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The Shy Monty

Year: Oberlin 2019

Back: Baltic Maple
Top: Italian Spruce
Head: Baltic Maple


Antiqued oil varnish


Body length: 354 mm(14“-)
Bouts: 166, 116, 205 mm
Ribs: 28 all round
String length: 325
Stop: 192


This fiddle came from an Oberlin project.  We were lucky enough to be loaned a very fine Montagnana (1739) violin for the two weeks of the workshop.  I joined the group that engaged in making an extremely detailed and precise copy of the original, I also decided to also make my own copy.

The original has very high, full arching. The fashion these days is for lower, flatter archings which are said to project better in a concert hall, yet there are  many  highly prized antique instruments  with fuller arches doing sterling service for their players every day. In making cellos  I’ve always gravitated to higher arches  because they work for me tonally, giving more power and a richer tone.  I also  prefer the way they look. Recently I’ve been successfully doing higher arched violas, so I was intrigued to try a high arched violin and see what the tonal results would be

What was not so attractive about the original instrument is that the body is longer (360mm) than usual.  While I’m sure that this contributes to the deep, rich, almost viola tone of the original, modern players on the whole prefer a smaller body  (350 – 355 mm). In fact, the F-hole nicks , which indicate the position of the bridge and thus determine the string length, had been moved 4 mm north on the original in an attempt to make the string length more manageable.  So I decided to shorten the body on my version.

The copy is powerful and balanced with a sweeter sound than most modern instruments.  To me it sounds more like an old instrument,  and I notice a lot less surface bow noise than you tend to get with new instruments.  I’m looking forward to making more of these.

I dubbed my version the “Shy Monty” because it is slightly smaller in size compared to the original “Full Monty”, and it is possibly bashful about this.