Different contruction methods.

Posted on | June 30, 2011 | 3 Comments|

In the workshop, I’ve been busy varnishing a Stradivari model cello and another Guarneri violin on order.  My assistant in the next room is making a copy of a viola made by G.P. Maggini in Brescia from the early 1600’s.

The work of Stradivari and Guarneri vary in many ways but the construction methods used were most likely very similar. Both makers worked in Cremona with their houses on the same street using methods developed earlier by the Amati family. In Brescia, just 50km away from Cremona,  the makers had their own tradition and methods of making instruments.  So I wanted to have the Maggini model viola made using a different method than the violin and cello – not just a Brescian style viola made in a Cremonese way.


A key element of the Cremonese method is the internal form. Above are the sides of my next Guarneri copy. The sides were built around an internal form. Once the sides are complete, the form is removed to be used for the next violin. This gives some consistency to the  shape and dimensions of each violin.

As a contrast the Maggini viola was most likely built with no form. So the method we used began with carving the outside and inside of the back and gluing the sides directly to the back. (see 2 photos below)


Once the sides were finished, they were traced onto the wood for the front. The front was carved and glued to the sides, closing the box, leaving only the final edges and purfling to finish.  Maggini may have used this method and judging from the asymmetry in the shape of his instruments he didn’t use an internal form.


(Though it has been proposed that Maggini may have used a small form to make the C’bout ribs because the consistent shape and size of middle bout seen on his violins and violas. We did experiment with this as well.)

The aim in using methods that the original makers may have used is to capture the feel of the original instrument, both in appearance and sound.  It’s also interesting to test the theories of construction methods proposed by my colleagues to see how they work in practice and raise our own level of expertise.


3 Responses to “Different contruction methods.”

  1. Riverside
    July 8th, 2011 @ 5:31 am

    great article …

  2. Parker Duchemin
    July 15th, 2011 @ 5:26 pm

    Really enjoyed this blog. I had no idea of the different methods.

  3. Copy of a viola by Giovanni Paolo Maggini : Guy Harrison - Violin Maker Blog
    February 25th, 2012 @ 7:59 am

    […] during the early part of the 17th Century. The construction methods I used were similar to the methods my assistant used on her Brescian […]

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    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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