The West

Joel Sheard plays the violin in front of new workshop Aspro Cottage. Picture: Ian Munro / The West Australian.

It has been honeymoon accommodation, a function centre and an artists' studio but now a 1930s jarrah cottage at Araluen Botanic Park has been transformed for its most unusual use yet - a violin-making school.

Aspro Cottage has for two weeks been home to violin maker Joel Sheard and his Roleystone School of Violin Making, with visitors able to wander through the studio and watch instruments being made.

"Everyone wants to know what kind of wood we use," Mr Sheard said. "It's spruce for the top of the violin and maple for the back, sides and neck. Those are the traditional woods.

"Another common assumption is that the top and back might be bent to shape but the curved shape is produced by carving away a big block of wood, not by bending."

Mr Sheard said he discovered the craft about four years ago when he repaired an old violin that had been sitting in his shed. He built one from a kit, then one from scratch.

He said he gave one of his earliest violins to a soloist with the US Air Force who often played at the White House for President Barack Obama and foreign dignitaries.

Araluen general manager Rod Ross said Aspro Cottage got its name after a pharmaceutical company was approached to sponsor building it.

He said the violin-making school was unexpected and different for visitors but complemented the culture and history of Araluen.

Mr Sheard said he was blessed to work in such a beautiful place where the variety of shapes in the trees could inspire the violins he was carving.

"It's a very inspiring place to work," he said. "The front windows offer a panoramic view out over the Araluen valley."

The West Australian

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