Johnny C.Y. Lam                                   

Instrument making


Ben Bell is one of the premium bassoon makers in the world and is located in southern Ontario. Without any formal training, he learned to play the bassoon at age 14 and later taught himself everything about bassoon making. In the wood storage at his studio are pieces of European and Canadian maple, but the Canadian variety offers denser tonal characteristics for the bassoons he makes. It takes about 10 years for the wood to fully cure and all four pieces required for each instrument are carefully selected from the same tree. This guarantees consistent resonance throughout the instrument. “There’s no room for error, only room for criticism,” said Ben Bell.  

The air in Luke Mercier’s studio is filled with the earthy scent of a wood workshop,  numerous old violins neatly hanging on the wooden racks he built along the wall. There are freshly made tailpieces and bridges curing on a string by the window. Beautiful classical music flowing out of an old radio in the background as he patiently scrapes away paper-thin layers of wood from the inside of an old violin he is working on. Luke has been making and restoring violins for over 25 years, one of the most interesting pieces he’s working on is a violin from 1670 made by famed Dutch violin maker Hendrik Jacobs. I cannot imagine how many people’s heartstrings this historic violin has played through the last 350 years.