Harry Vas Dias's Baroque Oboe Workshop

Location: Atlanta, GA, USA.

Date: October 11, 2000.

Camera: Nikon Coolpix 990, built-in zoom lens.

UPDATE (January 2015): Harry Vas Dias has a website now! It is not operated by him, but you can see the list of instruments he makes and ordering instructions there. Visit the Harry Vas Dias Oboe Maker website.

Harry Vas Dias is a Dutch gentleman who makes baroque oboes for a living, and has his home and workshop in a neighborhood near Emory University in Atlanta, GA. He used to be a very good oboe player and has made instruments for famous oboists.

My high school friend Javier Ortega had a beautiful oboe made by Harry in 1998. Luis Albarrán, another friend from high school, was studying graphic design and photography in Atlanta at that time, and he picked up the finished oboe and later brought it back to Javier in Mexico. In October 1998 I was living in Chapel Hill, NC during my work period at RHAD Labs. Being close enough to Atlanta, I drove down there for a few days to visit Luis. He had borrowed a gorgeous 70mm view camera from school and wanted to do a photo session of Harry's workshop. We went there and he took some very nice pictures of Harry at his lathe; he was right in the middle of making an oboe at that time. Harry let me play a beautiful harpsichord that a friend of his had made for him. We had a great time.

Two years later, I went to the Atlanta Linux Showcase. I arrived to Atlanta a couple days before the conference actually started, so I decided to do some visiting. I phoned Harry Vas Dias with the intention of saying hello and to invite him for dinner as well. He told me it would be better if I just dropped by his house; we agreed on a train station for me to go to and he would pick me up there. I took a cab instead of the train because I wanted to go buy a bottle of good wine as a present; my cab driver got fantastically lost and we barely made it on time to the Avondale train station. Harry had just arrived there. He told me that as soon as I had hung up from talking to him, Javier Ortega had called. Javier was in town as well and he had decided to visit Harry. What a great coincidence!

We drove to Harry's house, I said hello to his wife Patricia, and Javier arrived a few minutes afterwards. It turns out that Javier was in Atlanta for some business stuff and he wanted to see Harry again; previously they had only met in person at a musical event in Florida. Harry and Javier discussed lots of baroque oboe issues while I listened and talked to Patricia. Harry was experimenting with a new design for an oboe d'amore and he was not completely satisfied with it; the E flat did not sound quite as bright or as good as the other notes. I had brought with me a couple musical scores of two Bach and Vivaldi concertos arranged for oboe and piano. I tried playing the piano part on the harpsichord and Harry tried the oboe part, but both were rather difficult and would require serious practice. So we just fooled around.

Eventually I took out my camera and took a bunch of pictures of Harry's workshop. He was not at the lathe this time; rather he was talking to Javier. In all, we had a very pleasant time. It was great to see Harry again and to meet Javier there out of sheer luck.

These are the pictures I took. I did not use a flash so that they would not look washed-out; I like the warm look that the wooden walls of the workshop give to the pictures. I did not have a tripod with me, so some of them may have shook a bit during the increased exposure time. The thumbnails are linked to 1024x768-pixel images; unfortunately I have lost the original high-resolution pictures out of the camera.

Tools and partly-finished oboes
More tools
Wooden handles
Finished oboes
Diagrams for an oboe d'amore
Diagrams for an oboe d'amore
Oboe parts in the making
Bits for the inside of the oboes, shaky
Fat drill bits
Medium drill bits, badly focused
Wooden handles
Close-up of oboes in the making
Finished oboe parts
Close-up of finished parts
Measuring calipers
Close-up of finished parts
Raw and cut reeds
Raw reeds
A neat bundle of raw reeds
One of the lathe machines
Lathe machine and oboe parts in the making
Wall with memorabilia
Wall with memorabilia
Wooden handles
Badly-focused bits for the inside of the oboes
Parts in the making, very slightly shaky
Javier trying an oboe
Plenty of reeds in the making
Finished oboes, reeds, random odds and ends
Finished oboes
Medium drill bits
Medium drill bits, closer
Fat drill bits
Harry Vas Dias and Javier Ortega
Harry Vas Dias and Javier Ortega, with flash
Holding oboes, with flash
Holding oboes, no flash, shaky, and over-exposed