Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Manual of Violin Making

  I've made a few violins, that work to some degree, so I know at least a couple ways to build one.  But violin-making is like so many other intellectual activities: the more we learn, the more we realize how little we actually do know.  We start to get a glimpse of possibly what might be out there to be discovered. 
   When I write 'we', I certainly mean 'I', but maybe also 'you'.
   When I first read of Brian Derber's new book on violin-making, I said to myself that I did not need another expensive violin book, that what I needed to do was to just keep cutting wood.  If I had extra money, buy more wood.  Or maybe a new tool.
   I made the mistake of looking on the web-page for the book.  It has a couple sample pages.  I made the further mistake of looking at those sample pages.  From them, I learned a way of looking at the fluting in f-holes that I thought was just spectacular.  It made sense.
  Within a couple days, I contacted Brian Derber via e-mail to order the book.
  It's good.  I have not read all of it.  It is huge.  But I have read the sections pertinent to the viola and hardanger fiddle I had already started making.   In the spirit of an adventure -- not to mention I paid for the book, so I'm going to use it! -- I altered the way I am doing the rough arching (photo above) to follow the process in the book.  Not a conversion necessarily, but an experiment, a playing with a new-to-me method.
   In any book, there is a chain of knowledge.  In 'how-to' books it might go something like this: From what the author thought, to what the author wrote, to what was finally printed, to what the reader read, to what the reader understood, to what the reader could convert into a physical object.  We do what we can and adjust from there.
  So I have the new book. I am also continuing to cut wood.  Learning.  It's fun.
  If you are interested in the book, you can find the link here -- The Manual of Violin Making, by Brian Derber.
  If the link does not work, you can find Brian at the

  • New World School of Violin Making
  • 6970 Red Lake Dr.
  • Presque Isle, WI 54557
  Current price, including shipping in the US, is $375.  This edition is limited to 500 copies. 
  There's nothing to beat the experience of attending a workshop, seeing the work being done in person, getting feedback, and so on.  I've attended the Southern California Violin Makers Workshop several times, and can recommend it.  I also attended the now-defunct violin-making workshop that was held at College of the Redwoods in Eureka, California, lead by Boyd Poulsen.  There are other good workshops out there.  You can go to one. 
  Brian's book is really good supplement to that experience.  Good text, plenty of photos.   And if you can't attend a workshop, but are determined to build fiddles, it would be useful.

  In other exciting news, my car's odometer rolled over 100,000 miles last night on the way back from Scottish Country Dance.  It's been a good car, a 2010 Kia Soul that I bought new in 2009, and I hope to be driving it for several more years.
  Combining the current craft-beer renaissance with good cars and good information on violin-making,  I conclude that we live in the best of times.

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