Tim Duerinck created this instrument for his graduation as master instrument maker at the Royal Conservatory of Ghent. He documented the making of this cello in his master’s thesis (in Dutch).
The Advantage of Styrofoam
Because Styrofoam is such a lightweight material, the cello is significantly louder (6dB) than a conventional wooden instrument.
Duerinck used styrofoam for the belly of the cello, and maple for its back and ribs. He provided extra support for the belly through a strip of wood down the center and carbon fiber under the bridge.
A Famous Cello
The instrument received international attention after Belgian national television covered it. Tourism Flanders featured this cello in their video: Experience our Flemish Masters, promoting the old – and the new – masters of the arts in Flanders.
Tim Duerinck studied violinmaking at the Royal Conservatory Ghent, Belgium. He did internships with Marcin Krupa in Poznan (Poland) and Yann Porret in Paris (France). During his education he took an interest in acoustics, publishing his bachelor paper in a scientific peer-reviewed journal. During his master he experimented with different materials and shapes, resulting in the creation of the Styrofoam cello. For this research, he received much recognition including an award from the Royal Academy of Belgium for science and arts. He continues his artistic research through a PhD in the art of instrument making in cooperation between Ghent University and the School of Arts Ghent, which is funded by the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO).
In an effort to steer away from uniformity, Tim creates unique instruments in both design and use of materials. He uses a variety of fiber-reinforced composite materials including – but not limited to – carbon fiber, glass fiber, and flax fiber to create durable music instruments with a unique sound. As such he pushes the boundaries of what is believed to be possible in the luthier community. Tim is part of a select group of researchers and violinmakers who exchange knowledge and insights during annual meetings/workshops such as the Oberlin Acoustics workshop (USA) or the Villefavard acoustics workshop (France). He teaches at the Royal Conservatory of Ghent and shares his know-how with a broader audience through social media and videos showing his making process.
As a luthier, artist, and researcher, Tim is a spokesperson for the preservation of valuable historical instruments and the use of contemporary instruments as an alternative. As such he created the art piece “The Value of a Violin” from shredded money, which was exhibited during the Queen Elisabeth Competition for violin. In an effort to protect the environment, he refrains from using endangered tropical woods in his instruments and is on an active search for qualitative (local) alternatives. Most recently he has started a collaboration with cellist Joshua Nakazawa to create a quartet for the environment. A portion of the proceeds that are earned playing with these instruments will be given to an organization that is dedicated to environmental restoration.
Tim Duerinck’s s instruments have been used in a variety of international concerts and exhibitions. Composers Patrick Housen and Reinhard Vanbergen have written music specifically for his instruments.
What inspired you to make your first cello?
My first cello was a classic one made from conventional wooden. As a cellist it was a lifelong dream to make cellos. As a little boy I was in awe when I visited the luthier in our neighbourhood. When I found out you could actually go and study instrument making I thought it would be the perfect combination of working with my hands and science.
How many cellos have you made?
I am currently at 22 instruments, 6 of which were cellos!
How long does it take you to make each type of cello?
Well, it depends on the material used and how much time I can dedicate to the building beside other projects. If I use moulds I have already made - about 1.5 months (full time) for a full composite instrument. Usually I am dividing my time among different commitments (teaching, research, artistic projects) so it takes a bit longer.
For a wooden instrument I would guess it would take me twice as long these days.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in making your cellos, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge is using the material in an optimal way for the cello soundboards. For example: carbon fiber is extremely stiff, so you need to find the right thickness where the soundboard is still stiff and strong enough to support the strings while it is not too stiff so it vibrates more easily. I have overcome this with the help of engineers from Ghent University who introduced me to Classical Laminate theory, which allowed me to calculate how thick I should make my soundboards (approximately). From there it is still a little trial and error, but at least I started quite close to where I wanted to end up.
Comparison of Tim Duerinck's Fiber Cellos
Do you want to try or purchase a cello by Tim Duerinck?
Generally, instruments are made on order in correspondence with the customer. Tim Duerinck has a waiting list but tries to keep instruments on hand in his workshop in Ghent (Belgium) to give interested musicians the opportunity to try them out.
You can contact the maker through e-mail at tim(at)mibcollective.be or social media.
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