My Philosophies

The trend over the centuries by makers has been to keep a desperate grip on the Stradivarius and Del Gesu models, either by choice or commercial constraints. Though reverence for the old masters will never be out of vogue, today's violin makers have the opportunity for fresh design ideas that exhibit unique character while still retaining links to their heritage.

My models are of my own design, based on classic architectural and mathematic principals, with the prevalent use of the Golden Section.

Scroll

Scroll design is based on the Golden Section, with a desire for elegance in form. They are constructed to adhere to the aesthetic unity of the entire form, with the characteristics of the wood (weight and stiffness) in mind.

Wood characteristics are determined by the piece's density in conjunction with its longitudinal, cross grain, and torsional stiffness.

Graduation thicknesses vary depending on arching heights and shapes, which are based on wood characteristics and tonal objectives.

My instruments are all hand carved. While a lot of makers use routers and other "electronic apprentices", I find the information gathered from the wood through my fingertips to be invaluable. In my use of an arching gouge and fingerplanes during the initial working of the instrument, the wood communicates its characteristics to me. This information I use to determine the structural engineering of arching heights and shapes, as per my tonal objectives.

Top and back plates must be stiff enough to withstand the forces imposed by string tensions, but flexible enough to vibrate in a way that produces a powerful, even, and tonally complex sound.

Carving a Scroll by Hand

In trying to achieve a wonderfully working instrument, it is vital to create the perfect marriage between the top and back plates. One can have two great pieces of wood that are mismatched in either their densities, grain characteristics, archings, graduations, or any combinations of the above.

Neck densities are an overlooked but vital element in the quest for a well-developed and complete instrument. To try to make each neck with the same dimensions is highly erroneous. Each neck has its own characteristics and will withstand forces in different ways to another piece. If a neck is carved too thickly for the wood's density, a muted instrument will result. If it's too thin, a weak and hollow sound will result. For a player to demand a thin neck because it's the way their old violin is (after a hundred years of new and reshaped fingerboards and the whittling down this caused), is a great detriment to creating a good sounding fiddle. Adjusting the thicknesses in the fingerboard as well as the neck allows for better results.

It is often thought and quoted that lighter wood is better for the sound of an instrument. Oddly enough, racecars are used as an example to illustrate this argument. Having worked with racecars in their construction and fabrication for many years, I can tell you that the materials used are not chosen for their weight but for their strengths. It just happens to be that because of their exceptional strengths that these materials can be lightened enough without losing their required rigidity. Dense maples, for instance, not only make very responsive springs, but also reflect the sound better than light, porous maples.

the woodshed

Finally, in selecting my wood, I am extremely careful to hand select logs that are cut at the appropriate time of year, contain an excellent grain growth as well as minimal spiral twist. The logs are rendered, air-dried and cured. There is a great difference between dried wood and cured wood. Dried implies an absence of water. Cured implies an absence of water as well as lengthy exposure to oxygen, or oxidation. This creates structural contraction and stabilization, as well as stiffness in the material. As it happens in our bodies with the shrinking and brittling of our bones, so it does with all organic materials exposed to the elements. As one can infer from the information given, it is highly erroneous to graduate instruments with the dimensions given in posters and books of famous instruments. How thick were they before they structurally/dimensionally contracted over their 300 year life span?

I build instruments not just for today, but also for many generations to come.