Otis Tomas and The Fiddletree

Maybe art is not a quest to conquer the secrets of perfection, but rather it is the revelation of that which is personal and unique, and which defies the very concept of perfection. This old tree has its own story to tell — of it’s singular and incomparable life on the hillside above my house. So I am listening for a voice that will sing of this here and now, of my own life and of this land and forest that I have come to know so well.

Otis Tomas, The Fiddletree

When I wrote about a carved spoon a couple weeks ago, my friend Scott reminded me of Otis Tomas‘ book The Fiddletree. In it, Tomas tells of his harvesting of a venerable old sugar maple near his home on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, and recounts, in thoughtful detail, the making of a violin from its wood.

The description of the process is full of practical woodworking advice, along with Tomas’ insights and experienced reflections. It’s a combination of woodworking, design, music theory, history, and philosophy — beautifully written.

Then it gets even more special. The second part of the book features a collection of tunes composed by Tomas, wonderfully annotated. I can’t make much of the musical notation, but many people will.

Then the icing on the cake: Tomas includes a CD, in a neat envelope inside the back cover, recordings of an ensemble of Tomas and his friends playing the songs. There are some samples here. And their instruments — violins, viola, cello, mandolin, guitar, and a harp — were all made by Tomas from the Fiddletree.

I’ll end this one with a quote from Tomas that accompanies his song Handle with Care:

What more advice need be given? In this rough and tumble world, care and compassion in all things. It’s that simple.

Otis Tomas
This entry was posted in books, finding wood, publications, quotes and excerpts, trees, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Otis Tomas and The Fiddletree

  1. Richard says:

    So incredibly beautiful…. Will come back soon to hear the music… Thank your for this and all you share…!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice. I have some lumber from two Walnut trees, from the farm I grew up on. I am trying to decide what to carve or make with the wood.


  3. Tim Shue says:

    That’s a book I need to get! Thanks for sharing.


  4. Scott Kinsey says:

    Thank you for this, Dave. That last quote… who could possibly argue?


  5. Barry Gordon says:

    Thanks Dave. FIDDLETREE seems so familiar that I must have previously known of it but have no idea from when or where. It portrays an extremely clever project and I’m going to order a copy. What “sold”me on it was listening to one of the music samples and being reminded of a wonderful visit to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and, especially, Cape Breton where we did the entire Cabot Trail perhaps ten years ago. Thanks for calling it to my attention!

    Barb’s on her way to our local independent bookstore this morning to pick up an ordered copy of: https://www.waterstones.com/book/saws-planes-and-scorps/david-heim/joshua-a-klein/9781616899240 I notice that one of the people featured is Del Stubbs. I have three of his knives, no recent contact, but he spoke very kindly of my work in the early days of the Pinewood Forge website.

    In addition to all your other contributions to craft you are also serving as a sort of “clearing house” for information-a very valuable role!




  6. Tone says:

    “… Care and compassion in all things.” Words to live by. Surprised how much I enoyed the music samples. Some of it sounded Celtic, Irish perhaps. Some reminded me of Kate Bush. Intrigued.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. inorthwoods says:

    Hello Dave,
    Here’s the other side of the story “The Maple’s Lament “ by Laurie Lewis..

    Beautiful fiddle tune …with a story..


  8. Pete Russell says:

    Hi Dave. I enjoy reading your posts, but this one really caught my attention. I had the pleasure of meeting Otis, chatting with him and listening to his musical talents played on his fiddle at a ceilidhs (a Celtic fiddle festival) a couple of years ago in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Otis is a very talented musician, mathematician, and fiddle builder. The fiddle he was playing was from the fiddle tree. I believe he still has lots of wood aging in his barn from that tree.
    Pete Russell


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