Violin making Carving the Scroll: Benning Violins

September 23, 2017 | Author: | Posted in Entertainment

The distinctive scroll found at the top of fine violins, violas and cellos is a purely decorative woodcarving that showcases the violinmaker’s skill as a maker and craftsman. The concept originated in the Baroque era. Typically the scroll carving is shaped like a volute, or rolled up spiral, but they historically also appeared as human or animal heads. The scroll is carved from the same block of wood that also includes the peg box.

First, a block of wood is resized to the widest and longest measures of the scroll and peg box down to where they meet the neck. A violinmaker will often use a template that illustrates the shape of the scroll from the side and the front. Once excess wood is removed, the template is traced and the outermost edges are cut in both dimensions using a band saw.

The volute is then traced onto the side and front view of the scroll. The saw follows the side tracing while turning the wood and only going as deep as the line on the front, stopping at the bottom of the scroll before it curves up again and cutting across. After that, using sandpaper as well as scrapers of various sizes, the rest of the spiral is carefully designed. Going around the center point, the spiral’s radius gets shorter, and the cuts are less deep with each turn.

Finally, chamfers, the curves about 2 mm deep between scroll layers, are added using a scraper. Two flutes are delicately scraped into the top of the scroll going down the back. Once the violinmaker finishes the scroll, the peg box and neck are shaped and the fingerboard is ready to be glued on. The peg holes are reamed and the neck is ready to be attached to the body of the stringed instrument.

While the shape of the scroll does not affect the sound or tone of the violin, it contributes greatly to the beauty of the instrument. Fancy, intricate scrolls are found mostly on fine violins, violas and fine cellos. Many modern makers specialize in scroll carving and are renowned for that skill.

Studio City Music was the vision of Paul Toenniges, born in De Kalb, Illinois in 1908. Paul began his studies of instrument making under the promptings of Carl Becker Sr., his brother-in-law. He worked alongside some of the greatest names in American violinmakers and restorers while working at William Lewis & Son in Chicago from 1926 to 1940. While there, Paul established himself as an excellent repairman and fine bass maker. He moved to Los Angeles in 1945, where he worked at the Rudolf Wurlitzer branch from 1946 to 1950. Finally, in 1950, Paul opened his own shop, which he named Studio City Music.

Paul ran a simple family-owned and operated business along with his wife, Ruth, and two daughters, Nancy and Jane. Nancy Toenniges showed a remarkable talent in restoration at an early age and it was decided that she should attend the Violinmaking School in Mittenwald, Germany to further her education.

While in Mittenwald, Nancy met her future husband, Hans Benning, also a student in the violinmaking school. Together they returned to Studio City Music in 1964 to continue the legacy of their shop.

Hans Benning continued his studies working for a time with Carl Becker Sr. in Chicago and with others in the California area, such as Raymond Del Prado and Frank Kovanda.

Eventually, in 1978, Hans and Nancy Benning took over Studio City Music when Paul retired. The longevity of Studio City Music seems very much intact now that Hans’ and Nancy’s son, Eric Benning, has come to work for them and intends on running the shop for the third generation.

Eric Benning began making his first violin when he was 9-years-old and completed it when he was only 11, working only Saturdays and holidays. Studying under his father Hans until he was 25, Eric began studying with renowned violinmaker Carl Becker Jr., of Chicago.

View Finding Bespoke: “The Violinmaker” A film by Michael Bernard, featuring Benning Violins.

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Located in Studio City, Benning Violins is the premiere violin shop in Los Angeles, offering a selection of fine and master crafted violins, violas, cellos and bows for the beginner, student and professional, as well as bow rehairs, rental, instrument rep.

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