There are many ways to learn how to build violins. Learning from a master is far and away the best. I was fortunate to learn from Otis Tomas, a master luthier from the Canadian Maritimes. Otis's approach to violin building was based on the Italian school. Some of the best memories I have are the times spent working in his shop, nestled in the woods of Cape Breton.
I have also been fortunate to study under the teachings of Thurmond Knight of Glover, VT. Thurmond's techniques are based on Mittenvald teachings through Karl Roy. Emphasis was placed upon precision and repeatability, as well as a thorough understanding of what makes a fine instrument.
Violin making is a lifelong learning experience. The jouney requires years of training, study and long days and nights exploring the depths of the creation process. There are three fundamental sources of information; tradition, science, and art, that come together to enable the maker to build fine instruments.
A master maker begins his training as an apprentice studying the time honored traditional methods that were perfected during the Golden Age of Violin making during the Renaisance period. These methods were developed by master violin makers like Andrea Amati, Antonio Stradivari and Joseph Guarneri Del Gesu. .
Scientific research helps to provide a deeper understanding of the physics involved with each component and how that component interacts as a whole in the instrument.
With all the tradition and science behind you, in the final analysis the maker is a highly skilled atrisan. An experienced luthier is always seeking to reveal the individual character of an instrument that makes it unique.
My training, experience and instincts work together to enable me to choose quality raw materials. I evaluate each piece of wood that is chosen for an instrument by tapping the wood to check its density and listen for the tone it produces. Feel, tap and listen. Each piece of wood is a new soul waiting to be set free. Every tree yields a different tone, every piece a new palette full of vibrant colors. I'm continually reminded that every instrument I make is a unique creation that is composed of componants that were once alive. Just as no two voices are exactly alike, no two hand crafted violins are the same.