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Everything posted by MaestronetLurker

  1. Well here's what I learned, and I'll present it here in case someone else can learn something from it. State laws on valuation vary, but generally speaking it appears as though discretion given to the lower court is so broad that they can do whatever they want with it. They can count your inventory at full retail price if they want or wholesale if they want. In retrospect, I wish we had brought in an "expert" other than myself to explain valuation and markup to retail prices. Why in 'reasonable replacement cost' should be how items are valued in this sort of setting. I think the court genuinely doesn't get it. Because of the size of the case overall it just made a lot of easy and arbitrary decisions. Because the debt was in my name it left it with me, but divided the value of the instruments equally without considering that debt against the equity. The down side of bringing in an expert, though, is that it increases the overall size of the case, increases legal costs, and the more facts in the case the more likely the court's predisposition is to prevail, which hurts my chances of getting custody of my children since the predisposition of the court favors the mother(who was trying to strip me to 4 hours/week of visitation). In other words, my attorney didn't want to fight the battle on valuation at the cost of visitation with my child. Absurd that that is the tradeoff, but I'll explain that below. The valuation of instruments was only a small piece of my overall appeal and my biggest takeaway in my research for my appeal is summed up well in the Judicial Fact Discretion study from 2008. It found that in vulnerable cases the court's predisposition is a better predictor of outcome than the facts of the case. Vulnerable cases are those heavy in facts, where case law has not narrowed interpretation of the law(they cited new statutes, but I think it is reasonable to extrapolate this to any area where discretion is overly broad based on my reading of the study), and cases vulnerable to judicial bias. In such cases the study found that the court will try to protect its decision from being overturned by adjusting the "facts" of the case to appear to match existing case law. This works because the appellate court will not review the fact finding to any reasonable standard. As long as the lower court can cite a single piece of evidence to support a finding of fact the appellate court may choose to ignore all "moderating evidence"(meaning anything that doesn't support the conclusion of the court). By that standard the lower court can make up just about anything it wants regardless of whether it is reasonable in light of the evidence. In some cases appellate courts will review to a higher reasonability standard, but it's unclear why they apply different standards in different situations. The aforementioned study actually states that the lower court may not present the facts even as the court itself believes them simply because they are trying to make the case appear to neatly fit within established case law and protect the decision from appeal. I find that pretty repugnant, but it also reinforces much of what my lawyers said leading up to the hearing. In essence, keep the number of facts small because the more issues that are raised the more likely the court is to rule in favor of the status quo(meaning wife gets the house, the bulk of the assets, and custody). Surely her attorneys gave her the opposite advice and after 200 pages of filings seeking to strip me of visitation of my child and 3 days of hearings the court found no reason to exclude me from contact with our child. It ruled for 50/50 visitation, but gave her sole parental rights and bankrupted me by giving me the debt, and her the bulk of the assets. Not an unfamiliar story unfortunately, but the Judicial Fact Discretion study at least helps me understand the root of the problem and why that cycle seems to perpetuate.
  2. Thanks for some good suggestions. I did get a small extension to work out an error in the transcript, so I'll try to pursue some of these suggestions. Sad to say, but the financial stuff is the tip of the iceberg. It will make more sense if I explain that she has a mental illness rooted in childhood trauma that involved, among other things, her family members kidnapped by their father in the midst of a divorce. When she realized I was leaving the marriage she accused me of abuse and slammed me with accusation after accusation for the next 9 months to prevent me being alone with our child. There's some evidence she may have tried to flood me out of my apartment to prevent me from having a permanent residence to share custody, and a bunch of other scary things. Once the court ruled for 50/50 visitation and she fired her lawyer she calmed down a bit, but came after me financially instead. I had left the last shop I worked for and was building my shop as a competitor. My ex involved the former employer in the divorce (and presumably told him the same tall tales about abuse etc...) and shortly after that all the people I knew through that shop stopped returning my calls/emails. My first 6 months in the home shop part time I had $22,000 in revenue, and in the subsequent year I have had $3,000. So, I'm not sure where I go from there, but I've got some ideas in the works. Being tied to this area, though, I may have to put the lutherie on the back burner under the circumstances.
  3. I recently got divorced, and really got screwed on my instruments. They valued them at 80% of retail and awarded my wife 1/2, but didn't assign any of the debt to her. So on top of what I already owe on my business she just got another 40%. I'm appealing the case (which is about a 1% chance of success apparently), and since I'm out of money I'm doing the work myself (so less than a 1% chance I guess). I'm struggling to find any legal precedents for how to value the work of new works of art. In my case, I started making violins a few years back, but don't really have clientele in that market. I've mostly done repair for other shops and moved out on my own a couple years back. The divorce essentially killed the business so that series of events means my instruments never get seen/played. Buying them from my wife (who also makes 3 times as much money as me and doesn't need me to cut her a check) ensures I go bankrupt within 6 months and probably lose all the instruments. I've got 3 violins with a combined retail of $20,000. I know that's high for a new maker, but after consulting with numerous players and makers the consistent suggested retail was $7,000-$15,000 they were 'known' maker's instruments. For a new maker I went with prices about well below what was typically suggested. I've used them more as portfolio pieces that help when I meet a new player. Putting a handmade instrument into their hands gives them confidence that I know what I'm doing. That has served me well. My other inventory is factory instruments, which I owe 25% of retail on. Given the $50,000 spent in legal fees in the last 2 years I can't afford to pay out any more. I know it's a long shot, but if anyone has some legal precedents to throw my way I'd appreciate it. My deadline is 1/15/18, so I'm about out of time. Thanks.
  4. When this movie was in theaters I was about 17 years old, and was at the movie theatre with my girlfriend. Our movie was sold out, so we had to make a quick decision without knowing anything about the other movies. I saw the title "The Full Monty" and said "Probably a Monty Python Movie. Sounds good." When we sat down I noticed my parents were 2 rows ahead of me, and the movie was not at all what I expected. When my mother stood up at the end of the movie and saw me sitting a couple seats behind her she just about fell over. She said her first thought when the movie ended was "I'm so glad we didn't bring the kids." (although she did find it funny) Then she stands up and sees me there. Funny movie, though. A little awkward with your teenage girlfriend and sitting right behind your parents.
  5. This pretty well sums up my thoughts (except I did use a pseudonym). I do have a harder time figuring out how much credibility an anonymous poster has simply because you usually have less information to go on, however, there are many on here who have no web presence and are not widely known. Real names are most useful for higher profile, well established professionals. My conclusion is that my anxiety over using my real name is not well founded. I don't see anyone saying that posting publicly has caused them any real problems in this field as was described by someone earlier (a veterinarian?). I won't directly link this account to the other, and probably won't get to it for a couple weeks. I'll just open a fresh account and check if I can have email notices if anyone PM or quotes the old account, so I don't inadvertently ignore someone.
  6. Thanks everyone. In general I tend to have a high level of anxiety, and even a Facebook page shared only with friends makes me feel uncomfortable sort of like public speaking. The exposure to a crowd makes me uncomfortable. So that is certainly a part of the issue. To better illustrate my professional concern, there is a local shop who I used to work for, and I've witnessed a bit of back-handed and slanderous commentary of other luthiers. I've seen it happen with former employees starting the day that they quit even though they were in good standing all the way. The sort of statement that I stand behind, but could be used to make me look bad is something like tight bond in the purling channel. Controversial, but it makes sense to me to have a gap filling glue with a little creep in the purling channel. One of the employees in the competitor shop (a really good guy, not part of the smearing of other luthiers) had mentioned that he's heard commentary about other luthiers along the lines of "I wouldn't trust his work. He uses super glue" or that type of thing. Undoubtedly out of context. I use super glue for things like hardening the area around the notches on top of a bridge if the strings have been cutting in or filling portions of chipped ebony with super glue and dust. Anyways, it's more about perception than what I stand behind. And perhaps, as you can see, my anxiety plays a role here. I'm not hearing people say that they've had their comments on a public forum come back to them used out of context or create some sort of professional problem, and that's good. It helps me to push aside my anxiety over the issue as being part of my own neurosis and not a real world problem. Thanks again.
  7. I am debating dropping the pseudonym for my MN account and I'm curious to get feedback from other professionals. One of my reasons for posting under a pseudonym is that I am engaging in professional discussions about various things on which my viewpoints sometimes evolve over time (as I think is true for all of us). Practices change, and in the nature of these discussions, often of a speculative nature, it's nice to be able to exchange without the pressure of making a public statement that can misrepresent your work. I don't think I'm saying this clearly, but hopefully you get the idea. I tend to be very anxious and guarded about making public statements, but in this day and age it is getting to be necessary to have an online presence. For that reason I am considering dropping the pseudonym or more likely starting a new account in which I would use my name, but probably be more guarded in what I post. Probably shy away from things of a speculative nature etc... with greater concern that everything reflects on my work. I suppose I could keep the pseudonym account and use it for things of speculative nature, but that seems somehow inappropriate and annoying. In any case, I'm curious to hear what folks think on the subject. Thanks.
  8. Perhaps they ended up with a short rib, and fudged it a little to one side in the making process. For example, maybe there was an issue in the corner bend, perhaps it broke near the end, so used what they had left and moved the joint. Alternatively, they may have run in to a shortage if they didn't do a cut list and didn't have a lot of room to spare. Just guessing.
  9. This is my thought, too. There are a few places on the instrument where you will find evidence of scribe points used for layout, and that being the case it's also just easier to follow that line a bit. It looks very strange not to do it. The place where buttons break is almost always at the purfling with two straight lines up to the edge from the purfling. I've often thought that there shouldn't be purfling across the button. It would look strange to just end it, but one could bring it inwards the way they do on some double purfled violins and do something decorative. Even just dropping it down to make a mitred point that doesn't run over this vulnerable area, as Don points out, would do a lot to improve the strength. I suppose one could also just end the purfling and do a shallow scribe filled with mastic across the button area. I would worry about excessively shallow purfling because the best glue surface of pulling is the sides not the bottom unless you were going to spend a lot more effort fitting that area.
  10. I guess what I mean is that it would work like most search functions on a computer. As I mentioned, in AIMsi if you were looking for something with the title "Bach: Sonatas" and you typed Bach into the search field it would not find it because the description is has Bach: not Bach If you search for 4/4 it will not find it because a backslash attached to any character eliminates it from search results no matter what you do. Apparently that has something to do with coding (so I was told). In any case, the restrictions in the search function are unlike anything I've come across on a computer before. Very frustrating.
  11. Came across this today, and it seems promising. https://www.rainpos.com I see some guitar shops are using it, and you can see reviews from those shops here: http://www.capterra.com/point-of-sale-software/spotlight/140893/Rain Point of Sale/Rain Retail Software The upshot is they seem to be liking it. Integrates well with websites (don't know about compatibility with particular web platforms), has sales, rentals, and service. The two notable cons mentioned in a couple reviews from music stores were that it doesn't seem to have options for trades or consignments, and there are some issues with voided transactions and accounting. Reviews are overwhelmingly positive. Looks very easy. Haven't seen any info about pricing yet, but I've hit my limit for researching this question for the time being. Will report back if I find anything interesting later.
  12. Thanks for the suggestion. Unfortunately neither of those would quite work for a violin shop doing sales, service, and rentals. I was really hoping that someone on MN was going to have the perfect answer, but I guess we are in a rather small niche. As a point of comparison the company that my wife works for (fashion industry) had custom software built to do everything that they wanted. It cost something like $15,000-$20,000 + a subscription fee. The software company owned the code, which also somehow meant that they owned the data in the program or something. Not quite clear, but they had constant bugs. Certain reports would crash the system and it would require a programmer to reset it. The company folded, and agreed to keep hosting the software for the same fee, but their support was virtually gone. From the sound of it the data was not easily exported because of the lack of a universal format, so switching to a new system was a huge undertaking. Overall it was a total disaster. So, in comparison AIMsi doesn't look so bad.
  13. It's really hard to search for software and get any sense of what it will do for a violin shop specifically, and of course it doesn't seem like there are products designed closely enough for what we need to be a perfect fit (if that's possible). I would think that any retail business with both web business and a brick and mortar store would want this integration, but from what I can tell it just isn't so straight forward. That seems bizarre to me. Especially with large web platforms like Squarespace that have web store options. One would think that it would be in the best interest of both the software companies and the web platforms to make sure their software has a way of integrating without custom middleware. I don't really think it's so much to ask in this day and age that software has a smart search. At least enough to know that when searching for a word it should find it even if punctuation is attached or to be able to search for a fraction within a description. There are all sorts of web reports available, and the ability to make custom reports, but when the data sets can't be cross referenced and you have to export and jump through these extra hoops it seems a little ridiculous. It seems to me that it's expensive software that has lots of features, but still manages to be a bit clumsy.
  14. AIMsi to me represents everything that I hate about Microsoft products. Not intuitive, difficult to manage, in theory you have quite a bit of customizability, but some really key features are not there. Examples: When you're entering your item descriptions into AIMsi you need to be really careful about punctuation. If you type Bach: in the description, for example it will not find Bach because there is punctuation attached. You will need to use a wildcard search Bach* That may not be the end of the world, but if you use a / for any reason it will prevent you from searching for anything attached to the backslash. For example 4/4 3/4 etc... are unsearchable because the slash eliminates them from searchable results. To work around this and make searchable fractional codes we used the Selection Code feature, which allowed us to create codes like 4/4 and 3/4 that are searchable in a different dropdown list than the description. An item can have only one selection code, though, so if you ant to search for anything that is multi size, like some cases or shoulder rests etc... you will not be able to narrow by size. If you want to track instrument inventory trends by size you have problems because AIMsi customer data for sales and contracts are a separate category from the inventory data like Selection Code. If you want to look at reports of sales or rentals by size you will need to build that in to your instrument code system, then export a list to an Excel sheet and come up with some way of sorting by code or counting how many items in a given column have a particular code. Then make sure you don't have that same code reoccurring in any of your model numbers or it will cause an error. For example: The 4/4 violin Strad you're selling in your shop might be STRAD-VN and the 3/4 violin might be STRAD-VT so you can search for VN and VT in an Excel sheet and find how many times they occur. Alternatively you can have any individual code and a full breakdown of all those codes to be counted in the proper category, and cut and paste your formulas into the sheet once you download a new data set, and it will count up everything and give you totals. Really obnoxious, though, if you want to get a monthly report of certain trends by size. You also can't have notes placed in an easily searchable way. You have the one field for description, but if you want to have something that will not be displayed on invoices, and more detailed descriptions that are still searchable you can't do that if I recall correctly. You can create package deals for strings, such as a Dominant G, D, A and Gold Label E, but you can't have these automatically adjust based on percentage of the individual prices of strings. That means that if the prices change for Any of those strings you need to track down every package deal and manage it individually, and remember that there is this additional component to manage when prices change for anything that is part of a package deal. There are other nuisances, which you may or may not be able to work around easily, but those are the primary ones that come to mind. There are good things about it, however, I recall a constant frustration in the shop where I worked briefly as part of the sales staff and people were constantly having items come to the counter for purchase and being unable to figure out what SKU it was because you're so limited in searchable terms. People can get really frustrated when they're waiting to get checked out and the cashier can't figure out what they're trying to sell and what it should cost. It was a pretty regular occurrence. Hope that helps give some perspective.
  15. Sorry for such a boring question, but I am trying to decide on software for managing the business operations of a violin shop. I've used AIMsi, and mostly hate it, although I'm not sure there are better choices readily available. I'd like to be able to manage inventory, integrate the inventory management with a website automatically, keep track of rentals and contracts, instrument trials, sales, repair scheduling, repair estimates, billing, payroll, shipping etc... AIMsi does all those things, but it's so painful and counter-intuitive that I'd love to know of something else since I am starting from scratch. I also think that the software integration with a website will require the right web provider, so I don't want to build the website on a platform that is incompatible with software. Squarespace does not appear to have support for inventory integration with your brick and mortar store otherwise I think I'd probably use that, since it has worked well for me before. I appreciate any suggestions. Thanks.
  16. I haven't been back to the shop to take other photos and measurements, but I expect to get to it on Monday evening or Tuesday. It's pretty clean inside. Has upper corner blocks or at least appears to (could be fake upper corner blocks as I've seen before).
  17. This violin is in the shop and I'm looking for a second opinion. It has a label, which I don't believe. My guess is that it's just French factory work, but better than average for a factory job. label is Bernardel 1958 matches Auguste label I've seen, but instrument is not a match. Has a fake Peccatte in the case as well, which supports the factory fake theory. Anyone want to weigh in? Thanks.
  18. Yeah, I talked with Fan Tao about that, and I couldn't help but wonder whether it's something that not every Strad has or if it is just a myth. I do have one personal experience, though, that supports the myth. I was at a concert where there was a guest soloist, and my friend was the concertmaster sitting directly beside (although somewhat behind, so this isn't a perfect comparison) the soloist. I was at the back of the top balcony within 1-2 rows of the wall. I kept marveling at how clear every note of the soloist was considering the dynamic range during the concerto, but I could hear every note clearly over the orchestra. I asked the concertmaster after the performance whether that violin was particularly loud from right next to it. He said "No, not at all" I asked if it was a Strad, and he said it was. Annecdotal, but that was the only time I've witnessed something like that myth. I know a violinist who is convinced that there is some sort of effect of an oscillating wave, perhaps having something to do with vibrato. He thinks that a certain type of oscillating wave can travel farther before dissipating, and that some top level musicians playing top level instruments can achieve this effect. I have no idea whether that is BS or not, but I thought it was an interesting theory. If there's any truth to that I wonder if it may also explain why a musician who is not intimately familiar with the instrument may not be able to create that effect. I also wonder how a musician would even know that they're creating that effect or if it is a side benefit of some other aspect of technique.
  19. Good advice already, but I'll add that the rays on the back can be an indicator of how consistent the quartered cut is. The 4th bridge from the left has the most consistent long rays, which means it will be quartered very well. The 1st and 2nd bridge are the next best in terms of quartering. If you look at the end grain of #2 you will probably see the slightest of deviation in how parallel the endgrain is roughly parallel to the heart where the rays get shorter. Take note of the grain when you see warped bridges, and you will probably find that the majority warp right where the grain deviates from being perfectly parallel. I use Despiau almost exclusively, and it's a nice hard bridge as opposed to Aubert, which is somewhat softer. Those are the two most common brands among luthiers that I know. Milo Stamm seems to be gaining in popularity, and the TWI bridges that I've seen have been nice. When I see Teller bridges they're usually lower quality blanks coming from low quality shops, but I don't know if their upper level stock is any better. One luthier who I have great respect for has said that Despiau is too hard for them, and they find it easier to get the sound they want out of an Aubert. As Nathan said, though, there is a lot of variation so you really want to pick through them. I stopped using Aubert because I came across too many of them that didn't cut cleanly, and were just more work. I don't recall if that was the A or C quality blank that I was running in to trouble with. It was a small percentage, but enough to be frustrating with the volume of bridges that I was cutting. I use C quality (Despiau 1 tree) bridges for entry level student instruments and A quality (Despiau 3 tree or comparable Aubert or Stamm bridges) for step-up to pro quality instruments. I'll order a bunch of the A quality stock, and reserve the best of them for better instruments and use the others on step-up level instruments. When I make it to a distributor in person or at a show I'll pick through a bunch of bridges and take the best, so I don't have to purchase those '2nd quality' bridges at all. I look 1st at rays and reject anything without consistently long rays across the whole back. Then I'll drop the bridges on the table and listen to how they sound. They usually make a clear sound, but if anything sounds dull I reject it. The brighter sound should be a stiffer bridge, and as Nathan said, stiffness is good, weight is bad. I don't go so far as weighing them within a single category, and I don't think my hand would detect a small difference between a 2-3 g blank. For practice bridges you don't need anything fancy, but it should cut nicely or you're just making more work for yourself. Low quality blanks may not cut cleanly across the ingrain, so it's hard to ever clean up the kidneys and ankles well.
  20. Are you sure it's a wolf? A wolf on the A would be a bit unusual. Can you describe the symptoms and which string/octave your hearing the issue, and under what conditions? Would you mind describing some dimensions of the two bridges? Width and thickness at the waist, width and thickness at the ankles, and thickness at the top edge should give a sense of the comparison. Side by side photos of the bridges would be informative, too.
  21. I was at the NY experiment listening, and my initial confidence that I could hear something distinctly different from roughly half the instruments diminished pretty quickly as they continued the testing. As I recall I consistently thought that somewhere between 4-7 out of 10 sounded significantly better than the others. 1/2 way through the experiment they did say that there were 3 Strads in the group, and that is when it was definitively confirmed for me that those instruments could not be so distinct under these conditions that they were clearly 'better' to my ears. One thing that I think that cannot be accounted for in a test like this, though, is the full capability of an instrument when a musician is intimately familiar with it. I've heard people who play on fine old Cremonese violins say things along the lines of 'I've been playing on it for years, and I'm still finding new voices'. If one of the critical features on an instrument is the dynamic range and flexibility of expression by having more 'voices' available, then a player will need a very long time to learn to bring out the full potential of the instrument. Even though at least one of the musicians had a Strad as their personal instrument, which they did perform on later, it still takes time to get acquainted with something new. It would be very difficult (if not impossible) to test something like the tonal and dynamic flexibility of an instrument. They did have participants mark their seat number on their evaluation, so they could compare results in different seating positions, which would be helpful in evaluating projection. I'm 99% certain that there was no balsa violin in the group. I didn't get a close up look at them after the fact, but I don't recall seeing anything unusual from a distance. I had to leave pretty much right as they were setting the instruments out on a table for people to look at (I think).
  22. Nathan, that's frustrating to hear. I haven't personally dealt with someone who is quite that bad, but I've certainly had customers come in with smaller issues that they are blaming on other shops. I've said a number of times that I respect the work of the shop that they're discussing and done my best to explain why the work that was done was appropriate. I've told them that if they weren't happy with what was done by the other shop I didn't think redoing the work was going to gain anything. I can't recall a specific scenario, but these folks have always seemed to be people who have traveled some distance to find a new luthier. Michael, in the situation that you're describing I would school the customer on humidity control. Cellos can have a lot of seasonal swing and a summer/winter bridge isn't uncommon even on inexpensive cellos, especially if they aren't doing anything to control humidity. In some cases I will comp the cost of a bridge straightening towards a bridge replacement, but this does not sound like a case where I would do that. This does not sound like a failure of the luthier, but a change in the instrument, which the luthier cannot control. I would expect that the cello got very dry, and the low string height (and possible neck/fingerboard bow) is the result. In my shop I have started weighing instruments as part of my normal data collection. In this case one could compare the weight when it left the shop with the weight when it came back. This would tell you just how dry the cello really is, and support the suggestion of a humidity issue with objective data.
  23. I generally think of medullary rays being an indicator of perfectly quartered wood, which also helps you see if there's a little bit of grain wandering. I think that is the real importance of it with bridges, since a little bit of waviness in and out of perfect quarter is more likely to cause a warp. A tiny bit of deviation and the rays appear much shorter because they're no longer bisected by the cut. It's simply the fastest and most accurate way to spot a perfectly quartered bridge with little deviation. I don't really think that small bit of deviation or waves in the grain would have a significant effect on the back, but Schleske's commentary will certainly cause me to ponder this for some time to come.
  24. Overall length doesn't mean much because a variation in the distance from nut to top of scroll isn't a tightly controlled spec, and mensur to lower bout can also vary. The important detail in neck length is edge to nut and edge to mensur are a 2:3 ratio. There are reasons that people change this, but I think the 2:3 ratio is best in most scenarios.
  25. I've gotten blocks from Met Music when I'm picking through their hoarde of wood. $9 for a set of willow violin blocks. They're from Pahler https://www.metmusic.com/search/Willow/0/10/1 I prefer to use something in the scrap stash, but if I have to buy it I'd pay $8-$12 for violin blocks and $5-$8 for linings. Of course that assumes they're splitting straight and nice. In my case it's about convenience. Kind of like an $8 fast food burger may not be "worth it", but the convenience is worth it.
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