Bavarian violin maker Maria Sandner’s creations can be just 10cm long

German luthier Maria Sandner has chosen to use her time in lockdown to pursue one of her passions: creating violins on a miniature scale, using the same care and methods that go into making a traditional instrument. ’Miniature violins have always been a fascination of mine,’ she told The Strad, ‘and the lockdown gave me the time to plunge more deeply into the subject matter. The instruments come in two different sizes: 1/128 size, where the body length is 16cm; and 1/256 size, with a body length of about 10cm.

All the instruments are built with a bass-bar, soundpost, linings and ebony fittings. The pegs are custom-made from ebony by a local wood carver, while the strings are made by Thomastik-Infeld. ’One thing that always poses a great challenge is whittling the bridge,’ Sandner says. ’It’s so tiny that I always need a very quiet moment to work at it.’

Most of the wood comes from the local Bavarian region. ’For the top, the spruce I use has to have annual rings that are very close together. The same is true for the maple for the back. In the maple I also need extremely tight flames, or very close-together bird’s eyes. The back is made either from one single plate or two, and I always make the top from two plates.’

As to whether the violins can actually be played, Sandner admits: ’In theory they can, but it is very difficult to play a piece of music, as the fingers can’t really get a grip for the correct notes.’ 

And the future? ’I have received enquires about cellos and Baroque violins and I’m looking forward to rising to the challenge. I would also like a bow maker to make appropriate and beautiful bows to go with the violins, seeing that I only have very basic bows myself.’

’Every time I go back to building a standard-size violin, after having made many miniatures, it always seems as if I’m working on a giant instrument!’

Photographers: Fabian Roessler, Kriner-Weierman, Axel Svehla

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