Violin Making — Where And How To Start If You Want To Make Violins?
It has been said that violinmaking is often a combination of wood working, music, chemistry, geometry, business enterprise and fine art. While there may be some truth to that for some people it is much, much more. For instance, while you may want to make violins for a living, quite possibly you are just interested in trying a different type of hobby from what most other people are doing?
A violin is primarily constructed of timber and a specialist violin maker is known as a luthier. Each and every piece of timber vibrates in a different way. The spruce top is known the sounding board or belly. Spruce is by and large considered to the be the most ideal and effective material for the sounding board of most of the stringed musical instruments that are made. It is the material of choice for sounding boards for the piano, harpsichord, classical or acoustic guitar, lute, and so on. Every section of spruce vibrates in different ways.
The sides, back and neck are manufactured from maple. Maple is actually a harder timber compared to the spuce and the hardness, combined with the shape and construction of the violin, helps to determine the sound of the finished violin. Figured maple is often used but it is not necessary, as plain maple would be just as effective.
The pegs, rest and fingerboard are usually made of ebony. This is an extremely hard and hard-wearing wood that is jet black in appearance. Pegs are sometimes made of boxwood or Brazilian rosewood as well and early fingerboards were sometimes made of pearwood which has been stained black.
Unfortunately, violin making is not an inexpensive passion. A person could possibly get by with the bare minimum of equipment and resources and produce reasonable instruments. However to obtain all of the specialized tools, such as the peg reamers and shavers alone, may cost in the region of $500 or so. In fact you could end up spending thousands of dollars even before you begin making an instrument. Even more than $10,000 for a fully equipped workshop. For example, just a good bench that's robust enough to plane the belly and the back plates could run into the thousands of dollars alone.
Violin making is especially refined, conservative and old-fashioned. Most violin makers can create quite decent musical instruments by following the formulas and techniques found in a miriad of publications and video tutorials. By comparison, acoustic guitar making is a wide open industry with all the traditional or conventional methods becoming overtaken or questioned by revolutionary new designs and modern advances. Among wood craftsmen, violin making is viewed as being surrounded by a great amount of amazement and mystery. It's often envied due to the delicate nature of the carving and shaping, and strong connections to past practices and techniques. The quality of talent, understanding and discipline a maker will have to initially acquire brings about the myth of previously unknowable insider secrets.
There are lots of publications on the various aspects of violin making. Two of the better ones which may assist with answering several questions you may have are "The Art of Violin Making," by Chris Johnson and Roy Courtnall (London: Robert Hale, 1999) and "Violin Making, a practical guide," by Juliet Barker (Ramsbury: the Crowood Press, 2001). Check your local neighborhood library or perhaps the online book retailers such as Amazon.com, AbeBooks or Bookfinder if you want to read, or buy, these books.
My advice is that if you are interested in formal or school training then investigate some of the educational institutions out there and take into consideration those you think may well provide the fundamental resources in which to follow your ambitions, no matter what they might be. After all, school is only a modern day replacement for the “apprentice” part of training
If you're really serious, find some place you can study wood working until eventually you're experienced with the fundamental procedures and techniques of it, then check out a violin making course such as those offered by The Chicago School Of Violin Making or The International Violinmakers School Of Cremona. You might also be able to apprentice yourself to another violin maker. The program at the Chicago School of Violin Making specializes in the styles and techniques of construction of the 17th and 18th century classical masters. Students are required to complete nine, 14-week trimesters over a three year course, This totals 126 weeks and more than 3,700 course hours. Students experience the discipline of violin making, repair and restoration and there are often accomplished violin and bow makers from the industry who are invited to the school as guest speakers or instructors, thereby exposing students to a number of approaches to violin and bow making. Students create a number of required musical instruments throughout the program. These include three violins and one viola, although some students elect to produce a cello instead of a viola. The students also master the fundamental restoration techniques and may sign up for advanced restoration courses later on in the program. Despite the fact that prior playing experience is not necessary for entrance to the Chicago School of Violin Making, individuals who participate in the course are required to take weekly individual violin lessons as well as large ensemble classes.