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West Coast String Instruments is located in Arcadia, California. Founded in 1998, we have been serving the string community since then. Our instruments are well known of its quality tone wood, excellent craftsmanship, and we provide the best customer support as possible.
Wood: Naturally dried wood is the choice among many prestigious string instrument makers and manufacturers. Wet wood, known as "green wood", can't be used directly in the making of violin family instruments. It has to be dried. Otherwise the moisture remaining in the wood will ruin the tone and deform the instrument eventually. That's why all violin makers and workshops know the importance of drying the wood before using it. The conventional and cheap way is to put wood in a kiln. That's the fastest way and enables instrument companies to yield the greatest output per day. However, artificially dried wood is not suitable for instrument making. By baking wood in a kiln, a certain degree of moisture can be reached but the cell walls might be damaged. Damaged cell walls can have an adverse effect on the conduct of the string vibration across the instruments. At West Coast String Instruments, any wood used in the manufacturing of instruments has to be naturally dried in a humidity-controlled facility for at least 6 years before being put into the manufacturing process, even for our student model. We sort our wood according to the instruments and different parts and pile they in a steady manner. All through our facility, we have ventilation and humidity monitor and control equipment, to ensure that the environmental consistency throughout the facility.
Here at West Coast Strings, our main factory is located on the North Eastern side of China, which has the same Longitude as Cremona, Italy, and the most suitable weather for violin making. Since our main factory started in the early 80's, we have kept purchasing and stocking quality wood suitable for instrument making at all range. We want to make sure everything come out of our factory will hold the standard of excellency and quality, from the wood material to craftsmanship.
Another important factor in wood is maple. Maple is used in the construction of the top and body of a violin. Therefore the quality of maple is crucial to the tone and quality of the instrument. However, many do not know that there are two sources of maple: North and south. The southern maple has broad flaming. This kind of maple will not improve sound as it ages. Therefore the price is not too high on this source of maple. Many manufacturers use the southern maple for their instruments. On the other hand, the northern maple has narrow flaming and some can appear as stripes. The northern wood is the best choice for manufacturers as this kind of wood has the potential to improve the sound as it ages. Therefore, instruments made with the northern maple will always cost and can keep its value or even increase the value. West Stringed Instruments understands about the difference between these two kinds of maple. Because of our geographical advantage, we do use these so called "Northern" wood in instruments making, plus these woods all have been naturally dried under the same climate as North Europe, this is why our instruments can last longer and open up better.
Our facility in China is responsible for the beginner and intermediate models. Our luthiers are all well trained and have years of experience in instrument making. Each single step follows the Italian tradition in the manufacturing process.
The first step is to make the sides (ribs). These sides will form the outline of the instrument. We build our own wooden mold to construct these ribs. All the molds are 15 to 18 mm thick, depending on the model. Using the molds, the luthiers carefully cut out the outline of the inside of the instrument. Pieces of wood for the corner and end blocks are cut to approximate size and temporarily glued to cutouts on the mold at the proper locations. Using a pattern and gouges and files, the blocks are trimmed to the final shape of the inside contour of the violin.
Other than the ribs, there are many parts that will be made by precise machinery or hand in the facility in China. Tops, backs, necks and fingerboards are all well made with the same attention to all details. In the end of every production line, we have final inspectors to inspect these parts. The inspectors' job is to make sure that each part is made perfectly according to the specifications with no defects. Then the parts will be sent to the assembly line.
The assembly process is very time-consuming. Various parts will need to be glued and dried before joining other parts. With our on-site supervisors in the facility, all processed are monitored and recorded. Despite the rising demand for our instruments, West Stringed promises not to sacrifice the quality just to increase our daily yield.
Varnishing is very crucial to a stringed instrument as it has a great impact on the conduct of the string vibration throughout the body. The varnish does serve other important purposes of beautifying the appearance and protecting the wood from wear, damage, moisture, and dirt. Thus the selection and application of varnish is vitally important. Although there are many types of varnish, West Stringed has conducted experiments for years and found the best varnish for our products. Not only the varnish itself, West Stringed also follows a strict varnishing process to pursue the best quality.
After finishing a violin, it is hung up to age for a time (in some cases several months or more), and may be exposed to sunlight. This will cause the wood to darken and bring out its figure. Many makers use less time-consuming alternatives, such as a dker layer of paint or chemicals. After this, a sealer or pore filler is applied. Then comes the most important part: apply several coats of varnish. First of all, coats of clear varnish are applied. After the clear varnish is set aside and dried naturally, colored varnish is applied. At our master workshop, we use the finest material in our varnish. Each coat of varnish is hand brushed by the same master luthier. Each coat is applied after the previous one is completely dried.
Color is added to varnishes by adding pigments or dyes. West Coast String Instruments only uses the best dyes available and pay careful attention to the ratio of dyes and varnish so that the coloring will not have an adverse effect on the instrument. We also apply extra coats of clear varnish to protect the layers underneath, so that beneath the stunning appearance, you know that your West Coast String Instrument is well protected. After all desired coats of varnish are applied, luthiers will use fine abrasives to carefully rub out the surface fully dried varnish. It is a very crucial procedure, as a small mistake can ruin months of hard work on a single instrument. After rubbing, a coat of fine polish is applied to give the instrument an even smoother surface.
The part of the neck between the heel and the peg box is not varnished. Instead, our seasoned luthiers will stain and sand this part very smooth. Tools used in this procedure include fine emery paper and a combination of shellac, alcohol and oil that are properly mixed.
After this entire procedure, the instrument will hung and dry for days, before going through another series of careful inspections. After passing all the inspections, our luthiers will sign the certificate to certify the quality of the instrument.
This is probably the most important issue as a manufacture serving the string community: we endure every single instrument come out from us holds the same standard, and be in the best possible condition for playing. From quality scan and inspection, step-up, to packaging, we pay full attention to details. When we work, what we have in mind is to deliver a fine piece of art, built on a tremendous amount of effort and attention. Our finished products are all our pride and joy. We hope that they will be yours too.