Archie Powers grew up in Ashe County where he learned to make fiddles from legendary luthier, Albert Hash. The process, he reported, began when Albert visited Archie’s family to fix an old clock. Archie was fascinated with the way Albert worked, and he watched every movement. Those images are still clear in Archie’s memory. Soon Archie was walking to Albert’s home regularly to work on making a fiddle. Albert would leave Archie a tool in his mailbox, which Archie picked up and used all day until Albert came home from work. Albert inspected his day’s work, gave him some pointers, and the process was repeated until Archie finished his first fiddle. He was discouraged when he finished the first fiddle, but Albert took him to see the second fiddle he had made. Archie saw how well he had done for a first attempt. That event that helped inspire him to continue making fiddles. And he has been making them for more than fifty years now.
Archie has also made a number of guitars and mandolins, but fiddles are his favorite. He says he makes them for the challenge. “You don’t try to beat anyone else,” Archie says, “you keep trying to beat yourself.” Archie has worked with Audrey Hash Ham for a number of years, often combining efforts on a single instrument. As Albert did, Archie and Audrey often include extra ornamentation on their instruments, such as birds, men, or women instead of a scroll, or intricate engravings on the back of the scroll. Today, Archie prefers to make standard scrolls, but he might include abalone on a particularly special instrument.
Archie has helped keep the fiddle making tradition alive with Audrey by helping teach his son, Carl, how to make fiddles. Carl has made about a half dozen fiddles now. Archie long ago lost count of how many fiddles he’s made.
Archie is retired and spends a lot of time working on fiddles. He is available to exhibit his instruments and demonstrate the use of some of his hand tools, primarily the spoke shave. Archie also works on gardening and canning foods, and he is very knowledgeable about Appalachian foodways. While he has not given demonstrations and public presentations, he is capable of doing this and would be an excellent resource.