Ask the Teacher - Juliet Barker


The respected lutherie teacher explains how she encourages patience and careful listening

What’s the first thing you do when someone who has never made an instrument before arrives in the school?

We ask them how much woodworking experience they’ve got, and if they have none, we usually tell them that’s a good thing, because violin makers don’t work in the same way as joiners and carpenters. The people we are terrifi ed of are retired woodworking teachers!

What’s the first thing you get them to do?

We encourage them to make a Guarneri because it’s easier to bend the C-bout. We talk to them about choice of wood – how it is cut and what to look for when you’re choosing. They start off making the corner-blocks and end-blocks, and planing up the ribs. The method is almost exactly the same as the one I followed in Mittenwald. Everyone was working on piecework there, so they developed a method that was quick. A method that is quick is usually the simplest method. That’s why we take an inside mould rather than an outside mould.

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