Michael Darnton violin, Chicago 1997
Michael's interest in stringed instruments of the violin family began in the sixth grade, when he took up the cello and found himself more interested in the instrument itself than in playing it. At that time he bought the first book of what was eventually to become an extensive library of violin books, "Violin Making As It Is and Was" by Edward Heron-Allen.
His first formal training after several years on his own, was at the Chicago firm of Bein & Fushi Rare Violins, Inc., a world-famous dealer of the finest antique and modern violin-family instruments. He worked in the shop for over three years, learning repair and restoration techniques from some of the best people in the field, particularly Russell Wagner and John Becker.
While finding repair and restoration to be interesting and invaluable training in tool skills, Ihe was still most interested in making violins himself. In 1988, he moved to another shop in the same historic Chicago Fine Arts Building, with the maker William Harris Lee & Co. At the time, Michael was responsible for the management of the Lee shop.
In the Lee shop he benefited from the opportunity of working continuously on large numbers of instruments, honing important repetitive skills such as the fitting of bass bars, necksets, and setups. After four years of restoration, including working on 50 of his own instruments and hundreds of shop instruments, he left to open his own one-man workshop several blocks away. He devotes almost all of his bench time to the making of new instruments, almost exclusively violins.