The 1693 Harrison Strad up close

During a visit to the National Music Museum I had a chance to examine the 1693 Harrison Strad, up close. Holding an instrument in one’s hands reveals details you otherwise cannot observe. The way the varnish has worn over 220 years, the subtleties of the edgework, the organic unity of this instrument. The breathtaking beauty, texture and radiance of the varnish is even more amazing than it appears in this video.

Demonstrating Linen Strength on Ribs

A traditional method of adding strength without significant weight to cello ribs is gluing linen strips to the inside of the ribs. Many great makers such as Stradivari employed this technique. But just how much strength is added can be seen in this demonstration.

Linens into a cello
The technique of adding linen strips to cello ribs is very simple and has a great effect on their strength. A cello which had this treatment came in for repair after sustaining a hard blow to the ribs. Without this treatment the rib would have been split from end to end. As it was, it only sustained an insignificant crack which was easily repaired and retouched to invisibility.

1820 Lupot

Nicolas Lupot, the French Stradivarius, made this violin for the King of France in 1820. It was destroyed in the Revolution of 1830 and this fragment kept as an unused artifact. Paradoxically, this damage prevented it being used and preserved it in its condition after just 10 years of use. The undamaged remains show us the interior work, varnish, decorative painting and edge work of a 200 year-old instrument in pristine condition.

Acoustic Carving a Violin Bridge

Violin bridges do not merely hold the strings off the belly of the instrument; a skilled and knowledgeable artist knows how best to sculpt the tone of an instrument with the acoustic carving. The weight and stiffness of the wood is taken into consideration when establishing the proportions of and relationship between the holes, to allow the full potential of an instrument to be available to the artist bringing music to life.

Arching on a back up close

When I begin carving and shaping the arching on an exquisite piece of maple, the violin hidden within it is calling to me to reveal it, to bring it out of darkness into the light of day. When the fluid beauty of an arching is done, it is a beautiful thing to behold.

Finishing Violin Scroll

The slow process of finishing a scroll is a time of meditative observation. How do I know when to stop? When it is beautiful. Why do I put so much effort into a part of the instrument that may never be noticed? For the person who will find the beauty in it long after I have gone to a better life.
Viola Top Fresh from the Attic
Making a great instrument starts with selecting great wood. These are two viola tops which I purchased in 1996 and stored in the attic of my shop. They have been seasoning through many years of summer heat and winter cold until it is time to bring them into the shop and begin the process of making rough planks of wood into delicate instruments.
Violin Fingerboards bought on the docks
In the nineteen-seventies New York, while not the great manufacturing center it had been, was still a place where one could find all small suppliers of all sorts of exotic raw materials. We instrument makers had to hunt out special supplies by searching industrial areas near the docks where we could find dyestuffs and resins for varnish making or rare imported woods. I picked up some rough-sawn ebony fingerboards in those days and finally unpacked them recently.
Violins in the sun on a sunny July Day
On a sunny July day, there is no more beautiful and peaceful sight than violins whose varnish is soaking up the sun. Just like Stradivari, Guarneri, Guadagnini, and all the great Italian makers of the Golden Age of Violin Making, I use oil varnishes that require sunlight and warmth to dry and cure.