Trade secrets: bending the slope on a viola da gamba back

viola 5

Care and accuracy are both essential for this delicate part of the making process. By Gabriela Guadalajara, luthier based in New York, NY, US

I learnt this technique during the years I worked at William Monical and Son, a New York shop that specialised in Baroque instruments – including, of course, violas da gamba. Bill Monical had a lot of experience making viols, having worked with Dietrich Kessler in London back in the 1960s. Since the work at the Monical shop was only repair and restoration and no new making, I asked Bill and his son Phil, who also worked there, whether I could work on my own instruments after opening hours, and they were very helpful and generous with their time and knowledge. I learnt many making techniques this way and I’ve made many instruments, including violas da gamba, since then. There are many different ways to get a good result, but this is the method that works for me. Bending the slope is the last part of the process before gluing the back to the ribs, so the rib structure must already be completely done before starting. The soundpost bar also has to be glued, graduated and finished.

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