2014- Guadagnini Cello

My latest cello build is a 7/8 Guadagnini copy. The original was made in 1743. An important year for the production of early Guagagnini cellos. I know what you are thinking… Why a 7/8 cello!? Honestly, the wood was just small enough that I couldn’t make a full-size cello out of it. And what was I suppose to do? Toss the wood aside and buy more? When you spend the amount of money that Luthiers do then you will work with what you have on most occasions.
So, we have a 7/8 cello. I have been making this instrument over the past few months when I get some extra time at my workbench. Cello making is no small task; I do the same steps as when I make a violin or viola but on a much bigger scale. Needing much more muscles to wrestle with carving the back arching! Needless to say I am exhausted by the time I end up putting my tools down at the end of the day.
Attached are a few pictures of the purfling process as I went about carving the channel and inlaying the actual purfling.

Cello Outline
Cello Purfling1
Cello Purfling
Cello Purfling Corner
Cello Purfling Corner 2

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

Stradivari Cello Copy

Cello-Varnish In 2012, a young cellist who was going off to music school approached me about making a custom cello just for him. He had his heart set on one of my handmade instruments after playing on a Stradivari cello I had previously built. What I like most about making an instrument for a specific person is I can translate much of their personality into their custom instrument. We decided on another Stradivari model cello for him. Although a Stradivari cello can be quite stubborn during the break-in period, the more you use the instrument, the more it gives back. It boasts a very strong sound allowing the sound to carry well into the back of the concert hall. I am lucky to be able to watch him and my cello grow together throughout his career as a Cellist and wish them the best of luck along their journey together! See below a short quote from him only a few short months playing on it…
Cellist“Well the cello has really become something quite fantastic! It has developed an incredibly lush sound that can be shaped to reflect a wide variety of emotions. It can project just as much or more than any other cello I’ve come across. It also sounds really great playing softer phrases, and when muted can be utterly heart breaking (in the really good cello sense of the phrase).”

“It is also very physically beautiful. When I walk on stage for a recital, the first thing people notice is how the cello looks. It is great because they see the cello and expect something beautiful even before I play a single note!”

“Thanks again for this fantastic instrument!”

Cello-2Cello-Scroll5Cello-Varnish 2

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.