Ines Lecher was awarded money to pay for fittings of her cello:
We awarded Daniel Chick the funds for the purchase of one of the best books a violin maker can dream of: Peter Biddlulph's Guarneri del Gesu book.
Russel Berliner was awarded some money to help him developing as a violin repairer and restorer.
Throughout my time at Newark School of Violin Making, I have found myself more and more interested in making cellos, quickly deciding that this was where my passion lay. The only problem was the high cost for materials and fittings. I applied to the RAB trust, and was awarded money to help buy wood. With this money, I was able to buy some really nice wood, that I otherwise could not have afforded. In addition, it gave me the financial freedom to make another cello in my final year. After NVSM, I plan on setting myself up on my own, solely making cellos. Being able to make as many cellos as possible while still at school has allowed me to gain as much experience as possible, hopefully standing me in good stead for my career.
Linus Andersson was awarded a work experience with Marc Soubeyran. This is what he writes about his experience:
Michael was awarded work experience with the restorer Paul Gosling, which he undertook in summer 2017, just after finishing his studies at Newark School of Violin Making. He sent this report:
'We started the placement by sitting down together to observe and discuss the instrument. As I was to find out during my time with Paul, there is so much to learn before a tool is even lifted. The instrument is an early 20th century German trade instrument with some uncommonly nice features including nice flow in the lines of the scroll and outline and a warm clear honey coloured varnish.
There were numerous cracks in the peg box and front plate to clean and repair. It is fascinating to see how a restorer slowly and methodically weighs up different methods, materials and sequences. With many options at his disposal, it takes time and consideration to arrive at a plan of action. I learnt to really savour this time.
The instrument required a neck graft. Preparing the top block for a new mortise was an enjoyable job of wood working. Firstly the existing neck is sawn out, close to the button and ribs for efficiency. Next the horizontal split of the neck root is exploited to remove the remaining wood. The edges are left to the end when they are carefully removed from the rib and block. The wood above the bottom is slowly sliced away until just above the glue-line. The remaining fibres are wet and lifted off with an opening knife. Finally all the internal surfaces are worked completely flat, checked with a small straight edge. Working accurately here means the next task is a very satisfying short task with a block plane, shaping a willow insert to a perfect fit. Once glued, taking care to glue size rib end-grain, this insert is shaped to the curve of the ribs, ready for the new mortise.
There are multiple cracks in the peg box extending from peg holes. Due to the orientation of their fibres, spiral bushings are significantly better at crack arresting than solid bushings. For these repairs I made single-wall spiral bushings for the first time. They benefit from allowing greater control and remove the chance of unequal mandrel pressure between walls. They also have some difficulties: they are more delicate, the mandrel sticks to them easily, there is less tolerance for push-through and the smaller bushing can get in the way of the mandrel when fitting the larger bushing. There are several details critical to get these to work. The shaving should be around 0.15mm thick and around 12mm wide with ends skew cut. At first I had a wider shaving and it was too untidy and grabbed the mandrel too readily. The length of the small hole bushing was 7cm and the large hole 9cm. The final key point is that the mandrel is really hot before using. I left it in a water bath at about 80 degrees. After several practices this technique produced very neat and tight bushings time after time. I finished the bushing with a solid box bushing.
In all of the activities above, and much more, Paul has taught me so much and given me so many technical and professional insights from his wealth of experience. My time at his workshop and home was a huge pleasure for which I am very grateful to him, his family and the RAB Trust for making possible.'
Sam Brouwer was awarded the first ever Oberlin workshop award in spring 2015. He was supposed to attend in summer 2016 which due to illness had to be postponed by one year. He finally managed to attend in June 2017 and send us the following report:
I got back yesterday midnight from two amazing weeks at the Oberlin Summer Workshop. It has been an absolute blast and a huge motivation for the future with a lot of new input. And it was a whole lot of fun!
Also I have met a lot of very nice people and amazing violin makers who shared there thoughts and knowledge generously.
I have been working on a late Del Gesu model and made most of the front and back for it at the workshop. Also I finally varnished my test violin which I brought over in the white (treated with UV). I has been a great experience. I will add a picture.
The main topic this year was the varnishing of a Strad copy by Antoine Nedelec and Jeff Philips. They showed us the whole antiquing which I thought was incredibly generous. The work they have been doing is absolutely stunning.
I just wanted to thank you all again for this great opportunity! I hope to keep attending workshops like this and wish at some point I can be of some help to the next generation myself.
For now I already know I will try to attend next years Oberlin workshop!
Lingtzu, a Taiwanese student at the violin making school in Newark just sent us the following report:
Julian Page was the recipient of an award to cover the costs of attending the 2017 Restoration Course run by the BVMA at West Dean College. This is the first time that the Trust has made an award for this course, and Julian was chosen due to his particular skill and interest in restoration.
In my second year at South Thames College I was awarded work experience at Philip Brown Violins and £350 towards tools. I am currently working on a group of violins based on the 1709 'Viotti ex-Bruce' by Stradivari. The big advantage of choosing this model is the fact that it is on display in the Museum of the Royal Academy of Music, allowing me the opportunity to take my work along to the museum and compare its progress against the benchmark of the original. I used the money I received from the RAB Trust to buy a bending iron and thicknessing calipers and this has made a huge difference to the amount of work I am now able to complete at home.
I was very excited to have the chance to do work experience at Philip Brown Violins in Newbury. During my week there I carried out set-up work on a range of instruments, including bridge fitting, soundposts and top nut reshaping. As I ultimately want to specialise in repair work, this placement gave me invaluable experience of life in a busy and thriving violin shop. I would like to thank Kathrin and Philip for providing advice and support during my week and to the RAB Trust for organising this fantastic opportunity.
My workshop experience took place at Vermont Violins, USA.
This experience has been very important and it has had a big impact on my future as a luthier. Firstly because I have learnt a lot about lutherie; not only theory but also about how big the tradition of lutherie is, and the importance of preserving it.
There I was trained by James Banicki. He is a maker from Chicago who has worked as a restorer in some of the oldest and most important workshops in America. 80% of my work at Vermont Violins was with instruments from their rental programme. These instruments needed new setups, so I did a lot of set up. Also, many of them needed all kinds of repairs which had to be fast and precise, so James gave me a lot of new ideas about new ways to make quality repairs easier and faster.
In addition, I was working restoring old instruments. I repaired an old instrument from America, repairing cracks and a neck reset. There in the shop they produce some new instruments and I took part in one of these, and I learnt from James many different ways that could be more effective and easy.
There in Vermont I worked many hours and very hard, and with a lot of different instruments. Before going there I didn´t feel very self-confident about being able to work so hard to a good standard, but once I have finished I have to say that I was able to do it, and that cheered me up to carry on with the lutherie, feeling more confident and believing in my own skills so that I can make any instrument sound good. I just need time, hard work and creativity.
The week I spent in Helen Michetschläger's workshop has been a very constructive, helpful and affirming experience.
I arrived with the front and back of the 1625 Girolamo Amati viola that I'm currently working on rough arched and purfled, and the aim to work on the fluting, finish both archings, design f-holes and start hollowing by the end of the week.
On the first day, using Helen's scrub planes (which seem to be a revelation for every student who comes to work with her) I managed quite quickly to establish a fluent – even though overall still too high – arching shape reflecting the slightly modified arch of the original instrument. Modified in that I purposely didn't take the points where the curves change from concave to convex quite as far in as it shows on the CT scans featured in the Scrollavezza & Zanrè book that I used for reference, and left the back about 2mm higher.
Prior to cutting the fluting Helen and I examined the pictures in the book. It sometimes is puzzling how your eyes can deceive you by assuming instead of absorbing details and so it was very helpful to look at these pictures together. We found that the high point of the edge is taken relatively far out (at least 2/3 between purfling and edge), that it is very deep, but falling and rising very slowly.
After cutting the fluting I spent a fair amount of time connecting fluting and arching where again the eyes of an experienced maker helped a lot to discover flats and to develop a better eye for fluent shapes myself.
Once both plates had had their final scraping and were all smooth I designed f-holes in order to fit a sound post through them later (the f-holes have a width of 5.5mm on the original). For them to keep the style of the Girolamo Amati F-hole I then had to elongate them, too, and I think I managed to create a acceptable compromise by superimposing bits of tracing paper onto each other which each had half of the f-hole drawn on and by looking at other Girolamo Amati or Brothers Amati F-holes.
The final design was then made into an inside F-hole template which I had never tried before to find out about its advantages and disadvantages compared to an outside template.
I finished the week by cutting the F-hole fluting and hollowing the back to almost finished thicknesses. Again, starting off using the scrub planes allowed me to work efficiently and safely.
During the week I was able to watch Helen work on a viola herself and I could discover a few differences in the way she carried out certain steps in the making process and discover little tricks that make work quicker or safer, that prevent problems or promise superior results.
I felt that I could identify with her rhythmic, consistent and focused way of working. That, her sincere manner and conversations about different techniques, different makers, team projects as well as personal life made the time with Helen a very reassuring experience for me.
I have decided to specialise in restoration, so I was very fortunate to be given the chance to spend a week working with Iris Carr. I took a violin I've been working on and Iris talked me through how best to tackle its many problems, which include extensive worm damage, a pegbox with dangerously thin walls and floor due to a previous graft, cracks and plate subsidence secondary to worm channels.
Iris was very generous with her time and introduced me to many materials and techniques that were new to me: we made a cast of the back of the pegbox using car body filler, with 25 micron foil as a separator, which has the advantage over plaster that you can add filler where the cast has a dip, as well as scrape high points. The back of the pegbox was so thin that I was able to correct the cast and steam the wood to restore its shape, prior to building up its thickness. I also corrected a cast of a violin plate Iris was working on, and we made a positive cast from it to assess progress.
It was a fascinating and enjoyable week and I am very grateful to Iris for all her help, and to the RAB Trust for making it possible.