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[Photo News] Anatomy of string instruments

Approaching the violin studio, visitors can smell a mix of scents lingering in the alley. Maple, spruce and the varnish applied to them that fill the air inside of the workshop spill out over into the alley through the front door. Located in central Seoul, the workshop run by master violinmaker Kim Dong-in, offers an unusual atmosphere.

Hung on the walls by the necks, the violins wait to be diagnosed by a “geigenbaumeister” -- or master violinmaker -- with notes that include the owners’ names and repair requests.

A pupil of Joseph Kantuscher, and now one of only two violin geigenbaumeisters in Korea, Kim carefully takes down a violin to his desk to get to work. On the other side of his workspace, his apprentice of four years carefully knocks on different parts of a violin to discover which parts have been damaged. A thudding sound echoes in the workshop.

Piles of wood are stacked on shelves in a corner labeled with numbers. The numbers indicate when the wood was brought to the studio. For example, No. 84 means that the violin maker bought it from a wood dealer in 1984.

Selecting the wood for the body is one thing, but carving it out is another complicated process, where the geigenbaumeister takes a piece of wood to shape it into something to make music for the next several hundred years. As he shaves the wood, Kim feels the grain, already hearing the sound that will come from it.

Written by Shim Woo-hyun (
Photographed by Park Hyun-koo (