There is an undeniable mystery and allure about the violin. Despite 500 years of applied human effort, the essential form of the violin remains unimproved. Modern technical advances have not supplanted the discerning ears, eyes, and hands of the violinmaker. It is still the craftsman giving a voice to raw wood. Each violinmaker’s instruments are unique, the product of his mastery over tools, techniques, and materials, together with the mark of his character.
It was my own fascination with the intuitive nature of instrument building that drew me into this profession—the feel of the gouge cutting into spruce, the stroke of the plane against maple, the sculpting of the scroll, the moment when the application of varnish reveals the luster of the wood.
Throughout my formal training and subsequent years of practicing this craft, I have striven to develop a sensitivity to the variables in materials and model, aiming for excellence of sound and response in a broad range of tone colors.
When a musician commissions an instrument from me or is interested in one of my finished violins or violas, my initial task is to help articulate the desired character of the instrument. This involves transposing qualities of sound from personal sensation to verbal description—a demanding process, but critical to the success of the project. Once we are on solid ground in this understanding, we can make intelligent decisions about model, materials, and set up.
Here is the heart of the matter: I create the violin and in doing so present the musician with the opportunity to develop its voice, to imprint a fine instrument with his or her art. To me, this is the most compelling reason for purchasing a new instrument.
I have been a violinmaker for 31 years, having trained with Anton Smith, currently the head of restoration at Shar in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Michael Weller, former head of the Wm. Moennig shop in Philadelphia. Besides my formal violin- making training, I also studied painting and sculpture at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. In addition to the numerous violin models I work from, I have also developed a model for a small viola, 400 mm. (15.75 in.), which is especially nice for those who move between violin and viola. This instrument consistently gets a nice rich C string with strong projection, unusual for a smaller viola.
When you are considering commissioning or purchasing a new violin or viola, I invite you to contact me.
Robert M. Childs