I strive to create an instrument with a bold and multidimensional character, both visually and tonally

Photo: Itzel Ávila

A  1983 graduate of the Violin Making School in Salt Lake City, I have a 40+ year career as a professional violin maker. I invite you to experience the devotion I have to my craft and believe you’ll find a great deal to like about the playability and character of the instruments I make. 

My work has evolved through study, practice, intention and an adherence to traditional methods, materials, and forms of the 17th and 18th century masters. The original instruments themselves inform my work,  as does ongoing feedback from musicians and colleagues, the study of the diagnostic tools and acoustical research that has become available in the last few decades, and by daily work at the bench.

I give thanks to who have taught and encouraged me, as well as the many musicians, violin makers, and friends who have motivated me to develop the subtleties of form and tonal character necessary in the construction of fine musical tools for demanding musicians. Though most of my violins and violas are built for contemporary and classical musicians, I also offer instruments in historical set-up for Period performance.

When not at the bench, I can often be found with a camera in my hand or in the digital darkroom manipulating images.

David Van Zandt, Violin Maker in Seattle, Washington

I made and sold my first violin in 1980 while attending the Violin Making School of America in Salt Lake City. After graduating in 1983 I moved to New York City to work with William L. Monical and Son to develop skills in repair and restoration. Working with and studying the many historical instruments that passed through the Monical workshop was like a graduate course in the finer points of violin making.

In 1987 I returned to my home town of Seattle to establish my workshop, where for 35 years I made violins and violas for both the modern and baroque musical communities. In 2022 I established a new studio in Portland, Oregon to build  instruments, and to continue my study of fine instruments and violin making techniques, both on my own and collaboratively with colleagues. I’m grateful to the generous community of makers who share their knowledge at the annual Oberlin Violin Makers Workshop.

I build all of my instruments by hand, drawing from a large stock of fine aged wood, and making my own varnish using natural resins and drying oils. Each of my instruments has its own voice and unique character, but all are built to an exacting professional standard to speak easily, evenly and clearly.

My instruments are available for audition directly through my workshop or through one of the fine violin dealers I work with. I also enjoy working by commission with musicians seeking specific requests. While the majority of my instruments are built and set up for modern performance practice, I have a special fondness for constructing baroque and classical violins and violas for members of the early music community. Several of the instrument models I make can be found pictured in my gallery.

I’m passionate about building violins and am pleased to say that the work I do today is better than it’s ever been. Should you hear of anyone looking for a new violin or viola, it would be kind of you to pass on my name and contact information.

Please be in touch. I welcome your interest in my work. If you wish, you may reach me through my  website contact form.

David T. Van Zandt

Varnish craquelure on a violin made by David Van Zandt, Violin Maker

 My style is unmistakably new and crisp, yet has the warmth and patina of years