The Violin Beautiful

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    Alexandria, Virginia

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  1. Polishes are not good for cleaning because they tend to trap dirt. They are intended for clean surfaces. That being said, I also don’t recommend using Hill polish. I’ve come across a lot of violins that have suffered damage to their varnish from oily polishes.
  2. From a French violin maker and a French bow maker: ”I could make a better violin/bow than that with shit in my eyes!” From an old colleague: ”That violin looks like it was made in a field.”
  3. Send me a PM if you’re still looking for the parts.
  4. Hello and welcome, You’re certainly not the first person to discover an interest in luthierie while in music school. There are a lot of people who started from a similar place. I think the place to start is to ask yourself some blunt questions. Is there anything else that you want to do as much? Do you feel like it’s something you’d be just as happy doing in ten years? Are you willing to make major changes in your life to support your career that might involve significant risk? Take some time to consider each question—they’re intended as an exercise to envision what your life could look like, not a quick test to eliminate ideas. You’re at a good age to go to a violin making school, so don’t worry about that part. Working as an apprentice can be a great start as well, but it’s a lot harder to find a spot. As far as the financial side, it’s not a very lucrative career, so you have to be ready to plan accordingly. Many luthiers work more than one job to make ends meet. Repair is a more stable field than making for most people because there’s a guarantee of getting paid for your work once you sign it in; as a maker, you have to do all the work and then hope you can sell your instruments. It is possible for a good maker to build up a clientele or establish a working relationship with a shop, but it takes a long time to cultivate. Comparing your income to that of a freelance player is difficult because both vary considerably. You might be able to make more as a player if you’re able to market yourself so that you keep busy. Per hour, the pay is generally higher for playing, but your hours aren’t as consistent unless you’re playing in a group full-time. Once you have some solid tool skills, you can apply to shops. There are a lot of small shops out there that have rental fleets in need of maintenance. This is where you may need to start, then you can work your way up to more responsibilities as you learn. As to your question about whether you can succeed, it is possible to make a career for yourself, but it takes a lot of hard work and determination. There are no guarantees, even if you follow the conventional path. Playing ability definitely won’t hurt, but it’s not uncommon in the field. Some players do get into sales. Typically, you need to know a lot about the history and makers and have a good sense for matches between instruments and players.
  5. The 0.26 gauge is the medium. There’s a 0.25 light and a 0.27 heavy as well. I’ve never used the 0.25, but I sometimes use the 0.27 for players with a heavier bow arm or with higher tension sets. The heavy gauge E is a little bit darker in sound than the medium.
  6. Looks like a cello bridge to me. I aim for 2.6 for cello bridges, a little thinner if the bridge is higher quality and going on a professional level instrument. A lot of amateur workmen will just leave the feet at the thickness of the blank and only thin down the top. It makes the bridge too stiff in the waist and exaggerates the wedge shape.
  7. Jack Benny will always be my favorite comedian, and not just because of his violin antics, which are priceless.
  8. The “Benny” Strad, 1729. Although he usually pretended to be terrible as part of his routine, he was an accomplished player. That’s a lot of the reason he was so good at figuring out how to do just the right things to sound amateurish. He played a lot of charity concerts, and as I understand, would sometimes play normally. I think he was said to practice quite a lot as well.
  9. I have a hide glue jar for general use and a bone glue jar for tops in my workshop. When I’m at the shop, I just use old glue for tops because it’s always plentiful and the shop doesn’t order bone glue. Both work well.
  10. Most of the players I work with prefer to have at least a week for their strings to acclimate before a performance. I don’t know if there is a way to test string longevity (other than player observations) but I wonder if it would be possible to measure the stiffness of the string at different times. An old string feels like a piece of twine—the difference from when it’s new is quite plain, especially with a high tension set like Evah Pirazzi. In the end I think player evaluations are much more important than lab tests.
  11. New or lightly played strings will have a certain stiffness to them. Old, worn out strings feel like worn out rubber bands. You can feel the difference with your fingers when changing the strings. The core of synthetic strings is typically a nylon of some kind, and it stretches out over time and loses its snap, similar to the horsehair in a bow. The frequency of string changes depends a lot on playing style and conditions.
  12. I use the finger and thumb method too as a rough gauge of the tack strength.
  13. I was taught to always be sure to clamp the plate to the blocks when putting the top back on because of the risk of damage to the arching. Although this is the first argument I’ve seen for leaving an area of the block free of glue, a former colleague surprised me one day when he told me he’d stopped using clamps on the blocks when he put tops back in place. He still applied glue as normal, but he felt that clamping the joint would compress the contact point, making it a lot harder to fit an opening knife in later on. I’ve wondered about his theory ever since, but I haven’t been willing to test it out. I know what results I can get putting the top on the conventional way and don’t want to risk catastrophe. Like Michael Darnton and Mark Norfleet, I’ve seen a good number of instruments that suffered structurally as a result of bad glue joints at the top block.
  14. I don’t think it’s really worthwhile to attempt to extrapolate inflation values based simply on prices paid at auction. Just looking at the numbers doesn’t account for condition, provenance, or desirability, all of which have major influence on prices paid.
  15. Yes. You can make a pond of acetone and soak the part in it for several hours. I know someone who has a couple shot glasses set aside just for ponding frogs or stick handles to remove old glue. In bow restorations, the first step is often to clean out all the old glue in order to determine how the damaged area will fit together when glued properly. I’ve used acetone to release CA glue from slides on cheap bows. For some reason some factories put a bit of CA on the frog under the rear of the slide. In cases like that, acetone is often the only thing that seems to release the slide.