All tops and backs of my instruments are individually matched to produce a look that is beautiful and organic.
The wood I use for my tops is made from high quality Spruce tone wood, which has been drying for many years. Due to the short summers and long winters in these regions, the soft part of the summer growth is not as wide, leading to a more even wood grain. This even density of the wood means better strength across the top. Such strength is necessary to cope with the pressure the strings bring to bear on the top, which is several kg at each bridge foot.
The wood I use for my backs is made of Bosnian maple, or other equally fine European maple, also grown in mountainous regions. I choose wood which has a beautiful flame in it, and my backs are either one-piece or two-piece. The scroll and sides of the violin are also made of maple.
Models and patterns
The two most famous violin makers from the great Italian masters are, of course, Antonio Stradivarius and Guarneri del Gesu. Currently most of my making is based just on Guarneri models from his late period of making (1740s). Many of the great concert violins are from this period. The Guarneri model is not only special for its wonderful richness of tonal colour and power, but also for its ease of playing. Guarneri used smaller, more compact dimensions which makes this model very comfortable to play on.
I am also currently making a Stradivarius model violin from his ‘Golden Period’ of making (1700 – 1720). I’m interested in one of his slightly smaller models, again for ease of playing. Stradivarius’ instruments are famous for their beauty of appearance, projection, and range of colour in the sound. All of these elements influence my approach to making.
The set-up of each instrument is an extremely important part of the violinmaking process. In order for you to play with ease and comfort, each instrument is set up with great attention to detail. The string heights, the cut of the bridge and the position of the sound post all have a huge impact on the sound. A lot of care is taken in this area, so that the instrument sounds its very best. The neck shape can also be adjusted to suit each player’s physique and maximise comfort. The set up is individually adjusted for each instrument. An instrument can be set up to the player’s exact requirements, and a record taken for future use. As with all instruments, the set up is something that needs to be regularly reevaluated as time goes on and the instrument develops. This ensures that over time the instrument is kept in optimum working order.
Pegs, tailpiece and chin-rests are high quality ebony or boxwood fittings, chosen to suit each individual instrument.
Bridges are made of maple. There are different bridge models, and each bridge is carefully selected to bring out the best sound in the instrument.
Fingerboards are always made of ebony. Ebony is a hard durable wood, meaning it can cope with the wear that occurs as a consequence of the strings being pressed down on it. Over time, fingerboards need reassessing to check they are still in ultimate condition for playing.
The choice of strings can also impact the sound of an instrument quite substantially. Many players have a personal preference for strings and often want to select these themselves.
I make my own varnish, which includes high quality resins and colours. The varnish enhances and protects the beauty of the wood without losing any of the quality of the sound. I offer two main types of appearance: new and antiqued. Many players prefer a violin which looks old, but some like the freshness of a new-looking instrument. This really comes down to individual taste, as both looks are attractive. My antiqued instruments have the graceful worn appearance of a violin around 100 years old in museum condition.