Newark School of Violin Making
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.
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 Helens 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.