Don Leister is a violin maker and luthier living in Richmond, Virginia. To visit the shop for a repair, to look at instruments, or for a free estimate please call ahead for an appointment.

To me, violins are the most beautiful things that can be made from wood. That includes all of the bowed instruments, violas, cello, basses, gambas and many more.
And with the player they make the most beautiful sound. What else is there to than to be part of that vision I have?

I have made about eighty instruments, mostly violins but some violas and a cello too. I made my first violin in 1989, learning from the few books I could find and looking at good violins wherever I could. At the time, I had extensive woodworking experience and Bachelors in Painting and Printmaking from VCU and wanted a better violin to play, so naturally I started learning how to make violins and fell in love with it.


Repairs and restoration of bowed instruments and rehairing bows. Free estimates for repair. String installation and instrument adjustments while you wait.
Same day rehair service can be arranged.
New instruments made solely by me.

I repair bowed instruments and bows, and build primarily violins and violas. These are made completely by me starting from carefully selected woods. I usually have a good selection of instruments on hand for you to try out. Please call for availability!Right now I am making mostly Stradivari and Guarneri model violins. These designs are well proven and set the highest standard that luthiers strive for today. I also make another model based on a 1729 Carlo Bergonzi.As for wood selection I generally use aged spruce from the Italian and Swiss Alps and maple from eastern Europe although I am having good success with American maple. If you are ordering an instrument you can even select the wood!All of my instruments are done with oil varnishes that I make or buy from violin varnish makers.I play violin for contra dances and local events and play viola in a small ensemble for fun.In 2002, I entered my first violin making competition, the Violin Makers’ Association of Arizona International ’02, and won three trophies, including the top award. My instruments are played by both professional and amatuer classical and folk musicians across the U.S.


2002 VMAAI Competition

  • Bob Wallace Grand Prize
  • 1st Prize for tone, gut string
  • 2nd Prize for overall points, gut string