Rafael Carrabba Violins is one of the country’s finest violin shops. Musicians from around the globe have brought their instruments to our expert luthiers for repairs, restorations, and valuations. We sell instruments and bows in all price ranges. We also sell cases, strings, and accessories.  

Rafael Carrabba Violins is located on Queen Anne Hill at 405 W Galer Street in beautiful Seattle, Washington.

If you are traveling to Seattle to try one of our instruments, we can help you find a hotel close to the shop. More information? Please call us at 206-283-5566.


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Carrabba Violins

405 W Galer St
Seattle, WA 98119 
206-283-5566             email click here

BUSINESS HOURS

Wed through Fri 9-5
Sat 10-5

Tuesdays by appointment only.

Bow repair and rehair done on Fridays, by appointment only.  

 

 

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Wednesday
Jul092008

CARRABBA'S STRADIVARIUS BEARS THE TOUCHES OF TWO VIOLIN MASTERS

Varying accounts put the number of surviving Stradivarius violins at between 540 and 700, out of the original 1,116. One, the Lady Blunt (string instruments pick up the names of their famous owners), was valued at $1 million in 1985, and last spring a Strad built in 1708 sold at auction at Sotheby's for $807,000.

The cello in Rafael Carrabba's shop is no ordinary Strad, though. Its front plate (also called the table) had an accident some time in the years immediately following its construction in 1732.

Typical for that time, instead of repairing the damage the repairman stripped off the front plate and created a whole new piece. Usually, this would significantly diminish the quality of the instrument. But the craftsman happened to be Joannes Baptista Guadagnini, himself one of the great Italian violin makers of the 18th century.

Though Guadagnini was very familiar with the Stradivari family's work, his own cellos were significantly smaller, and this is the largest known example of his work. Also interesting is the shape of the f-holes. They are unmistakably Stradivari in shape and indicate Guadagnini was attempting to duplicate his colleague's work.

Several repairs needed to be made, and two workers in Carrabba's shop - Greg Oxreider and Thomas Immel - participated in the work under Carrabba's direction.

On the underside of the table around the edges where the ribs join, the wood had been gouged and pitted as the top was opened for repairs over the years. The craters were filled with new wood so the fit would be tight when closed again.

In the plate near the interior sound post, a foot-long crack had opened up in the belly. Normally, such cracks would be cleaned, glued and secured with tiny wood patches called studs. But because of its proximity to the stress area of the sound post (the "heart of the instrument"), extra reinforcement was needed.

After fine caliper measurements of the wood thickness were taken, a dam was built around the repair site and a clear film put over the instrument. A special plaster of Paris was applied to make a mold of the shape of the top.

After the cast was made, the wood behind the crack was planed out and a new patch cut to fit. Selecting wood of exactly the right type and lining up the grains of wood between the patch and the instrument takes hours of painstaking fitting to keep the shape of the instrument correct.

To give the instrument even more strength, seven wood acoustical straps of about 15 centimeters width were added on the underside of the table.

Finally, the area on the outside face of the table around the crack had to be revarnished. This is the most time-consuming process of all. An earlier restoration was done poorly, and a thick varnish and glue had been applied to the crack. The original varnish is soft, while the more recent is hard. The challenge: to break through and remove the hard layer while preserving the older, softer original.

Carrabba mixes his own varnishes from recipes handed down by generations of violin craftsmen. Varnish for retouching must be durable yet fast-drying.

Though the colors of the old and new must be blended and matched quickly, he carefully applied the liquid, working slowly to blend the area of repair with the original.

While the sound of the cello was distinctive and rich before the repair, Carrabba predicts dramatic improvement after.

"The responsibility of all this is also part of the thrill," says Carrabba. "Unlocking the secrets of genius is the most rewarding job in the world."

By Douglas McLennan P-I Music Critic

TUESDAY, December 13, 1988

The online archived article can be found HERE