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.

July 2017 – In Taiwan.

Posted on | July 2, 2017 | No Comments|

After returning from a busy two weeks of violin making in Oberlin, Ohio and working for a week in my Ottawa workshop, we shall close again for one week.

Next week our workshop shall be closed, from July 3rd and opening again on Tuesday July 11th. 

During this time I will be traveling to Taiwan to visit the ChiMei Museum.

.It has a large collection of fine old violins, violas, cello and bows. Including 1376 instruments by 1124 different makers and 740 bows by 344 bow makers from around the world.  I’ll write more on this museum after my visit in a future blogpost.    Link:



Summer 2017 – in the US.

Posted on | June 10, 2017 | No Comments|

This June our workshop shall be closed from June 17th and opening again on June 27th.

My assistant is enjoying a summer holiday in Europe. Meanwhile I’m traveling to Oberlin College in Ohio for a violin making workshop.  The VSA/Oberlin Violinmaker’s Workshop is a two-week, intensive, graduate level program for professional makers.

I look forward to catch up with our friends and colleagues in Oberlin!

The Strad – May issue

Posted on | May 31, 2017 | No Comments|

This month the English magazine ‘The Strad’ published an article on my workshop. In each issue they have a ‘my space’ section which shows the workshops of violin makers from around the world.  The main photo below is my main bench surrounded by the tools I use everyday. Also a small photo of our dusty machine room in the basement which most clients never see!

(click on the image above to read the article)

Exhibition in Toronto – follow up

Posted on | March 8, 2017 | No Comments|

The January exhibition of Canadian violin and bow makers in Toronto was a great success. With over 35 violin and bow makers from around Canada attending and showing their work. Some of the makers had never shown their instruments and bows in Toronto before. So it was a new opportunity for Toronto musicians to try a wider range of fine instruments made in Canada.

From the beginning of the day it was well attended by professional string players and students.  In the afternoon the fine violinist Kerson Leong performed a short passage on 24 new violins. He did a wonderful job adjusting to each violin quickly. It was interesting to hear the different sound qualities each instrument was capable of in the larger space. Overall I felt there was a high standard of sound and worksmanhip among my colleagues work. It was special to be part of this exhibition.

Throughout the day I enjoyed hearing players try my violin and latest cello. After hearing them play, we often talked about what kind of instrument they were looking for and their thoughts on the instruments they had been trying.   After the exhibition my Stradivari model cello was sold to a wonderful student of  David Hetherington from the Royal Conservatory in Toronto.  Below is my cello being played at the exhibition.


Thank you to the organizers, Elizabeth Barbosa, Fany Fresard and Emanuel Euvrard, for their work with this exhibition and ‘Le Forum des Fabricants’.



Via Rail – now for cellos as well!

Posted on | February 6, 2017 | No Comments|



While traveling around Canada for business I sometimes travel by train which I enjoy very much. It’s relaxed and comfortable and I usually finish some paperwork or write a blogpost on the train! But if I need to bring a cello with me, I’m unable bring it on board under the luggage restrictions with certain Via Rail trains. A cello case is too large for the trains between Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto. So my only other option has been to drive by car, take a bus or fly. None of which I particularly enjoy.

Last year I wrote to Via Rail’s, President and Chief Executive Officer,  Yves Desjardins-Siciliano about this cello issue and recently received good news that cellos will be allowed on the trains beginning in the fall of 2017!

The trains used on the routes between Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal are being modified to allow tall, larger items to be safely brought on board!

Below is a photo of the new space that the trains will have for cellos and other larger items.

So next time when I need to deliver one of my cellos to a customer I will take the train!                                               The modified trains should also be useful for music students, professional cellists and amateur musicians traveling between the large cities of Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto.

The changes to the trains should be complete by the fall of this year.

Toronto Exhibition! ~~~ Jan.14th ~~~

Posted on | December 30, 2016 | No Comments|

On Saturday, January 14th, I will be visiting Toronto for an exhibition of Canadian violins, violas, cellos and bows!  This is a great chance for string players in Toronto to try instruments and bows from the best award winning Canadian violin and bow makers.

The event will take place at Koerner Hall Lobby at the Royal Conservatory at 273 Bloor St. W, Toronto. (Link for more information)

At 2pm the wonderful Canadian violinist Kerson Leong will be playing various violins from the exhibition. At 3pm there will be a chamber music concert with the Concertmaster and principal players from the Toronto  Symphony Orchestra.

I will present a Guarneri model violin and my medal winning Stradivari model cello at the exhibition. All string players are welcome to try instruments and I look forward to meet you!

Happy Holidays!

Posted on | December 22, 2016 | No Comments|

Happy Holidays to all our clients, colleagues and friends!

Thank you to all our customers for your support! My assistant, Charline Dequincey, and I greatly appreciate it.

This year we finished a number of new instruments including a new model of 16″ viola. Charline finished and sold her fine sounding Francesco Ruggeri model cello as well.

In the new year we look forward to visit Toronto in January for an exhibition of new Canadian instruments and meeting up with musicians, friends and colleagues. We will be presenting both cellos and violins at the exhibition.

(for more information on the Toronto exhibition click here and here)

The workshop is closed over the holiday period. We open again on Tuesday January 3rd, 2017.

From our workshop – all the best for 2017!

The photos above are from one of my trips to the US in 2016 – at the bench carving scrolls with colleagues and then relaxing with colleagues!

Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal

Posted on | December 17, 2016 | No Comments|

In November I finished a violin for Ramsey Husser (2nd Assistant Concertmaster) of the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal. It was modelled after my usual Guarneri model,  the ‘Lord Wilton/Menuhin’  Guarneri violin of 1742.  As I have become accustomed to this model, I’ve incorporated elements from other Guarneri violins, including the ‘Duskin/Zukerman’ Guarneri violin of the same year.

The ‘Dushkin’ Guarneri violin is a more robust violin than the ‘Menuhin’  and it opens up possibilities when I combine elements of design from more than one violin. While I enjoy copying certain Cremonese violins as exactly as I can, it can quickly limit the possibilities to explore different playing characteristics.

For Mr. Husser’s violin I made the edges of the front and back a little stronger and brought the f’holes closer together, among other small adjustments. Though I did keep the arching very close to the original ‘Lord Wilton/Menuhin’  Guarneri violin.  Overall for this violin I was looking for a slightly less dark sound and with more focus.





Above are photos of Ramsey Husser’s violin.  I quickly took these photos at my bench, just before Mr. Husser arrived to collect his new violin!


Canada Customs – Ottawa Airport

Posted on | November 27, 2016 | No Comments|


This year I traveled twice to the US with instruments (violin & cello) to present for conferences and a competition. Similar to a touring musician, I planned to bring my instruments back to Canada with me.

On my return and without proper documentation,  Canada Border Services Agency could assume I had purchased the instruments in the US and charge me sales tax and duties.  Just like any importation which might cost thousands of dollars in taxes.

So before leaving Canada on my flight, I did a couple of key steps to make the Canada Customs a simple process on my return.

1. I wrote a description of the violin, including measurements, photographs, wood species and the country of origin of each major wood part. Most violin dealers could write a similar certificate for a fee.

2. Before my flight, with the above paperwork in hand, I visited the Customs Office at the Ottawa Airport. The office is on the first floor (ground floor) at the NorthEast end, down a corridor and past the toilets. It was a little hard to find! Once in the office, I picked up the one black phone on an empty counter to call a customs agent. He arrived in a minute from some back room. Once I explained what I needed, he filled out the simple form below for my instruments and stamped the date on the back of my certificates. (he was very friendly!)


Flying back home, if Canada Customs asked about my instruments,  I could present the papers to show I had left Canada with the described string instruments. So I correctly avoided paying any taxes or duties during my travels.

The process was simple and I would recommend all musicians to have the necessary papers when traveling with expensive instruments.


For more information, the phone number for the Ottawa Airport office of the Canada Border Services Agency is 613 998 3709.

keep looking »


    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.

    Subscribe to our feed