martin swan

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Everything posted by martin swan

  1. Anders, I don't deal much with modern trade instruments, but I do have a lot of experience of early 20th century French trade violins, and I think your hypothesis is correct. Although the Mirecourt workshops obviously had a far more evolved & successful approach to thicknessing than the equivalent Bohemian and German factories, I imagine it was still a rather routine or mechanical process. The thing which interests me is that every now and then, one of these rather mundane factory violins will turn out to be wonderful. I've even come across a Medio Fino (allegedly the plates were steame
  2. I think it's a pity to sink the ship for a barrel of tar, and you'd probably be as well to start with a new fingerboard. It looks like you'd lose too much thickness by planing it flat again, though fingerboards are often quite a bit thicker than they need to be. I suppose it depends on whether your neck is svelte and sexy or a bit chunky! An average thickness of neck will feel good with a fingerboard that has a thickness of about 4mm on the edges, but given that yours has a warp that lifts by about 2mm at each end, that's what you'd have to remove from the centre point of the warp - think i
  3. Jeffrey, I agree with everything you've said. I frequently buy old violins with table soundpost cracks, patched or otherwise, and I factor in a devaluation of about 20% at the point of purchase and the point of sale. I'm a bit more negative with back soundpost cracks, but if the violin sounds good and the repair's neat I don't think it's the huge no-no that the trade seems to think it is. I've noticed that dealers tend to devalue by 50% when they're buying, but when they're selling, a soundpost crack is often "not really a factor"! However, I'd hold to my contention that Beare's and simila
  4. I'd hardly describe it as gambling since the bow is unquestionably not genuine. It's not even a genuine German fake! So you buy it, thinking there's an outside chance it might be genuine, you then show it to someone whose opinion you trust and they say "cheap chinese fake". Are you now going to re-list it as "cheap Chinese bow with a fake stamp", or are you going to leave it as "violin bow stamped Marcel Fetique"? The former would be honest and correct, the latter would be unacceptable in my view, since you now know the truth of the matter and might risk duping someone even more credulous th
  5. Beares are notorious for their truly exorbitant repair costs. £100 an hour and 10 hours might be appropriate for a Guadagnini, but a good restorer could do a soundpost patch in less than 5 hours without question, and £50 an hour is a lot to charge, even if you've been to Newark! My neck graft statistics are specifically for eBay "neck grafts", and I'm saying that 1 in 25 eBay violins with a neck graft, fake or genuine, is a pre-1800 violin of quality. Don't think you'd argue with that, though I know you're not buying them all ! Definitely agree that no-one would do a neck graft to save wo
  6. Like Jacob I am amazed that people obsess about neck grafts, as about 80% of the neck grafts out there are repairs. Fiddles fall down stairs, the necks break etc ..... On eBay the incidence of "neck grafts" seems extraordinarily high, and as the rather sullen Lyndon explains, a seller who draws attention to a neck graft is almost always dodgy. About 50% of neck grafts on eBay are scratched on, 40% are repairs on standard scale violins, and perhaps 10% are modernisations of baroque violins. Of the modernised baroque violins with neck grafts, 75% are rather indifferent early 19th century "Germ
  7. A violin is not a tool for producing sound, it's a tool for making music. The two things are quite different, and most of this thread seems to be taken up with a discussion of how design can affect sound production. This resolves itself into inevitable disagreement about how to evaluate tone as a listener. But when it comes down to it, that's not the issue with violins - the issue is whether a player makes better music on a particular violin, and really only the player can tell you this. If the player plays for their own pleasure, than it's the degree of pleasure that matters. If the pla
  8. John, you may be right, I'm not familiar with these automatic systems, but I suppose the key difference is that a legitimate set of rapid automatic bids would tend to put the bidder in lead position, whereas rapid shill bidding would probably end under the high bidder! Also this kind of shill bidding tends to be seen in episodes, maybe one lot early in the auction, another lot the next day, another lot nearer the end etc .... I imagine that people savvy enough to put in automatic bids would also do it in the last 5 seconds, whereas I'm observing this type of bidding at the mid-point of an auct
  9. There's a lot of debate about whether one should bid in the last couple of seconds or not. As an eBay seller, I couldn't possibly comment! But I would observe that most items sell for an amount decided by the seller - everyone sets reserves, some are visible & official (like mine), most are invisible. Discussions of bidding strategy tend to overlook this. Although I'm the first to defend eBay as a marketplace (with some major caveats, public feedback, return policies, paypal etc), the practice of shill-bidding is widespread, as it is in the major auction houses. Because buyers don't like
  10. In the case of the 2 bows cited they are definitely too good to be true, though in quite different ways. The "Fetique" is a modern Chinese bow with a fake stamp - these are sold in vast quantities, mainly through eBay US, but by the prices reached I don't think many people think they're genuine. Although mass-produced, they can be good players. The seller specializes in these bows and doesn't seem to be getting excessive prices for them. The "Sartory" however is an old German "copy" in slightly nasty brazilwood with very cheap nickel fittings, and it's just tatty and jaded enough that someone
  11. I don't have an "expert" opinion on this, however I have found that the single most important element in a set-up (assuming a reasonably sensible soundpost position and a tidy bridge sitting properly over the bassbar) is the string tension. This is determined by the make of string and the bridge height (which is in turn determined by the neck angle). Every violin requires a different degree of down-bearing on the bridge to make it sound its best, and it's futile to follow approved measurements. Given that a .5mm reduction in bridge height on the E string can make a big change to the overall so
  12. In Hungary everyone uses lipstick! This works in exactly the same way as Jacob's chinagraph penci, but it's soft and very easy to remove with a tissue. I get a bit embarrassed buying it, and am never sure exactly what shade to go for ..... Martin Swan VIolins
  13. did you notice it's located in Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, Cyprus? bit of geographical confusion all round!
  14. or the great and under-rated Irish maker Shaun Burke? not admittedly as good as Mark Newchurch but more prolific .....
  15. Hi Addie, here's another lovely listing for you ... Betts violins "Italian style" appears to mean a violin with f-holes, pegs, a scroll etc rather like a Stradivari! Henry Betts "believed to be brother of Arthur & John" must surely be half-brother by a German father - to describe this violin as English is just fraudulent!
  16. Addie, not planning to drink the hemlock just yet! great picture ....
  17. Like all the major auction houses, Tarisio are pushing up their estimates pretty ruthlessly. Quite a lot of stuff isn't selling, but what does sell becomes the guide price for the next time, and the estimate goes up a bit more. The auction houses control prices throughout the trade, and as with the art market, I think they are colluding in some very unhealthy practices.
  18. "attributed to so and so" in auction-ese means "looks sufficiently like the work of so and so that we can throw the name in and bump up the price a bit" So the composite Strad has a back & label by Stradivarius, and nothing else. Is it right to call this a Stradivarius atall? "An 18th century composite violin, the back by Stradivarius" would be a fair description.
  19. I wasn't aware that I had to establish my credibility ... this is an internet forum after all! Well the point I'm making may be obvious but it can't be overstated. I'm not sure what you mean by name-dropping. Am I dropping the wrong names? It's difficult to discuss this subject without referring to makers. As for my criteria - they're by and large the same as any professional player's. A great violin is one you find yourself making great music on ... I suppose the constituent parts are generally (and not in order of importance) 1. the absence of irregularity or nasty artefacts that hav
  20. Hi Jeremy, It was great to hear your favourable impressions of the Tarisio beauties, and to know that you actually played these violins! However, I went to the March Tarisio auction in London and had pretty much the opposite experience ... I went to 3 other London auctions at the same time, and played my way through hundreds of priceless Italian masterpieces. I came away more convinced than ever that it's all "emperor's new clothes", and that one should be very careful not to confuse price tags with tone. I'm sure I have rather idiosyncratic tastes, but only 2 violins stood out to me as bein
  21. HI, I'm reasonably sure this is a late 19th century "German" factory violin. It has a very high gloss spirit varnish, and rather bellicose arching. I also think it was "distressed" when it was made as the apparent wear & blackening on the ribs doesn't tie in with the state of the varnish on the back. Of course German didn't exist at the time this was made, but I would think Bohemia (Schoenbach) or Saxony not Mittenwald. These heavily arched violins can sometimes sound very good.
  22. Hi Adam, I'd be a little wary of using it on pure gut strings, though I can't say I'm sure. I use it for synthetic strings, and it smells to me very much like acetone (nail polish remover). The Hardanger strings we use are quite soft, and I'd be happier using something a bit blander. Maybe methylated spirits would be better - it works for cleaning bow hair. Martin Swan Violins
  23. Does this rule really exist atall? None of the makers I know or work with think that there's any reason to favour Bosnian maple or Italian spruce. Most Scottish makers like to use Scottish sycamore. Really careful makers tend to like to sift through a pile of wood and pick out whatever feels right in their hand. Inevitably this leads them to local suppliers. We use wood from Transylvania because it's close to Hungary and I can go and select stuff that feels right. We also use Scottish sycamore because a friend has a huge pile of it .... Even if we look at the Cremonese makers who everyone
  24. I agree that this is what the OP is looking for. Our (collective) advice seems to be that European tonewoods aren't a guarantee of anything. So John, I would recommend getting in touch with Jephin Liew at old violin house . He's a very serious individual who is trying to make great sounding violins. I think you should email him and say you don't care about anything other than sound, and what would he recommend at under $1000. He will give you an honest reply. He operates his own workshop, but also deals in violins from dozens of Chinese workshops. On a slightly different tack, I would re
  25. ps. it's worth pointing out that the cost of production of the average Chinese workshop violin is under $100 - there's no way a Chinese luthier is going to spend $60 on wood. $15 is an average cost price per violin, and that's for the whole lot, back, top and neck! Once you've factored in transport, travel and selection time, it's costing a good deal more than Chinese wood, but maybe $15 more per violin. Doesn't exactly justify a big price hike!