Category Archives: Violin Making

Huckins Violin- Sold

My latest commission build was for a very talented artist out of Denver, CO. Shawn Huckins is a modern day Michelangelo if I may say so myself! His paintings are works of art and I am so happy I could build him a violin.

We chose a Guadagnini copy because Shawn loves a deeper red varnish. We also antiqued the violin making its appearance to be much older then it is.

It turned out to be one of my favorite builds so far in my career. I delivered the violin in person to Colorado and we had a great time talking art and violin making! This was truly an experience of a lifetime for me getting to work with such an artist and build him a violin!

Do yourself a favor and go check out his fine art! It is incredible!

Huckins Violin- Sold Huckins Violin- Sold Huckins Violin- Sold Huckins Violin- Sold Huckins Violin- Sold Huckins Violin- Sold Huckins Violin- Sold Huckins Violin- Sold Huckins Violin- Sold Huckins Violin- Sold

Hermann Todt 1929

Hermann Todt made this violin specifically for William Lewis & Son of Chicago in 1929. Todt was a violin maker from Markneukirchen. This violin was made with exceptional wood for the maker. The top spruce is very even with tight grain, while the maple has a deep medium width flame.

It is branded on both the back plate near the button. And on the inside of the back plate above the William Lewis & Son label.

The William Lewis & Son was a Chicago based music store that specialized in violins and bows. William E. Lewis the founder, was the son of a cellist and he became a violinist. At the age of 8 English critics elected him as a musical prodigy. The family moved to America in 1850.

The William Lewis & Son firm was established in 1874 and lasted 80 long years building a nice collection of instruments including Stradivarius, Guarneri, Montagnana, Storioni, Rugeri, Guadagnini and many more fine instruments made by old masters.

Hermann Todt 1929 Hermann Todt 1929 Hermann Todt 1929 Hermann Todt 1929

“King James”

I always seem to grow attached to my instruments as I build them, how could I not? I spend so much time focusing on every little detail that I get so use to having them around and working on them! But this violin is going to be hard for me to see go off to a new home.

This violin means a lot to me because I made this after James Fegley. Although I was never lucky enough to meet Jim, I am fortunate because I wouldn’t have any of this without him.

He started Fegley’s well before I was alive and I think he would be proud that I am carrying on the Fegley name.

This is a Stradivari copy that I made over the last few months. It has a mostly original James Fegley scroll that he started to carve and never finished.

Making this violin truly one of a kind. Normally I would have just kept the scroll but I thought it would mean a lot more to be completed and go on to enjoy making music. So “King James” will forever live on to make music!

“King James” “King James” “King James” “King James” “King James” “King James” “King James” “King James”

Stradivari F-holes- 2014 Violin

The amount of steps I go through in order to complete one small step in the making process drives me crazy sometimes! Crazy I tell you! It’s one small step after the next and if the previous step wasn’t executed properly then it will have a ripple effect throwing each step off the slightest bit. So this is why I like to make in my studio at home.
Music in the background helps but proper lighting and a sharp knife will do the trick. Measure 5,000 times and cut once. It never hurts to take a break to let your eyes rest and before coming back to work.

These f-holes are for a Stradivari violin that I am currently making.
f hole 1
Stradivari 2
Stradivari 3
Stradivari 4

2014- Stradivari Viola

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!

Viola edging

Viola Purfling Channel

Viola purfling

F-hole Carved

Stradivari F-hole

Stradivari Purfling

Scroll Fluting

Luthier Stick Up!

A few months ago, I finished building a pair of instruments; a Guadagnini viola named “Bonnie” and a Del Gesu’ violin named “Clyde”. I know, quite clever pairing such a historical couple such as Bonnie and Clyde, just seemed like the perfect way to carry on the names of my latest instruments. “Bonnie” quickly found a home replacing my first viola with a local Reading Symphony player while I got to spend a little more time with “Clyde” which I still am trying to find the right home for at the moment. I have had plenty of dealers offer to sell my instruments for much more than my current asking price in little old Reading, Pennsylvania. But I still can’t see myself boxing up my instruments and shipping them off to a big city where I might be able to seek a higher price. I guess I am more than slightly attached to my instruments as I spend countless hours at my workbench refining every single detail. I like to find the right player to care for my instruments, call me selfish but I love being able to maintain and see my instruments on a yearly basis, watching them grow together as one with the player. I love making new instruments for all shapes and sizes but I especially enjoy making for the younger generation as they tend to show so much potential and growth as they get older and the player and the instrument really do begin to grow as one.
All this to say, my job as a Luthier is only half complete without the player. So I will admit that I will continue to be selfish with my handmade instruments and find the right home for each and every one…
Viola PurflingViola PurflingViolaIMG_3651Viola F-holesViola VarnishViola Varnish Antique

Good Day, Young Maestro

Fegley's Instruments & Bows

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.