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Gary M

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Posts posted by Gary M

  1. I like the LED strip approach. You can either purchase a premade one like the Luthier Lights, which look pretty good and a quick way to do it. Or buy a little LED strip that you can cut to length. You can get them at Lowes of Home Depot nowadays. Or If you want a "spotlight" & camera combination. These little guys are all over the net, Amazon, Bangood... Just make sure you get one that fits down the f-hole. The on line pictures of the product can be confusing. Mine is 5.5mm diameter and it works very well. For a cello one of the bigger 7mm inspection lights would work and the camera has much better resolution.

    I have used both the strip and spotlight and they both have their place.

    USB Endoscope for OTG Android Phone, Computer, 5.5 mm Borescope Inspection Snake Camera Waterproof with Micro USB, Type C, 16

  2. Chin rests are one of those things that are very dependent on your body type, your posture and playing position. I very recently switched from a 'Guarneri" style to a "Berber" style and while it didn't make me Joshua Bell overnight, it does feel more comfortable and makes it easier to play. I have tried several styles and even made a couple to try out some ideas.

    I would rate mine an 8 out of 10 so I may try something else down the line.

  3. Go visit your local luthier. You might be pleasantly surprised at what can be had in your price range and you can try the instruments out for yourself instead of trying to guess what they might sound like. Your ear and your tastes are unique so buy what sounds good to you and don't worry too much about names or countries of origin.

    You are going to spend hours and hours with this instrument get something that you will be excited to play every day.

  4. Having just removed my first top plate, under the watchful eye of a very experienced teacher and after watching him do it several times, I agree with the comments here. This is not a DIY fix.

    Mine came out pretty well BYW but it was a school instrument removed from service.

  5. 3 minutes ago, Peter K-G said:

    Weight, graduation/thickness, taptones have no meaning if you don't know your wood

    Not claiming anything here. Just an amusing coincidence that the number was exactly as quoted earlier in the post.

  6. Just now, Nikos Matsablokos said:

    I have made the stl available, hence I called the post "A Gift" its on the first page, first post underneath the photos.

    That one is already in the queue behind some student jobs running this weekend.

    Thank you so much for the "Gift". Can't wait to try it.

    The other design is also interesting. I'd give that a try as well.


  7. Love the 3D printing idea. I'll give that a try if he makes the .stl file available.

    I have used these for attaching Ukulele linings. Each one may not be as strong but they are so cheap you can use lots and lots of them. They have a nice wide mouth. I stole them from my wife's sewing studio. Sewers use them instead of pins for some things.


  8. Let me also recommend the build a kit first approach. I received that advice from a couple of makers I respect so that is what I decided to do early on. I also got extremely lucky and found a class, taught by another local professional maker/repairer using exactly that approach. I'm still taking his classes, but I would never have gotten to this point had I spent the months in the weeds it would have taken to start from scratch, even with his help.

    When it comes to my first built from scratch instrument, I will be going in with eyes open and lots of skills.

    Also I agree with @Marty Kasprzykabout learning to play if you don't already. 

  9. @jacobsaunders Yea that's the great thing about actual research. You can learn new things that change your whole perspective. It now looks like the shop in NY was making strings. There are advertisements in trade papers saying as much. A bunch of people, myself included, just assumed it was a violin shop. Muller & Kaplan made strings. Gut strings in the early days.

  10. Back in November of last year I started a thread here on MN about a rather worn violin that I, with a lot of help from some professional restorers, rescued from a box next to front door of the "School for Strings" in Port Huron, Michigan where I take lessons. The label identifies the instrument as made by Ladislas(v) Kaplan, New York circa 1902.

    Well, let's say that a "spirited" discussion ensued on MN about the origins of this instrument. Since nothing was going to be resolved in an on line discussion I decided to take it upon myself to do some additional research and discover what I could about the instrument and its maker. At the time I mentioned this in the post and asked if participants were interested in occasional updates on my progress and I received enough yes votes to do that so here is the first one.

    Amusingly, as part of that discussion@Jeffrey Holmescommented in a follow up post entry that I was likely to find some zigs and zags along the way and not surprisingly, I have already have hit a number of them. You were absolutely right on Jeffrey, there is no straight line between here and there and I'm still not done yet. Still, I have learned a lot so far and so I decided to share some of that with whoever is interested.

    First let me say that I decided early on that I needed to organize my findings in some useful way before I got too far into this. At the same time I was also very surprised in my early research that, given his many and varied contributions to the music industry, Mr. Ladislav Kaplan does not have a Wikipedia entry. That gave me a place to start, write the Wikipedia entry for him.

    Zag #1 was that right off I got a real lesson in the history of violin strings. Kaplan Musical Strings, now a division of D'Addrio, is still a going concern. And Kaplan rosin is also still a thing. Kaplan's invention of a commercial string winding machine maybe as early as 1906 certainly commercialized by 1922 was instrumental, along with others doing similar work in Europe, in the whole world switching from pure "gut" strings to metal or metal wound gut strings. And yes I know that there are still people playing gut strings.  If you are interested in the history of strings there is a great summary in the October 2013 issue of The Strad. The fact that both the strings and rosin are still in production makes Internet search on anything "Kaplan" challenging at best. Sadly, while much smarter about the history of strings, it did not help me with the violin.

    I still have outstanding queries going and more leg work to do on the violin front but I'm making real progress there too. What I have verified with help from some very good professional violinists is that it is indeed a way better than average instrument. Well above my pay grade as a player. I just wish I could make it sound like they did. And yes that's on me. Interestingly, I just picked up an Alfred Knoll 305 bow and the two in combination have a particularly nice tone. Also, IT IS NOT, REPEAT NOT, BUILT ON BACK!!!

    Interim findings summarized: Short of finding an order/receipt for some Markie white bodies in Mr. Kaplan's hand dated 1900ish it is very likely that Kaplan in fact made the instrument in question and in fact all of the instruments attributed to him. He was not supporting himself selling violins and thus had no real incentive to resell imported instruments. Not yet at 100% but realistically we may never got to that point. The string business was supporting him even very early on and he was making violins as a side hustle in a personal "quest" to improve on the Italian masters using "scientific" methods. With my early instrument at least, he did not succeed although I found references to no less than Jascha Heifetz playing a Kaplan made violin early in his career. Count me skeptical because of the sources, but intrigued on that one.

    I also use the word quest deliberately. There are articles in trade publications back to the 1920's describing what he was up to and patents for the tools he invented to help him along the way. Then there is this quote from an article about him in 1946, "Kaplan started to play at six years old and at twelve played first violin in a small orchestra "on a $4.00 violin, getting only squeaks and scratches out of it.” "So,” he said, "I determined to be a violin maker to make a better violin for myself.” After many experiments he developed a process which would give him a good instrument and has since made more than seventy-five violins." ("Handicrafts of New England" 1946, Harper & Brothers, New York)

    So let me leave you with some more of the findings in the form of an article Kaplan wrote for the 1941 edition of "Who's Who in Music" about making violins. This is before he retired from the string company to just play and build violins full time. See the attached PDF. It could have been written by many of you today and yet some of what he says, particularly about tonewoods, is still heresy.

    As always, if anybody has any additional information they would like to share please do so here publicly or with me privately by message. This is an ongoing project for me.

    Stay tuned.  When I'm done with the proposed Wikipedia article I'll post that along with all of the references. I also have a whole separate post I'm developing about taking interior pictures of violins without spending a fortune. It could take some time though. I still have some violin shops and actual libraries to visit.  Thanks for taking the time to read this far. If you have you will probably enjoy the article.

    "A perusal of practically all the books available for violin makers inevitably leads to the conclusion that those who had knowledge of how to make a good fiddle made fiddles, and those who knew nothing about it wrote books — more foolishness, if not outright charlatanism, has been written about the violin than perhaps any other branch of work." L. Kaplan 1941


    Kaplan - Violin Making 1941.pdf

  11. I have made several of these tools for myself and a number of friends. Incredibly handy for all sorts of things from tools to holding small pieces while grinding. Pick up an old drill motor at a garage sale for the chuck. The handle is a piece of aluminum hex stock. A wooden handle would work too. This one needs a little cleanup as it sits in the garage workshop in humid Florida.


  12. 3 minutes ago, Stephen Fine said:

    You'll get a few replies over many years here.

    If you're really curious, you should probably contact a professional researcher or visit a librarian in New York who can advise you.

    What you're looking for is a needle in a haystack.

    Thank you. I have a number of threads processing right now. This is just one of them. Sometimes you just get lucky in an obvious place.

  13. I recently rescued a violin from the box by the door of the music school where I take lessons. I took it to a good luthier, had it repaired and it is now quite a nice instrument and in daily use. It is labeled Ladislas Kaplan, New York and dated 1902.

    When I posted a celebratory note on the "Pegbox" portion on this site quite a lengthy discussion broke out about American makers possibly relabeling German violins and well... if you want the whole story go over to the Pegbox section and look it up. All of this has led me to want to know much more about this instrument, Mr. Ladislav Kaplan and his violins, violas and cellos.

    It occurs to me that many or most of you do not frequent the Pegbox portion of this site so I am posting this here.

    Please, please please this is not a place to continue the Pegbox discussion, American violins or anything else. I only want to ask anyone who owns, or knows of, a violin labeled Ladislas Kaplan to please let me know here or by Maestronet message and I will get back to you privately as soon as I can. So far I have identified 4 of his estimated 100+ instruments plus 3 auction records. The labels of his earlier instruments look like the attached photo.

    Thank you in advance.

    Gary M


    Kaplan label top.jpg

  14. 14 minutes ago, Jeffrey Holmes said:

    I think we're probably left, for now, with what the existing photos are capable of illustrating. They aren't great, but if you enlarge them and adjust exposure and sharpness in a photo program some detail can be improved. They are what they are.

    I don't see the supposition presented here as an attack on the fiddle. It's an observation based on what is available to us. As I mentioned earlier, obtaining some sort of documentation (if it exists) by speaking to those who have studied the American violin industry in the early 20th century and first hand examination by someone qualified to do so is probably the next step for Gary. From the description of his game plan, I suspect he'll be taking some side trips that won't provide clear answers (and possibly more confusion), but if he seeks out the right people he just might get somewhere.  As I said, my first call would probably be to David Bromberg, then to Bruce Babbit (who I didn't mention before).

    I think it's healthy to make the effort to separate the romance from the commerce. The fiddle itself won't care.


    You are right on Jeffery. The fiddle doesn't care and will likely be around a lot longer than any of us. Already had a zig or two in just a short time. And a zag or two as well. I have also reached out to John Dilworth who penned this bio. in his book which may or may not have been posted on one of these threads.

    "KAPLAN, Ladislav Born 1874 Czech Republic, Worked South Norwalk, Connecticut USA. Emigrated to New York 1893 and made first violin 1895. In business as Muller & Kaplan 1922. Established independently in South Norwalk, Connecticut 1929, where he founded the Kaplan Musical String Co. which continues to make strings successfully. Produced more than 100 instruments on a Stradivari model. Also several large (17”/43.2cm) violas and two cellos. Fine golden-yellow or orange oil varnish of his own; sometimes a hard spirit varnish of dark red colour. Ladislav Kaplan / South Norwalk / Conn. U S A"

    Others have also mentioned the sequential numbering and I have no reference for that either.

    There must be more information someplace.

    Thanks for the Bruce Babbit suggestion.

  15. 37 minutes ago, GeorgeH said:

    Thanks, Gary. I'd be very interested in seeing this. If your violin is indeed by Mr. Kaplan, clear pictures of the salient parts would be useful for future documentation and historical reference. If, as @Guido mentions, it is BoB, then it could be impossible to understand what role Mr. Kaplan had in it besides adding his label.

    Thanks George. I am already off on my windmill tilting expedition. Given my inspection of the interior it looks just like I would expect it to for a handmade instrument but it sounds like these things are all over the place so that is certainly not conclusive. I did use a checklist that it looks like Jacob endorsed to help. My Raspberry Pi based inspection camera module arrives Monday. I have also found another 1904 Kaplan in the hands of professional musician and have reached out to that person for more information. I don't want to waste a bunch of electrons so I am going to probably keep my posts occasional unless I find something conclusive, like build records or old photographs. Thanks for your participation in this thread. I really appreciate it.

  16. Hello again... The OP here. By the way my name is Gary. I decided to take Thanksgiving (yesterday) off and be with family and friends. Unfortunately this has now become a bit of a quest for this particular "Knight of the woeful continence" so I have continued to think about this quite a bit even when I should be practicing John Ryan's Polka.

    This is a fascinating discussion but in the end I have the violin and I created the post and therefore I have the responsibility to clear this up once and for all if I can.

    Jeffery's post encouraged me to come up with a plan of attack. Thank you Jeffery... I think.  I am posting this only to solicit input to make sure there are not things I could do that I may have forgotten. It is not a request for snark. At this point that is a waste of electrons.

    So here goes.

    1. Document everything I can about the physical instrument.

    •  Photograph the outside with good lighting and a better camera.
    •  Photograph the inside. I think I still have a Raspberry Pi camera in my pile of electronic gizmos. It is 12 megapixels with a short focal distance and should fit through an f-hole. If not the local computer store carries them.
    •  Make some measurements. There are things about the instrument that are significantly different from my Markie. I will document those things more carefully.

    2. Go look at more Markies and more individually crafted instruments I just have the one of each. I am fortunate to live within driving distance of 3 good shops, Wilson's, Psaranos, and this is a good excuse to run out to Shar's which I have not been to yet and have been itching to get to. One or more of them might have a few good example instruments they will let me look at. Also I have Jonathon Price nearby and he has let me look at some of his instruments before. I just wasn't looking with an analytical eye. Just at at his beautiful work.

    3. Talk to some experts. Jeffery gave me some suggestions. I will try to contact others. I have already reached out to a friend who is an administrator at The Henry Ford Museum. They have a small collection (including an Amati. a Gagliano, a Guarneri del Gesu and 2 Strads plus the old man's original instrument which I am looking at with new eyes. Dig that scroll carving. https://www.thehenryford.org/collections-and-research/digital-collections/expert-sets/10258/ ). His folks might have a contact or 2, (It might be some of you :P ).

    4. Finally I will put together a case and present it here.

    This is going to take some time and I am about to do some extended holiday travel that will take me to sunny Southwest Florida and meeting with my friend Jamie Reutz, who some of you may know from his cool VVCB bridge setup aids. He may have some ideas too. There are also a few shops down there. If there is anybody out there who wants to help in any way, hit me up offline.

    This leads me to a last practical question. Do you all want interim posts or just the final result? Otherwise I'm off to tilt at some windmills.

  17. 27 minutes ago, Jeffrey Holmes said:

    I attended the conference that held prior to the release of the American Violin book, and know Phil Kass, Christopher Germain and David Bromberg well... and I attended violinmaking school with Chris and David. Glad you're happy with Rob Wilson's analysis, but If I was interested enough to attempt to sort Kaplan's business/making practices out, or determine if business records still exist, I'd probably call David at his shop in Wilmington.  He amassed the largest collection of American instruments made before 1950 that is known to exist, and has a good number of bits and pieces of information, some documented, others confirmed or unconfirmed verbal stories about the makers.


    Jeffery: Thank you so much for your thoughtful post. This is exactly what I was hoping someone would contribute here, real Information and a possible way forward.

    I am not sure why Mr. Ladislaw Kaplan has peaked my interest but he has. I see his story clearly in my mind. Maybe he reminds me of a lot of the "makers" I hang around with or my Dad who was a talented maker of wood carving knives and exceptional amateur woodcarver. People like this have to make things. It's in their DNA.

    So, if you think David Bromberg, or anyone else, might be interested in helping by pointing me in the right direction I will certainly reach out to them.

    As for you personally. My Mom lives 15 minutes north of A2 and I visit her often. I would be happy to let you take a look at the instrument and certainly do not expect you to comment publicly and I absolutely wouldn't comment on your observations without your expressed permission. Just for your own information. According to Rob it has some "interesting construction features." Even I see stuff that I don't see on other violins. This goes for any of the SE Michigan luthiers on the board as well. There seem to be a number of you. The more real observational analysis the better. Just contact me offline.

    Thank you again.

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