Contact Philip

Call 0422 945 752 

or email

Woobys Lane
Battery Point, TAS, 7004

+61 (0) 422945752

Philip Smith is a master maker of stringed instruments and their bows. A master of refined artistry and exquisite tones from his master crafted bows and instruments. One of Australia's finest luthiers!







Maker Restorer Repairs Sales of Violin Viola Cello Double Bass and their Bows
Traditional and Baroque
Tasmania Australia

Filtering by Tag: viola

In Conversation

Georgia Sutton

This afternoon Philip spoke to Helen Shields on ABC Radio Hobart as part of her Handmade’s Tales series.

Philip is a quiet gentleman so many of you may not be familiar with all of his story. In their conversation today, Philip shared with Helen his love of making music, of making instruments that make music. Philip also tells of some of the colourful characters and overseas adventures in New York with Kolstein & Sons and in France as a Churchill Fellow which brought him to his atelier in Hobart. Tasmania.

Philip Smith is a master maker of string instruments, violin, viola, cello, double bass and their bows. To learn more about his story, you can listen here:


Philip Smith

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.

Cello Bow No. 1

Philip Smith

It's all go here in the small workshop. Two violins, a satisfyingly large model viola and a cello are all underway, not to mention the bow commissions impatiently waiting in the wings.

The bass bow wood (sticks of Brazilian pernambuco) finally arrived from the USA. It was received with much excitement. After languishing at CITES for a few weeks, the supplier was told that as it was such a small amount it didn't require certification and was sent forthwith and after months of waiting, arrived in a few days.

Due to the rarity of pernambuco and the difficulty in obtaining it, I have started a little experimentation. The first experimental bow made from Tasmanian Dogwood a has been tested and has come up - not quite right. The wood isn't sufficiently dense, its too light and is refusing to be bent into the correct cambre. It works but unfortunately is not an adequate replacement.

I have another half a dozen Tasmanian species to try, but I am not sure when I will have the time to continue the experimentation.

I will keep you posted.

Goodbye No 3

Philip Smith

Viola number 3 has been safely delivered to its new home.

Now there is a viola-sized hole in my workshop.

It's always a bit sad to see the instruments go after spending several months working on them so intensely. Still it has gone to a good home and the owner and teacher were both very pleased with the final result. Hoping to see and hear it at the next Hobart Chamber Orchestra concert where it will be playing with some of its siblings.

Violin number 12 is now demanding some attention and social services have been called about the bass in bits in my shop window.

L'Alto Vernis

Philip Smith

After overcoming a significant mental block about commencing the varnishing process, I am preparing to put on the final coat of colour. to Viola No. 3 (Pictured are the 5 coats of coloured varnish, there are 3 to 4 process before this and two coats of clear to finish.)

Varnish has a big impact on the way people respond to the completed instrument - its colour, figure and finish. But varnishing is a bugger. There's no other way to put it. Quick drying oil varnish is hand applied to the instrument with badger hair brushes. When I say 'quick', I mean almost instantaneous. You basically get one shot at it. Any attempt to retouch a dodgy stroke simply makes a mess of it. The colour of the instrument is all in the varnish. It begins with the application of a ground of yellow, then to browns and brown/red mixes. Each layer enriches the instrument's colour and each gets increasingly harder to apply.

In a good varnish I like strong colour but maintaining good transparency to make the most of the highly figured maple, creating a three dimensional effect.


Philip Smith

It's been another long time between posts, I'm sure you've been missing me terribly. However, as I am constantly being reminded, everything in this business takes a long time.



baguettes arrived from the US last week. This endangered wood is only available because it is reclaimed from floorboards, fence posts etc in Brazil. Ordered from the Government approved registered pernambuco dealer in Brazil three months ago, they had to sit in New York awaiting inspection by the US Fish and Wildlife Service for two months before being released. They arrived in Australia complete with a permit from the "Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora" to be held up at Australian Customs for a fortnight. It was not the authenticity or provenance that the Oz Customs were concerned about, but how much GST to charge. Such a frustrating process. Luckily the dealer sent extra baguettes, in this wondrous array of tones, to compensate for the delay. Unfortunately, he had forgotten to include the four bass sticks, which are the items I really need to get started on, so here we go again. Like I said, nothing in my business happens quickly.

With the completion of all my Churchill Fellowship commitments - the report handed in, speech made etc., I was given this medallion by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. Thanks Winston, or should I say " Merci!" (although he isn't looking too happy about it, is he? )


Since I got back from France, full of the joys of bow making, two instrument commissions presented themselves. The first is for a smallish viola, my version of a Guadagnini, seen here with the first coat of coloured varnish. Now comes the tricky part of applying the darker colours. The viola was played by the owner in the white and was greatly appreciated for its tone, quick response and ergonomics.

This white violin, minus the neck which I am still making, is my trusted Guarneri 'del Gesu' model. This one should be ready to try in the white shortly. It's my violin number 12.


Now back to my recently acquired new skills. This is a partially finished bass frog, awaiting the pernambuco stick. Made from ebony, Sterling silver and mother of pearl, this is for my first bow commission from my long suffering mentor and double bass teacher. Hopefully his patience will soon be rewarded.