Monday, July 26, 2010

Calder violin case new layout progress

The Calder red violin case is taking shape, here's a how the internal foam section looks, the other end of the case will be storage compartments.

Calder red violin case interior

Here's a CAD image of the complete internal layout.

Calder Red Violin Case 4

Monday, July 12, 2010

Objects that inspire - great violin case makers

My initial interest was in guitars and making great cases for them. Designer and luthier Angus Noble nudged me in the direction of violins. Whereas most guitar cases are utilitarian, there is a long tradition of fine violin case making - especially in England. So here's a roll call of the greats that have set the standard which we aspire to match.

Foremost amongst English cases are those of W.E Hill. From the late 19th century until the company dissolved in the 1990's, Hill were leading makers of stringed instruments and foremost case makers.

Here is an elegant Hill wooden double case.

Hill wooden case

Mick Gordge was apprenticed to Hills in the 1950's and went on to establish himself as one of the most respected case makers of his time. When Mick died a few years ago I was touched by tremendous outflow of affection and regard that came from the case-making community.

I admire the absolute simplicity of the Gordge design and perfection of his workmanship. This is a typical example:

Gordge violin case

Desmond Timms carries on the Mick Gordge tradition - his cases have the same immaculate attention to detail and outstanding quality. Desmond has been a tremendous help in the development of our cases - and I am very grateful for the time he has taken to help a newcomer like me.

Here is the Timms Traditional Model:

Timms case

Luis Negri is one of the handful of top end modern cases makers. Negri cases are beautiful in design and execution. I was delighted to get some very helpful feedback from Luis on our Series 1.0 violin case.

Here is the Negri Diplomat case:

Negri Diplomat large

Dimitri Musafia is the giant among modern case makers and his cases protect an enviable number of the world's most precious violins. Based in Cremona, Musafia cases are both gorgeous and exceptionally thorough in their construction and fitting.

Here is the top of the range Musafia Aeturnum:

Musafia Aeturnum

My hope is that Calder cases will maintain the standards set by these great cases makers and add something more. The Series 1.0 case shown below was a start - the Series 2.0 model will be smaller, stronger and lighter.

Calder series 1.0 violin case

Dr Glenn Wood has written an excellent book The Art and History of Violin Cases which is available on Amazon.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Protection is more important than pretty

Violin and guitar cases are working tools - the means by which musicians move their precious instruments around. And if you have an instrument worth $50k or more, then you want a case that really protects and works well.

Protection is ever more important today as we face the reality that the very best instruments are a finite resource. This is obviously true of irreplaceable vintage instruments, and luthiers tell me that dwindling wood supplies mean top level modern instruments will become rarer and more expensive.

And accidents happen - as violinist David Garret found when he tripped and fell onto his Stradivarius - which was in a case.

Setting out to make the best cases possible, I had in mind design guru Dieter Rams 10 principles.
Good design should be innovative.
Good design makes a product useful.
Good design is aesthetic.
Good design makes a product understandable.
Good design is unobtrusive.
Good design is honest.
Good design is long-lasting.
Good design is thorough down to the last detail.
Good design reduces environmental impact.
Good design is as little design as possible.

The whole project had started with my frustration with existing guitar cases which seemed either poor in protection or very heavy and never aesthetically pleasing. I felt it must be possible to bring together high performance with good looks.

Pursuit of aesthetics can easily compromise function - but I believe we've managed to deliver both. Now that we're into Series 2.0 with a number of refinements to the design, I'm keen to demonstrate just how strong our cases are. This summer I'll be running some new crush and drop tests - we'll shoot these on video for the website.

For the crush test we're going to run a large 4x4 over a violin case - should be fun - I very much like the idea of seeing muckle great tyres running over our pretty case and the violin coming out pristine. Protection is more important than pretty.

Here's a shot I took a few years ago as part of our early testing - we lowered an old Rolls Royce onto one of our cases - the video with a 4x4 will be more telling.

Bentley 1 ws improved copy

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

A rant against the 'luxury' tag

I chafe that our cases are categorised as 'luxury' and mostly written about in media focussed on so called 'luxury lifestyles'.

Luxury has become a lazy marketing label used to cover almost anything - as a result has become meaningless. When Chippendale produced beautiful furniture it would never have been called 'luxury' - it was just the finest craftsmanship. A truly exceptional guitar or violin is not a luxury item - even though the latter might be worth $2m.

I am interested in performance - making things that work better, look good, last a long time. That's why I chose to hand build with carbon fibre, leather and silk velvet. That's why I've had every component specifically made for our cases.

This approach is not at all about excess or trying to make something that is very expensive - this is simply about doing the best job I can.

From guitars to violins - bringing together opposites

The Calder project started with my love of guitars and fine luggage and turned into a major quest to produce cases that were worthy of truly great instruments.

My associate Angus Noble - all round unsung genius builds violins and he pointed me towards making cases for these exquisite instruments as well. So far as I can tell this makes Calder the only outfit making high end cases for both classical and rock musicians.

This is an interesting place to be - the two worlds seem very different. But despite the contrast between the formality of classical music and the looseness of rock/blues/folk there is a common passion for music and creativity.

I hope that our work will bring a little of the wildness of rock into the classical world and a touch of classic suaveness to the rockers.

The red violin case we're working on will I think be a first - generally violin cases don't go into fierce colours. The idea of making an outrageously red case for such a formal instrument appeals to me. I've had encouragement from luthiers and other case makers so I'm looking forward to the reaction from musicians.

Calder REd violin top w

Calder REd violin down w

Calder REd violin op down

Monday, July 05, 2010

Calder red violin case materials

I've been gathering together leathers for the red violin case we're bringing out this summer. The velvet lining will be hand dyed to match the glossy interior leather trim and textured exterior.

Calder red violin case materials