In the first of a series called Tools of the Trade, we take a look inside KC Strings. It’s a workshop owned by Anton Krutz in downtown Merriam, Kan., where luthiers hand-build 50 concert-level instruments each year. A cellist and a violinist discuss the “Krutz” sound.
Anton Krutz is a master luthier who has been making instruments in Merriam since 1992.
In the workshop, unvarnished instruments made of curly maple and spruce hang from the ceiling above workbenches, crowded with chisels and planes. For more than 20 years, the instruments created here have inspired passion in the people who play them.
On a recent afternoon, Trilla Ray-Carter and her husband Monty Carter perform "Carlione" by Turlough O'Carolan in the living room of their home in South Kansas City. Ray-Carter's cello came from KC Strings.
"This is a cello by Anton Krutz that he made in 2004. He brought this out having freshly been finished," recalls Trilla Ray-Carter, principal cellist of the Liberty Symphony. "When I started playing this one, I didn't want to put it down. I just kept playing and kept playing. By the end of the day, I asked,'Could I take it home?'"
The senior luthiers are not rushed by the pressure of any deadline. They spend their days meticulously shaping, sanding, and finishing to Krutz specifications.
It takes 160 hours to create a violin, twice as long for a cello, three times as long for a bass.
From the first choice of wood to the last adjustment, each individual decision determines the quality of the final instrument. And for Anton Krutz, the secret to the "Krutz" sound is in the varnish.
"The wonderful thing about making instruments is that I know they will be here centuries to come," says Krutz. "They'll outlive me. They'll outlive my kids, outlive their kids probably. It's a legacy like no other. That instrument will be speaking for me for centuries to come."