“Clyde” a nice Del Gesu’ violin copy that I recently made found it’s new home with a nice teenage boy. He is a very talented and humble young man. I can honestly say I feel very thankful I get to watch the partnership grow with time. Here are a few photos of the finished product.
A modern Cremona instrument made in 2003, this Trabucchi really has a brilliant look with a very wide flamed, one-piece back. Not your average modern Italian maker who would focus more on a tight, narrow flamed maple for the back of the instrument.
Trabucchi’s work boasts the knowledge and skill from years of experience as a maker in Italy. Notice how strong the outline of this instrument looks, it is almost masculine in a way that the edges were left so refined and bold.
This violin has a great even tone and is a fine example of a modern Italian masters work.
I don’t blog nearly enough… I hate to admit that it is hard for me to sit in front of my computer when I see my workbench and tools right next to it waiting for the next project! I will try to be better about taking the time to write about some of the fine instruments I have collected so far, key word there is try! So don’t be too hard on me.
Although I am a great fan of fine older instruments I am a realist, not all of us can afford the luxury of a million dollar Stradivari so most of us start with fine copies by modern makers.
One of the better modern Violas I have come across is a Stanley Kiernoziak made in Chicago in 2005. Kiernoziak studied in Poland.
He is known for being very successful with his violas making for the William Harris Lee Company; his number of violas made far exceeds violins and cellos, smart man! Everyone loves a modern viola! Kiernoziak’s instruments are known for their strong projection and warm tonal qualities.
So much so that he was awarded a VSA certificate for tone in the quartet competition. I have seen Kiernoiak’s viola sell for over $17,000. This particular Stanley Kiernoziak viola is a 16” and is one of my favorite modern violas I have in the shop right now, as a maker it is refreshing to find inspiration in a modern instrument.
Make an appointment to stop in and play it!
This year I have been doing an intense repair on a Stopka Viola, which is owned by a client of mine. It came in with an unfortunate sound post crack. We had to remove the top and get the crack glued back together. The crack ran almost the whole length of the viola top, but I was able to get it glued back together quite cleanly. Once the actual crack was glued I was able to get started on the real task, fitting the actual patch. I feathered the original top to less then half of a millimeter! And then continued to fit the patch until it fit perfectly. Tedious and time consuming this is a good example of why I only take on a few intense restorations per year because they really need all of my attention to execute properly. After the patch was fit and glued I could brace my crack with some small cleats and glue the top back on. A few weeks of some careful varnish retouch we were back in business!
This past year I have been copying a Stradivari Viola from 1672 known as the ‘Mahler’. It is the first of the 10 Stradivari Violas to be in existence today. While Stradivari made a couple thousand instruments he rarely made violas. There is going to be a Stradivari Viola being auctioned off this year and it is set to start the bidding around $45 million.
I can’t say that my prices will ever reach such a tremendous amount, but it gives me something to look up to as a maker. These instruments are high-end art, which is playable. You cannot take your Picasso off the wall and try to get enjoyment from playing it!
Times have changed and there are quite a few adjustments that I made to my Viola when I was drawing up the blue prints. I copied one side of the outline and mirror imaged it to have a very symmetrical final product. It is almost like drawing half of a heart on a piece of paper when we were kids and folding the piece of paper in half before we cut it out to make a perfectly symmetrical heart, make sense?
I also removed the ‘wings’ from the sides of the scroll, exactly how you see cello scrolls today. It makes playing for the musician slightly more difficult; I also took the original scroll size and reduced it by about 15-20%. Again I did this strictly for the playability factor. I am almost done with my final scraping and rounding of the edges before this Viola gets to spend some time outside tanning.
Check back to see the finished product being varnished!
Time has been flying over the past year. Almost one year ago today I decided to buy Fegley’s Violin Shop. Although at 25 it came on as no small task, I quickly learned that I have been building up to do this almost my entire life. As a kid, I was always building things with my hands – whether it was a ramp for my bike or a tree fort that my brothers and I should have never trusted to hold our weight. There was always a constant project to overcome. So ultimately, I truly felt honored when Margie Fegley approached me about taking over the business. I knew that it was in my cards at some point; I just didn’t think the opportunity would present itself so early on in my career as a Luthier.
I was terrified if I am being completely honest… Fegley’s has been in the area for over 35 years and I didn’t know if I was really ready or not to take on running my own business. Plus, quite honestly, I liked the freedom in working 40 hours per week and having the ability to sleep in on a Saturday morning if I wanted. Who doesn’t? But I quickly learned it was about much more than that – I realized that I am a “live to work” type and not the other way around. But I can hardly call what I do “work”. I love being at my workbench and creating pieces of art that will last well beyond my years. The only problem is that my art has to produce sound at the end of the day… I pour my blood, sweat and yes sometimes tears into my instruments.
I am a strong believer that some people are just meant to do what they want to do. And I feel like I am right where I belong: at my workbench with my tools and overly expensive wood. I feel fortunate to have found such a tedious craft that I can apply my personality and attention to detail… A deadly combination in striving to become a young maestro.