What was your inspiration for this piece?
I was inspired to make violins and cellos during a trip to Cremona, Italy, in 2006. I visited master luthier Stefano Conia’s workshop, where he was just starting work on a new cello. He used only hand tools, not much different than the ones Stradivari used 300 years before. The place was all lit up with sunlight from his garden, and he was listening to a recording of a Mozart string quartet. All four players were using instruments built by him, he told me.
I said to myself, “When I retire, I want this to be me.”
The first stringed instrument I made was in a guitar-building class at BARN taught by Alan Simcoe. I later apprenticed with Bainbridge luthier Steve Mueller and then studied at the Violin Craftsmanship Institute at the University of New Hampshire.
Tell us about the creation process including any obstacles overcome or surprises.
Bending wood and carving arched tops takes a lot of care, and so does carving scrolls—particularly when using highly figured maple. But, really, what I’ve found most challenging is what sounds the simplest: varnishing. In seconds, you can ruin an instrument you’ve spent months making. This summer, if Covid cooperates, I’ll return to the Violin Institute for a varnishing class.
Rob is a retired journalist. He plays cello in the Bainbridge Symphony Orchestra and in the string quartet “Crooked Cookie.”