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posted: 6/22/2012 9:49 AM

Moving Picture: Buffalo Grove man crafts instruments

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  • Two pieces of wood are glued together to form the backing, the beginnings of a violin.

       Two pieces of wood are glued together to form the backing, the beginnings of a violin.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Bill Hoffmann talks to his wife on the phone. He hopes that his twin boys will someday take over his business, Hoffmann Strings.

       Bill Hoffmann talks to his wife on the phone. He hopes that his twin boys will someday take over his business, Hoffmann Strings.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Violin maker Bill Hoffmann never liked practicing his violin as a kid. He preferred to take them apart and put them back together.

       Violin maker Bill Hoffmann never liked practicing his violin as a kid. He preferred to take them apart and put them back together.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Chunks of wood fly as a new violin begins to take shape.

       Chunks of wood fly as a new violin begins to take shape.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Hoffmann polishes up his most recent creation.

       Hoffmann polishes up his most recent creation.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Hoffmann hopes to make two or three violins this year. While being a master craftsman, his main business remains rentals and repairs.

       Hoffmann hopes to make two or three violins this year. While being a master craftsman, his main business remains rentals and repairs.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Video: Moving Picture: The Luthier

 
 

As a kid growing up in Glenview, Bill Hoffmann hated to practice his violin.

He preferred to take it apart.

At the age of 37, he is a craftsman of violins, violas and cellos, called a luthier.

Hoffmann, of Buffalo Grove, studied in the United States under master violin maker Karl Roy of the Bavarian State School for Violin Making in Mittenwald, Germany. He has been honing his skills for the past 15 years.

Every violin or viola that Hoffmann makes is by hand, beginning with chunks of wood. From carving to scraping to varnishing, the process takes between four and six weeks.

"I will be happy to make two to three violins this year," Hoffmann said.

Even though he is a craftsman of stringed instruments, most of the revenue at his shop, Hoffmann Strings, comes from rentals and repairs.

A typical custom instrument will sell for about $6000-$7000.

"I put a lot of love and character into it; I put myself into it," Hoffmann said. "I want it to be a product that's going to last 400 years. I want it to be passed down from generation to generation."

For the $6000-$7000 you would pay for the piece, Hoffmann sees it as an investment that will go up in value over time.

"I think it compares with some of the good modern (instrument) makers there are today in this world," he says.

Hoffmann has been operating his 985-square-foot shop for the past 15 years. Before that, the shop was a post office for Half Day, Prairie View and Lincolnshire.

"When I get piece of wood, I get really excited about it because there are so many characteristics," Hoffmann said. "A piece of wood is like a human being; each piece of wood is different. It's exciting to take a gigantic chunk, work with it, thin it down. When you apply the varnish to the instrument and string it up, it's a magical moment."

Hoffmann hopes to pass on the business to his twin boys.

"I want to do this until the day I die," he said. "I love it, I really love it."

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