Bass Viol by Jane Julier

I thought it would be good to do a blog about the making of the beautiful bass viol that Jane Julier made for me last year. I received an email from her just as the first UK lockdown was announced say that she could start working on my instrument the following Monday! I’d been on the waiting list for over 2 years so it was such an exciting moment.

The instrument she was going to make is a copy of Lucy Robinson’s ‘unknown 1645’ English bass viol. Jane asked what I wanted in the instrument and I sent her a bonkers film with drawings, photos and music that I liked, which she interpreted perfectly as:

Architectural/vaulting/soaring/spires/rose window

Structure/depth of field/texture/space/resonance


And this is the story in pictures taken by Jane, and the close ups by Ross Emerson.

Neck block on bench
Neck block March 2020
Sycamore back drawn out
sycamore back
Scroll on bench
Neck block March 2020
Sycamore ribs
sycamore ribs

sycamore ribs
The spruce is the long creamy lengths with the outline of the bent pieces.

Medullary lines in the spruce and sycamore. Structure!

Medullary rays
Medullary ray. The flecky bits are the medullary rays. You only see them if the wood is perfectly quarter sawn. This gives the strength and structure .
Medullary rays
Medullary rays

So the sycamore is back ribs and neck block. The spruce is the long creamy lengths with the outline of the bent pieces.

bent ribs
Ribs bent April
bent ribs
Three staves for the front bent on bench
Three staves bent for the front
Japanese wooden plane
Japanese wooden plane
Close up of ribs glued to back
Ribs bent. Lush. Back glued. July 2020
Scroll on bench
Viol in the white ready for priming and varnishing
Viol in the white ready for priming and varnishing. July
Back with purfling
Close up of set up finished viol
Tantalising glimpse of viol during set up September.
And the handing over ceremony September 20th 2020

Here it is being played in Ensemble Échos at St Helen’s Church, Worcester in October. Videos by Michael Hamilton of Real Music Videos

And here in collaboration with the extraordinarily brilliant Alex Duncan – Assassin of Sound. Ragwort and Blackberry plant noise with viol.

Thank you Jane for the your alchemic skills and the love that you put into making my wonderful instrument!

Now I need to get it out of my studio and share it with you all.