily forged or copied. In this case, I have no reason to believe it is a forgery. It’s simply a means of identifying the violin for what it is, a Strad clone.

The tag can help in dating a violin. If the violin was imported to the US after 1891, it must have the country of origin stamped somewhere inside, usually on the tag. If imported after 1921, the tag must specifically state “Made In X.” Well, my tag has no such thing, so it is possible that it was manufactured prior to 1891. However, I do not think it was made before the 1830’s. Why do I say this.

I’ve handled and briefly played a violin made in 1819. It had the shorter neck characteristic of “vintage” violins, or less than 130mm. After a few false starts and incorrect measurements, I finally got a true read on this instrument’s neck length. 130mm on the nose. Of course, many earlier violins were modified to the “modern” length, but then you would see a neck splice, and this instrument does not have one.

I think it’s a good guess that this fiddle was made between 1830-1891. Short of an exact date on the tag or writing on the inside, that’s my best guess. A nineteenth century violin, well-crafted. It’s probably French or German, but who knows.

Well, if it had been a vintage violin, I would have sent it to Fiddlershop in Florida for professional restoration. But I don’t think it is, so I decided to tackle the job locally. The first part was mine- the initial cleaning and gluing the loose stuff.

Something you never want to do with a violin is to use carpenter’s glue. Please, don’t do this. Yes, the violin will stick together. That’s the problem- it will stick too well. Violins are made to be disassembled for maintenance. It’s very difficult to take apart a fiddle that someone used carpenter’s glue on! This can easily damage or destroy an otherwise repairable instrument. If you must glue a violin, proceed carefully and use hide glue, which can be released.

This is what I did. A portion of the top plate had loosened from the rib. The crack looked clean, no dirt or grease, so I simply squirted a small amount of glue into the crack and very carefully clamped it with a padded clamp. I wiped off the excess glue and waited four hours before releasing the clamp. It seemed to work like a charm, problem solved.

Then I wiped the violin’s grimy surface with one coat of quality violin polish. Behold.

With just a little polish and careful buffing, the old girl was starting to look a lot better. It had lost its junk store funk, although I don’t think the rosin burn will come out easily. BTW, this is why you clean the rosin from a violin. That stuff will bake onto a violin’s surface if you let it sit.

Then I waited. After a few hours, I applied two more very light coats of polish with gentle buffing.

Perhaps you’ll agree that the old girl started to look pretty good.

I didn’t mention that I stripped all of the old fittings from the instrument, but I did that as the first step. This allows you to really get at the nooks and crannies and to see damage that would otherwise be invisible. For example, the fingerboard has a minor crack. It’s not a problem, but it’s something to be aware of.

Speaking of the old fittings. As usual, the pegs were mismatched junk. They were terribly worn. However, the tailpiece and chinrest were still fine. The gut on the tailpiece was actually gut- therefore, probably pre WW2 era. I didn’t throw any of it away, I put the old pieces in a paper lunch bag and squirreled them away. You never know when odd things have a use.

Then I spent a little time looking for the perfect new fittings set for this violin. I eventually settled upon a red boxwood set from Fiddlershop. I ordered the fittings along with a new end pin gut, adjusters, and a decent bridge. Total cost involved wasn’t terribly much.

A few days passed and the bits arrived in the mail. Just to see if the colors worked, I set the new tailpice and chinrest on the violin. See below.

I think this will work very well. Yes, I like plain ebony, but I also like to switch things up a little, and this set of fittings does that.

The next step is to take the violin back to my instructor and let him assemble everything. Then the moment of truth will arrive.

How does it sound?

Time will tell. Stay tuned.


Well, I managed to get away from the Ukraine War for a while, but the recent debate in the news about sending western Main Battle Tanks to the Ukrainian armed forces keeps jumping out at me. Therefore, I decided to weigh in a little as to why it’s important to send survivable MBTs to the Ukrainian Army.

It’s pretty simple. The cast-off Soviet era junk that Ukraine is using at the moment is just that, junk. It really says something that I truly believe that the sixty-year old M60 Patton design would be a major upgrade for the Ukrainian Army, especially if supplied with an upgraded 120mm gun and modern electronics. However, I also believe the old 105 gun would work just fine against what the Russian Army is using in Ukraine. There are reports of the creaky T62 design being fielded by Russia; this is simply unbelievable. If the Ukrainian Army does receive the capable German Leopard 2 tank in usable quantities, the Russian Army can forget about meaningful armored operations unless they attack with a ten-to-one ratio.

However, that’s probably their plan.

I have been confounded on many levels by the Ukraine War, specifically by the lousy training of Russian soldiers, the completely unreformed and atrocious behavior of its troops, and the piss-poor planning and performance of its officer corps at every level. Also, it seems that the Russian Air Force is incapable of meaningful combat operations in Ukrainian airspace. About all they can manage is to shoot cruise missiles at Ukrainian apartment blocks from the safe airspace in Belarus or Russia itself. Lousy. Perfectly lousy, and criminal.

Less surprising has been the underperformance of the Russian Army’s tanks and their shoddy logistics. I won’t talk about the logistics, the Russians have always been terrible with supply issues.

No, today I want to talk about their tanks.

The Soviets knew their tanks were prone to self-destructing if hit by anti-tank munitions. They’ve known this since the T-54 design in the 1950’s. It’s called the jack-in-the-box syndrome. If you penetrate the armor on a Russian tank, the stored munitions on board explode immediately. The crew cooks, and the turret flies from the tank. Hence the macabre jack-in-the-box description. Visit any former battlefield where Soviet designed tanks were used, and you’ll find chunks of armor, sometimes the crew, and usually a turret laying on the ground a considerable distance away.

It is simply inexcusable that the Russians have never fixed this problem. No, they essentially refined the flawed T-54 over and over again until they reached the final Soviet design, the T-90.

The T-90 sucks, too. Witness the many images of it totally destroyed on the battlefield in Ukraine. No wonder the Ukrainians want better tanks- their crews die just like the Russians in an inferior design. Russian tanks are great for putting down protestors or cowing populations in the third world, but they don’t fare well against determined and skillful infantry or well-equipped modern armored forces.

Wow, all the crappy features of Russian tanks. So many. First, the T54 had no “turret basket,” or a feature that allowed the crew to swivel with the turret. Heaven help a gunner who didn’t get out of the way of the breach block as the turret turned. Then, an “improvement,” an auto-loader for the T-64, had a tendency to auto-load wayward arms. The Soviets messed around with turbine engines, different suspension systems, and reactive armor. They ended up switching back to diesel engines, and in the process created a logistical nightmare of subvariants, all of which needed different parts.

However, they never got around to adequately protecting the stored munitions on any of their designs.

The Chechens in the nineties, many of them with previous Soviet service, knew this. They knew the T-80 was vulnerable on its thinly armored sides to light anti-tank weapons like the venerable RPG-7.

Armored like crazy in the front, the T-80 was vulnerable to strikes to its sides. Just aim for the road wheels as the vehicle passes, and BOOM.

For pity’s sake. You’d think the Russians, who have built more tanks than anyone, would be wise to this obvious flaw.

Nope. Statistics are unreliable in the middle of a shooting war, but an estimate based from numerous open sources indicates that as of this fall, the Russian Army has lost about 1,300 tanks. Some sources estimate that this is half of their total available machines. Google this figure. I think it’s realistic.

You have to ask the question. Does the Russian government give two shits about their soldiers?

The question answers itself. They obviously don’t. To date, approximately 115,000 Russian troops have died in Ukraine over one year of war. This is a conservative number. For modern warfare, this is a staggering statistic. If you assume a WW2 3:1 ratio of wounded to killed, this means almost one-half million Russian casualties.

Unbelievable. Since 1945, nothing appears to have changed. Use Punishment Battalions (convict soldiers) to soak up munitions, then strike the enemy with sheer mass in frontal assaults. Smother the fire with corpses. Rely on cheap, inferior designs. Enforce military discipline using only the most brutish and violent techniques. Torment and terrorize occupied territories. Send in the secret police- and give them carte blanche to further Russian aims.

This is the reality of the battlefield in Ukraine.

The Russian government is not just guilty of atrocities against Ukraine, they are criminally wasteful with the lives of their citizens as well.

Look no further than their tanks, they are deathtraps.

It remains to be seen what happens with their first true armored design change, the T14 Armata, when it is finally used in combat. Is it a true peer tank with Western designs? It’s a fair question. If the Ukrainians get decent tanks soon, they may hold them as a mobile reserve to face a possible T14 led onslaught.

If there are sufficient numbers of them, I suspect the Russians are holding the T14 back for an offensive this late winter or spring. Then we may see the world’s first modern peer-on-peer design armored battle. Challengers or Leopards versus the T14.

Time will tell.


Hey, all.

I’m preparing the final manuscript of the second alt-history book on the Ohio Rifles series, “The Hidden Sun.”

While editing, I came across this vignette, which I had forgotten about. It does a nice job of showing a particular sort of combat leadership. When I thought about it, the entire chapter was not only an introduction to the characters that would propel the narrative forward but also about leadership.

How do you motivate guys to do stuff they really, really don’t want to do?

They try to teach you various techniques in Army leadership schools, and the US does a pretty good job of it, but for some of it you only learn the hard way. By experience under shitty circumstances.

The vignette is an excerpt from “The Hidden Sun.” Shooting for a late February release.


Eight Ball, who no longer thought of himself as Eugene Ball, looked at the new arsehole as he spoke.

“Your gun running smooth?”

“It works, Corp.”

“How many magazines do you carry?”

“Ten thirty rounders, plus Tommy has some extra for me.”

His cherry-arse Corporal nodded. “Yeah, that’ll do.”

Like you fuckin’ know, Eight muttered.

“Excuse me, fuckhead?”

He must have made more noise than he thought. Fuckin’ ringin’ ears. His corporal stood there, eyebrows raised.

Fuck it, Eight thought. “I said, like you fuckin’ know, Corp.”

The ruddy man stared at him for a second. Eugene snorted and grabbed a rag…

Something happened. Pain. Choking. Something on his throat…shoe leather…he squirmed and tried to pull the thing off his neck. He tried to shout. Couldn’t breathe…

The fucking Corporal spoke; Eugene could hear him just fine, it seemed.

“Arsehole, I ran a BAR at the Somme and Thuin. Fuck you. If you want to breathe, nod.”

Eugene nodded. The Corporal pulled the boot off of his neck. Eugene tried to get up.

A blinding thump. He was looking up at the fucking partially denuded pines. How the fuck did he get down here? He heard fucking Strohmeier’s voice.

“You try to rush me again, and I’ll fucking off you. You understand?”

Eugene understood.


“Is your gun running smooth?”

Eugene sat up and looked the corporal in the eye. His head fucking hurt. He reached inside his tunic and grabbed a smoke. He lit up. Then he answered.

“Yes, Corporal.”

Strohmeier moved on.


Strangely enough, I am not minding this edit. Usually, it’s a horrible painstaking chore, but this time it isn’t. I’m not sure why, although it may have to do with an alteration I’ve made to my technique. In any case, it’s all to the good, because I am fairly certain it’ll be a wrap on the edits by the end of the month.

I mean to publish four books this year, and I’ve made a good start.

Stay tuned.

Antique place find

Morning, everyone.

I think I may have had a piece of luck yesterday, which is unusual in an antique store. Usually there’s nothing but junk for outrageous prices. However, there’s one fairly close by where you can catch a deal from time to time. My daughter asked to be dropped off there while I continued to my physical therapy appointment- a bad knee I picked up at Fort Sill half a lifetime ago.

So, there I sat, my leg in a warming cuff thing. My phone pinged. With nothing better to do, I looked at it.

She sent me this image.

It was an obviously old violin with glimpses of very nice maple.

Expecting an outrageous price, I asked her how much. She said a hundred.

Seriously, I thought. Yeah, you can buy a very inexpensive learner’s type violin on Amazon for that kind of money, and it will work, but you get what you pay for. BTW, I’ve bought the style violin as shown on the link above, and I’ve played on them. They are great for beginners and as party fiddles. You know, you won’t cry if you drop it cause you’re dead drunk. I do recommend the Cecilio fiddles as entry violins- trust me, there are much worse violins you can buy, and the package deal is pretty cool. How can you beat a couple of bows, a case, etc., plus a functional violin for a hundred twenty-five? Even when you outgrow the fiddle, you can still use most of the stuff.

But I digress.

With some haste, I left PT and went down to the store to pick her up. The violin looked promising in the pic, but I needed to examine it. A lot of times these old ladies will have uneconomical repairs. There are reasons that the price is low. So, with some trepidation I went upstairs to look (there are three floors in the junk store. Pretty big).

The violin was an excellent quality 4/4, probably 19th century manufacture, possibly German. I don’t believe that the chinrest is original to the instrument. The tailpiece probably is, though. It was in a standard antique pressed paper case.

This is a better image.

Still not a great pic, but you get the idea. The violin was obviously in need of some TLC and minor repairs, but overall it seemed OK. The old case was actually alright, but someone had wrapped the deteriorated leather handle with electric tape- for some reason, this seems to be a thing around here. I’ve seen the tape fix about a dozen times.

As usual, the bow was junk. Twisted beyond salvage. Also, the sound post was all screwy and canted, and the bridge had obviously not been fitted properly. The violin was filthy. There was a small crack by the right F-notch, and a loose spot where the previous chinrest had been installed. Typical.

This is standard stuff. At one point this was a very nice instrument. It fell onto hard times post WW2, as evidenced by the steel strings. However, it seemed a good candidate for repair. I decided to buy it.

Well, after a bit of haggling, I got the price down to $94.50. This was a pretty good deal for what could potentially be a very pretty and good sounding violin. Maybe. It’s always a risk with an instrument that you can’t play immediately- how does it sound? The proof really is in the pudding. A good example would be the old violin I saved this past spring- I had no idea what it would do until the restoration process was complete, but old Twist sings well.

It’s the same story here, but the price point was such that I was willing to take a risk. As I was in town anyway, I just dropped it off at my instructor’s place for a cleaning and the minor repairs. For a short while, the violin is his problem. Worst case scenario I’m out a hundred bucks. But I don’t think so. I believe it will clean up and play nicely.

Stay tuned.

The Plan for Twenty-Three

Morning or whatever, everyone.

Alright. I’ve taken a few weeks to go on about the terrible war in Ukraine. I’m done with that for now, pretty sure you all know where I stand.

Today I’d like to talk about my writing projects going forward this year. Yesterday I had a very productive planning session with my friend and mentor John Birmingham, and he had a few great suggestions.

First and foremost, I don’t think my original publishing schedule for the upcoming year is aggressive enough. Originally, I had planned to release two novels, maybe three. No, the new plan is to kick out four if possible.

What will this entail?

Well, I’d like to publish the entire alt-history Ohio Rifles trilogy by June. Ok, this is possible, but it involves a lot of footwork on my part. Mind, the entire draft of the trilogy is completed and it has been for a couple of years. However, there is the usual editing required. Also, my peeps on my Patreon site get the first crack at it behind the paywall. Usually I release a chapter per week, but I’m going to have to accelerate this release schedule.

So, those people are about to get a lot of content, fast. I don’t have 46 weeks between now and June- this is how many chapters have not seen the light of day in the RIFLES trilogy.

Second, I kind of put the bridge novel of another trilogy on the back burner because I’m unsatisfied with the first draft of book two. Well, JB suggested I use the first fifteen minutes of each workday for this problematic draft. I think it’s a great suggestion, and it should goose the completed RD forward.

I think it’s realistic that I can release STORY2 in August or September.

Finally, by punching out the RIFLES trilogy by June and getting STORY2 out of the way, I’ve created oxygen for a desired Christmas launch of another series, which I call INVASION.

This is an entirely new universe, and it should be a lot of fun to write. For more details, you can always pony up three-odd bucks and get on the other side of my Patreon paywall, where I go into more depth about my plans.

Because there’s a lot going on in terms of writing this upcoming year.

And that’s just my stuff. There are ongoing collaborations, as well.

23 looks to be a busy year. But that’s good.

Peace, J.

Good Tank for Ukraine

I could sub-head this article “Maybe you don’t get what you want, but you get what you need.”

These last posts about the Ukrainian War are turning into a bit of a kick around here. But it’s in the headlines a lot. And I used to be a soldier, so I’ve got a little knowledge about this subject. Yes, I will get to writing about other subjects. But not today.

You can’t get away from news about the war. It’s everywhere. And sometimes people say really stupid or ill-informed stuff. Some people make unbelievable statements, like the head of the Russian mercenary organization, the Wagner Group. Check out his guidance for recently released convict-soldiers:

You can’t make this shit up.

So, it caught my eye when I saw that the US was considering sending Brads (the Bradley IFV) to Ukraine, and the same article mentioned that we might also send the M1 Abrams there.

While it would be great to see an M1 smoking some Wagner pukes, I have a few issues with sending the M1 to Ukraine.

First, our NATO allies in the east need armored upgrades. They should get the first priority. In fact, the Poles are first on the list and receiving shipments as we speak. NATO allies- first in line.

Second, there is a steep learning curve with maintaining and operating the M1. It is not a simple machine by any means. The mechanics and crew would take many months to train, and the Ukrainians needed armor now, not later.

Finally, and most crucially, there is the tyranny of logistics and finance. I’ll talk about finance first. The M1 is seriously expensive, and the Ukrainians aren’t exactly flush with cash. Either we’d have to pony up the greenbacks for the tanks, or they would. Now let’s talk logistics. The M1 slurps down JP-8 fuel, and something tells me the Ukrainians don’t have oodles of that, which the M1 requires. Just getting gas to the fighting units on the vast Eastern Front would be a nightmare. Let alone the parts because the M1 breaks a lot. And let’s not forget munitions. It’s a nightmare. Seriously.

This is why I think that providing the Ukrainians with the M1 is, while well-intentioned, not the best idea.

I have a better one.

We can give the Ukrainians the very capable and suitable M60 Patton. They are in service worldwide, have seen lots of action, and we have an unknown, probably large, amount (think thousands) of them sitting in mothballs, doing nothing.

Why. I’ll address this point by point, using the bullet statements above as a guide.

First, our NATO allies don’t want the old M-60. They want the latest and greatest, and this is understandable. However, the M-60 had no problems smoking Sov armor in several wars, most notably with the USMC in Gulf One. Yes, the M-60 isn’t cutting-edge, but it doesn’t need to be. It needs to kill Soviet designs, and it has and will. We can probably supply thousands of these tanks in a shortened timeline. Perfect is the enemy of good enough.

Second, the M60 will look familiar to Ukrainian mechanics and crews. It is powered by a reliable diesel, there are minimum electronics, there is no turbine engine. Also, crews used to the T series Soviet tanks will think they’ve died and gone to heaven with the roominess and user-friendly Western crew compartment and controls. Also, the tech on the M60 will be easier to soak in for crews used to the T series tanks. Mechanics and crew will take to the old M60 like a fish to water, speeding up integration into the front line. And the Ukrainians need speed with a looming Russian offensive this winter.

Finally, let’s talk finance and logistics. The finance is the best part! All the money for the M60 was spent decades ago. We can give the things away with few qualms. These days the only thing that gets done with the M60 is free donations to war museums. How about sending them to a worthy cause instead? I’d also wager there’s a mountain of old munitions sitting around for the tanks that are just taking up space in a depot. Ship it. The tanks, munitions, and parts cost more to store and maintain than sending them over the pond. The logistics? Ukrainian diesel will work just fine in the M60. Also, we already have a parts and munitions chain in place for the war- there would be no increased burden for maintaining the M60, unlike the M1 Abrams.

So there’s my brainstorm of the day.

Send the M60 to Ukraine.

It’s ugly, but it works.

Postscript: A friend saw this article and responded by emailing me this youtube link of some random tanks on a former or current back range somewhere in the southern United States. I reviewed the link and a few things struck me. First, the tanks had not been demilitarized. Second, they were not as bad as you would think. Finally, there were sixteen of them (!) in just this one spot at one installation. This suggests to me that there are many hundreds of these examples just sitting around rusting. OK, fine. As is, the tanks in the video need some work. Fine. Look a this video, a demo of what can be done with an old M60 hull. Send these tanks to Raytheon, I say.

Then send them to Ukraine.