top of page

Welcome to my workshop

Hello from Ojai, California as I welcome you into my workshop, even if only virtually. I opened my violin making workshop in 1980 after graduating from the Newark School of Violin Making in England.  Since then It has been a wonderful journey,  absorbed by this old world craft.

I began teaching violin making thirty nine years  years ago and have had students from many walks of life;  professional guitar makers, jewelers and woodworkers.

Others whom have never made anything with their hands; school teachers, a lawyer, doctors, a bellydancer, pastors, a hypnotherapist, engineers, accountants, architects, a school principal, a librarian, a speech therapist, musicians, a marketing consultant, a thirteen year old, members of the Navy, entrepreneurs to name a few.  

This has given me a really good grounding on how as to best serve these students, working within their unique vision and capabilities.  

I have geared this course specifically to meet that need, so this course is not to teach one to become a professional violin maker as such, although several students have gone on to make other violins after completing their first one. But rather to give those who simply wish to make a once off violin the satisfaction and experience of creating something with their own hands. 

Be it a violin for a child, grandchild or yourself, and at the end of the course coming out with a fine sounding violin that would be hard to replace for a similar financial investment. Not to mention the intrinsic value of creating a family heirloom.  (My story -see below)


My Story

brian on beach.jpg

I began my training in 1976 at the Newark School of Violin Making in England. It was a wonderful experience where the seed of inquiry was planted. Being in the same class as some of today's leading authorities on string instruments (Roger Hargrave, John Dilworth, Julie Reed Yeboah, Joseph Thrift, Malcolm Siddall and Anne Houssay) the atmosphere was one of intense passion for the wonders of violin making.

My interest and passion for string instruments was initiated by my godfather Joe Sack. As described in the audiobook I wrote; The Morning Light - never passes us by, click here to listen. (Chapter 7 - Wooden Assonance)


Joe was a fine cellist and music critic of the well known Rand Daily Mail.

He used to arrange chamber music gatherings at his home and I as a five year old would come to those evening soirées in my pajamas to listen to the wonderful visiting soloists that came out to South Africa in the 1960's.

He was very knowledgeable about fine old instruments (owning a David Tecchler cello) and enthralled me with his playing, sharing his insights as to the different tonal characteristics of each cello that he played on.

With my first cello having begun lessons with Joe.

Photo below taken on a visit to Joe a couple of weeks before he passed away at age 93.

My Career:  After leaving Newark I chose to specialize entirely on the making of new instruments and have been fortunate enough to have sold my instruments all over the world. (USA, Canada, England, Germany, Taiwan, South Korea, Chile, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, Namibia and South Africa.)

My Model:  I keep changing the finer details as my insight advances. This is all done with tonal qualities in mind. I do keep detailed records of all the instruments I have made: arching heights, thickness, weights, etc. So as I look back over the years I might like the lower register on a violin made 15 years ago and compare it with one of similar qualities made 5 years ago, to see if there are any corresponding measurements and apply the correlation to my current instrument. This has all been possible as I have maintained the same "system" for making all my instruments.

For the final finishing I make modifications specifically for each piece of wood, taking into consideration the density and tonal characteristics.  

Varnish:  Varnish: I have taken many hours off from my regular workshop time  to further my research, realizing that to get close to Cremonese instruments is only possible using 17th century materials.

This led me on a wonderful adventure: constructing a primitive distilling plant, making traditional Indian Yellow (collecting urine from cows fed on mango leaves), contacting Kirstenbosh Botanical Gardens about " Weld" and  going into the mountains in search of this plant, stopping on the highway at night to pick an aloe leaf. 


After all this research I am now using a varnish made entirely from authentic natural materials. For the actual varnish, I cook it myself which is made from sun thickened Walnut oil, spruce tree resin with small amounts of Mastic.  For color, I prefer on my latest instruments several different cocheneal and sandalwood lakes all being hand ground into the varnish on a slab of glass.  

My varnish has a soft 'waxy' appearance, and has a lovely texture.

My website: Brian Lisus Violins


bottom of page