Contemporary Violins Violas and Cellos
On Sunday 12th March 2017 I attended the annual BVMA day (British Violin Makers Day), to display my hand made instruments. It was a great venue, this year held at Kings Place in the centre of London .
This year we had the Brodsky quartet visiting us to help showcase the best of the contemporary works on offer. The quartet are presented with the makers chosen instruments and have the task of choosing the ones to perform on in the free concert on the day.
I was fortunate enough this year to have my Guarneri Del Gesu model violin (‘Lord Wilton’) chosen by the quartet. It is always a great privilege to be chosen with such a high class of makers attending on the day.
As a contemporary maker it’s always reassuring to have the acknowledgement you are doing something right!
This instrument is available to purchase from my Bristol based workshop for £7000
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This is a cello neck I recently had to replace after the instrument had fallen, snapping the neck. Fortunately for the customer the instrument was insured making the situation less painless than it otherwise could have been.
Firstly a replacement piece of wood is chosen as closely matching as possible. The neck is removed (what’s left) and the mortice is cleaned in the rib structure.
Clamping blocks and a cast for the back of the scroll is made and the ‘C’ and ‘A’ peg holes bushed before proceeding to cut away the neck from the peg box. The mortice in the peg box is prepared to insert the new neck which is finely trimmed. While fitting several factors have to be kept in mind. Accurately centring it into the peg box, getting the right amount of angle projecting over the scroll and the cross angle to seat the fingerboard allowing for ease of bowing.
The fingerboard is cleaned and glued back on centrally.
The neck shape is loosely carved out and then fitted into the body. Similarly to fitting the neck onto the peg box the same factors need to be considered. Making sure the neck is centre to the body, the projection is at the correct height and centred, the slant of the neck and also the step from the body to the finger board.
Before gluing the neck is shaped and finished.
Once glued the varnish is then applied.
If your instruments neck isn’t straight or even if the instrument feels uncomfortable to play, it could be misaligned. Please contact me via the homepage contact form to arrange a consultation.
Hole in violin front
Prepared hole with shavings removed from above
Shavings glued in hole
Veneer glued in hole
Sound post patch
Through patch retouched
This selection of photographs show different stages of completing a through patch on a violin.
The instrument had previously been repaired and the material in the hole was a series of mushy fibres lacking in structure and was plain ugly.
Firstly I made a plaster cast to use as a structural bed for working with the front of the violin. It holds the shape of the front allowing you to take shavings of wood from the inside and and clamping required.
I then cleaned the area to reveal the true extent of the damage and the hole to be repaired.
The area on the topside of the hole has a thin paper glued to it allowing the hole to be cut to a regular oval and finished with scrapers to a fine feathered edge with the very last layer being a small amount of varnish.
Shavings are taken from the inside of the front as close to the area as possible in line with the hole. This allows you to have wood of the same yearly growth moved directly down so when viewed from the outside the grain lines are all continuous in thickness, spacing and the wood refracts in the same way.
Once the shavings have been glued in this needs to be scraped back carefully. It’s incredibly thin! A thin 1 mm veneer is prepared and glued in to re-enforce the area. This veneer is then scraped slightly to a fine continuous curved bed to allow for the final patch to be chalk fitted and glued into place.
Once the glue is dry the front is removed from the cast and the patch on the outside is gently scraped level. The final stage is retouching the varnish hopefully disguising the hole ever having been there.
Bow Rehairing & Quality Bow Hair
I get many customers for bow rehairing from the surrounding areas of Bristol and Bath but it is also possible to post your bow in an piece of drain tube like you have behind your sink, making sure it is no more than 800mm long. This can be easily purchased from your hardware store. A great method for those with busy life styles!
I rehair all levels of bow but with modern markets producing bows that can be bought for as little as £25, a throw away market is starting to develop.
Bow Rehairing requires the best Quality Bow Hair. The hair used for bowing stringed instruments is indeed from horses. It originates from the Mongolian and China borders and is primarily from the female horse (Mare). The mare’s hair is identified by the urine stains at the tapered lower end of the hair. This gives extra grip for the rosin, as the urine lifts the minute scales to act as microscopic anchors.
I have recently learnt from experience buying hair directly from suppliers in China is a seriously poor choice from a quality and economic view. Although you get far more hair for the money the amount of hair thrown away is ridiculous. In order to rehair a bow, I was finding 2 bows worth of hair was being discarded due to it not being ‘dressed’ before sale. Thankfully this is not the case with my new supplier.
New Violin Peg Bushings
All go this week Repairing Violins from Bath – Somerset, with Cracks, Set Ups & New Bridges. For now many Peg Bushings for Violin to be fitted.
The picture below shows a violin peg box with new bushings being glued in, with the ‘A’ peg being prepared with a tool called a reamer.
The picture below shows a peg bushing cutter, which comes with different sizes and tapers to make shaping easier for fitting. As with fitting a peg, the bushing needs to be tested for a perfect fit by turning it in the reamed hole to look for gaps. Turning it in the hole creates friction or heat which can then be tested on ones lip to determine if there is an equal distribution of heat and correct fitting.
The picture below shows the saw cut being made to cut off the excess.
The picture below shows the bushing almost sawn through. It is removed with a knife before being glued into position. The removal of the excess material is then pared down with a gouge, chisel and then finishing with a scraper.
Next the bushings have retouch varnish applied. This is a very difficult process for two reasons. The first being the wood is not the same material used to make the head of the violin. The second is that the face of the bushing shows end grain and not the side or ‘face’. End grain is difficult and will always show up due to the fact that refraction works differently, resulting with a lighter or darker appearance depending on the angle viewed. Darker more interesting varnish with patina always helps the restorer to camouflage these troubles.
Finally the peg holes are carefully marked, drilled and reamed before the final fitting of the peg.