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CPD: Woodbridge Violins

Restore And More takes any opportunity for continuous professional development, even when it is not directly related to pianos. Continue reading to find out more about our trip to Suffolk to see Woodbridge Violins.

Woodbridge Violins Shop Front in blog CPD: Woodbridge Violins
Woodbridge Violins Shop Front

Whilst we were in Suffolk we took the opportunity to stop in at Woodbridge Violins, one of the leading Violin Restoration Houses in the country. Needless to say, it was fascinating and whilst we were there we had the opportunity to talk to the owner, Russel Stowe.

Russel began his career by graduation from the Violin Making course in Newark, 1984, which as we know also offers a Piano Restoration course. Having had a successful career working in the Midlands at a Violin House, Russel then branched out and started his own business in 1991. Nearly 35 years later and business is still booming.

It was interesting to discuss with Russel the type of work which he gets in the shop which is mostly bow and instrument restoration. In doing bow restoration Russel uses only the finest Mongolian horse hair and a well made bow will take around 20 minutes to re-hair; although bigger restorations with bigger defects will take long, as will less well made bows. As an estimate most string players should have their bow re-haired once or twice a year - much like piano tuning - whereas a professional player might need a re-hair once ever 2 or 3 months.

Again, much like piano tuning, re-haring a bow should be done by a professional as although it only takes practiced fingers 20 minutes or so; if done badly the instrument is unplayable as the bow tension can not be maintained and the hairs can simply fall out!

Bows for restoration at Woodbridge Violins in blog CPD: Woodbridge Violins
Bows for restoration at Woodbridge Violins
A box of spare old 'frogs' in the blog CPD: Woodbridge Violins
A box of spare old 'frogs'

A common repair which needs to be made to a stringed instrument is to fix any splits in the body (the parts shaped like an 8). This is done much in the same way as a piano with very similar techniques and materials; the instrument is dismantled, shimmed and glued, clamped and reassembled again.

Another common repair is on the body or neck of the instrument where the sweat and continual use of the player has caused the finish of the instrument to rub off. In this case the casework is touched up and blended back in to the original finish of the instrument. In extreme cases where this is very pronounced or a big area, the case might be stripped and re-polished although, Russel tries to keep the integrity of the instrument at all times.

Instruments lined up along the shop wall at Woodbridge Violins in the blog CPD: Woodbridge Violins
Instruments lined up along the shop wall at Woodbridge Violins

Much like the piano trade there are times when restoring the instrument is not financially worth it as the instruments original value and quality are not high. This is always discussed with the customer and when there are strong sentimental reasons or other factors, Russel is happy to restore the instrument to the best of his considerable ability. Russel has spent the last 35 years building his business and skill set to provide stringed instrument services to people all over the country. This includes players in some of the best orchestras such as the London Symphony Orchestra!

We hope you have enjoyed this blog CPD: Woodbridge Violins and have gotten a little insight in to the restoration of violins. We are so pleased that we went to visit Russel and it is always great to find common interest and skills with a fellow crafts person. Have a click on the links below to see Woodbridge Violins website and the course at Newark.


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