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What do you do?
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Super Member

Joined: 06 Feb 2013
Posts: 385

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2016 11:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think a lot of us are here because we are looking for info, and not living is areas that don't have makers or sharer's brings us together , and from all over the world. maybe that is obvious

I look at the desire, as a means of creativity and curiosity, maybe there is a slight lure of the mysterious "ness " of the violin? So the more technical types are drawn to those occupations that challenge them and stimulate the creative side. my 2 cents ct is I understood you challenge correctly?
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Joined: 10 Nov 2009
Posts: 84

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2016 12:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, Michael, for asking this question --- for being interested in us. You helped me back in the early 2000’s in the construction of my first violin.

I enjoyed reading everyone’s story.


Back in High School in the 60's, I played guitar in a rock band. Played at school dances and dance halls. Attended college for two years. Worked there as a chemistry and physics lab assistant, then lab supervisor. Married. Quit college. Went to work in a machine shop as tool and die apprentice. Then prototype machinist in an Engineering Department. Took some drafting courses. Then draftsmen, mechanical designer, then design engineer. Worked in consumer products, aerospace, military, and medical equipment. Most satisfying was designing the x-ray collimators and detectors for the original CT scanners. I was a "job shopper". Worked dozens of companies.

Inherited a violin from my Grandmother that was my late Uncles, which sparked my interest. Took about a year's total lessons with it in my 50's. Been trying to self teach since then.

My Father-in-law gave me his student violin from when he was a kid. Needed repair. Took it apart and rebuilt it. Sparked my interest in building. 2001, built my first. Made 24 so far. Built a classical guitar. Restored several other instruments.

1980 built a small home studio in my basement. Discovered multitrac recording. Using guitar, harmonica, recorder, bass guitar, keyboards, ukulele, violin, midi, and whatever else I can find to make sounds. And singing --- amazing what pitch correction software can do. To date have put together 6 albums. Unpublished. Waiting for the right time to be "discovered".

Today. 69 years old. Been retired for 7 years. Haven't made a violin in almost 2. Been playing my violin for Sunday morning Church services (No. 001, the one Michael and CT helped me make). Also occasionally lead worship with my guitar.

My other "hobby"? For the past seven or eight years, I have written near a 100 letters to my Government representatives, The President, and various other organizations. Expressing my thoughts on the current global situations. Somewhat political and “religious”.

That's it. My life in a nutshell.

Thanks to all, and especially Michael for the willingness to help us.

And CT --- haven't talked with you in a while. Have often thought of you. Glad to see you’re still kickin'.

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Joined: 13 Sep 2007
Posts: 209

PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2016 7:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Life has been busy so I haven't been by here for a while. I enjoyed reading this post. I have had my hands on musical instruments all of my life and have worked with wood my whole life. During elementary and middle school, I played the viola. <insert favorite viola joke here> I quit during high school since our orchestra teacher spent more time drinking than teaching us.....yes, he did get fired eventually but not after destroying a music program. Anyway, after high school I was basically a ski bum who took some college classes and managed to get a degree.

I have worked in IT in the corporate world and I'm still doing IT in the public sector. Over 11 years ago, I knew I had to do something other than think about work. I wanted to play the fiddle and thought, "gee - I should make one...." In hindsight, I'm glad I was that naive because if I knew what I know today, I wouldn't have even started. I'm glad I did and I have met some wonderful people along the way. I plan to keep making as long as God keeps me on this earth.

Good question and I enjoyed reading the responses!

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Mat Roop
Senior Member

Joined: 24 Mar 2007
Posts: 875
Location: Wyoming Ontario

PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2016 9:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good topic!
Alas, too many to do's and not enough time! but here goes...
I grew up without any exposure to music, even in high school most guys (me included) took art and the girls took music.
Well then, my life changed when I met my bride from Prince Edward Island, who was one of 15 siblings and virtually all of them are musical in some form. Two are professional, both in guitar and one in fiddle. I was determined to fully expose my two boys to music and they both became church organists.
There came a time when my younger one, after a kitchen hoe down in PEI with grandfather, aunts and uncles, he decided to try the violin. Mom sent him off to a back room saying no one wants to listen to a lot of scratching... he was gone on his own for no more than 10 minutes, emerging playing a tune. Well the crowd cheered him on with encouragement etc etc. For 2000 miles on our way back home to Ontario all I heard was Dad, get me fiddle. I knew zero about fiddles.
Being in charge of the maintenance of facilities for a school board I handled an insurance claim for the replacement of an $700 Suzuki violin that had been smashed literally to smithereens during a break-in . After the claim was settled, I undertook to repair the instrument, took it to two luthiers, one said forget it can't be done, and the other said even if you fix it, it won't sound like worth playing. With nothing to lose, I borrowed the violin book by Edward Herron- Allen "Violin Making - As It Was and Is", bought some rib material and glue from Heinl's. Could not match the polyurethane finish so I stripped the whole thing, refinished with Heinl's oil varnish. Not being a musician, I had my son tune it, we liked it, but what do we know. I took it back to the teacher of the program from whence it came for an opinion, and she was amazed that in her words "this sounds better than all the others in the program" Found a teacher for my son, the teacher loved the instrument and the story... and gave me some other fiddles to work on, then others were calling me, the business grew by word of mouth.... and eventually I incorporated to keep everything legal and separate from my personal life.
I must say that luthierie is an addictive activity, and one of my faults is that i am always looking for solutions to simplify the various tasks, yet maintain the exacting standards.... but alas, the more I learn the less I know. I live in a town of 7500 with few professional musicians, so most of my clients are of the kitchen party variety or those who have their "great gandfather's" heirloom fiddle.
My careers included being an Apiarist, Cabinetmaker, Commercial sales and marketing management, and Facility and construction management.
Hope I did not bore:)
Cheers, Mat
Violin makes everything better!
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Rick M

Joined: 18 Sep 2016
Posts: 54
Location: Okotoks, AB, Canada

PostPosted: Wed Nov 08, 2017 11:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Michael, thought it was worthwhile trying to revive this thread. It's really interesting how diverse the backgrounds are and there have been a few hundred new members since this was posted.

Fiddle music, for me, was "baked in the cake." I like to say that I grew up in the 1920's in rural Saskatchewan. The rest of the world thought it was the 50's or 60's, but they hadn't found us yet! We still had dances and socials at the one-room school across the road and Dad was the fiddle player in the district. He played a little every night, so violin was just a part of life growing up. But the 60's and 70's did creep in and his music wasn't "cool" so I never learned.

I spent 15 years working all over Western Canada setting up and running lumber yards and hardware stores for the Canadian versions of Home Depot. Then circumstances threw a couple of curves and I ended up in the oil industry, in Western Siberia of all places!

I did supply chain management and then executive roles for the next 15 or so years. I worked in a couple of different places in Russia, switched to Kazakhstan and spent time in a few other exotic locales. We ended up spending our last couple of "working" years in Bakersfield, California. It was a pretty nice change, my wife and I got to know each other again after 30 years of road-work, and the locals were great to work with and even spoke a language similar to English!

Throughout all those years I was the family handy-man (not fond of the term but...) and built furniture, did renovations and repairs, did some antique restoring and so on. Basically whatever needed know the drill.

What brought me back to violins, was a health scare. I had a "close encounter of the cardiac kind" that made me stop and take stock a bit. One of the things that had been on the to do list for decades had been to learn to play the fiddle. I found a teacher and off we went.

To digress a little bit, about 10 years ago my mother-in-law brought her Dad's old fiddle over for me to look at. Now, her mother had been something of a "handy-woman" too. It turned out that she particularly liked Varathane Liquid Plastic. This poor old fiddle had been "cleaned up" and given a thick coat of Varathane and then when it started to crack (I guess) because it couldn't breathe anymore she applied generous amounts of white glue to the cracks. Anyway, an unplayable mess. I wasn't able to save much of the original finish, but did get it cleaned up, repaired and finished with a couple of coats of oil varnish. It turns out it's a nice Laberte fiddle from about the turn of the century. It plays nicely and I use it (almost) daily.

It was playing that that brought me to repairs though. The sound-post shifted on me somehow at one point (maybe bumped or...??). Anyway the closest luthier is in the city, took it in, left it with them, went back and they explained what they had done. So I had the full hour drive home to ponder on the notion that something as simple as what they did cost me 4 hours of driving (plus fees).

That lead me to this forum, exploring makers websites, YouTube videos and eventually (thoroughly hooked) to repairing some Ebay finds and then building. Number 1 is underway.
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Joined: 13 Sep 2007
Posts: 209

PostPosted: Thu Nov 09, 2017 9:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Rick, your post struck a chord with me. My dad is from SK. I spent many summers there and visiting relatives in Alberta and lived in the NWT for a while. Anyway, if you ever make it up to Edmonton, stop by Myhre's Music. The Myhre's are good people and I'm sure they'd be willing to give advice and share some of their vast knowledge with you.

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Joined: 29 Mar 2007
Posts: 370
Location: Richmond, VA

PostPosted: Thu Nov 09, 2017 7:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


Rick, thank you for bumping this thread up!

There are some small groups of people that treasure the old time fiddling of regions throughout the US and Canada. Maybe there are some near you, if you are interested?
If you have any recordings of your Dad that would be interesting.
Have fun on your first build!

I meant to reply to this thread, or thought I had. So...

I'm a painting and printmaking graduate of VCU in Richmond, VA, '85 and have always been a woodworker/artist.
I played violin in elementary and middle school then picked it up again in the late 80's. Wanting a better instrument I thought I could repair or make something better than I had so went after it in my spare time.

In a short time I realized I needed training so went to some making and restoration workshops, worked for a shop in town, making when I had time. I still love violin making workshops, I get to hang out with 'my people'.
There are not many people near me that love making violins so the workshops are more like a vacation to me.

These days I do a lot of repairs, bow rehairing, make 3 or 4 instruments a year and try not to cause trouble in the online violin making forums.
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Rick M

Joined: 18 Sep 2016
Posts: 54
Location: Okotoks, AB, Canada

PostPosted: Fri Nov 10, 2017 10:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

James, thanks, I will make a point of stopping in. In the category of "small world" - in the late '70's I lived about 4 or 5 blocks from Myhre's shop. Wasn't aware of it at the time

Don, thanks. My teacher has got me out to a couple of things.

I actually do have a tape of Dad playing. I've been able to identify 8 out of about 12 songs (and learn most of them too). The others remain a mystery but hearing him takes me back.
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Super Member

Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 281
Location: New Brunswick Canada

PostPosted: Sat Dec 02, 2017 10:47 pm    Post subject: What you do Reply with quote

Hello folks Enjoyed reading your reply`s on what do you do . Nice to read you were able to have a career in
Work that you liked & enjoyed . I also understand that it was not always sunshine getting there as some may think.
As for me it was the school of hard knocks work or starve . I had an Uncle that played fiddle & other instruments
He told us nobody touch my fiddle, me being a nobody I would try to learn to play it when he was away .
In the early days if you heard a tune or song on radio you may not hear it again for weeks & it was on WWVA
After midnight I don’t think I will ever forget the sound of Lee Moore screwing the lid back on the coffee Jar
I am sure some of you folks would also remember that

A man played the harmonica he was a good player & he showed us the cords on the guitar . Now the guitars were something
To tune some strings you had to use a pair of pliers’ & old black diamond strings that blistered your fingers .

Working years Drove transport , Bus , Factory , underground tunnel , Farmed we owned 350 acers at one time .
The last 30 years working was Licensed Heavy Mechanic years ago you had to do all that needed to be done yourself .
I often wonder when I drive past railroad beds Bridges & old stone church`s big stone buildings all done with horse
& wagon now it is Millions Of $ just to check the site out someone must have known how to do it as Over 100 years
they are still standing .
Maybe Not a very interesting post just want to keep the tread going as I find it interesting ( Enough two finger typing Ken)
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Ken Nagy
Junior Member

Joined: 13 Dec 2017
Posts: 3
Location: Goodrich MI

PostPosted: Wed Dec 13, 2017 2:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It is interesting to read all the different things people have done. Many have done a bunch of different things. I've pretty much only been a machinist. I started just drilling holes using fixtures in a shop. Then I got a job as a lathe hand. The owner gave me the book on how to run a lathe, and the first step was to tuck your tie into your shirt. Safety first!

I've run mostly lathes. Hand lathes for the first 10 years or so, and CNC for the last 30. I also set up an run CNC mills, and for 10 years ran a 4 axis CNC turn/mill that was pretty cool.

Now I turn dies for a forging company. We finish turn the hardened steel with ceramics or CBN inserts. We have a lot of apprentices because they can't find journeymen in our area, SE Michigan, who will work for our wages. Really. They've been trying for a couple of years.

I have 16 years in; started at 9/11, but still can only manage to be on second shift. I'm getting tired of it.

I start violins from the inside with a chain. I was doing it before Torbjorn wrote his pieces for The Strad. It just seemed logical. I don't do mine like he does his though. I do try to find where the widths of the cantenarys would be I'm not into exact copies. But if someone has a nice Gagliano (or Grancino, Guadagnini, Gofriller, or even a Brescian or del Gesu) they want a copy of, and can let it sit on my bench for a week or so; by all means bring it over.

I've made varnish. My wife hates those days. We've been married 40 years. I took the night off today because I have some bug or something. The snowstorm swayed my decision too. I'm not a glutton for punishment.

I have a violin making blog. I haven't posted much there lately, but it has a lot of stuff in there. If you have any questions about it, probably PM me here. It doesn't seem like I get any notification of comments on my
(added) My other blog is kensdevotional I'm not religious at all. Go figure. Politics bore me to death, and I could care less about them. People pushing their opinions. Now to start up the snowblower and take care of the 7" of snow, and the mess the plows made at the end. Being on a main road does have a downside.
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Joined: 18 May 2009
Posts: 74
Location: Devon, UK

PostPosted: Fri Dec 15, 2017 7:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm just a Mum of an adult with Aspergers, she's the one interested in mainly repair. She doesn't really communicate much on the internet. I joined so I can ask for help when she gets stuck. So here goes on my kid, Sally.

She started Suzuki violin at 3 and still plays (now 34). Raised mainly in Sacramento, then Phoenix, then when Dad retired moved to UK (I'm the Brit). She had brain surgery to stop seizures (worked), and then decided not to go back to University (performance major) and start learning repair. All down to Albert Carl Muller of Sacramento who made her violin and viola and gave Sally the Weisshaar Violin Restoration book.

Started taking classes with Boyd Poulsen and Steve Lohmann at College of the Redwoods. Met Chet Bishop there at the Paul Schuback set up class. Spent several sessions at Boyd's home in New Mexico. Then started taking classes with Michael Darton at Claremona.

I'd tag along as note taker. Sally has the fine motor skills to do the work, I am good at taking notes, so we kind of work together.

We ran a home business, mainly repairs in Phoenix, but after moving to Devon in the UK it's a desert as far as repair work. Sally loves to mainly work on bows.

So we amble along with 2 Golden Retrievers (one is Sally's assistance dog) and 2 new to us kitties.

If anyone is ever over in the UK and can make to Devon we'll show you around our little fishing town here which we love.
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Joined: 29 Mar 2008
Posts: 105
Location: Edmonton, Alberta

PostPosted: Fri Dec 22, 2017 10:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kubasa wrote:
Hi Rick, your post struck a chord with me. My dad is from SK. I spent many summers there and visiting relatives in Alberta and lived in the NWT for a while. Anyway, if you ever make it up to Edmonton, stop by Myhre's Music. The Myhre's are good people and I'm sure they'd be willing to give advice and share some of their vast knowledge with you.


I just saw Alfie last week at a book release event for R Harlan Smith. The Myhre's are indeed fine people. Alfie has some interesting instruments in his collection.
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