Baroque and Classical Conversion
We are known world-wide as specialists for baroque and classical period instruments, we always have baroque and classical period violins, violas, cellos, basses and bows for sale.
We also offer the possibility to convert your existing instrument to baroque, transitional or classical period. This could be done in stages or kept very simple e.g. only changing bridge, tailpiece and strings, or complete e.g. new neck, fingerboard, pegs, tailpiece, bridge and occasionally bass bar. We work in a completely sympathetic way working closely with you to determine and realise your musical ambition. We aim to maintain your instruments current sound and typically enhance and improve it significantly.
Our focus is on minimal intervention and maintenance of original material wherever possible thereby preserving the integrity and value of your precious instrument using discreet, conservative and refined repair methods.
See below an example of a conversion made to a fine Italian violin by Amati.
Our client liked several necks that I had made for her colleagues violins, these included; Givanni Grancino, Milan 1695, Antonio Gagliano, Naples 1788, Thomas Urquhart, London c.1660 and a Matthias Albani 1706. All of these necks were well liked, my problem was that these necks were all very different to one another, in particular the Urquhart and the Albani were very specifically tailored to the owners requirements, both working concert artists who were very exacting. Their necks took time to develop in conjunction with their owners. Finally a modern reproduction by David Rubio of Cambridge was brought which I had also converted and changed the neck. We finally settled upon a hybrid design based upon the Grancino and Rubio. The style for fingerboard and tailpiece were fairly typical; veneered plain ebony on top of a core of spruce edged with maple taken from the same block of wood as used for the new baroque neck.
The first task is removing the old neck, careful not to remove any original material, very tricky especially if once near the old joint between neck and peg box the joint is not secure. In this case an incredibly small amount of wood was left so that no more original material from the peg box would be touched. When I went to my wood store to select a neck I found that I had nothing that was quite right.
I contacted an old friend in Germany who has a good stock of well-seasoned old wood. I sent some close up photographs so that he could find a piece very close to the original.
Two weeks later I received several neck blocks and found one that I was satisfied with.
I made a drawing of the proposed neck in order to decide neck angle, whether there would be any upstand above the belly and other tolerances. I decided that it would be necessary to have a small upstand above the belly. The arching is quite strong, although elegant at the same time.
Once the neck was fitted and glued into the peg box I continued with fitting the neck onto the body and then the final shaping of the neck. In some ways this for me is the most difficult stage, especially for a baroque neck. The decision whether to go straight to what has been agreed based on my other necks and work or whether to allow a small consideration should the player perhaps prefer a slightly fuller feel. Often I work this way and am prepared to make small adjustments once the neck and instrument are complete to fine tune and fit the neck exactly to the player’s requirements. In this case I decide to stick to the plan and aim for completion as I was confident that through the extensive initial process of discussions on neck shape that the final shape had been agreed.
Once shaping was near completion I attached the fingerboard and finished shaping. The fingerboard/neck joint is very good and apart from flame not matching it is hard to see the joint. Now begins the next phase of colouring/staining the new wood to match the original wood. Offcuts kept back from the neck wood are tested with a variety of stains and colours until a good match is made; now re-touching can begin. This is often a challenging task to sympathetically colour match the original master’s conception. After several attempts and daylight permitting the result was very pleasing.
The final and often most painful and most rewarding is that of setting up; carving the bridge, making the soundpost and adjusting the sound for optimum output. If I am not being hurried this part of the process can take several weeks of slowly tweaking the parameters of bridge and post setting. I am happy that the final results were wonderful and our customer was delighted!
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