Over the years I have slowly started to organize the workshop at Fegley Violin Shop. I will admit it wasn’t one of my easier tasks, but it was however extremely rewarding.
I can imagine Jim looking down and saying, “Where is all of my stuff! I had everything exactly where I wanted it!” But I know he would be proud of how far I have come and where I want to take it in the future.
I still have quite a bit of work to do to get the shop exactly where I want it, but I can say that I put a huge dent in the organizing aspect and I look forward to tackling more projects as the years go by.
Most people don’t realize that I never had the opportunity to meet Jim Fegley, when he passed away I was only in the 8th grade! And needless to say back then I didn’t even know there was a life outside of a Jr. High classroom!
I wish we could have spent some time together, I am sure we would have shared many laughs and violin making stories! I look forward to carrying on his Legacy well into the future and passing along the Fegley name.
The importance of well-placed F-holes… Every player has seen the instrument where the top is heavily damaged where the bridge is placed. Worn down from years of players moving the bridge back and forth over and over again.
This is why I take so much time making sure my F-holes are laid out properly to insure that the stop length for the bridge is precisely where I want it to be to produce the best potential sound.
Now this is not easily done because you need to insure that you took all of the necessary steps in the construction process. The arching is key to well-placed F-holes. If the arching isn’t shaped consistently on each side of the instrument it will appear as if the F-holes were not properly laid out. I take plenty of time making sure my arching has a mirror effect, meaning that both sides of the instrument are carved the same way so they mimic one another.
Then when I start to do my necessary measurements for F-hole placement, the F-holes lay on without trouble!
That is only half the battle, carving the F-holes with sharp tools is the real challenge!
Violins are all the same, right? From the outside world I can see why all violins look the same!
But when you are a maker or a player you appreciate the beauty that instruments have to offer! This instrument wasn’t worth a terrible amount, it was a German violin made back in the late 1800’s and belonged to a good client of mine whose Grandfather use to play it in bars in Germany!
We decided to go ahead and repair the ‘wing’ of the f-hole. It wasn’t a very labor-intensive job, but it had its difficulties. Wood selection is one of the hardest things to do, how am I suppose to make a piece a spruce look 200 years old?
Then on top of that match 200-year-old varnish with the normal wear and tear… I found a piece of old spruce and was able to repair the damaged f-hole.
Another violin was saved and I am happy to say that the great-granddaughter is now enjoying the violin that lived a long life in Germany making it’s way to the USA!
My latest viola build is a copy of one of the most known members of the Guarneri family; Andrea Guarneri. Andrea along with several other great makers apprenticed directly with the great Nicolo Amati.
Among those that apprenticed with Amati Guarneri held true to the Amati tradition. Andrea adopted his maters model so masterfully that some of this works are indistinguishable from his teacher’s. In general Guarneri’s work is somewhat freer and less exact then his master’s, but are nonetheless of a fantastic build. His smaller violas are regarded as some of the best-known violas left in existence today.
There are only 8 surviving examples still around today!
Andrea Guarneri shared his making knowledge with his two sons who assisted him from 1690 on. His sons went on to have their own celebrated careers; they were Giuseppe ‘filius Andrea’ and Pietro of Mantua.
I am loving this latest viola build. I haven’t made a Guarneri viola since my schooling at NBSS.
The viola is slightly larger than 16″ and puts out a huge sound!
Giovanni Battista Guadagnini is one of my favorite makers! Guadagnini is regarded as the greatest maker of the second half of the 18th Century! Not one of the greatest, but thee greatest… His career expanded of 44 years and his original style produced some of the best sounding instruments in history!
Guadagnini lived an interesting life and unlike most makers he moved from city to city quite a bit throughout his violin-making career.
He finally ended up in Turin in 1771, where he met the well-known Count Cozio who later became a patron of his work. Cozio was responsible for the commission of some of Guadagnini’s finest works. In 1774 Cozio gained control of the remaining articles of the Stradivari workshop from Stradivari’s grandson, Paolo.
This allowed Guadagnini the opportunity to acquaint himself with the great Stradivari’s work first hand. After this time he adopted Stradivari’s models, using them more frequently. What a lucky guy!
This is my latest Guadagnini copy, which is a 7/8 cello! As a modern maker we are spoiled with great articles and books about old masters. I love taking the time to study fine instruments to see the details that the maker left behind!
Proper set-up goes a long way when wanting the best sound out of your instrument. It is important to keep a close eye on your bridge, sound post and strings along with a few other key parts on the instrument. You wouldn’t buy a brand new car and plan to never get oil changes or service.
This is a relatable topic to instruments; these instruments are made out of wood… things do move around! The weather is a key factor in things moving around on instruments from one season to the next!
That being said it is important to properly maintain your instrument. Bring it in for yearly check ups and get it looked over!
“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.
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.