I have now been making violins for over thirty years. Initially this remained a hobby but as my interest developed I retired early from my position as a senior lecturer in Queens University Belfast. Violin making is a relatively solitary process and skills are built up gradually, but I was helped enormously by attending a number of courses where I benefited from the advice and encouragement from some internationally known makers such as Juliet Barker, Wilf Saunders, Rowan Armour-Brown and Patrick Jowett. The process of making high-quality violins has remained virtually unchanged since the birth of the "modern" violin in Northern Italy in the 16th century. The principal tools used are still knives, gouges, chisels, planes and scrapers. Stradivari, Amati or Guarneri would be pretty much at home in a 21st century workshop.
As well as making instruments, I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to assist John Topham in his pioneering dendrochronological research on violins which has led to a number of publications in academic journals and Strad magazine. In addition to demonstrating the value of dendrochronology in dating and helping to authenticate instruments, this research has allowed us to gain some insight into the working practices of great makers such as Guarneri del Gesu and Stradivari. As a result of this research I have had the opportunity to examine at close quarters some of the world's great instruments, including the legendary "Messiah" violin of Antonio Stradivari and the "Charles IX" violin of Andrea Amati.

For further information please visit my violinmaking blog.