RAB Trust Award 2023:
Alina has made several violins, and is now working on a cello in her final year. She has also made a baroque violin and started a viola da gamba and wants to work more on carving heads when she has finished the course.
The RAB Trust has awarded her funding for a cello case, bridge stamp, nut files and a burnisher, plus a donated Lie Neilsen jack plane.
RAB Trust Award 2022: Alina was awarded £200 for set up tools, strings and viola wood, and a work placement with Marc Soubeyran.
I am very grateful for the opportunity to work with Marc Soubeyran and get some more ideas on the importance of a good setup.
I brought one of my first year instruments to improve the setup and learn some of his working methods.
Even though I was worried I would not be able to get all the work done in the three days I would stay with him, I came home with a freshly setup instrument with a much better sound.
Marc let me stay with him and his wife, and on top of sharing his knowledge in the workshop, shared food and conversations around the table. I felt very warmly welcomed and comfortable.
We refurbished the whole instrument from reshooting the fingerboard to making a new bridge.
Having made the fingerboard during Covid isolation without the right tools and instructions, I had to take off a lot of material to create the right curve and surface. The nut took me a few attempts, but the trial and error helped me to understand how it should actually look like.
Very generously, Marc provided new pegs and endpin as well as wood for nut, soundpost and bridge blank.
He showed me how to make pegs look nice and shiny and how to pay attention to details in the shaping to make it look more professional and feel nicer for the player.
I spent a lot of time fitting pegs and endpin so on the last day I was left with fitting the soundpost and bridge. For the soundpost we used a split piece of spruce that Marc shaped on the lathe for me. The fit could be better but we had to move on to the bridge. I got a very helpful lesson in wood qualities and what good bridge-wood should look like.
In the end, Marc helped me with finishing off the bridge cutting so we could finish the project.
I took away a lot of inspiration and information and got to know new methods and tricks and tools to make the jobs easier and more efficient.
Before, I was very insecure in the world of setup but now I feel a little bit more confident in what I have to do to make an instrument sound, look and feel nice, which with some more practice I will hopefully achieve.
I want to thank all the members of the RAB trust for putting so much effort in supporting us students. I feel really lucky to get help and really appreciate that each student is looked at individually to give them personal support in their interests.
This year I had to do quite a few bushings for repairs and setups on my violins. It is very helpful to have my own tools for that and I am sure they will accompany me for a good while.
Education Services Award 2021: Alina was awarded funding for a bending iron
RAB Award 2021: Cello closing clamps were awarded from the Jim Reid bequest, plus a work placement with Helen Michetschläger, which took place in October 2021.
Alina’s work placement was a particularly special one for the RAB Trust. This is her report:
Before coming to work with Helen I hadn’t touched any tools for two months, so I was quite nervous about my skills having to redevelop. But it was nice to start my year with such an intense week of making.
Helen already mentally prepared me for the work we would do during the week. We would work on a cello which was found unfinished in the workshop of the amateur violin maker Arnold Boyes and which was made in 1973. The rib structure was finished and the plates were roughed out.
Each component was then completed by different violin makers in different places. Mark Robinson made the front, Sam Brouwer worked on the scroll, Mathieu Fourrier made the back and Helen will varnish it.
In the week I was in her workshop, I helped Helen with assembling all the pieces together.
First of all, we had to free the rib structure and I shaped the linings and the blocks. Then we had to find out which side is the front and which the back. We were surprised how little the rib structure had changed over the many years it was just lying around. And in the end, both plates fitted quite well with the overhang not being too irregular. Helen then fitted and shaped the neck.
I learned quite a lot during this process. I have never worked on a cello before and also, I hadn’t worked with ebony yet. It was my task to preshape the fingerboard and carve the underside so it could be glued on the neck. I also roughly shaped the nut and the saddle.
I noticed that I am working incredibly slowly and inefficiently. All the more I was relieved that we managed to assemble everything by the end of the week. I know that the balance between efficiency and quality of work will come with more experience but it was good to realize and to start being more aware of it.
It was very nice to see the change from having just plates and rib structure to seeing the whole cello coming together. Every day the look of the instrument changed immensely.
Helen showed me how to stabilise the cello neck to prevent it bending over time by inserting three carbon fibre rods into the neck root. It was very interesting to see and think about it. She showed me how she marks and drills the pegholes and I watched her fitting the neck and picked up quite a few new techniques and methods. Feeling how smoothly Helen finished her neck shaping and sanding made me aware of the importance of this part for the player and the first impression of the instrument.
On the last day I had some time to work on the rams head neck I brought with me. Helen made me aware of the look of the pegbox curves and the chin shape and I started to see the shapes more closely. Together we then drilled the pegholes and I dug out the pegbox.
We had a lot of nice conversations about different working places and conditions and personal needs, different methods to make a cello mould, how to make purfling, how to bend ribs to prevent cracks, how to shape necks and so forth. Sometimes we would immerse in non-violinmaking-related themes, personal stories, language, gardening and history, having to remind ourselves to continue working after a while. Every day she gave me a top tip of the day and every afternoon I would enjoy different special teas.
I am very happy I was able to spend time in Helen’s workshop and I could learn and see so much. After feeling a bit nervous beforehand, I felt very comfortable and welcomed and I enjoyed working with her.