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Hello forum

Just curious, how did you start your own shop/making/repairing etc? What was it like? How hard was it to strike out on your own in a sea of violin makers, many of whom are really quite good! what were the expected and unexpected pitfalls and challenges along the way? Care to share please?

Thanks

RL

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Well perhaps a bit of a tangent....in the mid 90's I still had the cabinet shop working.  Ben Ruth (a stranger then)  walked in to look at a joiner I was selling.   I was cooking varnish for a dining room set.  He smelled it and asked l: "Why aren't you doing this for us?"....I didn't even know who us was...and the rest is as they say...history.

on we go,

Joe

 

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5 minutes ago, joerobson said:

Well perhaps a bit of a tangent....in the mid 90's I still had the cabinet shop working.  Ben Ruth (a stranger then)  walked in to look at a joiner I was selling.   I was cooking varnish for a dining room set.  He smelled it and asked l: "Why aren't you doing this for us?"....I didn't even know who us was...and the rest is as they say...history.

on we go,

Joe

 

My experience was similar. I kinda just stumbled into the craft/trade. I walked into a shop looking for a new bridge for my viola, but silly me at the time didn't know that they needed to be carefully custom fit to the instrument. I said that I could probably do it on my own and didn't want to spend the cash monay on a having one fit, and that I have the woodworking skills to probably get it functional at least. The owner was looking for an apprentice/assistant at the time and asked me to sit down at the bench and show me what I've got. I made some soundposts easily enough and the rest is also (complicated) history. 

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I was interested in playing violin and bought an inexpensive one from an ad in the newspaper.

It needed some work and when I took it to a music store they  told me it was a piece of junk and

not worth the cost of repairs needed.  I borrowed the Heron Allen book from the library, read it

and repaired my violin. When I brought my violin back to the music store to buy strings they looked

at my work and offered me a job. I learned a lot working there part time but my other part time job

as a motorcycle mechanic paid a much higher wage. I kept both jobs through college working at

several different music stores and motorcycle shops and ended up owning a Harley repair shop.

Unfortunately my employees joined a large and violent motorcycle gang and my shop became

a hangout featuring daily fights, shootings, ect . After repeatedly fearing for my life, I realized

that violinists are seldom tough guys, except for David Burgess, with no violin gang activities at all and

this pushed me to sell my shop and go into violin repair.

 

Edited by donbarzino
David Burgess

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6 minutes ago, donbarzino said:

When I brought my violin back to the music store to buy strings they looked

at my work and offered me a job. I learned a lot working there part time but my other part time job

as a motorcycle mechanic paid a much higher wage. I kept both jobs through college working at

several different music stores and motorcycle shops and ended up owning a Harley repair shop.

Unfortunately my employees joined a large and violent motorcycle gang and my shop became

a hangout featuring daily fights, shootings, ect . After repeatedly fearing for my life, I realized

that violinists are seldom tough guys with no violin gang activities at all and this pushed me

to sell my shop and go into violin repair.

Huh? ;)

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On 5/22/2020 at 8:43 PM, viola_license_revoked said:

how did you start

Very, very slowly.

I have always been interested in making things, and musical instruments.  I made a guitar from scratch 48 years ago during winter college break in my parents' basement with handsaws and sandpaper.  It wasn't very good.  

For the  next few decades I worked for a living and dabbled with various instruments occasionally in my spare time, until I retired.  The retirement plan allowed us to get along without any income from instrument making, even though I thought I could make great violins within 2 or 3 years.  The first part was a good idea, the second part didn't happen... at least on the schedule I went in with.  10 years later, I think my work has improved enough so now I can make pocket change... or even a modest living, if I wanted to work 60 hours a week and self-promote a lot.  Assuming this current pandemic doesn't wipe out the music industry.

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On 5/22/2020 at 8:43 PM, viola_license_revoked said:

Hello forum

Just curious, how did you start your own shop/making/repairing etc? What was it like? How hard was it to strike out on your own in a sea of violin makers, many of whom are really quite good! what were the expected and unexpected pitfalls and challenges along the way? Care to share please?

Thanks

RL

 

 

There is no advantage being a self taught maker/repairer— go to a violin making school and get the proper training. Think of it as kindergarten with papers.  Go from there.

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6 hours ago, donbarzino said:

I was interested in playing violin and bought an inexpensive one from an ad in the newspaper.

It needed some work and when I took it to a music store they  told me it was a piece of junk and

not worth the cost of repairs needed.  I borrowed the Heron Allen book from the library, read it

and repaired my violin. When I brought my violin back to the music store to buy strings they looked

at my work and offered me a job. I learned a lot working there part time but my other part time job

as a motorcycle mechanic paid a much higher wage. I kept both jobs through college working at

several different music stores and motorcycle shops and ended up owning a Harley repair shop.

Unfortunately my employees joined a large and violent motorcycle gang and my shop became

a hangout featuring daily fights, shootings, ect . After repeatedly fearing for my life, I realized

that violinists are seldom tough guys, except for David Burgess, with no violin gang activities at all and

this pushed me to sell my shop and go into violin repair.

 

Don,

Years ago there was a guy in Brewer ME who had a sign on the main road which said "complete violin shop and lawn mower repair". He closed while I was working out of state so I missed my chance to buy the sign.

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On May 22, 2020 at 11:43 PM, viola_license_revoked said:

Hello forum

Just curious, how did you start your own shop/making/repairing etc? What was it like? How hard was it to strike out on your own in a sea of violin makers, many of whom are really quite good! what were the expected and unexpected pitfalls and challenges along the way? Care to share please?

Thanks

I got interested in violins after reading a book called The Violin Hunter at my violin teachers house when I as nine. Then I pretty much wasted a whole lot of years working in music shops taking short summer classes and working on my own. Finally at age thirty I realized I knew nothing and sought out a five year apprenticeship making instruments at WH Lee in Chicago followed by two years of learning restoration work at Jacques Francais in NY before coming back to Maine and reopening my shop.

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On May 22, 2020 at 11:43 PM, viola_license_revoked said:

Hello forum

Just curious, how did you start your own shop/making/repairing etc? What was it like? How hard was it to strike out on your own in a sea of violin makers, many of whom are really quite good! what were the expected and unexpected pitfalls and challenges along the way? Care to share please?

Thanks

RL

I got interested in violins after reading a book called "the violin hunter" at my violin teachers house when I was nine. Then I pretty much wasted a lot of years trying to teach myself, doing repairs  in music stores, and working on my own until at age thirty I realized I knew nothing and sought out  a five year apprenticeship making instruments at WH Lee in Chicago followed by two years learning restoration techniques at Jacques Francais in NYC. Then I came back to Maine and opened a professional shop.

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In the 1970s I got the idea that I could buy old instruments in antique shops, fix them and resell them, and I thought that I could teach myself violin repair by trial and error.  (Luckily I never got my hands on any decent instruments.)  By 1990 I realized that I couldn't figure it out on my own, so I started taking summer classes at the University of New Hampshire's Violin Craftsmanship Institute.  I took classes for about 20 years and became reasonably proficient in violin and bow repair.  Working by myself in a workshop at my home, I have made my living mostly from the violin business for about the last 25 years, and I have enjoyed it immensely.  I have been extremely lucky in a number of ways, I don't think it would be possible for my to replicate the same career path if I were starting out today.

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With woodworking skills, a few luthier's tools, a much less organized eBay to explore, all MN to study, and wild abandon.  :ph34r:  :lol:

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Apologies for the long post... My path was a little different, in the mid 1980's I was in grad. school and wanted to be a museum paintings conservator. On a semester by semester basis, I seldom got teaching assistantships, but was always able to get art conservation assistantships. And I always seemed to end up in objects conservation, instead of painting, so I worked on lots of flintlocks and lots of stringed instruments. That's where I fell in love with Baroque cellos. I did time at the Wallace Collection, Victoria and Albert, Trinity Archives, Dublin, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. I got married and was tired of living hand to mouth as a student with a Masters degree, so I returned to school and got a doctorate. As many of you know, I worked as a government psychologist for thirty years and wasn't terribly happy. Now I'm retired and love my shop! I accept the work I want and especially enjoy helping the struggling students. Due to age and health, I don't sleep well. While my repairs are proficient, I still return to my earlier museum training and will spend an inordinate amount of time at night on the details and varnish.

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2 hours ago, Fossil Ledges said:

... My path was a little different, in the mid 1980's I was in grad. school and wanted to be a museum paintings conservator. On a semester by semester basis, I seldom got teaching assistantships, but was always able to get art conservation assistantships. And I always seemed to end up in objects conservation, instead of painting, so I worked on lots of flintlocks and lots of stringed instruments. That's where I fell in love with Baroque cellos. I did time at the Wallace Collection, Victoria and Albert, Trinity Archives, Dublin, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. I got married and was tired of living hand to mouth as a student with a Masters degree, so I returned to school and got a doctorate. As many of you know, I worked as a government psychologist for thirty years and wasn't terribly happy. Now I'm retired and love my shop! I accept the work I want and especially enjoy helping the struggling students. Due to age and health, I don't sleep well. While my repairs are proficient, I still return to my earlier museum training and will spend an inordinate amount of time at night on the details and varnish.

Awww...

I'm glad you're getting to do what you wanted to do! :) Sorry about your insomnia :(...I imagine counselling the Government for 30 years would be a potential source of PTSD ...:ph34r:

Edited by Rue
...why do I keep leaving out entire words? Why???

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So many cool and interesting stories so far! Most intriguing beginnings, serendipity, hard work, luck, determination, ingenuity, life long study, guns and violins...

I can smell varnish, maple and motor exhaust just reading this thread.

I just lost my brand new trainee flute making job due to covid downsizing. Spent the last 2 months at my makerspace locked away making face shields. At this point we've made over 15,000 and have given away most of it to hospitals, nursing homes, dentists, a correctional facility and other folks. Manunlongnnight and hours to ponder where and how to move forward. Coincidentally there is some sort of a biker gang in the neighborhood and that was a shooting a block away two nights ago. We tend to stay very late pulling 12-15 hr days cutting PET and assembling etc... Maybe I should go over say hi and try and start an orchestra with the bikers...

If anyone feels like it, could they share the point at which they realized they  had crossed over to the Dark Side and were infact luthiers?

Does playing ability etc give you confidence to make in a certain way? 

While covid will not end the world, it does thin out prospects in music and instrument making at least for now and the foreseeable future. What are your thoughts moving forward if I may ask? 

 

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3 minutes ago, viola_license_revoked said:

...

If anyone feels like it, could they share the point at which they realized they  had crossed over to the Dark Side and were infact luthiers?

...

Excellent question!

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6 minutes ago, viola_license_revoked said:

If anyone feels like it, could they share the point at which they realized they  had crossed over to the Dark Side and were infact luthiers?

When I had to go see my tax accountant.  :ph34r:

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10 minutes ago, viola_license_revoked said:

If anyone feels like it, could they share the point at which they realized they  had crossed over to the Dark Side and were infact luthiers?

When they made and sold their first lute?

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Nathan's story is very similar to mine. I bought Heron-Allen, as a child cellist, when I was about 12, then wasted time until I was 30. I went to guitar-making school in Tennessee in 1980, came back and made guitars, but ended up working on more and more violins. In 1984, after four guitar years, my wife saw an article about Bein & Fushi's training program.

I applied but discovered they'd discontinued it (I'd been planning on taking the training, being rejected, coming back to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and continuing as before, only trained somewhat). However, they hired me. Even though I'd not planned to work there or to stay, on my initial interview I got a tour of the vault, saw what was there, and vowed that I was going to do this, even if it meant moving from the woods to Chicago.

And that's what happened. Then four years later I met Nathan at WH Lee when I switched to working there, wanting to build instead of restoring. After about 4 years there, I went on my own. So it took me a while to be independent.

I have been back and forth between making and restoration, and also had a five-year stint as a B&F salesperson. Currently I"m in another big shop, but this time it's mine (with two partners). Well, actually, currently I'm working in a closet in my basement while avoiding the plague. :-) 

MUCH later, after I was in my current situation, my mother told me that she had gone into my room and taken a look through Heron-Allen ($12 , bought with Christmas money), and declared to herself that this was a waste of money, and I would never do that!

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On 5/24/2020 at 7:58 PM, Wee B. Bridges said:

 

 

There is no advantage being a self taught maker/repairer— go to a violin making school and get the proper training. Think of it as kindergarten with papers.  Go from there.

Not everyone can just pick up and go to violin school. I definitely think it is best, because you are taught by professionals to do it right from the start. 

That is why I don't attempt to build a violin from scratch, but minor restoring or fittings, set up.. Why not? 

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