Wednesday, September 28, 2022

INTERESTING FOLKS: Bob Rapp of Blairstown – a country violin maker

Meet Bob Rapp a resident of Blairstown. Rapp has a love of the violin. He enjoys everything about the instrument and wants to share the violin with everyone meets. 

One day, Rapp decided to thin out his collection of books on violins. He thought perhaps the Catherine Dixon Hoffman Library would want them. He then had a great idea. Wouldn’t it be nice if one of his violins could be signed out for a month at a time, just like a book. 

In this way a person could try out a violin and find out if they had the skill to play before purchasing one. That was five years ago, the idea was a success. After the violin is returned to the library Rapp tunes it up and returns it for the next library member to sample.

Rapp has always been a lover of music. ”I remember fiddling around with my moms’ guitar when I was five years old. Mom encouraged me and showed me how to play chords. One day she gave me a violin that she bought at a garage sale and she said, here fiddle around with that. I was totally fascinated by the instrument” he remarked. 

By the time Rapp was in high school he started making violins out of any wood he could carve. He then met Paul Fictor, an acoustics engineer at Bell Labs and violin hobbyist. Fictor became Rapp’s mentor, and they are still friends today.  

Rapp moved to New Hampshire with his wife Laura, a teacher at the local college. There he took classes on violin production. He learned how to make a bow and repair violins. 

Rapp attended some workshops with very talented Luthiers.  A Luthier is a professional craftsperson who builds and repairs string instruments.

The crafting of violins hasn’t changed since the 16th Century. Simple carving tools, basic clamps, sand paper, patience and time go into this labor of love. An instrument that looks beautiful with great sound is the ultimate goal.

“Just look at the scroll work of a violin, this is like the signature of the woodworker” Rapp beamed. 

Two types of wood are used in creating a violin. Spruce is a soft wood used on the top and the sides of the violin. To give it resonance and its unique sound, the back and neck are made of maple, a harder wood with a beautiful patterned grain. Many coats of oil base varnish are applied with sanding between each coat to ensure a smooth surface.  

Rapp started going to garage sales and antique stores, looking for instruments that needed repair. With some tender loving care, he began refurbishing and selling bows and instruments as a hobby. Soon people in the community found out about his talent and his business “Country Violins” was established and became his creative passion.

Rapp met James Taylor at a concert after party. Rapp said he was a nice guy, they discussed music and Taylor was so impressed with his violins he bought one. 

A good video to watch about the making of violins is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNL-daStCVk

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