THE WOOD THAT SINGS
My name is Bob Black and first of all I must declare that I am not Apache nor do I have any roots in any native American tribe. I am in fact Scottish. I live in Palamos a small town on the Mediterranean coast of Catalunya in the north east of Spain. The rocky coastline is dotted with agaves (called "pita" in Catalan). They were brought here from the Americas mostly to produce sisal for rope making.
A beautiful flower stalk rises up from the centre of the plant and then the stalk and plant die off together. These tall stalks take a pounding from the Tramuntana wind. They fall over and usually just lie around the rocky cliffs. These are the same stalks that were used by the American Apaches to make most of their unique violins. The stalks are rock hard on the outside and softer than balsa inside, making them easy to split open and carve out.
My interest started one day while walking in one of the rocky coves. I met a couple who were looking for agave stalks to make didgeridoos and upon returning home I did some searching online. Just googling "agave instruments" I hit upon "apache fiddle" and was drawn into the mystique of "the wood that sings". I have now made several fiddles of the Apache type from Agave.
But then one day I had the crazy idea of making a more conventional fiddle from the same material. After a couple of botched attempts I managed to make a respectable looking Spanish Rabel fiddle. From there my hobby became a passion. Click through the pages of this site and you'll see some of what I've made.