Build Your Own Violin!

January 24, 2005 at 05:28 AM · Honestly, we all thought he was nuts. A friend of mine in his mid-twenties had been playing the violin for a couple of years when he decided to make his own. He had no previous wood-working experience, not even a coffee table of which he could boast. I just shook my head when I heard, realising that he had no idea what he was undertaking. Months passed, and it became evident that not only was he following the procedure to the tiniest detail, perfecting the purfling and arranging the tiger striping just so, but he might actually have something he could play when he was done. He invested about $2000 in materials and countless hours of work that took up the span of about six months. And just last week, I got to play it myself. Well done, Bryan! I just thought I'd share this amazing feat to let you know that the unbelievable is in fact sometimes possible with enough effort. He has hopes of making more, and I'm hopeful that we may have a future luthier here. I'll have to get him into bow rehairing next.

Have any of you out there built a violin with no previous experience or help? And if you're a luthier, how was it that you got started in your business? I'm curious...

Replies (13)

January 24, 2005 at 07:58 AM · What you saw is pretty common. Starting in the '70s there were lots of books on the subject and lots of mail order places selling violin wood. My violin was made by a guy who started out of the blue in retirement and who probably made less than 100 instruments, but it's outstanding. In my middle teens I ordered some wood and got so far as making the scroll. In my case it was a waste of time and energy. I think my parents eventually threw out the wood, thinking it was stuff left over from building the house.

In college, my best friend and usual accompanist was getting a masters in piano performance. When he finished he got a job repairing furniture at a woodworking shop owned by some local people who'd "tuned in turned on and dropped out." He built a couple of clavichord kits with a loan they signed on. After a couple years there he got a scholarship to the Bennet Street School in Boston, where naturally he excelled. From there he became a piano tech at Manhattan School of Music, then worked in the artist division at Baldwin. Now he lives a block away from Central Park and is in very high demand. When I was staying there his phone was ringing off the hook with jobs. Ok so it's not about violin making.

Starter Kit

January 24, 2005 at 09:06 AM · No no, no starter kit. He carved it out of wood, scroll, body, everything. He was going to make the pegs himself, but found that the cost of a lathe was too much. I told him not to be ashamed to buy the pegs.

January 24, 2005 at 12:17 PM · I did it quite a while ago. Stopped in a grabbed information and techniques from a number of builders. Now I do it fairly regularly. Not regularly enough for the folks who want them - I seem to be backed up a bit. It isn't really that difficult or costly. Maybe $1500 in tools and $200 in wood etc.

January 24, 2005 at 01:24 PM ·

It's a long story, but you can read an interview about how I went about it here, in an interview on an online magazine:

January 24, 2005 at 01:16 PM · Niiiice

January 24, 2005 at 01:25 PM · Thanks. I do very little antiqued stuff now--most of it is "new".

January 24, 2005 at 03:17 PM · Michael,reading the interview I now understand why even the pictures of a "graduation marking guage --al Stradivari" you post looks like a still life from the period. You really have an artistic eye.

I've read your posts accross the internet for the past few years and I must say that I think you are probably the most prolific maker in writing and sagely advice out there. Have you written any books?

January 24, 2005 at 03:59 PM · One is promised, and I've started writing it, but I don't know if it will ever get finished.

January 25, 2005 at 01:44 AM · Wow, you violin builders are so impressive! Michael, those two violins are beautiful. I keep my art and music more separated than you, in that I draw with colored pencils. I drew a picture of a violin once. That's as close as I'll come for at least a while.

January 25, 2005 at 01:57 AM · I recognize the photography. I think they brought in the guy from Bein & Fushi.

January 25, 2005 at 01:54 PM · i've got a book on making a violin, and i've always wanted to make one, it's just finding the tools and a place for the wood over here in perth. I've no idea where i'd find good quality timbers.

January 26, 2005 at 06:18 PM · Jim, Michael states in the article that he is the guy...he'd been doing the B&F photography for 16 years at the time of the interview.

January 26, 2005 at 10:11 PM · Silly me.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Anne Cole Violin Maker
Anne Cole Violin Maker

Miroirs CA Classical Music Journal
Miroirs CA Classical Music Journal

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Classic Violin Olympus

Coltman Chamber Music Competition

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Jargar Strings


Violin Lab



Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine