It’s not just making a violin; being a modern violin maker demands many studies and skills. Most of them graduated from the best schools of violin making or spent years studying at workshops with experienced makers. As you probably know, this work has had a long and fascinating history for centuries! The violin’s predecessors include the medieval fiddle, rebec, and lira da braccio.
A violin is made by a luthier, which is what we call someone who builds, repairs, or restores string instruments. It is believed the word comes from the French name luth, meaning lute.
A violin’s life starts by choosing and analyzing the wood.
The choice of wood will directly influence the violin sound in the end. The back and the top pieces are cut to the shape of the instrument. The butterflied-shaped pieces are shaved by hand.
And then, we move to the dimensions. In an instrument, every detail matters. Each model will have some variation, but handcrafting violins means following exact measurements, or the final result will be different from what is planned.
The purfling is smoothly inlaid and closely follows the knife-cut facets of the edge. It fits snugly into its channel with no sign of any filler, although there are several unconcealed gaps where the purflings do not quite meet in the corner mitres.
The bass bar, the heart of the violin
It is probably a very important part of the creation of the instrument, and it mainly has 2 roles.
First, to support the top. Without it, the top would collapse due to the combination of the pressure and tension of the strings. When the instrument is played, the bridge exerts a lot of weight straight down through the center of the top.
And second, it distributes the vibrations to the upper and lower areas of the top plate. It doesn’t sound easy, and it is not. Only skillful luthiers can perfectly fit its entire length.
The key to a good instrument sound is the tuning of the bottom and top. And to do that, it is crucial to have a dry block of wood from at least ten years of drying. The thickness of the plates will directly interfere on its sound result, that’s why this is an important step during the making of these sounding masterpieces.
The label is placed inside the violin to mark the make, model, luthier, and where the violin was crafted.
The edges of the violin show vigorous and robust working.
Varnish: one of the most delicate parts of the process
It needs to be soft as a breathing skin, allowing the instrument to vibrate without restriction when played, enhancing its power and resonant sound. The sealer coat protects and strengthens the wood from humidity and any other dirt. Then the top layers come to give the wood its vivid color and enhance its beauty. A lot of makers have their own recipe, having selected the different components matching their construction style.
It is a very long process that takes time, but all good things take time.