Each instrument is hand crafted using the best available woods, well aged in
conditions of stable humidity and temperature. The finest European or American
maple and spruce is selected for its acoustical as well as its visual properties. Since
the sound of the instrument is always the primary consideration the wood is selected
primarily for acoustical properties, though most species of maple and poplar have the
characteristic wave in the grain structure known as fiddleback, or curly.

The spruce for the tops is carefully selected from trees growing at high altitudes
where the grain structure is very even and relatively close together. Only trees of
exceptionally straight grain, having fine acoustical characteristics, are chosen.  The
trees are harvested in the winter when the amount of sap in the tree is relatively small.
The wood is air dried for several years to stabilize the moisture in the wood with the
surrounding atmosphere. The wood is further tested for lightness and stiffness before
being carefully carved into the top for an instrument. If you have a particular sound
that you want in your instrument the choice of the wood is the first step in achieving
that sound.

The arching of the top, the curvature design, as well as the arching of the back of a
violin family instrument, is critical to the sound quality and the acoustical strength.
Different schools of violinmaking have different designs for the arching, which results
in the various sounds of the German, French, and Italian violins. I prefer the Italian
sound and consequently use the arching and thicknessing techniques developed
by the great Italian masters of Cremona and Venice. I take great care in selecting the
profile of the shape, and in the carving of the top and back so as to achieve the sound
that Stradivarius or Montagnana might have achieved in a new instrument. Hopefully
my cello or viola may compete with the work of the great masters in thirty or forty
years, when the wood has aged and matured to its final acoustical condition,
achieving that "old sound" peculiar to an aged instrument.

The finishing of the instrument is important to the sound quality and, quite obviously,
to the visual qualities. I use a traditional cooked resin varnish, brushed on, to bring
out the lovely visual qualities of the flamed maple, as well as to protect the wood
from dirt and bow resin.

The color and "character" are primarily in the varnish. I have a wide spectrum of
varnishes and can create the color that you like. I prefer not to artificially "age" my
work, letting the wear and tear of years of playing do the job for me. Though I am
able to create an old looking instrument if you prefer.

I take the greatest care in the setting up -- the fashioning of the bridge, the
positioning of the soundpost, the selecting of strings -- to bring out the full potential
of an instrument's design.

Each instrument is hand made, leaving room for adjusting for the individual
characteristics of the wood, and also allowing for a certain amount of experimenting
within the parameters of fine acoustical design.

My training as a cellist gives me the ability to explore the qualities of a new instrument
and experiment with different bridges and strings, and if necessary to remove a top
and thin a bit here or there to achieve better performance.

I have a large supply of wood sufficient for many years worth of instrument making,
and am always on the lookout for better quality wood to broaden my choice for my
next project.



707 Harding Ave. Blacksburg, Va. 24060
(540)961-6326
foster.violins@verizon.net