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Made in the USA

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Do you sell through dealers?
We thought this over long and hard.  Ideally you should be able to play a violin before purchasing it.  However, a violin dealer has legitimate overhead and needs to take a significant mark-up on any instrument she/he stocks and sells.  Our production is limited, and we have no desire to take on the burden of a larger, factory-like business.  So, the only way we can hold the line of the price is by selling direct.  That’s why we offer a trial period.

Where is your shop located?
Our shop is located onboard a 60 foot steel trawler in a climate controlled space.  The boat is permanently berthed near the quaint small town of Point Richmond California, and we drive up and over the hill to get there when we ship to you.  When we’re not making violins we have a smaller, 30 foot boat that we take fishing on the San Francisco Bay.

Do you offer a trial period?
Of course. From the date you receive the instrument you have three days to approve it.  Please see details elsewhere.

What sort of warranty do you offer?
A standard materials and workmanship warranty of one year.  However, if you manage to break anything after that, we want to see it and understand why it happened.  Although we’ve been legally advised to offer a limited warranty, our intent is to keep everyone happy and provide excellent service over the long term, not necessarily please our attorney (says the wizard).  Contact us first, ship the instrument and we’ll talk it over and go from there.  We pay the return shipping to you.

How durable is the instrument?
Although very light in weight, the basic instrument is incredibly durable and very tough.  You could probably play tennis or paddle your canoe with it.  Even the wooden segments of our unique neck are permeated with epoxy resin.  The vulnerably areas are the wooden sound-post, bridge, strings and to a lesser degree the ebony finger-board.  However, even these items are typically not impacted by temperature variation or humidity.  Imagine one of our violins dropped in the water and left there for a few days.  Once rinsed off, replacing the strings, sound post, bridge and perhaps the tuning pegs would render the instrument literally as good as new.

Why not use a carbon fiber sound post?
Good question.  We have fitted instruments with carbon fiber sound posts for extreme situations.  However, Robert believes that a traditional spruce post sounds slightly better (although he’s working on that).  Also, it’s much easier for a local luthier to adjust or refit a sound post make of wood.

Why not make a carbon fiber bridge?
Because nobody has made one that sounds as good as a decent wooden bridge.  I’ve tried, and although I’ve not given up, I don’t have a good solution.  The acoustical effect of the bridge is profound on a violin.  It not only transmits the energy from the strings to the top plate, it also acts as a filter of sorts.  One would think that it ought to be possible to analyze and design a composite bridge of some sort, but it’s not been done.  The maple bridge as currently shaped and fitted is an empirically derived solution over centuries of use, and an elegant one.
   

You say that you “post-cure” your instruments.  What is that?
We’ll try not to get too technical here:  What people refer to as “carbon fiber” is really a matrix of woven carbon fiber cloth and a specialized epoxy resin.  In larger factories that make carbon fiber parts, once the cloth and resin are in the mold, the part is vacuum bagged and place in an oven.  The vacuum provides the high clamping force required to ensure a tight matrix without excessive resin, while the oven accelerates the curing of the epoxy.  This is great in a factory setting because you can get the mold back more quickly to make another part.  In our case, the epoxy resin Robert finally decided was ideal is formulated to cure at room temperature (although it can be cured under heat).  We found that we got a better matrix at room temperature, for a variety of reasons.  However, even heat cured resins have not necessarily fully cross-linked once out of the oven.  Our instrument are allowed to cure at room temperature for several days, then placed in a specially constructed, temperature controlled oven for a post-curing of several hours that ensures a complete cure of the resin.  This is obviously time consuming and adds an additional step to the making process, but we feel that it makes a difference, both in the short and long term.

What’s the “bottom rib” you refer to?
It’s a real bother according to Robert.  Here’s the thing:  Most players use a shoulder rest.  Virtually all of the shoulder rests on the market – to stay attached -- rely on the “lip” where the bottom plate of a traditional violin extends past the side.  Without that lip, they tend to fall off.  As our violins are made with the bottom plate (back) and sides in one piece, there is no lip.  We have seen photos of some very unattractive solutions to this problem – simple to do but aesthetically unappealing to us.  So, Robert did some special wizardry to create a sort of artificial lip that looks like it belongs there, as opposed to slapped on out of necessity.

Why is there no scroll?  What’s the hole for?
Scrolls on wooden violins are wonderful things, and we’ve admired many over the years both for the quality of making and variety.  However, carbon fiber does not lend itself to making a beautiful scroll.  For us it’s a matter of form following function.  We did develop a carbon fiber neck with the typical scroll, and it just looked wrong to us.  Moreover, it added weight to the neck, something one of our consultants (who plays with a major symphony orchestra) didn’t like very much.  The hole in the peghead is simply a functional way of reducing weight were it’s not needed for strength, and we like the look of it!
 
Why is your neck so different from other carbon fiber instruments?

The first prototype instruments we made incorporate the neck as part of the mold for the bottom and sides.  This is typical of other instruments on the market.  The instrument is basically three pieces:  The back, sides and neck are all on piece, and the top plate & fingerboard are then glued on.  We eventually abandoned this design for a variety of reasons:

  1. In order to compensate for the stresses introduced by string tension effectively, the neck heel had to be lengthened in profile, changing what we call the neck “stop”, something many players use as a fingerboard location guide.
  2. For us, the resistance to twisting forces was insufficient – unless the neck and adjoining section of the body was made quite thick, adding weight.
  3. Our carbon fiber / wood composite neck can be reshaped if some future player prefers a different neck profile. 
  4. It’s impossible to reset the neck on a typical carbon fiber violin.  Our neck is easily removable, allowing for a simple process to change the neck to body angle if ever desired. Some players will prefer the sound with more or less downward pressure on the strings, and that's a function of the neck angle.
  5. As the wooden sections of the neck are both epoxy permeated (under vacuum) and reinforced by a carbon fiber center strip, the neck we produce is every bit as durable as an all carbon fiber version.
  6. We believe that our new design is not only more comfortable to play, but aesthetically pleasing as well. 

Further, we made a number of carbon fiber fingerboards.  They were fine so far as they went, but very limited.  A standard ebony fingerboard is already resistant to temperature and humidity change, it feels right under the fingers, it’s replaceable and can be re-profiled if desired.  Although ebony adds both cost and additional work, we feel that it’s well worth it.