Why instrument makers have secrets – an attempt to explain.

Everybody has heard words like “the secret of Stradivarius” before, and I think that most people would agree that a good and experienced luthier must have some sort of secret. The more praise a luthier’s instruments get, the more there is the sentiment that this particular instrument maker must have  a “secret” that makes his or her instruments stand out.

My impression is that what is generally considered a luthier’s secret is in fact technique. And this technique is not always purposefully hidden, but often simply hard to communicate. This was a realization I had when starting to teach students – what seemed like magic to them was pretty simple to me. But when I had to explain exactly how I was doing what I was doing, I sometimes struggled to find the words. Then it struck me that if I do not manage to express my knowledge with enough precision, I too may  one day be regarded as a luthier with secrets.

Since I personally think that secrets are an obstacle to evolution (very generally speaking), I feel compelled to share my knowledge with others. It may at times be cumbersome to put all this effort into sharing (like writing about technique in a blog…), but ultimately I wish to give back to the luthier community; just as I have received knowledge from my generous teachers when I was learning the trade.

So in order to contribute, below is a preview of a little trick I learnt by trial and error recently. This is one of the little techniques that I think one could almost call a “secret”, and I will explain the details in my next post. Until then – stay tuned!

Wheatear with backing veneer


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