I made a violin based on this model earlier in the year, for a front-desk player in the Hallé Orchestra. I really liked the model; its quirky asymmetry is appealing but more importantly the arching shapes seemed as if they would give a violin with power, richness and warmth. This proved to be so, and being aware that it’s always good to consolidate, I’m making it again. The ‘real’ Stradivari is in the collection of the Royal Academy of Music, and I was fortunate to be able to spend a morning measuring it in the spring.
I started, as I usually do, with making the rib assembly; bending and gluing thin strips of maple round a mould, then fitting the linings which reinforce the eventual glue joints with the back and front.
I’ve made the scroll, an enjoyable couple of days of carving.
Now it’s time to start work on the back and front. The wood for these is quite old, probably at least 50 years at a guess. I was able to buy a stock of this wood from a friend early in the year, and I’ve enjoyed finding the differences between it and new wood. It’s certainly tougher and crisper to work, though I’m not sure there are any great acoustic advantages – or disadvantages either come to that. It’s a two-piece maple back with a beautiful figure, and a fine-grain spruce front. I’ve started by cutting out the plates, then roughing the arching and finalising the outlines.
Next I fit the purfling, the strip of black/white/black wood that enhances the outline of the violin. First I cut a channel around the edge of the plates, then bend and fit the purfling before gluing it in.
That done, I finalise the arching. This is an important aspect for the sound of the violin. It’s interesting that for this late Stradivari model, the inspiration seems to come from the earlier Brescian instruments: the overall height of the arching is more than on the Golden Period instruments and the shape rises more quickly from the edges. This contributes I think to the rich and slightly dark quality of sound of this violin.
The next stage is to turn the plates over and reduce them to their final thickness. This is also an important stage for the sound of the violin. I need to balance the sound the wood makes when I tap it with its weight and flexibility.
I’ve cut the f-holes in the front. They are deliciously asymmetrical, following the original instrument, and also set further apart than usual, which again I think contributes to the distinctive sound quality of this lovely violin model.
The finishing stages are getting close. I fit the bass bar inside the front and then take the ribs off the mould, glue them to the back and then glue the front to the ribs.
Then I make the fingerboard, glue it to the neck, fit the neck to the body, shape it, and the violin is finished ‘in the white’ ready for varnishing.
The violin is now finished. The varnish is a rich golden brown which shows the beautiful wood underneath. It’s sounding really good; even through the register and with a lovely power and warmth both on the G string and up the E string. I showed it at the Maker’s Day organised by the British Violin Makers Association Maker’s Day at King’s Place only a few days after I set it up, and it was picked by the second violinist of the Kreutzer Quartet to play in the lunchtime concert held to show the qualities of the instruments on display. Its clarity, responsiveness and quality of sound really shone through.