Neck graft on Didier Nicolas violin c. 1860

IMG_1424IMG_1200Its always enjoyable to do a neck graft….its a fascinating mixture of old and new. Old instruments need a neck graft for a variety of reasons – old necks were shorter than they are today -they were set at a lower angle – they wear from playing by the hand eroding the wood etc. In this case the old neck was too short and set too low.

First the scroll is cut off the old neck – the pegbox is then chiseled out with the sides feathered to receive the new wood of the graft. The graft is fashioned in a wedge shape so that you fit the scroll down through the tapered graft. Its crucial that all surfaces fit exactly – in the photo you can see that I am almost there

Once the scroll is glued to the graft – the pegbox is chiseled out – the fingerboard is glued on and the neck stock is prepared to set into the corpus of the violin. When the varnish is restored it should look as if nothing has happened …and this fine, old French violin will perform better than ever….

An interesting instance of the collaborative nature of the many hands that enable an old instrument to have a long vibrant life.

Great cello by Sebastian Vuilluame

photophotoIMG_0213This beautiful cello suffered a fall and developed a long crack on the top….a great time to get intimately acquainted with this French masters work. He was the nephew of the illustrious J B Vuilluame

The elegant scroll shows the gorgeous, deep red varnish and dramatic crackle worthy of the Vuilluame legacy.

The original ( rather skimpy) top block shows a rather shallow neck set and the characteristic French way of having a low overstand and sharp angle to achieve the right projection.


Yearly hiking trips out west!

Every year I go out west with 4 friends and do a week long hiking tripphoto copy 3 in some beautiful, rugged mountainous spot. I love living in the heart of a big city…but… it sure makes you enjoy getting out of it. This years trip was to the Mt Ranier area of the Cascade mountains….breathtaking hiking above the tree line.

Last years trip was to the Aspen area of the Rockies in the fall just as the snow was starting to buildIMG_2550. Great climbing around the famous ” maroon bells” – IMG_2561and the Continental DIMG_2569IMG_2572ivide.

The year before that was an unforgettable backpackiIMG_1601ng trip through the Grand Canyon…whiuch included an all day hike out to Clear Creek canyon to see an Indian farming settlement dating back a thousand years -where there is still evidence of their stone toolsIMG_1617IMG_1609IMG_1625IMG_1632IMG_1634.IMG_1645IMG_1671

I’ll never¬† forget crossing the Colorado river on the long foot bridge at dawn as we began our hike out of the canyon.IMG_1701IMG_1702IMG_1693

Beautiful Nicolo Amati from the 1680’s

This fine violin is the first violin in a prominent quartetIMG_0210. It has the beautiful grace and delicacy of line that we always admire in the Amati workmanship.  The sculptural arching of the top and back have an organic power that you often see copied in an antiseptic ,anemic fashionIMG_0205. The finely wrought scroll has the sharp clarity and living feel of a work of nature.IMG_0208 The bold F hole has a remarkable sinuous power for something so curvy and delicate. Another testament to this instruments ageless quality is the fact that it still has the Wurlitzer bridge on it that has been on for probably 50 years!

Its always satisfying working on an instrument like this….something made in Cremona when Stradivari was a young man….and though the legend of him working in the Amati shop has been called into question…its a great story to think this could have been made in the shop when he was there….and maybe even had his hands on it and studied it as an example of violin making at its very best.