We launched our exclusive Artigiano line of instruments in 2016, and they’ve become the most popular instruments in our shop. “Artigiano” means artisan or craftsman in Italian, and it’s a tribute to the luthiers who make these instruments for us.
In April 2016, Mr. Palmer visited the workshop in China where most of these instruments are made and got to see first-hand how the instruments are produced. In just about every respect, their workshop is a contemporary version of the large commercial violin workshops you would have seen in Europe at the beginning of the last century. The craftsmen and craftswomen are well trained and highly skilled, the head of the workshop has decades of experience as an expert maker, and they take great pride in their work.
Many shops sell instruments from large manufacturers that are “exclusive” to their shops. Usually they have a fictitious Italian or German name on the label and say they are made exclusively for a particular retailer. That is a bit of an exaggeration.
In reality, they are the standard instrument that the manufacturer sells by the hundreds or thousands to music shops across the country. The “Tony Ravioli” label just gives it a little more cachet (and makes it harder to comparison shop.)
Our instruments are different because they are made from start-to-finish to our specifications. We specify the kind and grade of tonewood the instruments are made from, and instruct the workshop to make instruments to our dimensions and tolerances. We also control the finishing and varnishing of the instruments.
Once the instruments arrive at our shop, we do all of the final setup work. In short, we control the entire process, from raw material to final product. We are proud that these excellent instruments are made exclusively for our customers.
At the top end of our Artigiano line is the Maestro model. These instruments are made from European wood that is sourced from the same tonewood dealers Mr. Palmer gets wood from for his own instruments. The spruce is from a German firm that has been in business since 1905, and the maple is from a dealer that specializes in wood from the Carpathian Mountains, a region that has been the source of high quality tonewood since the golden era of the great Italian makers.
Mr. Palmer delivered the first batch of wood to the workshop when he visited in 2016 and received the finished product about eight months later. To verify that the instruments are indeed made with the correct wood, each set is individually numbered and traced through the process. We retain a cross-grain slice of each piece of raw wood so we can compare the grain lines in it to the wood used in the instrument. This gives us 100% certainty that the instruments are made from the wood we supplied.
Many manufacturers make instruments from European wood, but it is just about impossible to determine the origin of the wood (especially spruce) visually. We have no reason to doubt the claims of other companies, but we believe that the extra price that instruments made with European tonewood command should be accompanied by an extra layer of verification.
All of our Maestro level instruments come with a certificate of origin and the original wood samples. The Maestro E instruments are made totally from European wood. The Maestro EA instruments are made from European spruce and high grade Asian maple.