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Michael Darnton

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  1. @qwerty189 I remember some years ago an IRS dispute over depreciation that involved a bass, and I was amazed at the difference in value of that bass compared with other instruments by the same maker. In order for the instrument to have the quality of work put into it that the smaller instruments get it has to pay proportionally. If a cello is 2 X $ for 4 X work, what's the ratio for basses? Not enough to make makers who have better things to do get interested in making basses, I bet. I have a friend who's an excellent violin maker who is also a bassist and makes basses. I wonder what he'd have to say about this problem . . . .
  2. @David Burgess Yup. And violin makers have done it as well, not just violin salesmen. You mean you have never heard of this before????? Genuinely surprised.
  3. @Davide Sora There was nothing wrong with what he was doing before, so no reason to work harder to improve it. At home since he was probably working as one person, not two, 55 instantly drops to 22, and he's doing his own accounting, wholesaling, purchasing sweeping, etc, plus then there's the lack of pressure to perform combined with the entirely adequate income stream (not all Americans work to maximize their possible income. So let's say 22 violins becomes 10 @$25K each, and he was still selling through shops, so that per year figure drops by half. All said, that's a reasonably leisurely life making $125K per year, perhaps, putting him a bit above median family income for his location. Entirely respectable, not excessive.
  4. @Davide Sora At the time a Matsuda violin retailed for about $8000 and he was working for hourly wages for a company that wholesaled his violins to shops. My production figures are accurate. I think we can agree that going off on his own was a good idea, and several others of us at that time did the same thing for similar reasons. The last I knew, maybe 5 years ago, I think a Matsuda violin retail price was around $25,000 and I doubt his production was as high as before. Currently I see a 2017 viola for sale at a shop for $22K.
  5. As an American I'm a bit weary of conspiracy theories as substitutes for evidence, so all I can say at this point is that we have evidence of the three Stradivaris working in the shop (and some experts see a possible additional unknown hand for a short period), plus Carlo Bergonzi's hand in some later instruments. We have as far as I know absolutely no evidence, even tenuous and circumstantial, of anything else. And existing records from that time and place have been quite extensively examined.
  6. If we accept the common guess that about half of Strads are missing, remember that there remain existing as many as 15 violins for some years, indicating a possible production of 30 per year from three people who also had to make the cases and their metal fittings, bows, and *all* of the violins' fittings from scratch, all with zero electrical tools. Chew on that for a bit.
  7. Some alternate perspective: Since Tetsuo Matsuda's name has been brought up recently. . . I worked along side him at WH Lee & Co, and was positioned with one foot in making and one in administration, so I had access to production figures. Fact: every year that Tetsuo was there he and his one single assistant made 55 finished violins working eight hour days with an hour nap after lunch every day, head down on the bench. This was consistent, year to year, obviously intentional. You can do the math on this. When I was there I made 27 violins one year AND set up nearly 300 of the shop instruments (one hour per violin, post, bridge, nut, pegs, all done to the same Bein and Fushi standards that I brought to that job, but honed through repetition, and in a pinch I still can cut a fine bridge in about 30 minutes as a result of that experience.) I raced with another maker (still living, you would know his name) once, and he beat me by several hours, making a white violin in 24 (non-continuous) hours. Another (still living, you would know his name) consistently worked faster than any of the three of us. We used to joke at makers who made 10 a year as being amateurs who didn't have their act together yet. At that time I heard second-hand from someone that Bob Bein had told him that of all the modern makers he'd seen I was the best at creating the effect of the Cremonese instrument tradition in a new instrument, so I don't think I was doing too bad of a job at it. I wonder how many makers who are willing to name their hours take their prices, divide by what they think is a reasonable per hour figure that customers will accept without protest, and name that result as their hours. I often suspect the same situation regarding being booked ahead for years (I have actual behind the scenes accounts of that lie as well). If you have ever been at the back of a two-year list and then your violin shows up in a month or two because someone ahead of you "backed out" and the maker wants you to get yours because you are "special" for some reason, you should know that this isn't all that unusual: every good salesman knows that it takes a while to fully set the hook, and every minute past that offers the fish the opportunity to wiggle loose. Imaginary long lines are good for sales but real long lines are not. When we started our retail business one famous-name maker, booked up to infinity, called us to say that he had nine unsold violins on his rack and could we help him get rid of some. Anyone who's been here a while knows the similar story of a supposedly backed up EuroMaker whose new NYC representative made the mistake of advertising that they had three violins for sale, in stock and available now. I don't doubt all of the figures people name for how long they take, but I wonder how fast they could work if they had a real job working for someone else alongside others who worked much faster. :-) My time for a violin, finished and set up, now runs around 80 hours. My machines are a band saw, a drill press (optional, but nice to have for the peg holes and f-hole eyes), and a purfling machine. I do things like planing ribs, shaping arching, outlines, etc, entirely by hand. The trick to working fast is knowing where you are going and getting most of the way there as efficiently as possible, leaving a lot of time for the last 5% of the work. This comes from lots of experience, and especially from taking risks by working on the edge along the way while learning. I don't expect this post to be well received, but it's my true experience behind the scenes in the violin biz, working at a couple of big shops, and now having my own fancy nine-person retail shop. I am DEFINITELY NOT saying that every maker is a liar on these topics, but I know that a lot of them are. As already stated, single makers have also to deal with ordering, customers, cleaning, etc. and those are real costs. Also remember that it costs well over $100 an hour to get anything done on your car, so we shouldn't begrudge makers who think they are worth more for what they do than the guy who changes your oil.
  8. That's inconvenient to the argument. It's more satisfying to believe that the whole Strad fad is due to the diabolical machinations of Big Violin. Conspiracy theories? Violin makers were there first!
  9. Exactly what Vuillaume said about his own work, except since the times were closer together he was predicting he'd be equal to Stradivari in 100 years.
  10. Are we to understand that these pix are north of the bridge? I've never seen a post crack that was only there, and generally this side of the bridge is under compression from the bridge, not from the post, from inside. Nothing south of the bridge? Not a post crack.
  11. At least you know that you wrote it. That's a start. I'll go gather some unqualified people off the street to tell you what you meant.
  12. @GeorgeH I have said this before regarding violins: I have a friend who took the violin recordings from the Bein & Fushi Miracle Makers book (24 Strads and del Gesus) and the first time through the recording split them into Strads and del Gesus with one mistake. I have often read that this is an "impossible" task. However, as it only takes one white crow to prove that "all crows are black" is false, likewise with this incident: it certainly is possible to tell violins apart IF ONE HAS THE NECESSARY SKILL SET, which hardly any player just grabbed off the street does. He was even able to tell me how he did it, but I'm not skill-equipped to do the same thing. The wine example only proves that so far they haven't located someone who can tell the difference, not that there is not a difference. In the famous experiment for violins that's often quoted, supposedly one player was able to separate the old violins from the new (this is a rumor). If this is true, at that point I would have told everyone else to go home, and tried to find out what this one person could do. That was not in line with the prejudices of the testers so it didn't happen. So you are right, prejudice does play a part in this. I suspect that if I asked you whether there was life in other solar systems you would say "We have not found any" rather than "No, there is not," without a lecture on how amateurs can be fooled about the issue. That's proper science.
  13. Speaking as a shop owner, it's a bad idea to try to set up or sell a violin with the restriction that it only works with certain strings. Especially when other solutions are available.
  14. Presumably a proof reader will have better skills of differentiation in his specialty than the normal reader. Having had this job for a while I know that it's possible. So the solution is to not let the unqualified have the job and then publish "definitive research" based on what they can't discriminate with their inferior skillset.
  15. A friend of mine who makes a ~50/50 split and is probably sitting at around 1000 instruments total likes to say that cellos are 4X the work for 2X the money.
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