The cello is built on the maker’s own classically-inspired model and is made with typical materials. The back is in two pieces of quarter-cut Bohemian maple, with flames descending slightly from the centre joint. The ribs and the head are made of similar wood to the back, and the front is made of 2 pieces of spruce, cut in 1997. The fingerboard in ebony and tuning pegs in rosewood. The purfling, which is the intricate inlay inset slightly from the edges of the instrument’s back and top, consists of 3 layers; 2 layers of stained maple, sandwiching a central core of blank maple.
The model used for the cello is derived from a drawing of Simone Sacconi (1895–1973), who in turn based himself on Stradivari patterns.
Joris Wouters: “Changing a model is not something to be lightly undertaken, too many changes are involved. It can take years before a design is found fit. And even then it has to suit the wood.”
Most makers make their own varnish, thereby claiming they’ve got the best. Which is true: everyone modifies his varnish until they are happy with it. So, everyone has the perfect varnish.
For Joris Wouters it works as follows: three layers before tuning the plates, this alters the stiffness of the wood considerably, and after assembling the instrument another 10 to 12 coats. In between coats one week hardening time and after the last coat and finishing at least two months time for the varnish to harden.
The only extravaganza might be both the saddles which are made out of a golden chain tree (Laburnum anagyroides) that stood in his garden. The wood is hard enough for its purpose and it might add just a bit in using less ebony.
“A few weeks after I started on the cello we had to go in lockdown. A period, that strange enough had a very positive aspect. I could give the cello my complete attention.
Bending the ribs, tuning top and back plates so they match together, carving the scroll, it all just fell into place. Since the sound of an instrument is a result of every single part into one whole, it is only logical that there is practically nothing on an instrument that does not alter its sound.
For example a perfectly made body with an untuned neck will not sound perfect, wrong varnish will diminish the sound of an instrument. All separate part have to be tuned to each other.
How does one know? There are a number of technical aids to use, but when it comes to the final finishing, things are done by skill, expertise and feeling. Eventually you just know: this is it, done.
Like throwing a rock; the moment you let go of the rock, you know whether it’s going to hit or not.
Violinmaker Carleen Hutchins (1911–2009) said: ‘It takes years to train a violinmaker and decades to hone a master.’ After 30 years, I dare to say I can already, proudly stand in her shadow.”