Cox Violins Blog

#777 Gaspar da Salò Violin

#777 Gaspar da Salò Violin

About this instrument

The Back Wood
This violin started with the back wood. David Meyer, a colleague of mine, showed me a beautiful piece of curly basswood that had been cut near his studio north of Mt Mansfield.  A woodcutter who was interested in how it would work for fiddles had given it to him and David was not getting to working it. I offered to work it and see what there was to learn about it. Basswood is quite a bit softer and lighter than maple and I wanted to work with a strong arch, and since I expected the tone color to be on the dark side, to work on a large model to take advantage of that characteristic.

I’ve enjoyed working on a Gaspar da Salò violin model that seemed natural for this project.  Gaspar was credited by some, especially in his home town of Salò on Lake Majore, near Brescia, as the inventor of the violin.  Now best known for his violas, he worked in the second half of the 16th century, 150 years before Stradivari. I did not have enough wood in the blank to make ribs, so they are of maple of a similar appearance, as is the neck.

The Hop Hornbeam Fingerboard
With the declining quality and availability of ebony, I have been looking for a local substitute.  Hop Hornbeam, or Ironwood as it is known, is the hardest wood that grows in this corner of Vermont. I have been using it experimentally to see how it holds up and works for the player, and how players and audience accept the light colored wood. I find it most natural to use on instruments that have a somewhat rustic feel and other unusual characteristics, such as this Gaspar model. The pieces have come together well for a violin that is very big, dark, and generous of sound.  As I suspected there is some loss of high overtone sparkle in the sound and the tone is not as shapeable as most of my instruments. I wish I had more of this wood large enough for violas where these characteristics would be most welcome.

The Description
The violin bears the label “Douglas C. Cox, Brattleboro, Vermont, 2012 #777” and is branded and initialed on the inside.   It is patterned after the work of Gaspar da Salò.  It is made of well aged New England grown wood. The back is cut on the quarter from two pieces of curly basswood with narrow flames descending from the bass side. The ribs and neck are of maple with narrow flame.  The table is of two pieces of spruce of narrow to medium growth.   The varnish is of a  medium-brown color and is shaded and imitated.  The fingerboard is of New England hop hornbeam wood. The fittings are of boxwood with ivory trim.
The principal dimensions are:
Body Length: 361 mm
Upper Bout: 170 mm
Middle Bout: 117 mm
Lower Bout: 208 mm
Rib Heighth: 30-32 mm
String Length: 328 mm