Invisible touch

Local man’s craft is restoring instruments to original glory

Brian Epp, who restores and repairs violins, violas, cellos and other instruments out of his Durango home, says the reward is “when your client comes in and he can’t see where you’ve retouched.” Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Brian Epp, who restores and repairs violins, violas, cellos and other instruments out of his Durango home, says the reward is “when your client comes in and he can’t see where you’ve retouched.”

Brian Epp takes pleasure in deception. In fact, you could say he wrote the book on it. To be fair, the people Epp enjoys fooling are the ones who bring their violins, violas and cellos to him to retouch damaged areas of their finish. Epp said he can add anywhere from six to 30 layers of pigment and varnish to make the finish “correct to the era.”

“It’s very time consuming, but it’s also very rewarding … especially when your client comes in, and he can’t see where you’ve retouched it,” said Epp, who has been working on stringed instruments out of his home since 2000.

Epp actually did write a book, The Art of Violin Retouching: Layers, Colors and Depth. It’s a manual for the layman on how to retouch instruments. Epp made his writer friend a little envious when the first publisher he approached agreed to print the book back in 2009.

“It took me over a year to realize ‘Oh my gosh, I’m an author,’” Epp said.

He’ll soon be updating his book for a second edition.

Epp said he’s always been a craftsman, and became interested in violin repair 13 years ago when his stepson took up the instrument. He immediately went out and bought one for himself and proceeded to take it apart. That led to more purchases and repairs, and, after a while, Epp was repairing instruments for locals and working on a website to expand his reach to the rest of the United States and even Canada. Now, Epp estimates he works on a hundred instruments a year, spending anywhere from one week to six months on each one.

See more of Brian Epp’s work at www.artisanviolin.com.

Steve Lewis

Brian Epp specializes in violin repair and restoration, but he also works on other instruments, including violas, cellos, and sometimes basses. With such a variety, he said he has a space issue. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Brian Epp specializes in violin repair and restoration, but he also works on other instruments, including violas, cellos, and sometimes basses. With such a variety, he said he has a space issue.

Brian Epp estimates he repairs or restores a hundred instruments a year. Some take a week, others can take half a year. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Brian Epp estimates he repairs or restores a hundred instruments a year. Some take a week, others can take half a year.

Brian Epp performs the painstaking work of repairing the pegbox of a violin. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Brian Epp performs the painstaking work of repairing the pegbox of a violin.

Brian Epp slowly scrapes away the surface of a violin before grafting a piece of wood onto the instrument in a procedure known as a flank repair. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Brian Epp slowly scrapes away the surface of a violin before grafting a piece of wood onto the instrument in a procedure known as a flank repair.

“I’ve been a craftsman all my life,” said Brian Epp, who also loves motorcycles. Epp owns four bikes, including one he is building in his living room. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

“I’ve been a craftsman all my life,” said Brian Epp, who also loves motorcycles. Epp owns four bikes, including one he is building in his living room.

“It’s been a huge, huge help,” said Bill LaShell, right, a music teacher at Park Elementary School, who dropped by Brian Epp’s home to pick up a bass that needed repairing. In addition to the work he does for individuals, Epp also repairs instruments for Durango School District 9-R. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

“It’s been a huge, huge help,” said Bill LaShell, right, a music teacher at Park Elementary School, who dropped by Brian Epp’s home to pick up a bass that needed repairing. In addition to the work he does for individuals, Epp also repairs instruments for Durango School District 9-R.

Brian Epp holds up a one-sixty fourth-scale violin he made himself that shares space in his violin cabinet with larger instruments. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Brian Epp holds up a one-sixty fourth-scale violin he made himself that shares space in his violin cabinet with larger instruments.

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