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At the Bar: How to make a violin

On a very rainy day in November, we had a full house in our Amsterdam studio. There was a reason for that: our latest At The Bar event, and one that we all knew was going to be special. Chaim Achttienribbe came to speak about the craft of violin making, – the thing he loves to do, and also his job.


Materials and tools

At the beginning of his presentation, Chaim pulled out a lot of materials that he uses to build violins. He passed them around, giving people the opportunity to look at the details, feel the wood, and admire the scraping tools.


Creative craft

Funny enough, Chaim told us he was quite surprised by being asked for this talk. “Why me?” he thought, “I’m not doing anything creative.”

Creative or not, he is most certainly an expert at his craft whilst being very modest and down to earth.


Drying wood in the sun

The crowd were all very interested in learning the process of building a violin and there were lots of questions, all of which Chaim was able to answer. Did you know that the wood of the front of the violin is actually made from Christmas trees?! He told us stories about the risk of cracking a 2.8mm plate while twisting it, and we learned that sandpaper is a bad word in violin making. Instead you should use planes.

Chaim also told us that, rather surprisingly, most violin makers are more focused on the look of the violin than they are on the sound of the instrument. He explained that most of violin makers “cook” their own varnish, and he went on to tell us an anecdote about a fellow violin maker he knows who went into a sun studio to dry his unfinished violin as there is barely any sun in the Netherlands in the winter months!


After the talk we were allowed to have a go at bending our own wood using the machine pictured above. It was 200 degrees, which of course was very cool! We ended the evening with some drinks, nibbles, and more of Chaim’s brilliant anecdotes.

If you want to pop in to Chaim & Bas’ store in De Pijp to find out more about the violin, or to buy or rent one, you can. Check out there address here.

Are you curious about our last At The Bar? Read all about what we can learn from the Philippines.


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