Process Turns Cheap Instruments into Masterpieces

Process Turns Cheap Instruments into Masterpieces

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Ed Yeates ReportingWouldn't it be nice to sort of wave a magic wand and turn a cheap musical instrument into a near masterpiece? A virtual Stradivarius maybe from a battered old fiddle? Every aspiring musician wanting to perform, but not able to afford the best can only dream. But maybe not anymore.

It's not exactly a magic wand, but it may be the closest thing yet to delivering what young musicians would call a miraculous musical makeover.

The very best play the very best. And while a young musician could never hope to buy the finest wood, the finest strings, they might now be able to turn the violin they bought on E-bay for 100 dollars into a near masterpiece.

Devon Hokanson, Violin Maker: "We actually create another set of vibrational patterns on the inside, which augments what is already there."

The brains behind the makeovers, engineer Joseph Carlson and violin maker Devon Ho-kanson. The two started thinking about the mathematics and physics of string instruments after Carlson bought a cheap 1939 Sears and Roebuck violin off E-bay.

Joseph "Jay" Carlson, Engineer: “I hate being skunked on anything, and because of my engineering background, I went to work trying to figure out a way to make that investment better."

As an engineer, Carlson saw the violin simply as a pump made out of laminated I-beams, little tiny I-beams in the wood which, when treated, vibrate more.

Hokanson tried Carlson's idea combing the cowlicks, so to speak, out of the wood then treating it with a special chemical that seals and strengthens the fibers.

The result? From the cheap to the makeover, now probably worth several thousand dollars.

Ryan Seamons, Senior, Lone Peak High School: "You can just feel the deeper, stronger - there's something which you usually only feel when you have a really good instrument."

Cellos, violins, violas, guitars, even pianos--Carlson and Hokanson will test the new makeover on all of them. Patents on the Josepi (Josefee) process, as it's now called, are still pending. In tests so far on cheaper instruments, or even more expensive older instruments, both seem to respond with better sound.

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