Workshop open

Posted on | July 6, 2020 | No Comments|

Our workshop is open again!

Please note the Covid-19 shop visit protocols:, as of July 7th, 2020:

  • Visits to the shop are by appointment only – only two customers are allowed per visit
  • It is mandatory for you to wear a mask covering your mouth at all times
  • If you are early for your appointment you may be asked to wait outside while we finish with the previous customer
  • If you suspect you or someone in your household may have symptoms of COVID-19, please schedule an appointment at a later time. 
  • After each customer visit we disinfect all shop surfaces and the credit card machine to keep the shop as clean as we can.

We have hand sanitizer available for you to clean your hands as well. 

Thank you for your patience during this time

Reduced workshop service

Posted on | March 16, 2020 | No Comments|

For my customers regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19): 

Out of concern for our clients, my family and employee, we are suspending all repairs, bow rehairs, and sales of strings and accessories until further notice. Hopefully this precaution will only be required for a few weeks.

Any other services and instrument sales we provide will be by appointment as usual. To answer any inquires please call 613-569-4803 or email at guy@guyharrison.com

We wish our clients all the best, especially the freelance musicians who have been hit hard by this pandemic.

Strad magazine Jan. 2020

Posted on | February 17, 2020 | No Comments|


In the Strad Magazine January 2020 edition, my colleague Hugh Withycombe and I published an article on madder lake pigments. These types of colour pigments were used by the great violin makers of the past to add additional colour to their instruments. They continue to be used by many modern makers.

Above is the first page of the article

The article resulted from our work at the Oberlin College Violin Making summer program in the US. With special thanks to violin makers, Charlie Dequincey, Ute Zahn, Garth Lee and Kae Sato-Goodsell  for their help along the way as well.

Many recipes on pigment making have been published in the past. Our work compared different recipes types. Our aim was to understand the effects of the different methods on the colour, transparency and intensity in our finished coloured pigments.


Artsfile

Posted on | January 5, 2019 | No Comments|

In December arts journalist Peter Robb visited my workshop and we gave him a workshop tour. We talked about what goes into making a good string instrument and about being a violin maker in Ottawa. The article just came out online.

ARTSFILE article is here – click. 

Myself and my assistant Charline Dequincey in the workshop entrance. Photo by Peter Robb.

 

VSA awards!

Posted on | December 22, 2018 | No Comments|

In November I took part in the 23rd Violin Society of America Violin Making Competition.

I’m pleased to say I won two awards.  An award for workmanship for my latest violin and an award for workmanship for my cello. There were 224 violins and 66 cellos entered in this major international biannual competition. 

The cello is now owned by Wolf Tormann, Principal Cellist of the Kingston Symphony Orchestra.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of the 2018 cello.  Photography by Jean Fitzgerald.

Exhibition in New York

Posted on | March 16, 2018 | No Comments|

In New York at the Lincoln Centre in the Bruno Walter Auditorium there will be an exhibition of contemporary violins, violas, cellos and bows.

Sunday, March 18th, from 1pm to 5:30pm.

I look forward to show a violin copy of the ‘Dushkin’ Guarneri Del Gesu.

Cello Endpins

Posted on | February 16, 2018 | No Comments|

Over the past 25 years I have tried a number of different endpin and endpin spikes while making cellos.  Mostly carbon fibre and steel spikes. We also see clients using a range of different endpins on their cellos. Most of these are made in Germany, Japan and the US.

In the workshop we have a range of endpin spikes from different materials, including:

~ Carbon fibre solid rod  or a hollow carbon fibre tube

~ Hollow aluminum tube

~ Solid steel rod

~ Titanium hollow tube and solid Titanium rod

~ Composite rods of brass, titanium and tungsten and a further variation of a composite rod of brass, titanium, tungsten and carbon fibre!

They are all standard 10mm diameter and will fit most standard endpins.

The cello endpin spike serves the obvious function to support the cello while the cellist plays. But the type of material these long spikes are made from also effects the sound of the cello. It forms a contact between the cello and the floor and absorbs some vibrations from the cello itself. Some endpins spikes are quite flexible and others are very strong and stiff.  The lightest weighs in at 57 grams. While the heaviest can weigh seven times more, at nearly 400 grams. (nearly a pound!)

Trying a different endpin spike requires a certain amount of trial and error but is one of the easiest adjustments for cello. You simply change the endpin to a new type and if you like the sound change – great!  If not, you can just put your original endpin spike back. No harm done.

If you’re a cellist and would like to try some of these endpin spikes in our workshop,  you are welcome to visit!

 

 

 

 

 

Toronto Symphony Orchestra and cello soloist

Posted on | December 10, 2017 | No Comments|

This Sunday afternoon I had the pleasure to listen to Dale Yoonho Jeong perform as soloist with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in Roy Thompson Hall. He was the 2017 winner of the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra Concerto Competition.

He performed a selection from Cello Concerto no. 1 in A minor by Camille Saint-Saëns.

Dale performs on a Stradivari model cello I made in 2016 that won a silver medal for workmanship in the International VSA competition in the US.

Dale Yoonho Jeong had been offered an 18th Century Italian cello for this concert, but decided to use his own Harrison cello. This summer I visited Dale for a check up on his cello.  We tried some different endpin spikes and I checked the soundpost but in the end we made no changes since the current set-up was working very well.

It was great to hear the cello in such a large hall with the orchestra!

Below is a quick photo of the Dale Yoonho Jeong’s cello.

Making violins in Maine and Tool Makers, Lee Nielsen

Posted on | November 22, 2017 | No Comments|

In the fall I was kindly invited to Maine, in the US, to work with 7 other violin makers at a beautiful seaside cottage for a week. We each worked on our own violins and violas and of course shared ideas on our current work. With such a small group it allowed people to share research that wasn’t quite complete and have valuable feed back.  With a larger gathering or conference there is more pressure to present completely finished research. These small luthier work groups are becoming common around the world, as luthiers continue to share ideas with a spirit of learning together.

As a break from making violins, we visited the woodworking tool company, Lie-Nielsen. They have been making fine woodworking tools in Maine since 1981.

With a showroom complete with benches, we could try all their tools!  It was a great opportunity to see how they performed rather than looking at tools in a catalogue.

During a guided tour of their workshops, we were shown many parts of the manufacturing process. For example below the rear section of a blade had been heated. The metal changes into a beautiful rainbow of colours during this process and importantly softens the steel. They found the hard steel was wearing the mechanics of the plane with years of use. So heat softening the back of the blade solved this issue. The cutting edge at the front of the blade is still hard for a keen cutting edge.

Lee Nielsen used many computer controlled milling machines to produce their tools. But some stages were still done by hand.  Shown below, an employee is sharpening chisels. Next the handles will be fitted.

Our tour guide shows us a box full of handles for their hand saws. All the wood for the tool handles comes from Maine, which I thought was a nice extra touch.

Below is a drawer of rejected planes. Some only had a tiny flaw but would still be melted down. The amount of quality control was impressive. As craftspeople we are fortunate to have such dedicated tool makers!

It was wonderful to spend a week in Maine during the fall as the leaves were just starting to change to red. As a group we all pitched in to help with the cooking and enjoyed some great local food and scenery too! 

 

ChiMei Museum

Posted on | August 21, 2017 | No Comments|

On my trip to Taiwan in July, I visited the Chimei Museum in the southern city of Tainan. It houses a mixture of art, natural history and musical instruments. The museum was first established 1992 and since 2014 has been located within a large park with extensive buildings. The purpose of my visit to Chimei was first to see what instruments the museum had. From there, to see which instruments might be worth copying or to gather ideas to incorporate into my work in Ottawa. I had already copied one of the violins from the museum: the ‘Ole Bull’ Guarneri Del Gesu from 1744. My copy is now in the National Arts Centre Orchestra. But there was much more to see.

 

 

On my arrival I was warmly greeted by museum curator Mr Dai-Ting Chung. The collection has around 1,300 violins and as well as several hundred bows. It covers a wide range of violins, violas and cellos from many different countries and time periods. A portion of its collection is lent to fine Taiwanese string players to support their careers. Since it was my first visit I asked to focus on seeing their Italian instruments from Cremona and some other interesting instruments from Brescia, Mantua and Venice.

I began with the Amati family of violin makers, the founders of violin making. Below on the table are three Amati violins that I studied as a group. Also for comparison, an Andrea Guarneri violin, since he was a pupil and employee of Nicolò Amati in Cremona, Italy. It’s useful to see a group of instruments from the same maker or family of makers. At times a typical feature of their work can become quite obvious when seeing their work as a group.

 

Next were the Stradivari violins, which included the 1707 ‘Dushkin’, 1709 ‘Viotti’, a 1713 Stradivari, and the 1722 ‘Elman’ Stradivari violin. The ‘Viotti’ Stradivari is very similar to the other ‘Viotti’ Stradivari at the Royal Academy of Music in London, U.K., of the same year. Both with well figured one piece backs and a striking red varnish. The ‘Viott’ pictured below was a beautiful example of Stradivari’s work, with a high level of workmanship and a great choice of woods used.

 

Moving on from the Stradivari violins, for me one of the stars of the collection was a Carlo Bergonzi 1732 violin. Bergonzi was a colleague or perhaps an assistant of Stradivari working in Cremona in the first half the 18th Century. The varnish was well preserved, with much of the original texture and crackeleur intact. So often this detail has been polished away on older violins. While Bergonzi’s work clearly shows the influence of Stradivari, it was impressive to see that he was still able to develop his own fine style and not just copy Stradivari.

The collection had many great cellos in storage and in particular I looked at 5 Italian cellos. 2 Stradivari cellos: the 1709 ‘Boccherini’ and the 1730 ‘Pawle’. A Carlo Bergonzi cello from 1735. A later Cremonese cello by Storioni and a Venetian cello by Matteo Groffriller.

 

Above: One the left the 1730 ‘Pawle’ Stradivari cello and on the right the 1709 ‘Boccherini’ Stradivari cello.

The Stradivari cello from 1709 was made with his classic ‘B form’ design. Unfortunately a previous owner in the late 18th Century had the body of the cello cut down to reduce its size. Later a restorer increased the size by fitting in new wood. Together with some serious damage to the ribs and missing the original scroll, it has been badly treated during the last 308 years. But the other Stradivari from 1730 was in overall beautiful condition with large amounts of original varnish. It was made on a smaller design which is typical for the late period Stradivari cellos.

Above is a quick photo of the scroll of the 1730 ‘Pawle’ Stradivari cello.

All the instruments I’ve mentioned above were taken out from their vault. The permanent collection on display to the public also includes other Stradivari and Guarneri violins and so on. Below shows some of the public museum area.

My visit was short given the large size of the collection at the Chimei Museum. I photographed several instruments and took notes of my observations. It was great to have a general sense of what is in their collection and perhaps it will be a useful source for future study.

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    About

    Guy Harrison Violin Maker
    792 Gladstone Avenue
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1R 6X9
    Tel: 613 569 4803

    1997 Silver medal for viola in the Mittenwald International Violin Making Competition, Germany.

    2010 Bronze medal for violin in the Mittenwald International Violin Making Competition, Germany.

    2014 Workmanship award for violin in the Mittenwald International Violin Making Competition, Germany.

    2016 Silver Workmanship medal for cello in the VSA Violin Making Competition, USA.

    Member of the American Federation of Violin & Bow Makers and Violin Society of America.

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