William and the Andrea
One of the first classical Italian instruments I ever worked on was a cello made by Andrea Guarneri in 1690. Perhaps because it was the first, but also because I was already interested in his instruments from looking at photographs, this instrument had an immediate appeal. That first sighting was in 1982, when I was twenty-one. You can see a picture of me looking at the spike on my ‘About’ page. This was one of the many instruments I measured whilst working in Germany, and it has become one of my favourite cello models.
In 1985 I moved back to England, the cello changed hands, and all I was left with were the measurements, some poor quality photographs, two plaster casts and my memories.
Then in 2016 I was part of a project with three other violin makers, one of five similar projects, where we have jointly made an instrument for the Royal Northern College of Music. That year we were asked to make a small cello, and my immediate suggestion was to use this Andrea Guarneri as a model. Previously we had all seen the instruments we used as a model, so Kai Thomas Roth took it upon himself to track down the cello. One of the first people he contacted was a colleague in Berlin, who said ‘yes, it’s here in the workshop!’
A few months later it was brought to London where we all had a chance to look at, discuss details and take some better photographs. Unlike the cellos I had made previously where I used maple, which is the most common wood used for the neck ribs and back, this time we used poplar, like the original. When carving the scroll it became immediately apparent how the tool marks on the original were largely a product of the wood used, and the instrument sounded fantastic too.
So, this month I am getting stuck into making another one, this time in poplar. I made the ribs last year, so hopefully most of the body will be done by the end of the month.