My Way: Violin Construction From Start to Finish


Many recipes for varnishing exist, some of which contain secret and exotic materials guaranteed to create exquisite tone if not the actual tonal recreation of the old master violins. I won't presume to expound on these lofty matters. My goals are durability, i.e. preservation of the instrument, tonal enhancement in some small measure and visual beauty last but not least.


Just a few of the possible varnish components along with some favorite brushes are pictured. My varnish room is littered with current and past ingredients, paints, resins and stains which I have used in my concoctions. Generally I favor linseed oil-based varnishes for their durability and for the artistic layering effects I can achieve.

Finished viola with first coat

A finished viola with the first amber ground coat applied.

Ivy motif
Cartoon varnishing

The ivy motif extended to the neck as it joins the instrument.

Scroll with intricate design

A scroll has its first color applied to an intricate design requested by the musician for whom it was made.

Cello with varnish

The cello is varnished with a special varnish. From six to twelve coats are applied. Then it is polished and all the ebony fittings are completed. All that is needed now is a sound post and a good set of strings and IT'S FINISHED. One winter a cello was completed. By early spring, it was coated with 12 coats of varnish and ready to play.