How long does it take to make a violin?
So, a short story first:
A few years ago at The Oberlin Violin Makers' Workshop, three friends and I took it upon ourselves to make a violin in 24 hours. Hugh Withycombe made the ribs, Aubrey Alexander made the top, Michael Doran made the scroll and I made the back and purfled the plates. We each contributed a little to different steps. We used traditional glues and methods.
The project seemed like a good idea until I heard the birds waking around 5 am and I realized I was actually tired. It was a long night and we were serenaded by musicians and poets to keep moral up through the wee hours of the morning - 22&23 hours into the build. We finished it before the time was up and I played a G Major scale on the brand new violin.
In our sleep deprived states, we gave the ok for some others to try to varnish it in the following 24 hours. But the varnishing went down as a disaster. Nitric acid was used to darken the wood and now the integrity of the body is compromised and it is sure to crack later on.
I still have the violin and I don't think I'll let it get set up again, but it is a good reminder of what can be accomplished with some good friends, a sense of adventure, and a bit of determination.
To this day making this violin is one of my fondest memories of the workshop.
"How long does it take to make a violin?" is one of the most common questions I get.
I can tell you, with a few friends and determination, 24 hours should do it. But then the varnishing takes weeks. 😜
In all seriousness, if I were working full time on making, it would take about two weeks to build a violin (quadruple that for a cello) and a couple of months to tan it and varnish it. Since I have a full teaching schedule, I make about 2-4 instruments a year.