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Gusset crafts his music from wood.

Byline: LEWIS TAYLOR The Register-Guard

WHEN SCOTTISH fiddler Alasdair Fraser arrives in town for his Sunday performance at the The John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts, David Gusset will be reunited with two old friends: Fraser and his violin.

Gusset, a highly regarded instrument-maker who works in a restored carriage house behind his historic Eugene home, began crafting Fraser's violin shortly after moving to Eugene in 1990. Fraser picked up the instrument in 1991.

"I knew him and I knew his violin that he was playing - the one that he had used for his recordings - and I knew that he needed something better, something that had more depth and richness," Gusset says. "I guess it was a little bit special to me because Alasdair was such a good friend and, you know, you try and make something extra special for a good friend."

Like most violins, Fraser's instrument is constructed of maple and spruce. Modeled after a 1700s Antonio Stradavari violin, the instrument has a one-piece maple back with distinctive sloping horizontal flames.

Fraser chose the wood from Gusset's stock of half-century-old Yugoslavian cuts. Gusset didn't list a price on the instrument, but his violins typically sell for $18,000; he produces an average of three stringed instruments a year.

Photographs of Fraser's violin are displayed on Gusset's Web site (; it is one of the instrument-maker's signature pieces.

To this day, Fraser recalls the time he visited Gusset's shop in Eugene for a tuneup, a year after purchasing the instrument.

"I was a bit self-conscious because it had a few wear marks on it, but he was delighted," Fraser says. "He wanted to see how his varnish was wearing, and it was looking great. And, of course, fiddles are made to be played."

It's been several years now since Gusset has laid eyes on the instrument he created for his old friend, but he has a good idea of what kind of condition it's in. Fraser, he says, takes good care of his fiddle, despite the stresses he puts it through while on the road.

As with most of the instruments he makes, he feels a sense of attachment to the violin, even after it has left his shop.

"It's an important thing," Gusset says, anticipating the repairs he will make. "He brings the instrument to me, I clean it, I do whatever's necessary. Sometimes the fingerboard needs to be planed. Fingerboards wear, and it will wear unevenly, so you have to plane it smooth again.

`I'll do any little adjustment. Sometimes the bridges are warped and have to be straightened, pegs adjusted, new strings, any little thing that needs to be done."

Fraser says that although his instrument has weathered smoky bars, greasy kitchens, Arizona heat and Miami humidity, it remains in fine condition. Gusset's craftsmanship, he adds, looks better and better over time.

"He's known for great beauty and incredible workmanship," Fraser says. "As it has aged, in the time I've had it, the varnish has taken on more beautiful hues and color. ...

`If you're talking about form following function, the fiddle is a great example of that. Something that looks beautiful and feels beautiful is going to tend to play well. I love the feel of it and I love the aesthetic."


Eugene instrument-maker David Gusset is highly regarded in the music world for the quality of the stringed instruments he crafts. Gusset made the violin that Scottish fiddling star Alasdair Fraser will play at the Shedd on Sunday. BRIAN DAVIES / The Register-Guard Music-maker
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Title Annotation:Entertainment
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Oct 11, 2002
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