Violin Making and Repair

While we were still in Tyngsboro and I was teaching at Brandeis, Peg found her true vocation and loved every minute of it. She became a professional maker and repairer of string instruments (violins, violas, and cellos; she always said that string bases should be the proper concern of boat builders, and she wouldn't touch one).

She had eased into the profession. At first, it was rehairing bows and doing simple repairs on our or our children's instruments. Gradually, she began to do more major repair work, such as taking the face off the instrument and glueing and clamping its cracks, etc. Soon, people were coming from miles around with mostly violins needing major or minor repairs. Peg was so good with her hands and so experienced in using tools and so thorough and circumspect in her approach to any task, that this kind of intricate work came easily to her.

Now came a fortunate opportunity. The director of the famous violin school at Mittenwald, Germany, came to the University of New Hampshire for three summers, giving hands-on workshops on violin making. He brought another specialist to teach violin repairs. For several weeks in each of these summers Peg resided in one of the UNH dormitories and participated fully in these workshops. Thus, with her training, she was not a hobbyist but a pro.

We had a beautiful back room in the spacious house well suited to become -- with considerable work on both our parts -- a completely outfitted violin shop. Peg began to accumulate literally hundreds of special hand tools, machine tools, clamps, and dozens of strings, pegs, tail pieces, and other types of supplies. She was meticulous with her tools, and wouldn't let me touch them. I had my own set of general tools, few of which were of the same high quality as hers. She was also meticulous in her record keeping, not only of each financial transaction but also in the description of each violin she repaired, and the repairs she had made on it.

Incidentally, all this was going on while she was doing the other things - the constant housework and cooking, the trips to Boston, the garden, terracing, taking Robin to and from school, teaching German part time at Rivier College, and as not yet mentioned, participating in the Arts and Science Center in Nashua as a founder and board member.

Our daughter Robin reminds me that Peg had made one violin completely from scratch even before she took the professional training at UNH. Over the next period of years she made a number of violins and violas, and one cello which she then played in orchestras.

On my retirement, she moved her shop into a suitable room in the house we bought in Andover, New York, just six miles from Alfred.

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