Strad Magazine article – Oberlin 2016.

Posted on | November 3, 2016 | No Comments|


This November the British magazine, the Strad, published an article on the summer program at the VSA/Oberlin College Violin Makers Workshop.  I’ve attended this workshop in the United States, for a number of years, working alongside approximately fifty of my good colleagues. The program runs for two weeks each summer.

This year violin maker Hugh Withycomb and I varnished the violin made by the group last year. The vanishes (high resin/low oil) we used were developed over the past decade together with my assistant Charline Dequincey. Hugh and I showed our method of varnishing and completed varnishing the violin in about ten days! (shown below, photo by violin maker David Van Zandt.)


Below is an excerpt from the Strad magazine about our varnish work.  The full magazine is available here and covers the various other projects from Oberlin this year –  including designing a new viola and copying the ‘Jackson’ 1714 Stradivari violin.




Below is a photo from the Strad magazine article.  My colleagues, Martina Hawe & Gudrun Kremeier and I  are comparing the ‘Jackson’ Stradivari violin from 1714 to an unvarnished copy by Jeff Phillips and Antoine Nedelec.  Together we three are looking rather critical of their work but it was a beautifully made violin.  I look forward to see it varnished and playing it next year!


Above photo credit: violin maker David Van Zandt.

Summer break – workshop closed.

Posted on | June 6, 2016 | No Comments|

This June our workshop shall be closed from June 9th and opening again on June 28th.

My assistant and I are traveling to the 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.

We look forward to catching up with our friends and colleagues in Oberlin!


Second Stradivari plane

Posted on | May 24, 2016 | No Comments|

Last year I finished making another metal plane for the workshop.  It’s based on a plane from the Museo del Violino (Cremona Museum) in Italy.  It was part of a collection of tools from the Stradivari workshop purchased by Italian violin collector Count Cozio in the late 18th Century.  For more information I wrote an earlier post here. Today violin makers are fortunate to have these workshop forms and tools from Stradivari to study. I was interested to reproduce some of the tools in that collection.

This is the original plane without a blade or the wedge to hold the blade in place:








Last year I visited Cremona and it was helpful to see the collection of tools myself. The staff at the museum were kind to provide me with photographs and measurements of the planes.


Museo del Violino in Cremona, Italy

Plane 2


Plane 1

Above is my version of the Stradivari plane.

I’ve used this plane a great deal over the last year and it works very well. The tapered design, with the narrow part of the plane at the back, fits comfortably in my hand.  It’s still a fairly large hand plane and so perhaps more useful for cellos. But I’ve also used it for roughing violin fronts and back into shape since it cuts the wood so effectively and smoothly.




Employment opportunity – luthier assistant.

Posted on | March 12, 2016 | No Comments|


We are currently seeking an assistant for the workshop. The work would include new making and some restoration. Our workshop includes one other employee.

Interested candidates can apply by sending a resume including education, previous job experience and languages spoken.

Photos of instrument work may be included as well.

Applications can be sent via email to:

or in writing to:

Guy Harrison, 792 Gladstone Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario, K1R 6X9, Canada




Viola – National Arts Centre Orchestra

Posted on | February 6, 2016 | No Comments|

This week I finished a viola pictured below for the assistant principal violist of the National Arts Centre Orchestra of Canada.  Often I am copying a particular old instrument or at least using one as an inspiration.  The musician who commissioned this viola had his own particular ideas in mind. So the design is a mix of traditional 17th Century Italian elements combined with the requirements of an individual modern musician.

IMG_4050Before I began carving, the violist David Goldblatt and I discussed previous violas he had played and worked out a design to suit him. The main issues to cover were the size of the instrument, length of strings,  dimensions of the neck and the sound. Click here for a previous blog post on the design work. Fortunately he had played previous violas I had made. So we had a good idea regarding the kind of sound he was looking for. Once I starting work on the viola, David visited my workshop to follow the progress which was nice to share.

Viola 1 Viola 2


Above: the raw materials – spruce and maple. Below are a few of the photos we both took of the viola.

Viola 3Viola 6Viola 8Viola 9IMG_3923Viola 4IMG_4059

David Goldblatt

David Goldblatt – Assistant principal violist of the

National Arts Centre Orchestra of Canada.

Violin, viola and cello!

Posted on | December 3, 2015 | No Comments|

It’s been enjoyable to see a few of our instruments finished recently. Below is a beautiful cello my assistant has just completed from her own workshop. The back and sides are made from poplar wood and it’s based around a Cremonese Rugeri model.  I’m pleased to have it for sale in the workshop now.

Please call us for the price or to try this cello.

Screen shot 2015-12-02 at 3.14.37 PM

Photos by Charline Dequincey – website:


For the past few weeks, I’ve been finishing the varnish of another  ‘Guarneri’ model violin. While each coat of varnish was drying and as I slowly antiqued the varnish, I was busy making the next instrument, a 16″ viola.  The woodwork on the viola is now almost complete and soon I can begin varnishing again!

Violin 2015

Above:  the completed violin and the partly made viola in the background.

Other workshops

Posted on | November 14, 2015 | No Comments|

Our violin making workshop depends on many other businesses for materials and tools from around the world. In September I was in Italy and Germany selecting wood for future instruments. As well for example, I order violin parts from England or violin cases from the US or France.

I also rely on local businesses no further than 3 km from my workshop. I thought it might be nice to highlight some of these local people and businesses that have been very helpful to our workshop.

General Grinding & Machine Works at 22 Irving Ave, Ottawa, K1Y 1Z4          Tel: 613-729-3011

This metal working workshop has helped make tools for the workshop. Mostly with welding steel parts for tools.  They also have a complete machine shop with lathes, milling machines and more.

Machine Shop

Vince Electric at 335 Catherine St, Ottawa, K1R 5T4  Tel: 613-230-0853

Vince is a friendly guy and loves to help people. He has repaired some tools for us over the years including my bandsaw’s electric motor and our bending irons (for bending the sides of violins into shape). He’s also made some electric tools for us.  With a wide range of parts available he can either repair an electric item or make something from scratch. (he can help with small welding too)

Vince Electric

Buchanan Lighting

Buchanan Lighting supplies us with the UV lights to dry our varnish. We use an oil based varnish which requires light to dry and artificial light is more dependable than Canadian sunshine! The owner of Buchanan Lighting is very knowledgeable and passionate about the lights he sells.

Centrepoint Library – Imagespace

This particular library branch offers laser cutting and 3D printing. The cost of laser cutting is free. For 3D printing the cost is only for the amount of plastic material used.  I’ve just started to use their laser cutting machine to make some workshop templates.  I think it has great potential as a useful service for many amateur and professional craftspeople in Ottawa.  This library space is 10km from my workshop.

Laser cutting

I should mention that Lee Valley Tools is also a local Ottawa company. Both my assistant and I use tools from their ‘Vertias’ line of fine woodworking tools.

Finally our workshop relies on our local hardware store just down the street  – Preston Hardware. As well as a our neighbourhood cafe –  Pressed Cafe !



Treefest Concert – Lansdowne Park

Posted on | September 26, 2015 | No Comments|

Title Concert: Sunday Oct. 4th, 2-4pm

Cadanza String Duo: Cello & Violin


On Sunday, October 4th, from 2-4pm, an event organized by Tree Fest Ottawa will feature the Cadenza String Duo.  Violinist Christian Vachon and cellist Greg Weeks both perform on a instruments made in our workshop based on Stradivari models.

The Cadenza String Duo are performing in conjunction with a photography exhibit called ‘PhotoSynthesis’ which is centred around the value of trees in our environment, culture and their uses.

My craft is profiled as part of the exhibit with photopraghs of my workshop by Faris Ahmed. (the photo exhibit is now open and runs until Oct. 12th)

Location:  PhotoSynthesis Photography Exhibit, Civic Garden, by the Horticulture building, Lansdowne Park



















New 16″ viola

Posted on | September 23, 2015 | No Comments|

This month I started making a new viola for a member of the National Art Centre Orchestra.  We talked together about what kind of viola he was looking for and agreed on a comfortable 16″ size, based on the violas by Andrea Guarneri from the late 17th Century. The original design is slightly larger at 16 3/8″, so I scaled it down to 16″.  The Andrea Guarneri viola is a fairly wide model and is an acoustically forgiving design that accommodates these types of changes very well.


Above shows the design of the viola drawn out on paper with a ruler and compass, together with a poster of the original Guarneri viola.  (for more information on the drawing techniques -see Francois Denis’s website) From this drawing I made my templates and form, which I’m now using to make the sides of the instrument.

Next the client and I worked together to decide the string length (length of the strings from the bridge to the nut) and also the neck and fingerboard dimensions.  He has fairly large fingers and so the neck won’t be as narrow as my usual viola neck. We wanted to make the viola as comfortable as possible for his left hand. All these custom elements and the freedom to adapt designs are some reasons I really enjoy making violas.



Stradivari tools – iron planes

Posted on | March 27, 2015 | 6 Comments|






The remaining tools from the Antonio Stradivari workshop are kept in the museum in Cremona – Museo del Violino. The tools give an interesting glimpse into the working practices used in the Stradivari workshop during the early 18th Century. Over the years,  I’ve copied and adapted some of them to make instruments in the workshop.

The original tools were passed down through Antonio Stradivari’s family, to his youngest son, Paolo Stradivari.  In the late 18th Century Paolo sold them to Italian violin collector Count Cozio. After being kept by Count Cozio and his descendents, they were finally sold in the early 20th Century to violin maker Giuseppe Fiorini. In a generous gesture, he donated the entire collection of tools and Stradivari templates/forms to the City of Cremona in 1930.

A few years ago, I was inspired by a colleagues efforts to copy the scrapers       (a simple steel scraping tool) from the museum collection. I copied a few of the Stradivari scrapers and they fit very well to certain tasks in making a violin.

Scrapers 6

Original scraper tools

Taking this a step further, I was curious to copy the planes from Stradivari. Below is one of four iron planes in the museum.  The body is made from two pieces of sheet iron. The sides are from one piece, bent around to form the two sides and curved back of the plane.  The sole of the plane is bent to shape, curving up at the front of the plane. The blade is held in place with a wooden wedge against a metal pin.

Strad plane - 1Using the dimensions and photos kindly sent to me from the Museo del Violino,    I cut to shape 2mm thick mild steel and hammered each piece into the required curves.  With a small fret saw I cut the mouth in the sole of the plane, for the blade to fit through. To join the pieces, it was welded together at ‘General Grinding and Machine Works’, by Will Walton. He was very helpful and his machine shop is just 5 minutes from my workshop. I filed and smoothed the plane into the final shape. Holes were drilled for the metal pin and I filed the pin for a tight fit.  The plane was finished off with a 28mm wide blade held in place with a rosewood wedge.












I think the size of this plane should make it well suited for cello making. I look forward to see how efficiently it works making my next cello!

This project was also a little inspired by tools my grandfather and great-grandfather made years ago. (below) Some of these perform beautifully and I still use a few for certain jobs in the workshop.


Note: The Museum in Cremona sent me more photos and more dimensions of the Stradivari planes. Though they asked me not to publish these, I’m pleased to share this information with interested luthiers.





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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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