James Reynold Carlisle, Cincinnati 1927 – Gorgeous Violin and Sound!
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Cincinnati 1927 No. 208
James Carlisle led the life of a Renaissance man. He was tremendous as a violin maker, into the chemistry of varnish formulation, wood selection, fine carving, extremely precise craftmanship, photography, growing prize winning dahlias, and did more than dabble at painting. He was known as Reyn to his family and friends and paid much attention to his father’s (who built bridges in the mid to late 1800’s for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad) meticulous woodworking skill. Reyn was born in 1886 in Ashland, Kentucky into a family who was very much a music loving family. He made his first violin in 1910. At age 24 he was working in the Wurlitzer Firm in Amelia, Ohio which began there in 1856. In 1914 Carlisle made the acquaintance of Rudolph Wurlitzer, 13 years older than Carlisle, and that became the turning point in his violin making career. Carlisle produced violins for Wurlitzer’s of Cincinnati, taught his only two students, Clyde Edwards and Rembert Wurlitzer, violin making, and developed his famous varnish. Carlisle also became highly esteemed by Henry Ford, a collector of fine violins and who sent Carlisle an entire train car of wood as a gift from the Champion Paper and Lumber Company of Canton, North Carolina, located in the Lake Toxaway area in the mountains of NC.
Carlisle left Wurlitzer’s sometime in mid-1920’s. This was the peak of his making career and when his best handwork occurred. This is one of those violins, made in 1927, and is his 208thh instrument. It is a WOW! No, a double WOW! Carlisle made at least five hundred of these instruments in his lifetime; some believe even more. James Carlisle died in 1962. This violin is exquisite, the top plate grain is fine, and the two-piece highly flamed maple back is off the charts nice. Carlisle spent years experimenting with varnish. This instrument’s varnish is pristine, its clarity is gorgeous, and is what he called a ruby red on a golden/orange ground. This violin is almost one hundred years old and undoubtedly is the finest James Reynold Carlisle I have ever had at the shop.
Corpus 355.0 mm., Major Width 204.0 mm. Minor Width 166.0 mm., Rib Height 30.0 mm.
The violin has a gorgeous robust sound, rich and focused but still broad and engaging. The G and D strings are simply inviting with very good response. The treble side is just as nice to the ear, extremely sweet, and helps to set this instrument apart in the overall temperature of the sound. The sound is faultless, and this elegant violin has it all.