What colour is my sitting room carpet again?
Time spent away from the bench this month has had me preparing for a tool sale that our Trustees will run for our charity www.rabtrust.org.
These are all specialist tools donated to us from retired or sadly deceased makers/restorers. They and their families take great comfort in the fact that their tools will go on to make/restore more violins after they have gone.
We will have the sale at the violin conference this weekend, in Newark, Lutherie 2023. The tool sale is open to violin making students first and they get 50% off the ticket price! Then the professionals come in and clear us out. We have very specialist books and violin making wood too.
Seeing these tools reminded me of a very special person, Brian Hart. A few of the tools in our sale were designed and made by him. They are little gems in our world. This is his story.
Brian Hart (above), an industrial toolmaker who found success creating bespoke clamps and implements for violin makers, died in 2013, at the age of 77. Hart started his career making tools for engineering components but later switched to creating devices for stringed instruments, becoming known as a clamping guru for his range of intricate handmade clamps.
In an interview published in the October 2008 issue of The Strad when he was 72, Hart explained how a chance encounter in a Welsh pub brought him to the attention of violin maker Malcolm Siddall, which in turn brought him to his new calling:
‘Malcolm said it was always difficult closing a crack in the f-hole. He wished he had a clamp that wouldn’t damage the point on the violin, because a crack usually occurs opposite the corner, right in the wing of the f-hole. So I came up with the wing-crack clamp.’
The new clamp was an instant success and soon Hart was making and selling a full range of implements via the violin dealership J.&A. Beare – all made in his garden-shed workshop.
Maker and restorer Shem Mackey, a longtime friend who shared a London workshop with Hart’s son Stephen, remembers encouraging Hart’s early efforts: ‘I gave him some of my violin tools to copy and he went on to become the best toolmaker we have known. He was a great character and a true intuitive genius at his trade. He had a sense of the aesthetic. His very lateral approach to the problems of violin repair produced some truly brilliant tools.’
Hart described making violin tools as a liberating experience and put the secret of his success down to personalisation: ‘They know they will get something special, that’s just right for them,’ he said.
With no protégé to pass his knowledge on to, Hart’s legacy will remain in the tools he made. ‘I’m not going to be passing it on,’ he said. ‘I guess when I curl up, it’ll be end of story.’
Brians tools are so valued now and the big tool giants like Dictum and Gewa and Herdim copy his original designs so that restorers and makers can continue to use such amazing tools.
Brian was a friend to all and his engineering brain and thoughtful designs have never been bettered.
Strings are too expensive for players to just try purchase themselves and try on a whim. The minute the strings are in place the player has an idea of where the tone/texture/dynamic is now heading. But if it’s a sound you don’t like! it’s too late then to send them back, the packet is open and the strings have rosin on them.
String trials with me are becoming ever more popular and many players are coming to trial strings, some of which they may never have considered for their instrument. It’s important to have a good set-up in place first of all, with post and bridge at their optimum. It is then possible to compare how a different strength/style of string can take you and your instrument to the next level.
Phone for a chat about the procedure and to book a slot.
Tel 07770 846148 to book an appointment