Making schools/apprenticeship


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It's hard to pinpoint "tid bits" that come from an apprenticeship.  For me it's a whole way of looking at the instrument that would probably be difficult to gain on my own.  In my opinion, the attitude of the student is the most important part of learning, but if you have a teacher around to show you things, that attitude can be exponentially put to work.

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I think that being forced to do things the hard way first was the greatest boon. If the power goes out, I can still produce a fiddle in a month or so. That sounds coy, but.

Really. Being dragged kicking through simple tool skills while we complained of ways we'd heard it can be done provided me with the most useful life skills I have, not just for fiddle makin.

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Hello,

 

I have a question for those of you who went to violin making school, or had an apprenticeship:

 

What tid bits of knowledge do you feel that you picked up during your appreticeship that you couldn't have learned on your own.

 

Thanks,

Ted

How to restore, The history of violin making, What a proper violin looks

like, How to tell antique violins apart, The tradition of how the violin trade

works...............

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I was very fortunate to have met John Terry when I worked in NYC. He was an exceptional violinmaker. John invited me to come work with him in his new home, a converted church, in the heart of Tuscany south of Florence in 1987.

 

Working there for over a year completely transformed my craft and how I viewed it. How's that for a 'tid bit'? :-)

 

I changed my method from the German school that I learned from Andrew Kim , also a very talented violinmaker, gold medalist and past teacher at the Chicago School, to the Italian method of construction. Never looked back.

 

Oded

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I worked on violins for about 20 years, off and on, reading everything I could get my hands on, and receiving occasional mentoring from an established maker.  I learned more in 6 months with Krutz, watching and learning from a dozen luthiers of all different backgrounds and nationalities, than I had in the previous 20. I think it's the only way I would ever have been able to make a living at this trade.  VM school was out of the question for me financially, and I already had good tool and varnish skills from a lifetime of woodworking, custom finishing, and antique restoration. What I learned from my colleagues was the stuff you can't put into books, but only learn from experience.

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From Newark I learned :

1. Workshop practice and safety
2. Sharing ideas techniques and friendship with other makes and the teachers, vital.
3. Making the jump to the real world and your own workshop.

Otherwise :
Working as an unpaid apprentice to a self taught maker can be tricky, but it's a start.

If I had to do it all again :
1. Go to college first
2. Work for a maker second, make sure he's trained !
3. FInd a location other than Ireland to set up your own shop.

Cheers.

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3. FInd a location other than Ireland to set up your own shop.

 

Ah now Ben, there's no need to be like that. :( There's plenty of  successful Irish and international violin and bow makers happily based here.  Gary Leahy, Noel Burke, Conor Russell, Robert Pierce, Mick DeHoog, Bertrand Galen, Graham Wright. . . to name a few. I don't think they would agree with that statement. Unless you're referring to the weather in which case I totally agree with you. :)

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I learned by aprenticeship rather than school but I've worked alongside a dozen or more school trained guys so I think  I've got a fair view of the pros and cons. In the first place unpaid aprenticeships are not going to teach you much either they should pay you which makes you obligated to do what you're told or you pay them and they are obligated to teach you something. I think a comercial operation where the goal is for you to be just another set of hands attached to  your masters brain is the best way to learn the tool skills without getting ahead of yourself with theoretical issues that you don't have the skills to execute.  A couple of us at Lee's were encouraged to end a conversation with" until you guys can cut to the line I draw I don't care where you draw yours" which I always thought summed that up nicely. I think for myself it took me a couple of years to get fluent with the tools another couple to learn how to really make instruments and the last  year to start having real fun at it. Then I went to Francais and learned what  really nice stuff looked  like and a bit about fixing them. On the other side of the equation most of the guys I worked with at Francais were school graduates and while I was a little shocked  that some of them lacked of tool skills and knowledge of materials they had all been taught to think through problems in a way that I had not. Consequently repair and restoration work came a lot easier to them and they tended to be more thoughtfull about the instruments they made rather than my aproach of make the fiddle and see what it looks like when it's done. Unfortunately real aprenticeships are hard to  find and most people will wind up making a living at repairs anyway so I guess the school route is probably the most practical  way to start.  

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Hello,

 

I have a question for those of you who went to violin making school, or had an apprenticeship:

 

What tid bits of knowledge do you feel that you picked up during your appreticeship that you couldn't have learned on your own.

 

Thanks,

Ted

 

Ted;

 

Actual "apprenticeships" are very hard to come by these days... If you can arrange a meaningful and productive  relationship with a maker/restorer or shop, great...  but the industry is cyclical, and good shop "training" positions are difficult for even school graduates to come by currently.

 

School is one of the replacements for the apprenticeship.  Basic tool skills, technical drawing, history, materials (wood/varnish/etc.) and often some basic playing skills are included in most curriculums.  

 

In addition, one enters into a network, of sorts, through fellow students, instructors and visiting lecturers.  It's my opinion, however, that most of the schools cater to those who desire to me "makers".  Restoration and repair is touched on within some of the schools, but not extensively.  If one pushes themselves to take on some workshops, and/or a part time position, while in school, the experience and network is enhanced.  

 

Many aspire to make a living making instruments full time.  Truth is, the number who do (not supplementing their income with repair, etc.) are very, very few.  So... the violin making trade schools will probably have to embrace this in the future and expand their offerings.  In 8 years on the board of the Chicago School, this has been an discussion point at almost every meeting.

 

As Nathan noted, however, what happens after school or an apprenticeship is just as important as what happens during it.  Exposure to great stuff is a huge plus.

 

I guess my point is, that learning the basics and developing relationships in school (or in a good training situation) can be a very effective way to start...  and many of these skills and relationships would be difficult to pick up without the experience...  but it's certainly not the only way.

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I worked on violins for about 20 years, off and on, reading everything I could get my hands on, and receiving occasional mentoring from an established maker.  I learned more in 6 months with Krutz, watching and learning from a dozen luthiers of all different backgrounds and nationalities, than I had in the previous 20. I think it's the only way I would ever have been able to make a living at this trade.  VM school was out of the question for me financially, and I already had good tool and varnish skills from a lifetime of woodworking, custom finishing, and antique restoration. What I learned from my colleagues was the stuff you can't put into books, but only learn from experience.

Michael who and or. where is Krutz? It sounds like a very interesting place to work 

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"...rather than my approach of make the fiddle and see what it looks like when it's done."  

 

This was always the most enjoyable way of learning for me. The f**k it, we're making violins, not watches, school.

Immersion. Tenacity. Humility.  No matter what path, those three are essential to any level of success.

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Great topic.

 

Some things I guess you can pick up anywhere are the tool skills.. it's all woodwork at the end of the day.

It's the understanding of violins, the history and story behind the instrument, how to look at and problem solve, that you won't learn by yourself. Being able to look at an instrument and make my own judgement as to the quality of the workmanship, set-up, finish, and sound and playability of an instrument is I think the most important thing I learnt during my apprenticeship. Just being able to see many different instruments walking through the shop and sorting the wheat from the chaff, recognizing an instrument I liked and then why I liked it.

 

But as Ben said, best to make sure the maker is not 'self-taught'. Learning how not to do things is not the easiest way to go about learning the trade!

 

In my opinion the most important difference between apprenticeship and school is that in an apprenticeship you get thrown in the deep end, and learn directly through experience. Dealing with thousands of repairs and set-ups strengthened my skills in that area, and I think also strengthened my mental image of what a violin looks like and how it behaves. When new studies are done I don't understand the tech-talk but I can listen to what they say and see how it may potentially influence my making.

Having said that everybody will have a different repair experience. Some repairs you might have often, and some you may only do once in a lifetime. Quite often  you'll have a number of the same repair come in at the same time. I think I went five years without doing a button shoe, then had two in the same week. Or you'd have one soundpost crack come in one year and then three in the same day. It also depends on what sort of shop you're in.

 

Another thing you won't stumble across without shop/school experience is how the market works. Through school you will learn ways of marketing yourself and a bit about business, in a shop you will see many instruments and learn what their value is and how different repairs may affect their value.

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