The Violin Beautiful

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  1. Personally, I really like seeing brands on bridges, and I like to collect bridges that I come across. It’s a nice way to see what styles various shops and makers use. As far as the manufacturer’s stamp, I don’t think it ultimately matters that much whether you keep it or plane it off. However, if your pricing structure is such that the price correlates with the level of the blank, customers may appreciate being able to read the stamp to confirm that they received the level they asked for.
  2. Absolutely. They can make or break a sale, and the trend toward having one is only increasing. Violins that no one would have bothered to certify 10 years ago are hard to sell without them now. It’s an extra expense, but it helps people feel confident about an instrument when one can show a history of documentation, especially if all the certificates are in agreement. Also, a detailed writeup accompanied by professional photos (part of what you get if you buy a certificate) can be very helpful for getting an insurance appraisal or for identifying a lost or stolen instrument.
  3. A couple of thoughts: 1) If you are a manufacturer/inventor of a new product that you hope will revolutionize the industry, you have an uphill battle against time-honored tradition. To convince the professionals that your product is better, it takes solid and easily repeatable evidence; grandiose claims only add to suspicions. But to have a chance of support, it’s crucial to get the professionals on board. Antagonizing them, especially by suggesting their work is faulty, will only alienate the people whose support you need most. 2) It’s certainly worth thinking of ways to make things simpler, but there are times where efforts to solve one problem can lead to different ones. For comparison, consider the self-rehairing bow: it was intended to simplify the rehair process and make it possible for players to maintain their own bows. The idea sounded appealing, but the product had issues that made it ultimately fail. Even with some of the world’s best archetiers making the bows, the concept never won people over. Making the sound post easy to install and adjust sounds great as an idea, but there are some major challenges to overcome to make it possible. Learning to cut a good soundpost takes a serious investment of time and diligence, but a good luthier can cut one quickly and reliably enough that most customers feel their money is well spent and their quality playing time is maximized.
  4. What did you have against the original varnish? From the pictures, it looked decent to me. The value of the violin has been drastically reduced by stripping its original varnish, and those cracks are dark black. There’s a sound post crack on the top that will need to be repaired. If you don’t address the damage, it’ll distract from any varnish you put on and will make it extremely difficult to sell. I understand your enthusiasm to restore a violin and make it playable again, but this really isn’t an amateur project.
  5. I’ve seen some rather attractive figure as well. The problem seems to be that the wood is very high in moisture when it’s used and just behaves like it’s water-logged. I haven’t been able to discern whether the wood itself is inferior acoustically because I haven’t come across a sample that was aged and dried properly before being used yet.
  6. If you read the information that the companies that sell these factory instruments send out, they make it quite clear that they use a system based on the grade of the wood. They assume that the sound will correspond to the wood selection, which is not always the case. Honestly, I ignore any descriptions of tone for factory instruments; I look for consistency in workmanship. From what I’ve seen, the cheapest models are made from locally sourced Chinese wood with very little figure. The next levels are determined by the amount of flame in the maple. Then, they start offering models that have European tops with Chinese backs. Their “higher end” instruments purport to be made entirely of European wood. So, to make a decision in ordering, first one determines how much Chinese or European wood one wants, then one chooses the amount of flame desired. After that it’s a matter of picking the other parts of the outfit.
  7. The nut grooves are not properly cut. Yes, you should take it to a luthier; it’s likely that there are other issues with the setup that will need to be corrected to make the instrument playable. Putting string grooves in the nut is an easy task.
  8. I’ve rehaired a couple like this. The knot is supposed to go down into the front compartment, held in place by the little opening in the front where the hair can pass through but the knot can’t. I’ve seen a few examples where the original knot wasn’t even pushed down into the compartment. I actually cut a plug to fit that compartment and fit it so the hair fit in the normal way on one. Those bows are pretty cheap—it’s much cheaper to buy a new one than pay for a rehair. When you can buy bows from China for $12, it just isn’t worth it to do any work on them. I think of them like plastic forks. You can wash them and reuse them, but there isn’t really much point to it.
  9. I think 2.8 in the middle is too thin for soft spruce. I’d probably aim for something like 3.5.
  10. How do the lengths and weights of the two guts and tailpieces compare? Unless it’s a high level tailpiece, the boxwood one is likely softer and lighter. It won’t radiate sound quite the same way as a similarly shaped piece of pernambuco. Also, are you keeping the afterlength the same? If there’s a discrepancy it will have an impact.
  11. I wasn’t really thinking of Charles Beare when I made the comment, more along the lines of French top experts like the late Millant, Vatelot, or Rampal. I agree with you that it wouldn’t make sense to take it to Beare, but that’s more because I’d want his certificate on an English violin and Eric Blot’s on an Italian. That being said, if the OP owned the violin or wanted to buy and it didn’t already have a certificate, I’d be happy with a certificate from Reuning or Warren. I agree completely that they’re easy to identify—seeing them every day I’ve gotten quite familiar with them. For investment purposes alone, I always recommend getting a certificate from the most esteemed expert for the type of instrument it appears to be.
  12. Make sure any violin you buy in that range comes with a certificate from one of the best experts. Authenticity and condition are going to affect your trade-in value the most.
  13. I don’t understand why you put pro orchestra players below pro performing players. At least in my area, there are a lot of orchestra players that are playing instruments well over your master price point. Even in small community orchestras, it’s not uncommon to find instruments over the 100k mark. While I understand the desire to put instruments into neat boxes that are easy to differentiate, I don’t think you’ll find it a feasible task in the end. I think it’s more realistic to say the instrument one selects is quite often more a function of one’s financial means than of one’s intended uses.
  14. Please don’t use Gorilla Glue! It’s just as awful a product for bows as it is for violins. CA glue can work very well. I’ve seen bows with broken heads glued with CA and no spline (I’d still recommend a spline for peace of mind) that are holding after years. The problem with this repair is that the stick will be flexing in the spot where the repair will be. Any hard glue is likely to give out over time from the repeated strain. That’s why reinforcement with something like thread or fishing line sealed with CA or epoxy resin can help. I have a bow at my bench for trying out violins that a bow maker colleague gave me. It’s broken in the same spot and glue with CA, then wrapped with fishing line and sealed with more CA. I don’t think it’ll ever come apart, but it’s reversible if necessary. But at the end of the day, even though the repair is strong, the bow is almost unplayable, as it’s lost flexibility and response in one of the most crucial spots. I don’t think it was worth the effort.
  15. Did you get a certificate with it from an established expert?