I had the chance to measure this violin several years ago. It was then in the collection of the Royal Northern College of Music, and I was involved in a a project to make a copy of it to add to the college’s collection of loan instruments. The copy was made jointly with three other violin makers, and I’ve made it myself three times before. It’s an instrument I like; player friendly as are all Guadagnini’s instruments. It has well rounded upper bouts which makes it easy to reach high positions.
I also like that the date is 1757, exactly two centuries before I was born, so I never struggle to remember it!
I’ve started as usual with the ribs, bending thin strips of maple and gluing them to the blocks, which are fitted into the mould.
While working on the ribs, I’ve made the scroll. The Guadagnini scrolls are distinctive in being very wide across the eyes, making them look bold and forceful.
With the head and ribs done, I start work on the back and front, which always feels an exciting stage. I’ve chosen some old maple for the back, with a good strong regular figure. Instead of jointing it in the conventional way, book-matching the two adjacent pieces of wood, I’ve reversed one of them so that the figure runs from left to right. The original Guadagnini had this feature, which I think is pretty. The front is from high quality spruce from the Swiss Alps, with a good, fine to medium grain.
After roughing the arching of the back and front, I’ve finalised the outlines following the shape of the ribs.
The next stage is to inlay the purfling, the sandwich of black/white/black that runs round the edge of the violin. I make the purfling myself, from dyed pearwood and poplar. The boldness of the scroll is reflected in the purfling, which on the original instrument is slightly wider than the Stradivari benchmark. I cut a channel around the perimeter of the violin and then bend, trim and glue the purfling in place.
After rounding the edges and sinking the fluting channel leaving the purfling at the lowest point, I’ve finalised the arching.