Dictionary of Violin Makers - Reference
Here is part of J.M. Fleming’s “The Fiddle Fanciers Guide” published 1892, “Classical & Post-Classical Violin Makers Part 1”, and “Classical & Post-Classical Violin Makers Part 2, and also “Bow Makers” of course only up to 1892.
These are courtesy www.archive.org at Cornell University Library
Friends, good blokes:
Becky and Jonathan Springall mend and sell violins at Devon Strings in Exeter, Devon (UK) and their website is here. You can get some idea of their skill with this ‘cello repair! Quentin Playfair’s contact details in Canada are here. All outstanding
craftsmen craftspersons and tutors.
Article on Dr Nigel Harris from Canterbury, New Zealand.
Guys who recommend Dr. Harris’s violins:
Have a look at at the www.violinist.com, The Enso Quartet plays on a matched set of instruments by London-based luthier, Nigel Harris. I really like their version of one movement from the Ravel String quartet on MySpace.
“The Technique of Violin Making” by Harry Wake: His books are way out of date now (1970’s), but this remarkable man could write in a wonderful way about how to make your first violin: makes you want to go and do it now.
It has plans (in inches), and all the basic stuff, and is quite keen on measuring the weights of everything (especially the plates) and setting weight targets. Get it. Quite hard to find in the UK, but quite a few to be had in the USA. Here is his grandson’s website, where the books and DVDs can be bought. Harry Wake founded the SCAVM 40 years ago: some good stuff here too.
Violin Making: A Guide for the Amateur by Bruce Ossman (2000), and there’s a new second edition out now (2010).
I like Bruce’s very practical approach (2000 edition) but there are a lot of compromises to keep the cost of special tools to an absolute minimum. In particular, he uses the same arching for belly and back and there’s no need to do so at all. The belly should have a ‘table’ top shape while the back should have a rounder arch. He suggests too that the garland (bouts + blocks) is detached from the form or mold before the front or back are glued on: risky. It can easily get damaged and is prone to warping too when on its own. A simple thicknessing gauge is easy to make: I’d suggest making one, and then using it to help when tuning those plates!
You may need someone with know-how to answer questions that arise as you go along, such as on grain orientation. You can get the book for about £10/$15.
“Violin - Making: as it was and is” by Ed. Heron-Allen. Published 1885-6, some 123 years ago. Can be got in various versions, hard or soft-back for £15 ($30) upwards. Fortunately GoogleBooks have scanned in all of it, and it is available here as a .pdf file etc.
This classic book on (Victorian) violin making has been in print most of that 123 years. Ed. Heron-Allen studied with one of the Georges Chanot’s, and published much of this material in ‘practical magazine’ form originally. It has fold-out plans for violins with arching, thicknessing and external and internal moulds, and lots of stuff on history. References are to books of 150 years ago! Written in somewhat verbose and florid late-19C English (with a smattering of Latin), there are some contradictions and mistakes (especially on belly tap tone frequencies), but do get a copy. It is also avail. here.
Amazingly, re-reading it the other day I found a reference to Modes 2 and 5 tap tones visualised using sand, and a rosined bow drawn across the edge of the plate to excite the modes. This is on pages 132-133. He refers to Mode 2 as the “normal tone”, and believe it or not, refers to “nodal lines” in the tech. footnote on page 133. As a reality check, this is from 123 years ago. What’s new under the sun?
“You can Make a Stradivarius” by Joseph V. Reid (1955). Dates from Noah’s time, but fun. A classic: show it to a luthier and watch him* throw toys out of his* cot. Used as a reference by some - someone I feel a kinship with too ......
Henry Strobel’s books on violin, viola and cello making are well known.
Highly recommended both for starters and the very experienced. They are at the violinman’s store too. In Violin Making: Step by Step ($30) he gives good basic info on tap tones, but frustratingly does not give the weights of plates, front and back. It would be particularly interesting to know the weight of the light (low density) Engleman Spruce he used for a belly. Some of this type of spruce can be 0.30 gm/cc rather than European spruces at around 0.45 gm/cc !
Sacconi’s book on Stradivarius’ violins called “The Secrets of Stradivari”. Get the paperback version: a must have. Try here too: about 120 Euro / £90 / $160.
“The Art of Violin Making” by Courtnall and Johnson. Get it. THE reference on everything for me, and it is less than £50 in hardback.
“The Art of Tap Tuning” by Roger H. Siminoff: $25 to $35 for the book with its DVD. Mr. Siminoff is coming from a quite different direction, but his work is practical and inspirational. He has an enormous amount of experience. He recommends setting up instrument plates in the bouts or with the plate edges held on a frame: this is much more like the conditions found in an actual instrument. And there’s a chapter on tap tones in his “Ultimate Bluegrass Construction Manual” too.
Violin Making Schools
I’m a real fan of Juliet Barker and her wonderful team at Cambridge Violin Makers, ‘The Violin Workshop’, not surprisingly in Cambridge, UK. I spend a week each summer there (when money allows) trying to make a viola from scratch. What Juliet doesn’t know about fiddle (and viola) making could be written on a postage stamp. She has published a superb book :”Violin Making a Practical Guide”, and “The Violin Explained” by James Beament is a useful handbook on the physics of violins too.
The Norwegian Hardanger fiddle, with its 8 strings is a fiddle with its own unique and haunting tone, a leftover from the days of mediaeval instruments with sympathetic strings: have a look here at some hybrids .
* Oh for more hers.
And finally bit of wittering ..........
Lastly, I suspect that deep down we all want violin tone to be the result of the knowledge, that touch of a really special secret magic that only the luthier knows, passed down by his father, and his father’s father before him, not to be the result of some new technology or formula. We want living wood fibres not carbon fibre.
In an article in the NY Times (Nov’06) Andrew C. Revkin called “String Theory: New Approaches to Instrument Design” Joseph Curtin is quoted as saying “There’s a kind of a nervousness that the mystery will go out of it, the bubble will be pricked and it’ll all just be ordinary. It’ll be technology. There’s almost a cultural sense that the violin is the last repository of mystery. The fact that we don’t understand the violin adds to its allure.”
There was an article of interest too in The Times about ‘online amateurism’: I really do hope that I’m not contributing. At least most of the weblinks on this site are to other sites!
So many "experts" with so little expertise! I quote “ Professor Brabazon’s concerns echo the author Andrew Keen’s criticisms of online amateurism. In his book The Cult of the Amateur, Keen says: “To-day’s media is shattering the world into a billion personalised truths, each seemingly equally valid and worthwhile.” Lord, keep us from the ordinary.
My friend’s wife left him last Thursday;
She said she was going out for a pint of milk and never come back.
I asked him how he was coping.
He said 'Not too bad, I've been using that powdered stuff'.
Earl and Bubba are quietly sitting in a boat fishing, chewing tobacco and drinking beer when suddenly Bubba says, "Think I'm gonna divorce the wife. She ain't spoke to me in over 2 months."
Earl spits overboard, takes a long, slow sip of beer and says, "Better think it over.............women like that are hard to find." ----------------------