John Hoerster’s Scarred Fingers Make Fine Violins

Jan 25, 2016

The strong hands of John Hoerster were tanned and rough with scarred fingers, but those hands were made for fine violins.

Hoerster had worked as a cowboy, farmer, woodsman, welder and mechanic, but he had always loved fiddles and wanted to make violins like his brother did. Hoerster learned to play when he was only five on a cigar-box fiddle he had made.

Once when he was playing a new square-box fiddle for a crowd, the bow kept hitting the edge of the box. To the amusement of the audience, he stopped, got out his pocket-knife and whittled away the offending part, then began playing where he had left off.

In 1976, Hoerster was recognized for his violin-making at the Music Crafts Festival at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D. C.  He described it as a “mighty big doin’.”

Hoerster experimented with many woods, but settled on spruce for the top-piece and curly maple for the back. With these woods, a chisel, gouge, skew and hand drill, he made fine violins, violas, cellos, and yes, scarred fingers.

Source: King, Tammy. "Wimer violin maker remains fond memory." Rogue Review 29 Jan. 1979 [Rogue River Oregon]. Print.