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A Tribute to Neil Ertz

Matthew Hannafin

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I should start by saying that I never got to be very close to Neil, I was lucky enough to visit him twice in the past year.  He was extremely kind and generous to give advice and critique to a new maker like me.  It still feels unreal that he is gone.  I was looking forward to having some pints after the festival in November we were both going to be part of.  Neil even joked about having an on-site scroll carving race.  I cannot imagine how hard this has been for his family and close friends.


With his remembrance service announcement today, I've been thinking about a way to show thanks and try to support his family. (Here is the message from his FB page and the other thread on Maestronet)


Neil's family would very much like to thank you all for the kind and thoughtful words that help support us during such a difficult time.

We would love for you to join us on Saturday 15th October 10:30 at St. Mary's Cathedral, Palmerston Place, Edinburgh EH12 5AW for a service of remembrance and celebration of his life.

Thank you, it would be great if you could make it.



I met Neil essentially through Maestronet...he invited me to his shop after I posted some pictures of my work last year.  And I know from searching through topics that he was a frequent contributor here as well.


The idea I came up with is to try and coordinate another Maestronet group project, in Neil's honor.


I'm not really very sure how to work out logistics of a project like this...but I know Maestronet has done this in the past, so I bet it could happen again.


Anybody who wants to help on this project is free to donate time or money or materials.  I can try to keep things organized with this thread.


I'd like to now open up the discussion to see if others are interested with this idea, and maybe we can all chip in and get this project off the ground.


To start with...here's the piece of wood I was going to hope be carving next to Neil in a loser-buys-the-first-round scroll race next month.  I'd be happy to carve it out and ship it along.




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I can offer to varnish it if it's not too soon, January or so (and if you'll let me!) . I'd be happy to do that, I met Neil only once and like everyone else, I was impressed by his kindness and his modesty.

Wow. That's a big contribution right off the bat...thank you so much. I'd say that's a big job checked off the list. Time frame wise, I think getting the instrument to you by January would be a great goal for the project too.

I'm in for patterns, label, certificate...

Fantastic, thank you so much. That opens up a discussion as to what model the violin should be. I personally loved the del Gesu feel that Neil could hit on the head...


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It would be honoured to be a part of this endeavour.

Yes please.  Is there anything in particular you were thinking of?  I also think that as the project shapes up there will be lots of ways of helping out.  Still have lots of work to cover, and wood and hardware to drum up.



I have the Kreisler archings, and Library of Congress has those great photos.


I think the Kreisler would be a great instrument to base this on, but I also would love to hear opinions of other people interested in the project.  I do think Neil tended to use more influence from the earlier Del Gesu violins, I'm not super familiar with his work over the years though...I really only knew him a little bit in this past year.

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Right, well Kreisler sounds great to me.  I have a drawing I made of the bass side f-hole from the LoC picture I'll add here if it helps anybody down the line.


Roger Hargrave has also been supportive of our little project, and would like to ship a set of wood out this upcoming Wednesday the 19th.  So if anybody is up for starting with the plates or making the rib structure, please let me know and we can get the shipping addresses sorted out.


Otherwise, I'm happy hold the wood here and ship it out at a later date.



I should say too, I believe this pattern was made to the "A4" scale to be accurate.

kreissler ff hole.pdf




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Right, well Kreisler sounds great to me.  


So if anybody is up for starting with the plates or making the rib structure, please let me know and we can get the shipping addresses sorted out.


Can I assume that this is not going to be a 'bench copy' of the Kreisler, but rather a sympathetic representation. 


If so, I would be honoured to do some of the carving.  

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A very beautiful funeral service was held for Neil today at the historic and magnificent  St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh. Lovely music was played; much of it on Neil's fabulous instruments. The service was very well attended with many musicians and luthiers joining Neil's friends and family with some incredibly moving spoken tributes. He certainly was held in VERY high regard as a luthier but even more so as a fine, kind  man of exceptional, unique character and in particular a dedicated family man.  


On a personal level he was a good friend who inspired me, counselled me, and made me laugh...(and we liked a gossip too!), and I will miss him greatly..... ( for instance my first reflex on getting home from his funeral was to phone him and tell him how it went!). I first met him in the mid 90's and liked him immediately....I found out, talking to people today that this initial reaction to Neil was a very common theme in folks experience of him.


 At a later date I might write some more in tribute to Neil as a luthier and some thoughts about his work but it will certainly take some time before I feel ready.

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Very well said, Melvin. Another alternative that might be considered would be to donate the instrument to St Mary's Music school for the use of future generations of young musicians.

I think this is a really nice idea.

I didn't know Neil, but I have met quite a few great students or ex-students from St. Marys who play his violins, and he had such a long-standing connection with the place.

I think it would serve as a great tribute to Neil.

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Very well said, Melvin. Another alternative that might be considered would be to donate the instrument to St Mary's Music school for the use of future generations of young musicians.


I think this is a fantastic idea.  It's great to hear from folks who were closer to Neil.  I have to say donating a violin to St. Mary's Music School sounds like a nice tribute to Neil. 


I think it will be a good thing to just try and follow the LoC Kreisler for a model and overall flow.  But I think it should feel open to work on, and not be worried about a purfling miter slightly off, or anything overly fussy.  


As far as workflow, I personally use the completed rib structure to lay out the outline for the plates, and I spot glue it all together when the edges are still about 6mm to finalize the outline.  I know there are other ways to skin a cat...and maybe we should get that sorted out.  Off the top of my head...it may be easier to do something such as one person complete the rib stucture, and lay out the plate outlines on paper, and then mail off the paper outlines to the folks who want to start the plates.  I just thought it may be easier than shipping the whole rib structure with everything.


Even if everybody worked off of a blue print for outline of rib structure and plates outline, I'm sure it would turn out fine.  I just thought it would perhaps save the rib structure maker from having to make a new form to work from.


It's nice to see all the enthusiasm from the people touched by Neil.  

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At Neil's funeral there was a suggestion that gifts should go to support for dyslexia. Neil was a succesful and  competent guy who would have made sure that his family is provided for. I would suggest  any charitable efforts are pointed to the designated charity


This is good to know and comforting.  But if anyone finds out they need anything, let us know.


Matthew, I am not in a position to work on an instrument, but depending on what develops, I can provide a case or bow, or something like that.  Just let me know what might be needed.

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I'm in if my work would be accepted. 

I think working off the completed rib structure for top and back outlines is really the way to go, at least for the final rundown of the edges of the plates. less room for fatal mistakes. making a "closely inspired by" model also a good idea. I also really like the idea of supporting students with good instruments and think it will have a larger effect in the long run.

  one small "issue" might be international shipping , could be a good idea to organize the work done on one side of the pond, and back again, to avoid heavy shipping charges and to minimize the inherent risks of border crossings. 

  I see lots of info on the Kriesler, Steve Sirr and Rodger Hargrave both have Excellent write ups on it on the web. Lots of info there, looking at the CT scans of the cc bouts on Steve's page raises some interesting points to consider.

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