Derek McCormick’s Violin Blog

Making a violin and other violin-related topics

THE MAKER

Holding (very carefully) a violin made by Andrea Amati of Cremona in 1566. It was one of a set which he made for the court orchestra of Charles IX of France.

Hollowing the front of a viola da gamba

I have now been making violins for over twenty years. Initially this remained a hobby but as my interest developed  I retired early from my position as a senior lecturer in Queens University Belfast where I was leading a research team investigating the biochemistry and molecular biology of brain tumours. Violin making is a relatively solitary process and skills are built up gradually, but I was helped enormously by attending a number of courses where I benefited from the advice and encouragement fromsome internationally known makers such as Juliet Barker, Wilf Saunders, Rowan Armour-Brown and Patrick Jowett.

The process of making high-quality violins has remained virtually unchanged since the birth of the “modern” violin in Northern Italy in the 16th century. The principal tools used are still knives, gouges, chisels, planes and scrapers. Stradivari, Amati or Guarneri would be pretty much at home in a 21st century workshop.

In addition to making instruments, I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to assist John Topham in his pioneering dendrochronological research on violins which has led to a number of publications in academic journals and Strad magazine (see “Research” page). In addition to demonstrating the value of dendrochronology in dating and helping to authenticate instruments, this research has allowed us to gain some insight into the working practices of great makers such as Guarneri del Gesu and Stradivari. As a result of this research I have had the opportunity to examine at close quarters some of the world’s great instruments, including the legendary “Messiah” violin of  Antonio Stradivari and the “Charles IX” violin of Andrea Amati.

2 Comments »

  1. Derek: Your blog is superb. At the age of 55, I am building my first violin. I have “self-educated” myself using a number of texts and the robust knowledge-base provided by people such as yourself who have established photo-essays on the internet (Derek Roberts, Michael Darnton, Nelle Doak-O’Neill, and others.)I have been successful with building the garland and found the process of thinning the rib material and bending the ribs to be very pleasurable. I have joined the back and found the pursuit of a “light tight” joint to be one of the greatest challenges of my life! I am, however, happy with the results. I will be gluing my linings in next week. Again, thank you for sharing your passion with others. You are richly-talented. Warmest Regards, Vance Corbett
    Stafford, Virginia, USA

    Comment by Vance Corbett | July 15, 2009 | Reply

  2. Wow 🙂
    what a cool site.

    Comment by Clare | April 28, 2011 | Reply


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