Tonal and visual power to persuade

When I make instruments, I am concerned with the sound and also with the visual impression the instrument makes. I have developed my own varnish formula through years of research in acoustics as well as in “alchemy”. In my varnish and acoustics lab, I have had the opportunity over the years to analyze a number of instruments by the great Italian masters in terms of their damping properties for comparison with the acoustic evolution of my own varnish.

Craquelé in varnish by Venetian master Domenico Montagnana. Cello (Isserlis) from the year 1740.

The instruments I have had the opportunity to study in detail include masterworks by Antonio Stradivari, Andreas and Pietro Guarneri, Joseph Guarneri del Gesu, J.B. Guadagnini, Domenico Montagnana, Carlo Bergonzi, Franceso and Matteo Gofriller and others.

Despite this extensive research, I would never claim to have rediscovered "Stradivari's original formula". Instead, I believe that I have developed a varnish formula with acoustic properties on the same level as the great masters from Cremona and Venice.

Now that I have brewed hundreds of known varnish formulas (ranging from the 12th century to the present) and analyzed their acoustic properties, I am able to personally make all of the primers, pigments and oil varnishes I use in my workshop.

The deep, gleaming coloration of the varnish is produced using pigments from the madder root. By adding different salts, it is possible to reveal a wide spectrum of different shades of color. I like to model the appearance of my instruments on the Flemish school of painting with contrasts between areas that are visually more subdued and others that stand out more. I tend to work with complementary pigments.

There are many myths relating to tone wood. I use wood that I felled myself as well as pieces of tone wood that were felled in Davos in the year 1884. This wood is very light, bright and free-ringing. It was passed down by a famous Swiss family of violinmakers.

In many areas, my research only confirms the centuries of empirical knowledge passed down by the forefathers in violinmaking. However, knowledge that is passed down must be brought to life through one’s own experience and thus carried on before something that is special and authentic can come to be.

See also our publications and the research area of this website.