My instruments have an exceptional sound right from the start and feedback suggests that the sound improves further, like good wine, year after year.
I have spent 21 years restoring the best antique instruments and over a further 21 years making my own instruments. My life’s work as a violin maker has also been to research the varnish used by the old masters. I now feel, with total confidence, that I can offer concert violins and violas of the highest quality:
first class craftsmanship
top quality sound in the long-term
stunningly beautiful ground and varnish
players’ preferences for a fully varnished or gently antiqued instrument can be met
enthusiastic endorsements from peers and teachers
impressive customer list
very positive endorsements from well known violin dealers
My instruments differ markedly from other new instruments. Let me explain why.
Over 21 years as a restorer I had the opportunity to study many priceless instruments. Thanks to this and the countless experiments I have subsequently conducted, I now believe I have understood the principal grounding and varnishing techniques of the old masters.
I do not make “reproductions”. Instead, I aim to create instruments which are close to the very best old ones when they were new. Some of the wear created by contact with hands and clothes looks identical on my instruments to that on classical instruments, although their handling was very different. For instance early violins were played without shoulder and chin rests and transported in harder, unlined cases. Were mine to be handled like this today, my tender colour varnish would wear as profoundly as that of the finest and most highly-prized antique instruments.
But why is this important? I am convinced that my varnishes, especially my latest, are of a very similar consistency and beauty to those of the best old instruments. When I restored instruments of the old masters at Beares in London, I recognised that the ancient varnishes still wear with use today. It is surprising that even after nearly 400 years they have not turned hard and tough. The old masters must have been well aware that for sound reasons the thicker, coloured varnish had to be soft and that underneath, close to the wood, there should be a thinner, protective layer. This is acoustically perfect and makes sure that the wood does not become dirty, even if the top varnish wears.
This natural-looking wear means that my instruments will, in stark contrast to many other new ones, improve optically with age. I am also convinced that the tenderness of the varnish guarantees lasting tonal qualities and that the “carrying power” of the instrument will gradually increase with advancing years since the wood-ground and the softer varnish above it will let the wood breathe and naturally harden.
I hear from every musician that my violins do not need “playing in”; they work and respond from the start.