Two weeks in the workshop. Deux semaines à l’atelier.

The beginning of the academic year is always the busiest time of the year for instrument repairs and bow rehairs.

La rentrée est toujours le moment de l’année où de nombreux instruments arrivent à l’atelier pour être réparés, et des archets ont besoin d’un remèchage. Parmi toutes ces boîtes je trouve 5 violons qui ont besoin de rebouchage de trous de chevilles.

So here I prepare some wood for peg holes bushings to different tapers, 1/20, 1/25, 1/30.

Je prépare du bois pour le rebouchage des trous de chevilles. Le bois est taillé en cônes de différentes formes, 1/20, 1/25, 1/30.


You want to take as little wood as possible from the original peg hole, this is why I use different tapers on the bushings, the tool in the middle, with a black round handle, is a clever invention from my colleague Mark Jackson.


A musician friend brings in a little 3/4 size violin, most probably German, made in the 1920s. Now, the question is : is this violin worth repairing? She would like to teach her 9 years old great niece… In this condition the violin is worth nothing, but as I measure the thickness of the belly from outside with a Hacklinger Thickness Gauge, I can see that it was very quickly hollowed with an “integral” bass bar, leaving up to 7 mm of wood in the middle! No cracks, the elevation will need to be increased… After closer inspection I know that it will have a very nice sound for a 3/4 size violin.

So this little violin jumps the queue, I take the belly off, quickly but neatly, correct the belly thickness wherever it is possible with thumb planes and scrapers, fit a bass bar, glue the bass bar (see photo on the right.), shape the bass bar, glue back all the loose linings and ribs, correct the bottom ribs joint, (with age the back has shrunk a little.) reglue the bottom block after checking the fit. Glue the belly back on…

Increasing the elevation with a very small wedge at the neck root. I reshape the fingerboard to the correct curve and resurface it, refit and reshape the nut, (an important job if you do not want to have damaged strings.) fit some better quality and better fitting ebony pegs, so that the child can learn quickly to tune the instrument with the pegs. It is easy to tune an instrument with good fitting pegs!

I prepare some sound post wood, (I like to make my own sound post wood from very dense wood.) fit the sound post to the desired place with the appropriate amount of tension, fit a bridge of decent quality wood (Despiau blank, quality 2 trees, I would not recommend any lower quality bridge blank.), decide that Helicore strings for 3/4 size violin (made by D’Addario in the U.S.A.) are the right choice for this violin. Et voilà, a good sounding musical instrument to learn on.

Another welcome visitor, is a violin I made 24 years ago. It is always a pleasure to have back in the workshop instruments I made years ago, so I can check how they develop in sound and condition, hear about their life and travels since the last visit (A little bit like catching up with grown up children visiting home.) As you can see on the photo, the violin mainly needs a lot of cleaning, some shooting and resurfacing on the fingerboard, (the slight grooves under the strings are just the result of a lot of playing.) four or five tiny dents of varnish can do with some light retouching, just some normal wear and tear, for which I like to assure the maintenance free of charge for as long as I am alive. The 15 years old bridge is fine, (I used the best possible quality blank one can buy.) except for a slightly increased groove under the A string (result of a string changed too quickly and carelessly) on which I glue a very small piece of velum. I do make instruments ‘for the future’.

It is a chance to compare it with the violin I am making at the moment on the same model (model after few Stradivari violins circa 1708-1709.) and photos of Stradivari instruments from that period, some of which I have had access to. But that making in progress will have to go back on the shelves.

The only making is some varnishing as we have few days of Indian summer after a very wet summer. Few bows have been rehaired (If you want to see a photo of the bench on which I rehair bows, look at the archives.) in the last couple of weeks.

Next week I will have to rehair few bows, retouch the peg bushes on 2 of the violins waiting on the desk, start other repairs on them… maybe I will find the time to start a mould for my next viola project (the templates are on the other desk), make some pigments, read some 19th century periodicals on line (for the Milanollo project.)