Inland Northwest musician creates beautifully crafted instruments By Jillian Chandler
Growing up in the Missouri Ozarks, Edward Byler began woodworking with his father from a young age, and when it comes to his fine craftsmanship with wood today, he follows his heritage. “My father worked as a carpenter, and my grandfather built furniture,” Edward says.
The close-knit family also had a love for making music. Developing his skills in the carpentry business with his father and brothers, paired with the love of music fostered in him throughout his childhood, inspired Edward to unite those woodworking skills with his passion for music—and he began to build his own musical instruments. As a teenager, he crafted a banjo, followed by a hammered dulcimer and then a guitar. A true artist, Edward was also afforded the opportunity to take painting lessons during his youth, and he received training in art and sculpture by the late Dennis Anderson.
It was 30 years ago that Edward, his parents and brothers moved to Bonners Ferry, Idaho. “We loved the west—and in particular North Idaho,” he smiles. Today, you will find Edward carefully crafting violins and violas as a luthier at Edward Byler Violins, which he introduced to the community—and musicians across the globe—in 2013. It is here where his senses of sight, sound and touch come to life through the elements of wood and string, uniting his love of music and wood craftsmanship to create beautiful violins with world-class tone.
“My goal is not to build quantity as much as it is to build them with personality,” affirms Edward. He makes his own purfling and cuts the channel by hand, giving each instrument a more organic appeal. He cooks his own varnish and pigments in the attempt to have them look as much like the colors on the old Italian instruments as possible. “I build mostly del Gesu model violins and am impressed by the humanity that shows through the originals by the tool marks and wear they’ve gotten over the centuries.”
More recently, in addition to the del Gesu model violins he is known for, Edward has focused on making Amatis; each handcrafted violin is built with undeniable love of his craft.
“My wife and family have been huge supporters of my passion, and God has given me the ambition and the talent to rise above the challenges and stay focused,” says Edward. “I have also been very fortunate to have my friend, and world-class violin maker, Ryan Soltis, teach me everything from construction and varnish to tonal adjustments in the final setup of the violin.”
Edward has attended the Acoustic Workshop at Oberlin College and is a member of The Violin Society of America. Over the last few years he has won numerous gold and silver medals for tone and workmanship at the SVA and VMAAI competitions.
When it comes to what he finds most rewarding in his work, Edward says, “It’s the solitude of my shop and the antiquity of the craft; also competing in violin makers competitions and hearing brilliant players playing my instruments. It is truly fulfilling meeting players who can present my work with their gift of playing."