Violin Luthier Peter Shaw on ‘the Birth of an Instrument’

By Peter Shaw | From the September-October 2020 issue of Strings magazine

What is your favorite part of the process of making a violin—what day do you most look forward to?


Check out more articles from our Shop Talk section here

My favorite part of the instrument-making process is the day I cut the outline out of the slabs and begin the rough arching. In a matter of hours, these pieces of wood begin their transformation into the shape they will become—it is like the birth of the instrument. At the end of this process there is a large pile of wood chips to clean up (especially with cellos), which for some odd reason gives me a great feeling of accomplishment!

Of course, the very best day is the day I string it up, finally to hear what I’ve created! This day however, is like the end of a long journey: It is good to be home, but I can’t wait to plan the next one. Usually I start another instrument while varnishing, as there is time between coats. So this journey’s end inspires me to work on the next. (Of course, many of my colleagues agree, the day you sell your instrument is also cause for celebration—we all like to be paid, but there is also the feeling of affirmation that someone else appreciates your work!)