The Axioms & Tru’isms that We Work By

Axiom: an established rule or principle or a self-evident truth, cites the axiom “no one gives what he does not have”

In the past two and a bit decades, while my life and skills as a violin maker have been honed at the bench, there are a few Axioms and Tru’isms that I have come to accept as the founding guideline of life and my work as a violin maker.

The First one, which had a profound impact on me, reading and learning it at school, was Sonnet 116 (misnumbered 119) by Shakespeare. In the case of my life as a violin maker, more a mechanic thereof, there are many times when it feels so challengingly hard that giving it up is easiest. It is here that I remind myself of sonnet 116.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

I am aware that the premise of this sonnet is love as the principal subject matter. Unless I really love what I am doing wholeheartedly and nurture pleasant thoughts while working on an Instrument of any kind, the finish can not be ‘perfect’.

The Second guide is an Axiom that happened while learning and practising my skills with sharpening the tools that make the violin maker.

Sharpening illuminates the ultimate truth; either it is sharp, or it is not.

It is easy enough to tell oneself that a knife, gouge, chisel or scraper is sharp because fatigue has set in or the moon is in a blunt phase. The power of human cognitive dissonance will always remain perplexingly amazing each time I catch myself at it.

The Third Axiom that caught me on the verge of dabbling in dissonant cognition many times, as it was making itself heard to me.

A Violin Maker must respond to what the eye (senses) see; Not what the brain would prefer to see.

Late at night, after a lengthy day with lots to do, finishing up a fingerboard at quarter to twelve and the light travels over it showing me that there is a dip that needs correcting!

Sh*t! Now I either allow my tired brain to tell me that the client will never see it or I rough it all up again to correct the dip and polish for, hopefully the last time.

The Fourth Axiom that helps remind me that every violin is unique, with its entirely own set of variables is as follows.

The perfect setup is equal to the sum total of regulated irregularities.

One mistake is corrected by adding another. In many cases an instrument comes in for something specific but there is something else wrong which then means that the ‘correct’ fix is to do it with a different measure from the book.

An example of this would be that the Bridge is too high and the learner is struggling with pressing down the strings. In simple terms it would seem logical that it is just that the bridge was cut high.

However, in some cases the bridge is in fact just right but the fingerboard projects too low to it. In this case there are a few things that can be done, without removing and resetting the fingerboard. One possibility would be to cut the fingerboard with a sloping bias to the nut and lower the bridge a bit. This will, of course, have a fundamental impact on the sonic projection based on the load decrease on the bridge, determined by the pitch, which affects the sound post position … et cetera.

So with minor adjustments to each of the influencing factors, fiddle here, diddle there … we reach relative perfection.

After hundreds of frustratingly hard hours of bending in the camber of new bows that I have made, it has become screamingly clear that the Fifth, what I feel more an ‘obvious’ Tru’ism, is:

Perfection is the direct pertinacious (as in persistent, continuing despite difficulties) measure of patience.

When patience waivers while bending a bow, it is mainly then that it breaks:(

All of teh above sets the mood and stage for how and what we do when at the bench preparing things for you. It is a hard list of fundamentals to live by. Perhaps harder to teach to anyone who has not yet found passion or love fr what they are doing.

Because of this, everyone who works in and around Svencino is required to find their personal happy place within our space so that the above points are easier to access.

Why. To ensure relative perfection for each and every client. You.