Just wanted to share this amazing bit of folk ingenuity with the group: the Horn Violin or Trumpet Violin. It doesn't technically fall under the cigar box category but it does take old rubbish and turn it into a violin!
The sound is reminiscent of a horn or phonograph. It kind of sounds like you are playing out of an old timey record. Here's a video of it in action. It seems like the perfect buskar's instrument because it directs the sound far better than a traditional violin.
They take an old phonograph reproducer and connect the horn part of an old trumpet to the output. The violin bridge rests on the swivel where the needle goes. If you want to see a diagram of how the reproducer works you can see a diagram here on the victor page Basics of Phonographs.
I've seen several of these type of fiddles. There are some on you tube.
They were - at one time - manufactured, a bit like steel bodied resonator guitars, they were tried in order to give an increase in volume. They virtually died out. The better manufactured ones had 2 horns. The second one pointed at the violinist/fiddler so that they could hear the instrument. I think Stroh (or a name like that) used to produce them.
The one in the video looks like it is reclaimed as the horn angle seems to make it difficult for the fiddler to play the lower strings.
You are correct, it is a Stroh viol - named after its designer Johannes Matthias Augustus Stroh, a German who developed a family of such instruments in the last years of the 19th century the the first years of the 20th century. The violins are the most common but there were also guitars.
I believe Tom Waits has occasionally included a Stroh viol amongest his varied and eclectic range of instrumentation.
Yellowbelly Flatt said:
I think Stroh (or a name like that) used to produce them.
The spirit of the Stroh merely sleeps:
Not mine i'm afraid...just some lovely DIY I ran across a few months ago, According to the article, they're 'building an orchestra' of these critters...
Yeah, I've read a bit about Strohs after hearing that Mr. Waits has used them; of course I can thank him indirectly for clueing me into the whole cigar box instrument phenomenon; I was reading a review of one of his Glitter and Doom shows back in '08 and they mentioned him using a cigar box banjo.
I saw that they had a passing glimpse of a fellow using a Stroh in the pilot episode of Boardwalk Empire, which makes sense because that's when they were popular.
I also saw something similar in Honolulu about a year ago, at Pua Pua Ukulele; they had a Stroh-style uke.