May 2009

When a sycamore tree had to come down in the childhood garden of writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, what better tribute than to make a violin from it in honour of the fictional character Sherlock Holmes. Holmes – the inspiration for modern forensic detective work – was said to play his violin to free up his subconscious mind when working on a difficult case. So it was an inspired decision to have a luthier – Steve Burnett – make a violin from the sycamore. Sycamore is related closely to maple – the more usual wood for a violin – and has similar resonant qualities.

The violin has been made to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Conan-Doyle’s birth. The author was born on 22 May 1859 and lived during the 1860s at Liberton Bank House, Dunedin, which was a school at that time.

Luthier Steve Burnett hopes to carve a quartet of two violins, a viola and a cello from the tree so that music may be commissioned to honour the writer and creator of the Sherlock Holmes character.

Thanks to BBC News Scotland for the story.

Come to think of it, I have a nice large pure white board of sycamore that has been curing in my own shed for the last three years…


Some time ago, I bought a badly damaged violin from a luthier who suggested it would make for good practice at violin repair. It was not economical for him to fix it, so I duly brought it home.
A quick examination showed several problems – the back was coming away from the ribs on one of the lower bouts, and the top plate had two major and one minor crack. And the nut had come off, and it would need setting up before it would again be playable.

Last night I completed the first stage – regluing the back to the lower bouts. I used hide glue in teh traditional way so it can be separated again in the future if it ever needs more repairs. I did this part first on the basis that I would have to remove the top completely to repair the cracks from a crush unjury – either someone fell on it or, like my hardanger fiddle last year, perhaps an airline treated it carelessly and stacked luggage on top of the fragile case.

So here is the fiddle still in clamps (ones I made last year when building my pochette fiddle).

violin repair

I still need to clean up the glue joint with a rag dipped in hot water, but the joint is solid and the violin is almost ready for stage two of the repair.


This has to be one of the best versions of this well known tune!

And here is comedian Rob Paravonian’s revenge on the tune 🙂

Don Rickert is about to release a whole new series of fiddles. These are uncompromisingly fiddles, not violins, and I for one am eagerly looking forward to hearing these on YouTube and seeing the pictures 🙂

Check out for details!


Violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg plays with extraordinary passion and energy. Here is a sample from her performances of Mendelssohn’s violin concerto


Check out Art and Seek – Emmanual Borok talks about and plays a violin made by Heironimus Amati – one of Andreas Amati’s two sons – in 1608. The violin shows a great patina of age, but more importantly, it has a wonderfully even sound – not as harsh as a Stradivarius, and not as deep as a Guernarius. This Amati violin has seen a lot of history – Shakespeare was alive when this instrument had been made.

Enjoy the video and the sound of that amazing instrument