Maple makes up the back, sides, neck and scroll of the cello. The top is made of spruce, and the fingerboard is ebony. Chris acquires all the wood with specific characteristics, and then tests it further before the final selection for an individual cello. He will build that cello completely before going through the process once more for the next one. Chris has been cutting and collecting cello wood since his student days in England. This unusual position of acquiring his raw materials has helped him to have a better understanding of how to utilize the wood for each new cello to its fullest potential. Experience, especially tough experience pays dividends. For instance, knowing how to get the big rounds of cello wood out of the forest the first time would have been nice! Chris had a wise mentor who showed him how and where to find a good tree but did not warn him about, nor help him with the extraction of his first tree from the forest. When Chris came back ready to do it again, his mentor knew Chris was for real. He had earned what he was about to receive over the next several years in acquiring future trees with the help of his mentor.
Specific steps in the varnishing process can create a variety of outcomes from "antiqued" to "mint". Through training and years of experience Chris has become an expert in many different varnishing methods that include new varnish as well as restoration and repair.
Chris next to a Kauri Tree in New Zealand. The fossilized resin from the tree is used in his varnishWhen the bass bar is fitted, the box of the cello is glued up, the neck and scroll positioned, the fingerboard planed, varnished dried, the set up has begun. The set up includes all that goes into and on the instrument. The parts to be set up include the bass bar, the sound post, bridge, tailpiece, tailpiece hangar, endpin and housing, the nut the saddle, and of course the strings. All of these can markedly affect the voice and feel of the cello. The sound post is fitted inside the cello and the rest is attached one way or another to the outside of the cello. Since the set up is an area that Chris continues to master, one could say much of his thinking is done..." outside the box". Despite his success in achieving great results, Chris never gets too comfortable with a particular set up or method that merely works. He constantly strives for complete understanding even if it means changing a few variables to get to the next level. He realizes too that the cello will go through predictable changes as it is tuned up to tension and put into service. He has built the cello with those inevitable changes in mind, and knows that the cello voice and power will grow as it should with set up adjustments along the way. The cello will always have its voice and maintaining it with a good set up and follow up adjustments is key!
Chris has maintained contact with many of the owners of his cellos. It is apparent to Chris the obvious need to follow up as the cello makes its' transition from brand new, to a seasoned instrument meeting the players' demands and travel to many climates around the world. Chris's experience and continuing understanding of the nature of wood allows him to build instruments that welcome these demands. The inevitable change after set up is planned for, and the cello can continue to sound beautiful, and perform powerfully with follow up adjustments. Chris will go to great lengths to see the cello as often as possible, but when that is not possible he will direct the owner to colleagues that can help to "dial in" the cello. Chris is a pioneer in this area of follow up as a cello begins to mature. His experience with the close contact he keeps with his cellos assures the new owner that the voice of the cello will remain the voice of the cello and will mature over time because of what the player puts into it. It is a wonderful thing to experience the maturation of a new cello.