about bruce

About Bruce

Music has been in Bruce West’s blood from the time he was a little boy. His father was Robert West, a very well known violinist who, at one time, did a master class with Yehudi Menuhin. Bruce was always interested in the construction of the violin and when he was 12 years old visited George Heinl’s shop in Toronto. George was intrigued that a boy of 12 could be so interested in building violins so he set up a bench beside his for young Bruce to work along side him. Mr. Heinl paid Bruce’s bus fare over one summer to come in to his shop to work. This would be the start of a long and interesting journey for Bruce into the world of instrument building.

Bruce went through his teen years by playing guitar for Ronnie Hawkins. After he married his interest turned to classical guitar and it was then that he met and took classical guitar lessons from Eli Kassner, founder of the Guitar Academy of Toronto. At this point, newly married, Bruce had no money to buy himself a guitar so Eli introduced him to Jean Larrivee. Bruce needed a guitar and wanted to build one, Jean needed tooling done for his guitar building business and Bruce could provide that. They worked out an arrangement that when they were in Jean’s shop, they worked on Bruce’s guitar, when they were in Bruce’s shop, Bruce did the tooling that Jean needed. At this time, Grit Laskin, Linda Manzer, David Wren and Sergei deJonge were all working for Jean Larrivee and Bruce worked along side all of them. Bruce fondly remembers the sharing of information between the builders and believes that guitar building took off to become what it is today due, in part, to these now very well known luthiers sharing their information.

Bruce befriended Darryl Williams, a luthier who specialized in building baroque instruments and classical guitars and was a professor at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario, teaching Graphic Arts. Bruce worked alongside Darryl and at one point built six guitars for him, the two of them even making their own varnish. At this point he changed over from a dovetail construction to the Spanish one-piece construction that he still uses today. Bruce’s guitars are very expressive in their sound and light in weight.
Darryl and Bruce bought 50+ logs of curly maple and cut the wood into guitar blanks that were then sold to Japanese guitar manufacturers. He also cut wood for various instruments for Ziggy Newlin, an exotic wood dealer, and accumulated an incredible supply of wood for himself.
Back in the 70’s they went through 54,000 board feet of Brazilian Rosewood and bought all that was suitable for guitars. Bruce cut the majority of this wood into guitar back and side sets. All of this work, sorting and preparing instrument wood has given Bruce and uncanny sense of understanding of tone woods.

Bruce started playing violin in the late 70’s and after taking a few lessons, needed a better violin and decided to build one. David Rubio was a curator for the Oxford Museum where the infamous “Messiah” made by Stradivarius was housed. In the 1700’s a copy of the “Messiah” was made by Nicholas Lupot of Paris, France. The founder of Reminyi Music in Canada, Zoltan Reminyi, purchased the copy in Europe before moving to Canada. He needed money to open a music store in Toronto, Ontario, and sold the copy of the “Messiah” at an auction. Bruce’s father, Robert West, purchased the violin. In need of a violin to play, Bruce made a copy of the copy of the “Messiah”.
Bruce was playing violin with an amateur orchestra in Barry, Ontario. He was asked to move over to viola in the orchestra and because he didn’t have a viola…you guessed it….he built one. He studied the dimensions of tenor and alto violas and used both Stradavarius’s and his own calculations and proportions to build the viola. Bruce once donated a viola to the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, which was accepted and has been played and acclaimed by William Primrose, world-renowned viola player.

Bruce, with an engineer’s brain, has an uncanny ability to figure out how things work and how to build incredible instruments. He has worked for hours experimenting with wood and how it responds to different experiments and how those experiments produce different sounds.
From the violin and viola it was only natural that Bruce would move on to making cellos and bows. He built his first cello after sending to the US and ordering plans for a Stradivarius cello. Bruce met Allen Stellings who was cellist and teacher in Toronto University of Toronto Conservatory. Stellings was instrumental in the sale of several of Bruce’s cellos and bows. While, one time, babysitting four of Stelling’s bows made by famous bowmakers, Pecccatte, Voirin, Sartory, and Simon, Bruce studied and tested them carefully and designed a bow jig to make his own bows combining the best features of each.

Bruce taught a violin-making course at a high school for North York Board in Toronto for three years. Linda Manzer attended this course. Darryl Williams and Bruce taught a half credit course in general instrument making at Sir Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont. Bruce has also taught guitar making courses from his home outside of Stirling, Ontario.

Bruce is a huge fan of the history of instrument making and has a vast amount of knowledge in this area. Bruce is still actively building guitars and violins. His guitars can be ordered directly from Bruce and can also be found at the 12th Fret in Toronto. Violins, Violas, Cellos and Bows can be ordered directly from Bruce.