Campanella Strings

I make violins and mandolins by hand. When I'm not working on instruments, I play them, draw them, and write about them. Here are some of my recent works and work in progress. Enjoy! Joe C.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


Blah, blah, blog...It's been a while, and in the next few days I'll be posting pics and notes from my work
and travels and the places where they meet...
Tree, Juni and I spent part of April in Italy, including Firenze, Venezia, and Cremona, where I enjoyed learning Italian, meeting some friendly violinmakers, collectors and experts, as well as food, wine etc. Oh yes, and art, inspiration, architecture, lines, design, aesthetic and friendly people all combined to form an irresistable spell.

Grazie tanto a tutti nuove amici Italiano. Era un molto buon viaggio en la sua paese--bella, vero.
Salve a tutti liutai che me ha aiuto, e bravo per buon lavoro--Winifred Meyer, la familigia Vettori di Firenze, Artemio Versari, Bernard Neumann, Boutrous Bishara, Bruce Carlson, Bernabeu Borja, Alessandra Pedota e anche tutti che me ha dimenticare. Pace!

Also, I recently visited Lawrence Smart and many old friends in McCall, Idaho. I'm always impressed with Lawrence's prolific and clean workmanship, and appreciate his willingness (still) to put up with my
questions. Lawrence recently completed his second matched quartet for which he ought be roundly
congratulated. He sent me off with a piece of Englemann Spruce from a tree that I had helped cut up when
working with him. A bit of a puzzle, this piece (may) contain two tops and has a both a pitch pocket and a knot to be dodged deep in it's beautiful grain and straight split. Am I to take example and heart from the 300 year
old violins with knots in their tops, or try to come up with one perfectly clear top? Can an instrument
contain both beauty and imperfection and be served by both? For now, the wood takes its place in the pile, keeping its secrets to itself.

Shop news: I've completed a run of Due models (2 points) and another of A's with more A's in the works. Violins are also on the burner as I assimilate some of what I learned in Italy. I'm also working on several custom variations on my main models as well as the next generation of La Campanella--my F-5/Violin inspired model. I'm also turning some of my thoughts to a possible archtop guitar model based on these construction techinques and visions of 'dolas and 'cellos are still making their way from the drawing board out into the light. I'll drag the camera out to the shop one of these days and give a little tour soon, and hope to post some more
pictures when I get the chance.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Someone Else's Notebook

Check out this guy's site...he's posting from his Moleskine notebook...oui, my preferred brand book too.
It's an interesting view into someone's creative life. Also, he's got a short animated film too.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Another Year

Hello. It's december, and what do you know, my notebook is running out of pages. That's how I know another year's gone by.
This night I harken back to another dark December night ten years ago at 412 Griffin Ave. in Williamsburg, VA...I wrote..."Here's an idea...get an apprenticeship with a mandolin builder..."
It was shuffled in among grocery lists (oatmeal, bananas, beer) schedules and other miscellany, but kept bubbling to the top of my mind as graduation approached, inexorably.
Wow...Ten years later, my lutherie dream and career has...just begun.
I've completed my training in two stages, and now have my own shop (yes the blog shop tour is long overdue). I've designed a new style of mandolin that I intend to refine and promote, and the music is being played, yes it is...
I am honored to have the chance to experience music in this way, and to change it in a subtle yet important manner.
Thank you all, who have been involved in this in some way.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Nashville, TN

Well, it's been a while, and I don't rightly know if anyone is even reading this blog anymore. I'm in Nashville for IBMA and am just taking a little break from the bluegrass, old time and country mayhem of this event. I took in a little telecaster picking tonight on Broadway, and am heading out to pick some tunes myself. Thanks to everyone who has stopped by the booth and checked out my mandos and fiddles. I'll be back in Vermont on Sunday.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Concert Pictures

Guests of Honor in the front row: John Moroz, Tree Cleary, Aunt Roddy, Uncle Bill.

A few words...

Music! Jamie Masefield did a great job arranging a variety of solo music, representing different styles, techniques and tone color. At this point the instrument had been strung up for about 50 hours, and spoke with a full voice, reaching the back of the crowded room with ease.

A short slide show which included many photos from this blog, and a few others. More or less, "How I made this mandolin."

Standing room only at the Firehouse Gallery (final count: 130). So many friends and family. It felt simply amazing.

Jamie and I picked a couple of tunes together at the end. What a guy!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Out of my hands now...

It's up to Jamie to breathe some music into the grant instrument now. I feel like I just gave up a baby for adoption. Actually, it'll be back on Thursday after the concert. I've been trying to hold back on gushing on about sound and tone and volume and stuff, and I'll admit it's getting hard. Sound is difficult stuff to put into words so I won't try to cram it into the blogosphere. Here are some pics that are worth a thousand words--mostly, "I'm done!".

Concert Handbill

Here's the handbill and poster design I came up with. The f-hole was originally pen and ink, using a really large "steel brush" type nib. I drew about 30 of 'em and picked this one.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Well I've been at it since Saturday, and things are starting to shape up and the color is done. Tomorrow afternoon or evening I'll give it a coat of clear copal varnish and let it dry until it's time to set up, a few days. I've made an ebony pickguard in the meantime and worked on concert details. Jamie came to the shop on Monday to pick up an instrument to practice on and we took a walk down to the Firehouse Gallery. This is why I love working downtown--lunch, unconventional music venues, the post office and warm weather wackos all within spitting distance of Church St. But I digress. The Point sounded great! A little bouncy/reverby, but it'll be soaked up by the audience. It's one of those great spaces for solo music, like a dorm stairwell or train station, where the notes last a little bit and the space in between is delicious.
These pics were taken with my new camera, though I haven't yet unleashed all 5.1 million pixels at once yet.