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Beginner's search for violin making books


Alistaire
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Finishing my Bachelor's this year but hoping to be accepted to a violin making school after. I've played violin for more than 10 years, have limited woodworking experience, and a long fascination with violin making video playlists. I did some looking a while back and found 4 commonly suggested manuals for building and repair. I'd like to study and practice techniques at a local workshop after school to be prepared for the work ahead. Which of the following do you guys recommend as most essential for a healthy introduction to the craft:

The Manual of Violin Making - Brian Derber

Violin Restoration: A Manual for Violin Makers - Hans Weisshar and Margaret Shipman

The Strobel Series for Violin Makers - Henry Strobel

The Art of ViolinMaking - Chris Johnson and Roy Courtnall

 

or if there are any other manuals you think are better for a beginner, please do let me know in response. I want to get the best reference for my investment and act on my inspiration.

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No reply yet. I am not that qualified to give you an answer, as your goal is to go to school. But can offer one perspective.

You have done some research, which is good. Try mining this site a bit more for additional opinions.

The Derber, Courtnall? then Shipman? The Strobel books are inexpensive, so worth the read, regardless of what techniques are adopted. There is a bunch of general helpful bits of data in the Strobel series. The Courtnall, when inexpensive or purchased used, is a quick reference. Given the crazy pricing, the Derber is the best bet. I still recall images on certain pages of the Courtnall, though the book has been misplaced. I often used the book to explain instrument construction to students.

Books can be entertaining, educational or thought provoking. I am of the opinion that knowing something is helpful. The Shipman is an interesting read, but likely not as helpful when preparing for school. But when it comes to employment, perhaps starting on and thinking through some minor repairs is a good thing. But I caution that knowing a little something can lead to mistakes - I have made many.

The knowledge developed through books can offer a solid point of reference. Additional knowledge builds the depth and complexity of a process that is repeated many times, in most instances. Just a warning, that some instructors have methods that suits them well and that particular methods may be vetoed at other shops. I see it is as additional learning, but the process of re- learning, and repeating that process fast can be frustrating. How many dozens of times did it take to tie a good knot fast? So who you learn from might make a difference. 

I did not go to a violinmaking school. My circumstance did not allow that opportunity. But I see a lot of product coming out of the schools, and that output can be mixed, I am sure for many reasons. Not that the school is bad, but that skills required take time, like bowed string playing. 

Learning on the job, there were those who were helpful and others who were indifferent.  

In deciding to go to a crafts school, one will have to decide on which approach will be the most helpful in the future, if the skills will become your career path. Maybe it won't be the career, and that takes a bunch of pressure off... 

As important as the books might be, viewing videos is helpful. Though the actual information as to the why is better found in books. But the sounds, the smoothness of work, the strength of the cuts are more readily visible. 

At one shop, a friendly guy gifted me a knife with good steel and an old stone. There was no Derber or Courtnall book then. Until I was able to sharpen a knife or clean a brush reasonably well, I was not allowed to touch any instrument or wood. The first time, I tried carving into some Gabon ebony endgrain, it was a shock. 

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Brian Derber’s book is the only one I have ever seen which I think could guide a beginner to make a decent first violin on their own. The C. and J. I have never seen but have heard good things about. The Weishaar is an interesting book on repair although some what dated. I would not recommend Strobel. Having said all that if you are going to be studying at a (good) violin making school you should learn their methods first before exploring alternate methods of doing things.

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For years, this forum’s general consensus was that Courtnal & Johnson was the best violin making book available.  But Derber’s has come out since then, so perhaps it is has superseded C & J.  Along with Nathan, I think that it doesn’t make sense to work with a book that would probably teach different methods than those that will be taught where you go to school.  And note that Weisshaar’s subtitle is “A Manual for Violin Makers.”  It assumes that those using his book already know how to make violins, so it probably makes more sense to get it after you finish school than to get it now.  The Sacconi book is a great in-depth analysis of Stradivari’s working methods.  It’ is not an instruction manual, but it is a classic and a basic reference.

If you have the money, get them all now if you want.  You can probably learn something from all of them.

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5 hours ago, nathan slobodkin said:

Brian Derber’s book is the only one I have ever seen which I think could guide a beginner to make a decent first violin on their own. The C. and J. I have never seen but have heard good things about. The Weishaar is an interesting book on repair although some what dated. I would not recommend Strobel. Having said all that if you are going to be studying at a (good) violin making school you should learn their methods first before exploring alternate methods of doing things.

What was wrong with Strobel?  For the difference in cost you could buy a few good tools and sharpening stones.

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15 hours ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

What was wrong with Strobel?  For the difference in cost you could buy a few good tools and sharpening stones.

Strobels’ books have their uses in particular his tables of instrument measurements but the pictures I have seen of his instruments did not impress me. If you are going to learn from somebody you want to learn from somebody who makes nice violins or who is at least part of a tradition of making which has been proven over time.

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Alistaire,

I am willing to lend you my copy of the Derber book, if you are willing to pay shipping. The book is in Fayetteville, NC. I am not. So I can’t use it. PM me..

Actually, 

perhaps others want to use it too. What can we work out?

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