cello, f-holes, fingerboard, four instruments, Jonathan Hai, maple, maple wood, music, Quartet, setup, sound holes, sound post, Stradivari, strings, violin, violin builder, violin construction, wood shavings, Yonatan Hai
We spent the entire day yesterday in Yonatan’s workshop, with our kids, my sister’s family and various friends dropping by, watching with fascination as the last violin of the quartet was being finalized and fitted with the setup. YES, things have moved very quickly and three out of the four instruments – the viola first, then the cello and then one violin – are already playing! (read through the end of this post for a special surprise…).
While the kids ran around, played and generally made as much noise, mess and joy as kids can, Yonatan worked all day on the finishing touches for the last violin. This included polishing the varnish, fitting and gluing the finger board, and fitting the setup (or Montatura in Italian). The montatura is the final phase of construction, when the instrument’s body is finished and varnished and the violin maker needs to add the “accessories” that will make this a playing instrument – the bridge, the sound post and the strings.
So as I have done before, instead of tediously describing this phase for you, here is a picture post to show you how much work goes into the so-called “finishing touches”.
First, Yonatan put a lot of work into polishing the violin, by pouring special oil over it and then, gently and thoroughly, going over every facet, cranny and nook in its entire surface with a soft cloth in order to smooth away the tiny brush strokes and arrive at an even more uniform, glowing, radiant polish:
Then came the fingerboard, which Yonatan already worked on earlier in the process, but removed to varnish the violin. Now, it had to be fitted exactly to the neck of the instrument, and since it’s made of ebony, it produces very special blackish trucioli (wood shavings, remember?) that look like little slivers of dark chocolate.
Once the fingerboard was glued and Yonatan had his mandatory espresso coffee :), he moved on to fitting the holes for the pegs:
I don’t know about you, but watching him turn that special “sharpener” in the holes and take out more wood after the entire instrument is already perfect and varnished, made me hold my breath – what if anything went wrong NOW?
But Yonatan’s hands never wavered and he then moved to another delicate step – inserting and fitting the violin’s sound post (or anima – meaning soul). He shaved this small wooden post one miniscule layer at a time, until it fit exactly between the instrument’s front and back, holding upright with no glue but also without too much pressure. Since the violin is already closed at this phase, inserting the “anima” is done by using a special metal instrument and peeking through the “f” hole:
Then the bridge of the violin – which comes in rough form – was cut, shaped and fitted to the instrument….
… and the last phase is putting the strings on the instrument. This was already done on the other three instruments, but Yonatan couldn’t finish the last violin yesterday with our three kids, my sister’s three kids, and our friends’ multiple kids running around, wanting to use his special brushes to glue together the little scraps of wood that he keeps in a special box for them, wanting to eat, drink, paint, show him the little kitten they found in the yard etc etc…(the good news is that my sister’s talented husband Eyal was also there, and you therefore got these really professional pictures – check out his website for more: http://www.eyalg.com/gallery/index.php?showimage=85 ).
AND NOW – in a special unplanned premier – here is a link to a video of the Maayan Trio playing Beethoven Piano Trio , op.70 nr.2 Allegretto, with Yonatan’s instruments. What happened was that he came to hear them recording and brought the new quartet cello with him, and on a whim they decided to make a recording with this brand new cello. Enjoy!