Luthier Eric Benning Talks Purfling

What’s your favorite part of the process of making an instrument—what day do you most look forward to?

Let me first start by saying, I love most aspects of making new instruments. There are a few steps in the process that I see as simply exercising proper technique and woodworking, but there is so much artistry and possibility that the act of making never seems to grow old. All those caveats said, my favorite part of making would have to be finalizing the finished outline, purfling the edge, and finishing the final arching. I realize this is really three steps, but I see them more as one cohesive step—each an integral part of the others. Cutting out the outline and seeing just how the purfling will lay into each corner never gets old or routine. Each decision on how to hook the corners or how wide to leave the finished overhang lays the groundwork for the purfling and how that will turn out: long and lean with a whimsical bee sting or short and sturdy with a purpose and not much else. Finishing up the final arching and seeing how the arch falls effortlessly into the upper and lower bouts, and how those same curves make their way around the difficult shapes of the C-bouts and f-holes, is magic. Revealing how the wood will finally be seen throughout the instrument’s life is an endless source of inspiration and pleasure for me.


Eric Benning

ST282 Cover Web

This article originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of Strings magazine.