juzek luthier tools
With a bridge firmly grasped in my hand and a small rectangle of 220 grit scratch cloth carefully laid on the supine violin, I move a delicate piece of carved maple upon the paper, sanding the feet into the curved shape of the violin top. Sometimes one foot wants a little more off than the other. I compensate. Tradition says the rear is to be 90˚ to the top. The front appears pitched, as it is cut to 87˚. Christmas Day we worked upon a beautiful mid-1960s German violin set up by a Reading shop. Their luthier’s trademark? He set up the right angled side forward. A second bridge in the case from the same shop was identically cut. Further reading indicates bridge orientation has no bearing on sound though tradition (and superstition) reign.
We work in fractions of a millimeter. Fairly precise work. Five seconds, about one distracted thought away from disaster. No speakerphone calls, please. Cello bridges, there is more room for error. But getting the bridge shaped to sit plumb on the cello top? A bit more work.
After doing a few by eye, I lust for an edge. A third hand. A bridge jig. When the right job came in, we turned, naturally, to Juzek, the American manufacturer of fine luthier tools. Off to the Performing Arts high school for summer session with a dozen cellos. Juzek again turns out a valedictorian performance. Our cello bridge feet come out square and plumb. Quite the time saver!
That other tool? A leg spreader. Not used with violin bridges but for the cello bridge, quite necessary. The leg spreader simulates what happens to the cello bridge when the pressure of the strings are upon it.
One of the handiest items on my workbench is the Juzek peg shaper. Nearly every violin in line exhibits peg issues. An ill-fitted “emergency” peg, in place for decades, inexorably ruining the peg box due to ignorance, empty pockets, or economy. Absent pegs. No pegs. Archaic peg hole taper.
With a peg shaper we’re able to fit a new set of pegs “from scratch” any time we choose. Last week it almost didn’t happen, though. What started as a routine shaving experience became a scraping. Hardwood dust was produced with no significant reduction in peg diameter.
Upon advice from every point of the windrose, we’ve recently delved into the dark arts of metal sharpening. Just as my forbearers scraped early bronze blades across stone, we remove the peg sharpener’s blade and scrape it across our new Gator Sharpening Stone.
Held at the manufacturer’s proscribed angle, eased by a 99.5% water mixture with natural lubricants added, a circular action was initiated. Just like on an old Daniel Boone movie. Three times we reinstall and test. It works! Also of import, we’ve learned the limitations of our small one-grit stone.
Clyde’s Hardware Store, closing its doors forever, managed to save their last stone for me. My first sharpening stone. We’ll be adding to our collection in future articles, but for now, we achieve an adequate edge with the Gator.
Special thanks to Philadelphia luthier David Michie. His customers, Academy Of Music, Curtis, and Kimmel Center musicians, bring him an endless array of stringed instruments for refurbishment and repair. Cast-off violin pegs from these instruments soften our learning curve and now grace student violins across the Western Hemisphere.