martin swan

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Everything posted by martin swan

  1. this only seems to go back 15 days - am i missing something? You can check back 3 months by looking at the seller's feedback, but I think that's it these days ....
  2. Just had a look through the most watched items in the US. What a vale of tears awaits .....! Apart from Mr Hound's unimpeachable offerings (which as a gentleman I refrained from viewing) the rest is mis-described, very poor, or downright criminal. 2 early 20th century violins described as early 19th century, a fake neck graft, several fake Italian labels, a "French" violin which isn't, and a very basic JTL with an inflated valuation/certificate provided by the seller. And some dire Bohemian rubbish. I rest my case.
  3. It seems to me that the items which get highest watch count are the most dodgy - like Bereznitsky's endless procession of "Italian" violins. Like moths to a flame, eBay buyers are drawn inexorably towards their own doom!
  4. For what it's worth, speaking as someone who has sold over 400 instruments and bows on eBay, mainly French trade violins and better ....... I think the only fair way to sell on eBay is to include a realistic retail estimate. i suppose some lower level sellers aren't knowledgeable enough to do that, but if I was an uninformed buyer, I would buy from someone who knows exactly what the instrument is worth and who is prepared to put a cap on excessive bidding by stating that fact in the listing. I love these sellers who say "I haven't had the time to have it valued" or "no experts have seen this instrument"! Any regular seller who "can't exactly identify something" is on the make ...... it's an admission of dishonesty in my book. I put a retail estimate in all my listings, and I would accept a return if this estimate was challenged by someone more knowledgeable. Caspace is exactly right that a return policy is not a guarantee of a fair deal - I have met many people who have bought on eBay and taken the description on trust. They assume that because it's a "free" market (which of course it isn't), then they're only paying the correct market price - very often they're being taken for fools. Even with a return policy I think eBay prices should be slightly less than auction house prices, since auction houses at least give you the opportunity to play and examine in detail. The exception would be for items with certificates from widely respected third parties - writing your own certificate is a joke, and as far as I know only mariam94 does this. Tarisio have pioneered the use of massive photos to oversell pretty-looking instruments that sound like strangled cats, and many eBay dealers are following their business model. These days I think extra large photos should be seen as a red light, along with private bidder ids or private seller feedback (though of course I would exclude Mr Pahdah from this sweeping condemnation of sexy photos). Martin Swan Violins
  5. There may be levels of irony in the previous posts that escape me. Irony is meant to be more a British thing than an American thing, but as Americans keep pointing out, we don't even know how to pronounce the word .... This is a Vuillaume. I played it today - the sound was average to good, nothing to write home about, unlike the Gagliano which didn't sell and played twice as well. However, no doubt about its authenticity, and 1829 is quite late for worrying about neck grafts. The Vuillaume in Sothebys tomorrow is similar in sound, definitely not "world class" either. The Tarisio instrument was nicer looking and felt better in the hand.
  6. There are a few different issues here, but my view would be ... 1. Hallmarking a silver or gold mounted bow is vandalism, even if the bow is pretty rubbish to start with! It achieves absolutely nothing, and would only be done by some deluded individual who thinks it may add value to an otherwise unsellable bow. 2. Changes to the balance point by modifications to the lapping are carried out routinely and are relatively harmless as they can always be reversed. Fashions change, and teachers keep coming up with different formulations about weight, balance point etc. We struggle to accomodate their bizarre and mis-informed pronouncements! 3. Respringing is often required, but should only be done by someone who specializes in this - it's very easy to ruin a bow by careless re-straightening etc ... Martin Swan Violins
  7. In my opinion you should try selling an instrument with a "Buy It Now or Best Offer ..." listing. Put it up for 30 days or "good till cancelled" and see what sort of interest you get. If you're not used to selling on eBay, don't list it with a low starting price and no reserve! I sell quite a few new instruments on eBay at fixed prices - they do sell, but they don't sell fast! For instance this sort of thing : Viola As someone else mentioned, even if your violin doesn't sell this way it will get a lot of viewers, and it all helps to spread the word. A lot of people come to my website via eBay - Lyndon is right about the website issue, but if you don't use the word "website" eBay usually can't see a link. Martin Swan Violins
  8. cheap french trade fiddle, post 1880, "great sound doesn't buy you a cup of coffee" - there lyndon, I said it for you! It has some characteristics that seem to appeal to eBay buyers, namely VERY LARGE PHOTOS, a degree of visible eccentricity in the table, and of course the money shot - a bit of purfling stuck in the bottom rib join to sort out a case of unseasoned ribs. padadh_hound is selling this violin on the basis of its sound, and we can't really judge that, it may be just as exceptional as he says - I've played dozens of unpurfled French violins with plain backs which did sound great, and I've played a lot of 5 figure violins that sound terrible. But it's the photos and the tonal description that are selling this violin - in a UK shop it wouldn't be possible to sell it for more than £900, however good it sounded. Maybe in Guiviers it would be £1500 .... but it would be overpriced!
  9. I played a Secondo Bianchini recently - it came from a trusted source, and it didn't look anything like this violin. I would say this is "Bohemian" judging by the button and the replica label - Bianchini is a popular label!
  10. Kelvin & David, thanks for the tips - exactly what I wanted to know.
  11. Recently I wanted to adjust the string height on a new violin of ours, and in removing the bridge I took away a small amount of varnish. This hasn't happened before in identical circumstances (over 30 instruments), now I'm starting to worry. Does anyone have any tricks (apart from leaving the violin for another 6 months before stringing it up)? I wondered about applying a small film of candle-wax under the bridge feet ..... the varnish is oil, I don't imagine it would be damaged by candle-wax. Advice would be appreciated.
  12. Well these days I spend most of my life doing comparative assessments of violins and bows. I have come to my own conclusions based on a lot of experience, but I agree that these conclusions don't correspond at all with either the received wisdom or the considered opinions of others, often more experienced than myself. A bow brings quite a significant tonal component to a violin - it's made of substances which respond to vibration, friction and humidity, perhaps more so than a violin in that the rosin is doing a lot of the work and it's a very volatile material. So you can't expect a bow to function in the same way from one moment to the next - I think anyone who performs regularly will agree with that. I was really only talking about how to evaluate bows in a comparative context, perhaps when trying to choose a bow in a shop. I have a number of bows which don't produce a good volume until they've been in use for at least a few minutes, and rapid comparisons between one bow and another never reveal their true quality. I know I'm talking about a much shorter warm-up or "playing in" period than people talk about in the context of violins (which seems to range from a couple of hours to several months, depending on how awful the violin is), but I still think it's a real phenomenon.
  13. Ultimately it's a question of how much time to invest - that rather depends on how good it sounds. Only you can decide ....!
  14. Teachers are the bane of every restorer - a little knowledge is a dangerous thing! I would get the neck stop at 130 and place the bridge at 195 irrespective of where the notches are at the moment. As Jacob said, it's very common for nicks to be very odd on N&H violins, and it's common practice to place the bridge independently ....
  15. HI, I think that treated wood for bridges is artificially hardened, sometimes steamed, sometimes through a chemical process, not sure exactly ... European beech (fagus sylvatica) has pretty similar medullary rays to American Beech (fagus grandifolia), but they both vary a lot, and you'd have to cut a lot of bits precisely on the quarter to get the sort of "bubbles" in Melvin's photo. "Kilning" refers to processes that remove moisture from wood using heat or vacuum. As Lyndon says, vacuum kilning leaves you with a substance that looks a bit like wood but has few of the properties! In my experience beech moves more than sycamore/maple, but it depends heavily on how it's grown and the resulting grain structure - it's not the worst offender, elm is horrific for movement. Ash is very stable, but not great for carving - I thinik maple is a good compromise between stability and ease of carving.
  16. I would defer to Manfio, he is a lot more knowledgeable than me, but 1 in 20 is a lot of twist (though maybe I'm misunderstanding what you mean). I really wouldn't want to use it unless it was totally dry, and I would only use it for a two-piece back, quarter-sawn as far as is possible. I would dry the wood in split billets and then only saw it when it's fully dry, as the twist will probably increase with seasoning.
  17. Don't touch it - particularly for a one-piece back. This tree has a bit of spiral grain, and it will move a lot more as it dries. Even when it's completely dry it will have a lot of runout over the length of a violin back. It would be tragic to put so much work into a piece of wood and then have to junk it. Make some chopping boards!
  18. It's certainly a very expensive way to buy a photocopied label - I picked up a copy of Marlin Brinser's Dictionary of 20th Century Italian Violin Makers for £45. It has photocopies of around 300 "modern Italian" labels. I can enjoy looking at them, and I didn't have to buy a load of useless firewood at the same time. Surely a much better deal - the transport cost was significantly lower too, so better for the environment ... Martin Swan Violins
  19. HI CT! I respect your opinion, and most likely we are both wrong about everything. I suppose I was slightly playing devil's advocate. If I was to be precise, I would say that like you, I feel all this is not susceptible to any kind of rational analysis. I think it depends where you're coming from, and few of us can detach from an agenda which we keep secret, even to ourselves. A restorer will have a different perspective from a maker, a dealer will have a whole other perspective (is s/he buying or selling?), a player another ... mostly people find what they're looking for. The main thing which colours the behaviour of an instrument, however long it's been sitting idle, is the intention of the player - this is the kind of quasi-Buddhist non-statement which we might both agree on!
  20. Maybe if they'd had kilns in Stradivari's day his violins would have sounded EVEN BETTER! In Scotland, Scots Pine used to be dried by storing it in ponds for a few months - the sap would be replaced by water, then the logs were cut, and the drying time was weeks rather than the usual "year per inch". This also avoided the blue staining that can affect the wood if it's stored for any length of time in the round. I would imagine that in the early 18th century most violin wood spent a lot of time in water, either for ease of drying or because of the absence of timber trucks - maple from Croatia and Bosnia was probably floated across the Med to Italy, and high grown spruce would have been floated down rivers. I wouldn't use kilned wood for violins, though I can't see a problem with a slow heat&vent type kiln in responsible hands .... many furniture makers build their own mini-kilns in order to ensure good results.
  21. Glenn, I would go further and seriously question the whole notion that violins need to be played in. I think players need to be played in! I do concede that there are physical changes in an instrument brought about by playing, but I'd say at least 80% of the perceived phenomenon is down to the player adapting, loosening up, finding the right approach to the violin. Bows, on the other hand, do seem to need warming up, but this could just be to do with how the rosin responds to friction/heat. I've noticed that many very good bows seem to make a small noise initially, and that you have to use a bow for 5 or 10 minutes to get any idea of its sound. People talk a lot about violins going to sleep, and the need to bring them back to life. I have never observed this phenomenon, although I have dealt with hundreds of old violins that haven't been played for decades, and have had "intimate relations" with a few dozen such violins. I think this particular argument is one of many used to sell poor-sounding violins, and I don't think people should buy (or sell) violins on the basis of how the tone might develop. I have occasionally experienced dramatic changes in new violins over a 6 month period, but this has generally been connected with a drop in the neck angle and a lowering of the bridge, or some other revision of the set-up. Martin Swan Violins
  22. It's definitely possible to change the properties of wood by aggressive kilning - this is called case hardening. However, I don't believe that there is any difference in the cell structure of properly kilned wood and air-dried wood, and therefore I wouldn't expect any tonal effects. But this kind of kiln-drying requires more skill and more time, so most kilned wood is case-hardened, and this changes everything about it. Some cabinet-makers won't use any kilned wood, but this is partly because they're not used to the feeling of wood that's really dry. I think they mistake the sensation (of working wood which is genuinely dry) with some notion that kilned wood is "dead". It's much easier to cut, plane and carve wood which is at 12% than wood at 5%, and old-school cabinet-makers who like to use hand tools also like using wood which is a bit wet! In some climates (Scotland for instance) it's pretty much impossible to get wood down under 12% without using heat. We sometimes use Scottish sycamore for backs & ribs, but air drying for 50 years in Scotland will get you nowhere - it has to be indoors in a dry environment for a year before it's properly stable. If your maple and spruce feels nice to work it's probably too wet for a violin! Martin Swan Violins
  23. There are a number of reference books ... for instance,"The Woodbook" a reprint of Romeyn Beck Hough's early 20th century guide to American woods. ISBN 3-8228-1742-2
  24. There are several different issues in this thread, all interesting! It's a well observed phenomenon that if you relax the tension by slackening the strings and then retension everything, it will take 24 hours to settle down and sound like it sounds. So the success of any modifications which involve taking the bridge down can't really be judged the same day. In my experience it can go either way, sounding significantly better or significantly worse the next day! Most soundposts are shoved in far too tight, and take a bit of effort to dislodge, even with the strings down. Any change of position is likely to mean that the soundpost is a bit looser, so when you tighten everything up again you have subtly changed the arching, as well as inducing a new degree of tension in the table which may relax very quickly .... The difficulty of judging one violin against another is a whole other can of worms - I'm afraid I think it's like marriage. You have to make the commitment! Moving serially from one violin to another results in a chain of adverse comparison, and some players get stuck in that for life, always wondering if this one is "the one". When you move rapidly from one instrument to another you're mainly hearing the differences, not the reality. I think it's best to stop listening to the violins and just be aware of whether you're making good music. Sometimes you make the best music on a violin whose sound you don't completely approve of, but that's the instrument to hold on to. Sell all the others and start playing. Life is short. Martin Swan Violins
  25. Yes it's a basic German factory instrument - Schoenfelder is a trade name ie. not a real maker. However, I've played a few of these, also Musima instruments, and generally they sound OK, in my view better than Chinese equivalents. I suppose this would retail for £8-900 with bow & case. On eBay you'd be lucky to get £200 so I don't recommend that. A private sale through a local paper or a small ad in a music college would get the best price (I'd suggest about £400). Lots of violin students want a viola but many don't regard it as a serious instrument and don't want to pay much ... Good luck. Martin Swan Violins