Shop Talk: What’s your favorite part of the process of making an instrument?

By Anthony Lane | From the March/April 2020 issue of Strings magazine

After 40 years of violin making, the time I spend arching the plates continues to engage me deeply. On these days, I hurry to my bench and forget about all the noise from the outside world. For me there is something deeply fascinating about sculpting an arch, striving to create sound in three dimensions, making something beautiful and harmonious both visually and tonally. It’s a search I never tire of for results I can never quite rest with.

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In order of magnitude, the three most important factors determining the tonal “success” of a violin are wood selection, arching, and graduation. So after the trees’ work is finished, mine begins. Within the fixed form of a violin’s outline, an infinite number of arches may be sculpted. I liken it to an Indian raga, a fixed musical form within whose boundaries an infinite number of variations may be played. 

My options are endless, and I only need to open my eyes and look at the masters to begin to understand that. It is always a revelation to study and learn from the work of those who have come before me. How did this particular maker wrestle with the different arches of the top and back plates, the long arch, the cross sections, the counter arch near the edges, the arching height, the fullness in the bouts—and how does this arch reflect in the violin’s sound, its depth, its flexibility, its power, and its tonal beauty? 

These are the questions I work to resolve or, perhaps I should better say, explore every time I eagerly sit down at my bench, let time fall away, and dive into the work of finishing the arching. It’s a real joy.