Anyone who visits my home country, Australia, will be astonished by the huge distances between the towns and cities. Australia does have a relatively low population. For example, the island state where I live now, Tasmania, is about eight times larger than Cyprus, yet has only a third of Cyprus’ population. Tasmania has massive areas of wilderness containing ancient forests, and it’s temperate climate supports much agriculture. I wonder if the vast distances between the communities promotes some of the unique and self-reliant attitudes that seem to flourish here. People are willing to make the best of whatever resources they have.

When I first started building mandolins and guitars around 20 years ago, I lived in a small country town called Portland in Victoria. I immediately became one of those ‘local’ resources for instrument repair. This may explain why all sorts of instruments came my way. What was surprising to me, was the number of violins that turned up at my door – when I was neither skilled nor experienced with repairing these instruments.

The story of one of these violins is worth relating.

A young girl visited, carrying a tattered old box containing an equally hammered looking violin. The body of this instrument was blackened with age, worm holes were in the neck, and the gut strings were disintegrating. It had no Maker’s mark inside. Although the instrument had not been played for a very long time, it had become her family “air loom” from a great aunt. The young girl was determined to get it repaired. She wanted to start her career as a violin player. I agreed to investigate possibilities for her.

Fortunately, I knew I could call upon the knowledge of a retired violin maker who visited our town occasionally. His advice was to burn it! However, when he understood the sentimental value of her instrument, he kindly helped me with some of the difficult repairs – such as setting a new sound post and re-tapering the tuners.

When the day arrived to string it, I borrowed another violin so I could compare the setup and sound. Even though my “ear” was barely educated to violins, I could hear this instrument’s beautiful sound. Immediately, I took it to my friend Greg, who can make a violin “sing”. He corrected my way of winding the new strings onto the tuning pegs. And then, as he played it, a small smile slowly spread across his face, while I experienced one of those inexplicable musical moments where all my hair stands on end. When he finally stopped playing I asked him what he thought. He smiled, “It’s quite good “.

When we compared it with Greg’s own violin, it became obvious that the girl’s old instrument was, indeed, very special.

About the Luthiers Journey article series

Richard Morgan is a maker (luthier) from Australia and a member of theMandolinTuner community. From the moment that Richard joined theMandolinTuner we started exchanging e-mails and I was very happy to read about his work, especially as Richard mandolins (and mandolas, mandocellos, etc.) are truly innovative, featuring a unique sound-board design and lots of other innovations as well.

Soon, I start thinking of Richard as a friend of mine and I shared with him my vision of creating a section for luthiers within theMandolinTuner, something I believe would be very interesting for theMandolinTuner community. I am happy to say that Richard liked my idea and what you read now is a series of articles we have planned as the first step towards realizing this vision. I named  this article series “A Luthiers Journey”.

So, enjoy Richard describing his journey as an instrument maker.

– Chris Rizos 

 

All Luthiers Journey Articles by Richard Morgan

  • Richard Morgan Floating Soundboard

Thank god for luggage handlers

Watching the plane next to ours being loaded It became clear how and why musical instruments often turn up damaged. The acoustic bass guitar which I created in 2009 did not survive the flight [...]

  • Radiant Instrument Necks

Radiant Instrument Necks and Neck Joins

Christos: It's been a while since I published the last post by Richard, so I was very happy to receive this article, which provides insight in the importance of radiant instrument necks for the produced [...]

  • Luthier's Journey #10

Too Much Coffee

If I had to choose listening to an average instrument played by a master or vice versa I would choose the former. Of course a masterful musician may simply choose not to play a [...]

  • Mandolin Making Skills by Richard Morgan

A good haircut

I can remember as a child the pleasure of my monthly haircut. My mum would drop me off at the hairdresser and go shopping. I would often fall asleep as it was a very [...]

Hair Loss

The open C string on a cello would have to be my favorite sound. Its grinding organic growl makes what is left of my hair stand on end. If I were the owner of [...]

  • Old Violin

A Rough Diamond

Anyone who visits my home country, Australia, will be astonished by the huge distances between the towns and cities. Australia does have a relatively low population. For example, the island state where I live [...]

  • Richard Morgan

Synchronicity

Probably the most enjoyable part of my journey as a luthier has been of recent years. It all started with attempts at building timber resonator cones. I was looking for warmer tone. The "National" [...]

  • Mandolins from Richard Morgan

Windy Strings

As a maker I have found discussions with other makers extremely useful. The exchange of ideas, philosophies and techniques is a big part of keeping the learning curve steep. Also feedback from players is [...]

Spruce

In team sports like soccer there are individuals who "make" the play and others who "read" the play. A good balance of each is needed. In my opinion the same sort of balance is [...]

  • Richard Morgan Mandola honey

Pure Honey

This is second article of the Luthiers Journey series, titled Pure Honey. In this article, Richard Morgan begins with the hazards and suggested basic precautions in the art of  luthiery, and then describes with a [...]

  • Richard Morgan mandola copy

The Patient Dies

Richard Morgan is a maker (luthier) from Australia and a member of theMandolinTuner community. From the moment that Richard joined theMandolinTuner we started exchanging e-mails and I was very happy to read about his [...]

Richard Morgan

My name is Richard and I am an Australian designer and maker of mandolins. I live with my partner in a small coastal town in Tasmania and work at home. The mandolin family of instruments produce beautiful [...]

 

Instruments by Richard Morgan

Instruments by Richard Morgan are featured at www.extraordinaryinstruments.com

Mandolinist Christos Rizos Extraordinary Instruments