Gamba Family Violin family Restorings Atelier


As a luthier I was formed following the classic Cremonese school, therefore I built my first viol using an internal mould similar to the well-known Stradivarian one, and I encountered my first difficulties, albeit minor, in bending the ribs to adapt them to the fold of the back.
Thus I thought I could work faster by building a full-height internal mould having the same height as the ribs: I followed this method for a long time, but I was certain I was not doing what the old French or English masters did in their time. In fact most of the original instruments do not have corner blocks, just parchment reinforcements.
Moreover, there is no neck block per se, just an extension of the neck inside the instrument. In the instruments which were built following the classic Cremonese method, instead, the neck is always separated from the neck block, to which it is nailed or, in more recent times, glued in a straight joint.
The absence of corner blocks seems to be a common feature in viol construction in some areas of Italy too, as in Venetian viols from the XVII century.
As suggested by Annette Otterstedt in her wonderful book "The viol", the instruments were probably assembled without the aid of a mould, using the tracing of the outer contour on the back itself.
It is highly significant that such a fundamental work as Diderot's "Encyclopedie", in its plates devoted to the luthier's trade, clearly illustrates several different moulds for the construction of violins and cellos, but none for viol instead.
Only two jigs for building viols are illustrated in the Encyclopedie, plate XII: a false back and a false belly, reproduced on the right.

Starting from these documents, and from the examination of some originals, I have speculated the following sequence of procedures: