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Restorer vs maker -- are the two skill sets synonymous?


Tommy

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Saw some very interesting and positive information on Sacconi as a restorer and shop manager. Also recently saw a violin he made himself. Would greatly appreciate any thoughts on whether seeing the "great" instruments from the inside out contributed to making him a more insightful maker from scratch vs rebuilding and improving on something that already existed. Thank you. Tommy

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Saw some very interesting and positive information on Sacconi as a restorer and shop manager. Also recently saw a violin he made himself. Would greatly appreciate any thoughts on whether seeing the "great" instruments from the inside out contributed to making him a more insightful maker from scratch vs rebuilding and improving on something that already existed. Thank you. Tommy

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If not the same then at least a great deal of overlap. It is more the names of the jobs than the skill difference.

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I think they are two very different jobs that look similar to some people.

Perhaps almost as different as playing and teaching are.

At violin making school they are treated as separate skills, with qualifications for each.

It goes without saying that Sacconi was fortunate to have worked on the great masters from the inside out. That can only have inspired and empowered him to his own work. However some great modern makers like Andreas Furst started very young making at the bench, his path was one of creativity and teaching rather than antique conservation and shop skills.

If you are a restorer you are likely not your own boss and even if you are you're still accountable and responsible for the well being of some very expensive antiques / investments.

If you are a run of the mill repair man then you still gotta remain accountable for tricky work. As a maker you can choose your clients....hopefully.

Not many top restorers find time to make many instruments, and not many makers have the inclination or experience to do complex repairs.

There are a few exceptions where some people find the time and talent to do both very well, but not at the same time.

Roger Hargrave rings a bell.

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yes and no, the same Basic skill sets yes, manner of use and execution ....no.Speaking from the POV of a relative newbee to the violin world,but with a life time in the arts,I have to believe that the restores are hands above .....most.... makers. Making new, for someone who is learned, becomes a choreographed 'dance' of sorts(think country line dance)plane 123scrape123 glue123....whereas repair -restoration requires a new idea,or path for each new job(now think Jazz)and,glue1 2 plane 1 and scrape1 2 check 123 stop 1 scrape 123 ect. ....much more problem solving. There must also be an aspect of tolerance involved, I expect that when restoring a Strad ,or the like, the tolerance will be nill....it must be balls on...however with new making we have a bit of wiggle room...Granted the best will have a understanding of both fields and draw useful 'tools' from each side,as they are in fact related languages....but different dialects.

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I think the basic skills are the same on a wood working level, I tell people its more of a mind set difference - I am content to work with an existing instrument and stay true to the original maker's idea and not try to "improve it" unless it it a real clear problem ie. neck angle or the like. I know that my skill is in problem solving and the engineering of the violin - how to put it back together and make it play better (?). I enjoy starting with an old instrument and bring it back to life, others may prefer beginning with a blank slate to begin anew.

Most of my time is restoration/repair with some bow work tossed in, i may someday try to allocate time in the work day/week to build my own violin but the time spent at the daily work pay the bills immediately versus a pay day in the future.

On the question of a restorer working for someone else, I am my own boss - which means all the duties of running a business and keeping me at the bench - no sick days or paid vacations, If I don't work I don't earn money. That being said i like it and designed my life to be here, i worked in manufacturing as a production or quality control person and was frustrated that my standard were higher than the business and (especially the marketing dept). So after butting my head against the wall for years I chose to go around it and be my own boss (and perhaps, my own worse enemy at times). I think that mind set is part of both the restorer and the maker.

Reese

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Welshman Reese,

You pretty much hit it on the head from my perspective. I've only been studying these mystical creatures for about four years and my interest is also in giving life to veteran instruments that need a little help. I've also worked in manufacturing for 45 years (machine work, sheet metal, C/NC programming for past 30 years). Thinking of hanging up the tools at the salt mine and just doing 'my stuff' in a couple years and the violins came along at just the right time.

I wonder frequently if I'll live long enough to see the inside and outside of enough instruments for a fire to light in my head and heart and think 'Damn, I can and want to do one of these from start to finish. Right now there's only a couple things in life that I'd rather do than cut a bridge. Working on developing my signature. Must be a bit like painting or sculpting???

Only regret is that I didn't discover the luthiere experience twenty or thirty years ago. Oh well...

Steve

DiFrangia

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Being involved in both, albeit at a rather low level, I find that the biggest difference is that "speed and efficiency" is a very good goal to strive for as a maker, whereas for a restorer those words simply cannot be allowed to exist. Ideally a restorer operates in a world where the job is done, when it is done, whatever it took, however long it took, and whatever it may have cost

Mostly I make new instruments while I'm pondering what the next step on a current restoration might be.

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Van Gogh sold bugger all in his short life, and I bet he never even considered a career in picture restoration. The maker is often a creative type, where the restorer is anal retentive obssesive and shrewd.

I think the skills are different, and generally I think restoring if done well is like brain surgery.

Cut down violas are the equivalent of a frontal lobotamy :blink:

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Van Gogh sold bugger all in his short life, and I bet he never even considered a career in picture restoration. The maker is often a creative type, where the restorer is anal retentive obssesive and shrewd.

I think the skills are different, and generally I think restoring if done well is like brain surgery.

Cut down violas are the equivalent of a frontal lobotamy :blink:

Ben, anal-retentive needs a hyphen.

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Ben, anal-retentive needs a hyphen.

It also needs clarification as regards the classification of conservators of items of note in the catalogue of the artistic heritage of human endeavour.

As in "do all practitioners of this trade need to be judged according to the standards and ambitions of a factory worker".

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I think restorers have developed a better 'eye' for details than makers, and Sacconi had a great pair of eyes.

I also think that the work of maintaining and repairing these old instruments is by far way more demanding skill-wise, than making.

So we see lots of beginners making, but no beginners even get to touch the old Cremonese when it comes to repairs.

I have yet to see a restorer with dull tools, which seems all to common amongst most makers, at least not the good ones.

In short: Repairers are way better trained, in every area, and so must have a good 'eye' or they do not progress.

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the best maker i know is also a world class restorer, so i think the two can go hand in hand, you need to be a restorer to fix all the mistakes you make building and you need to be a maker, in some complex repairs that involve making new parts

but being a good maker does not necessarily make you a good restorer and vice versa.

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I'd say no. As others have said, the basic skills are the same, and the knowledge of how the instrument is constructed are the same. The difference lies in the restorer's knowledge of how to fix the things that need to be fixed. How many makers ever do a soundpost crack, or take an instrument apart to shorted ribs, or splice a new section into a broken rib. In the restoration classes that I take, we often see students from very good violin MAKING schools come in to learn the different skills set needed to restore instruments.

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The gentleman i apprenticed with never completed his own violin. He did not feel his talents were in that direction at all. He was very good at repairs and adjusting, bows also. I made a top for one of my dad's old violins (it had gotten lost) and found the work very satisfying. In fact, this instrument is my main violin at the time. It turned out the way I had planned it to sound, so maybe I have a little of that talent. I've been aging some wood just in case...

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