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Brian Cohen, Violin Maker

Professional Violin maker, established 1972, constructing violins, violas and cellos to commission, both modern and baroque, individually hand-made in the classical Italian style.

My Biography

I am an established professional luthier, having made over 500 instruments of various types ( at the time of updating this site - 2017 ) since 1972. Having started out making and repairing guitars in South Africa, ( where the Abreu Brothers visited and I did an emergency repair to their 2 fine Rubio 'New York period' guitars) in 1974 I travelled to the U.K. in search of an 'apprenticeship'- (hopefully with David Rubio [1934-2000], which in the event did not take place- however, David became a good friend, and remained a friend right until the end, and during the 26 years I knew him, DR did much to inspire me. David Rubio gave his advice and suppport generously and freely over the years, for which I am eternally grateful. I did also work for him on occasions as an 'outworker' . There is a website for David Rubio, linked here. )

After starting out in East Finchley, London, in 1974, I ran my own studio in London near the Portobello Road, then moved to a shared workshop in the Early Music Centre, founded by Anthony Rooley in 1976, where I shared the workshop space with many other makers, including Norman Myall, Bob Eyland, Norman Reed (sadly missed, a good friend and colleague) Maish Weisman, Michael Sprake, Steven Murphy, Neil Hansford, Klaus Jacobsen and others. During this period, a tremendous amount of research was being done by all the makers into the authentic construction of lutes, theorboes, early guitars of all sorts, gambas etc, and the atmosphere of the centre generated an enthusiasm amongst the makers there to produce the best instruments around. I made the first modern reconstruction at this time of the earlest surviving 'vihuela', (commissioned by Anthony Rooley,) with a fluted vaulted back instrument based on an original by Belchior Dias, 1581, which itself is similar in construction to the 'Chambure' vihela . There have been a few other reconstructions of this style of guitar since then, but the first was done by me in the Pottery Lane workshops in 1976. Over the next decades I made many lutes, theorboes, chittarone, violas da gamba, violins and cellos, etc, including an accurate ( and I like to think 'magnificent' !) copy of the ivory 'liuto attiorbato' by Sellas commissioned by Toyohiko Satoh. However, throughout this period, I always continued to develop and build fine classical guitars, and develop in parallel my interest in construction of bowed instruments. I was already making viola da gamba, and early violins at this time.

In 1979, I set up another workshop in South London on my own, where I concentrated not only on classical guitars but also further researched classical Italian violin making techniques, and in 1986 I won the prestigious Crafts Council Award, for cello construction, the only cello maker to have done so. I then went on to win the Silver Medal in the Manchester International Cello Festival in 1990, ( only one other competition was entered- Guitar Making in Paris, 1989, the winner for technical construction and shared 2nd place for tone- I am not a 'competition' maker ) and the 'bowed strings' continue to form a substantial part in the annual output. I am also a member the 'Crafts Council Selected Makers Index'.

I moved out into the countryside of Surrey in 1987, then into the centre of Guildford in 1997, renovating an old building, known as ' The 'Old Glassworks', where I continue to make, conserve, restore and deal in all manner of stringed instruments, concentrating on violin, viola and cello construction.

I work in a very traditional manner, and any early violin maker stepping into the workshop today would instantly recognise the tools, materials, techniques and methods of making currently employed, to the extent that still in daily use is an original 19th C treadle circular saw, a treadle lathe, and countless original fine hand tools. Some handtools originally belonging to David Rubio are also still in daily use. It is only by working the woods directly by hand in the traditional methods with no 'machining' that the authentic and full potential of the wood can be realised, and this is aided by using these original tools. 'Compromise' is not a word used in the studio. I do not work to a 'fixed time' for any instrument, each one takes as long as it needs to, with the ultimate aim of making each an individual as well as I possibly can. All of my instruments carry a 'lifetime warrantee'.( subject to conditions)

My instruments are played by musicians all over the world, (at last count some 42 countries,) including Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Israel, Norway, Japan, USA, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, and Ireland.

Visitors to the studio are welcomed, but strictly by appointment only. For details please visit the 'Contact ' page.