The Strad | My Space, 2012


Interview by Carlos María Solare, August 2012, The Strad.

I CAN JUST SEE THE OBELISK, one of Buenos Aires’s most renowned landmarks, through the windows on the left, and the workshop is only a few blocks away from the Colón and Cervantes theatres, where two of the city’s orchestras are based. The east-facing windows provide ideal lighting conditions so I can work by sunlight all day. I prefer working in daylight, especially for restoration and varnishing jobs, as I find that artificial light distorts colours.

I’ve had my workshop for six years. I share it with José Ojeda, who began as my apprentice. His workbench is the middle one, with the violin waiting to be varnished on top. The violin is a copy of the 1736 ‘Cessole’, Teja-Ferni Guarneri ‘del Gesù’. I’m making it for a member of the Piazzolla Quintet, using one of The Strad’s posters. There’s no fundamental difference between making an instrument for a tango or a Western player, but the former tends to favour dark, melancholy tonal colours, for which Guarneri ‘del Gesù” instruments work well.

I work on the bench on the left in the foreground. The large, powerful magnifying glass has two lamps built into its frame. It is a huge help for purfling. The violin in front of my chair was made in 1972 by Alfredo del Lungo, an Italian immigrant who founded the first Argentinian violin making school at the National University of Tucumán. He didn’t make many instruments, so I’m lucky to have been able to buy this one for my collection of Italian-Argentinian work.

The three instruments on the bench at the back are all in for routine bridge and soundpost adjustments. Under the desk you can see part of my wood store (the rest is kept on the opposite side of the room, behind the camera). I use European wood, mainly Bosnian. We do have maple and spruce in Argentina but they have not been commercially cultivated- they grow wild and the quality is too variable, especially for violins and violas. I like to use wood that’s 20 years old and sounds ‘old’ -I take it as a compliment when a client says one of my instruments doesn’t sound ‘new’.

I don’t need the latest gadgets. It’s better not to be too dependent on tools.

My toolboard is on the back wall. The blue-handled tools are my chisels, and on the right-hand side are several clamps that come in handy for repairing cracks. Just under the windowsill above my desk is a set of smoothing planes. I have eight different sizes, and the manufacturer sells even more, but I don’t need to have the latest gadgets. It’s better to learn to be flexible and not be too dependent on tools.

The shelves between the two benches on the left are filled with varnishes. I enjoy the alchemistic part of the lutherie business, mixing rosins to achieve different effects with the varnish. I use oil varnishes, even though they take a long time to dry. There are also some natural colourants, such as dragon’s blood, which I buy raw and process myself.

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