Maker Restorer Repairs Sales of Violin Viola Cello Double Bass and their Bows
Traditional and Baroque
It's all about plugging my way through the endless list of jobs at the moment. For a while there I seemed to have started many things and not finished anything and so my wife, very helpfully, made a list for me. With tick boxes.
This violin was ticked off last week.
On the top of the list now is another violin, but I am allowing myself to be distracted by making a double bass bow with no under slide and a lower frog. This is a return to how bows were originally made. The silver underslide was added for strength but there is a strong movement towards making bows without them. They are harder to make because the frog has to fit perfectly to the stick but it will be worth it for the
Now, I'll just finish this and get back to the list.
After many years of playing along on other people's projects, some good, some great and some ... , I have formed myself a very small unconducted string orchestra. Its essentially a string quartet with double bass. I have uncovered several very talented musicians looking for a playing opportunity and we had our first rehearsal last week. We are enjoying the intimate ensemble, but may expand if required. We fancy ourselves as a
, and hope to invite soloists to join us to play. If you fancy yourself as a soloist, and have something that you would love to perform and would like an opportunity to perform, give me a call.
I finally understand my father's love of print music. The arrival of the above repertoire last week was very exciting. I find myself continuing to search for interesting musical possibilities.
Viola in progress: My tone wood supplier in Germany spent a couple of weeks searching through his racks for this highly figured one piece maple viola wood. Based on the Andrea Gaurneri Conte Vitale 1676, it is a larger model at 16 1/4 inches with broad centre bout which should result in power and projection, at a yet manageable size.
Bass bow baguettes: BAM!
Much anticipated, long awaited, procured via a process involving nothing less than bureaucratic insanity. Number 1 Bass bow is long overdue but now underway, for my long-suffering maestro. It won't be long now Michael, I promise.
This is my new cello bow. Cello bow No.2, we shall call it, as this is my second bow and the first I have completed since returning from France last May. The process of 'tooling up' and securing supplies has been almost excruciatingly slow, one of the disadavantages of living on an island at the bottom of the Earth far from European and Brazilian suppliers. Cello bow No.2 is made from a beautiful Pernambuco stick, a gift from Lyon archetier, Sylvain Bigot. I was lucky enough to meet Sylvain in his atelier in Lyon on my travels last year, having received a recommendation to him from
, my bow making Master and mentor.
is on the second floor of a wonderful building in the smart shopping district of Lyon. To gain entry you must buzz the bell next to his nameplate at street level. The entrance is adorned with the typical white on blue street number, the brass nameplates of the occupants, wooden doors and ornate carvings in the stone architrave. Once access is given to the building you ascend the stairs to this wonderful workspace.
Sylvain gave me a very warm welcome and much invaluable advice and knowledge. He sent me away with much encouragement and the gift of this beautiful pernambuco stick so I could continue my bowmaking journey. Merci Sylvain!
In another life, I worked in a music shop in the big town. The shop stocked the full range of musical instruments strings, brass, pianos, electronic equipment - the works. Customers were always coming in trying to wrangle big discounts on instruments, like it was a used car yard. Christmas seemed to bring it out in the punters even more than was usual and us salesman wearied of the endless haggling of the silly season.
One December day, a gentleman came in. A man with a keen eye for a bargain and a master negotiater. He was like a dog with a bone after a discount. After being denied repeatedly by a colleague, the man cried in despair:
"You are not being very Father Christmassy!"
Ho, ho, ho!
So the Philip Smith Christmas decoration has gone up, no expense spared as you can see. And that's about as Father Christmassy as it gets around here.
The violin making classes have been going for a couple of weeks on Tuesday nights. It's turning out to be quite the melting pot of ideas and creativity! There are two regular students and a couple readying themselves to put chisel to seasoned tone wood. Another is considering embarking on, my personal favourite project, making a double bass. After the success of Tuesday night's class (and the fact that 3 or 4 in the workshop takes up all the space), I am considering offering Thursday night classes as well.
So, if you have ever thought about making a stringed instrument - you can do it, with a little help from your friendly neighbourhood luthier. My contact details are on the side bar of the blog. Call or email and we can talk about the options.
This week I have temporarily satiated my appetite for certain objects of desire.
There is nothing quite so satisyfing as a parcel of brand new tools, and this lot of bow making tools have arrived ... sweet! Swiss chisels and files, planes from Germany and the block plane from the US of A, as well as a difficult to find hand chuck from Italy and the leather knife from Japan. The knives are Tasmanian, handcrafted by my good self.
The big block plane is a beauty. I think it is my new favourite.
The vintage Japanese lathe was sourced from my friend
, next door. Excellent quality for precision bow making.
Theses tools have facilitated a little bit of bow making progress with a bass and a violin frog now well on the way.
Instrument Making Session
Over the years, quite few people have expressed in interest in learning the dark arts of violinmakng so I have started a casual evening session, Tuesday's 7-9am to guide people in the process of making an instrument. The first one kicked off last night. If you are interested in coming along, give me a call. Booking is essential as space in the workshop is tight.