Conservation & Restoration of Stringed Instruments

Posted By Colin Froggatt on Jul 22, 2017 |

Nobody even vaguely connected with stringed instruments can fail to be aware of the crisis situation facing the future supply of Pernambuco.  Caesalpinia echinata has been listed on the CITES register of endangered species and there is currently an embargo on

International trade in the timber.  It is hard to exaggerate the seriousness of the situation, which affects violin makers, musicians, and music lovers as much as it affects bowmakers.  In other words it affects all of us, and it is up to all of us to do our best to alleviate the situation.  In fact, it is only by means of a massive collective effort that we stand any chance of reversing the process of extinction.

An initiative which embodies this spirit of collaborative effort is the Pau-Brazil Project initiated by Tom Wilder of Wilder & Davis, violinmakers in Montreal in Canada.  This is an independent non-profit company created expressly to raise money for the IPCI (International Pernambuco Conservation Initiative) through the publication of a book on the Conservation and Restoration of Stringed Instruments and their Bows.  The logic of the enterprise is simple but powerfully compelling.  The problem is one of Conservation, both of the environment and of instruments and bows.  Since this is a huge task greater than the power of individuals, we must collaborate and cooperate across the usual barriers of professional, National and regional traditions.  We need to share the ideas, techniques and experiences of expert makers, restorers and conservators, from around the World.  Even without the Pernambuco crisis, this would be a highly valuable exercise in advancing knowledge, expertise and understanding within these professions, but as it says in the Pau-Brazil leaflet “ It is simply


one of life’s ironies that real cooperation is usually precipitated by some sort of crisis.”

violin restoration


This is what has happened so far.  In the Autumn of 2002 leaflets were circulated, publicizing the project, explaining the scope of the book and seeking participation.  Professionals in the stringed instrument world and in related fields, were encouraged to contribute outlines of proposed articles, in any language for possible inclusion.  These would then be translated if necessary and be subjected to anonymous peer review by an editorial panel of international experts, including amongst others, Charles Beare, Robert Cauer, Florence Gertreau ( Musee National des Arts et Traditions Populaires), Joe Grubaugh and Sigrun Seifert, Roger Hargrave, Friedemann Hellwig (Fachhochschule Koln), Hieronymus Kostler, Peter Moes, Jean Schmitt and Marco Tiella (Accademia Filarmonica di Bologna), and for articles on bows, Tim Baker, Klaus Grunke, Andre Lavoye, Peter Oxley,


Jean-Francois Raffin, Doug Raguse, Paul Siegfried and Michael Vann.

Each outline was reviewed by at least five of the panel members and either accepted with or without recommendations or not accepted.  This process insured a uniformly high standard throughout the book.  Authors of accepted outlines then had six months to present finished articles.  Then followed the laborious and painstaking process of editing.  A very difficult process in a book where the articles are highly technical and written by many authors.  All the articles required translation, as like all Canadian publications, this book will be bilingual.  There was also a need to make some adjustments to ensure stylistic consistency.


This long process (six years) is now drawing to a close and the book is now entering it’s production phase.  An amazing thing has happened in the meantime.  So many people have been inspired by the idealism and ambition of the project, that they have generously contributed their time, energy and effort, to produce such a number and variety of articles that the “book” now consists of three large volumes, of 1200 pages containing 150 articles by 122 contributors.  The books are 9 X 12 inches, the same size as the Weisshaar book, and will include over 1000 black and white and 200 colour illustrations.