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Might you assist with an I.D....?


A. C. Fairbanks
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Hello to All,

I have had this fiddle:

http://s585.photobucket.com/albums/ss299/ACFairbanks/

for more than fifty years, but have no information about it.

With apologies for the amateurish photos, I would certainly appreciate any thoughts that might help me to learn more about the instrument.

(And, for bonus points, there is another I.D. opportunity unrelated to violins...)

Sincere thanks for any help,

A.C.

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The back is lovely, sans the missing/damaged portion of wood. The top could obviously use some minor work near the nut. That's some deep fluting on the top near the fs -- drops off so abruptly.

Hi again,

As it turns out, there is no "missing/damaged" area on the back. Am I correct that you were looking at the area just above the tail button?

If so, that area is not in fine shape.

When I took the photos, that area looked almost as if the wood had been "crushed" somehow. That small area appeared "burnished." Today, I looked at it carefully and noticed, for the first time, that it was in fact, a small piece of leather that had appearently been padding a chinrest.

I was very careful but it peeled off easily (as if held down with wax), and the wood beneath it is in fine shape.

On the top, there is some trouble on the bass side of the tail button. For about three inches, the purfling is chewed up, and there is about an inch of missing wood in that area.

I am not sure what the term "fluting" means...

But, I do know that if you look at the fiddle from the treble side, you can see right into the f hole. I don't know the best way to describe this, but...

If I hold the fiddle so that the ribs on the treble side are vertical, there is an obvious "gap" between the inside and outside of the f hole. That gap is more than 1/8" and that much of the sound post is plainly visible.

If I hold the fiddle in the same position on the bass side, there is no visible gap between the inside and outside edges of the f hole.

And finally, I wonder what, if anything, is appropriate in terms of repair, or restoration, of this instrument. For example, should the edge damage on the top be repaired, or left as is?

Many thanks for your kind help,

A.C.

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Hi Andrew,

Forgive me if I am missing something, but the back is as you see it... Nothing more (or less.)

Thanks,

A.C.

Several Markneukirschen makers stamped their initials on the inside of the back mostly in the middle. I*C*F* would be one of the Johann Christian Ficker. Look through the sound hole and there may be something inside.

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Hello to All,

I have had this fiddle:

http://s585.photobucket.com/albums/ss299/ACFairbanks/

for more than fifty years, but have no information about it.

With apologies for the amateurish photos, I would certainly appreciate any thoughts that might help me to learn more about the instrument.

(And, for bonus points, there is another I.D. opportunity unrelated to violins...)

Sincere thanks for any help,

A.C.

+++++++++++++

Is there any label? What does it say if any?

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I think the "gap" you are referring to would probably be some distortion of the top plate that happens around the soundpost. This is very common on old instruments, in fact they all have it to some degree. Old german instruments often have more. This can be fixed but is usually expensive and not usually done unless it is extreme. It is usually not harmful, but its something to ask a luthier. The edge damage is also typical and your instrument doesnt look too bad, again it can be fixed but is probably not critical. Something to show a luthier, the photos dont look as bad as you say. The cracks would need to be repaired if they are loose but they dont look that bad either. Obviously it needs pegs, bridge, tailpiece etc. Maybe you have some that are usable. But if not you'll need a whole settup. With this instrument I would take it to a good luthier and pay some money, it will be worth it. If your in the Boston area I would take it to Reuning and Sons, there are others too. I would think that you could get this instrument up and running for under $1000.00 and it would be well worth it. But there could be something not showing in the pics......

WHat's the answer to the bonus?

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Several Markneukirschen makers stamped their initials on the inside of the back mostly in the middle. I*C*F* would be one of the Johann Christian Ficker. Look through the sound hole and there may be something inside.

Hi again,

Nope...,

I have looked with care, but there are no markings visible...

Thanks for any further thoughts,

A.C.

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I think the "gap" you are referring to would probably be some distortion of the top plate that happens around the soundpost. This is very common on old instruments, in fact they all have it to some degree. Old german instruments often have more. This can be fixed but is usually expensive and not usually done unless it is extreme. It is usually not harmful, but its something to ask a luthier.

Your "gap" comments are particularly interesting...

When I saw the significant difference between the amount of gap on both sides, I assumed it to be distortion caused by the post, and, of course, that may ultimately prove to be right.

But, there is no evidence of any "bulging" when viewed from other positions. So, if I site down the top from the tail end, the curve is always smooth, and continuous, even right at the line of the gap.

Hmmm, there is even more to this as I have just discovered:

I've been looking at the fiddle as I click away here, and (with apologies for my lack of proper violin vocabulary) it appears not that the post has pushed things up but rather that something has pushed down the area of the top that is between the treble f hole, and the edge. If I hold the neck of the fiddle to my ear, and site toward the tail button, I can see, unobstructed, the complete inner edge of the f hole on the treble side.

Perhaps this is a better way to describe it:

At both ends of the f hole, there are "fingers" of the top extending into the hole itself.

On the treble f hole, it looks as if someone pressed a thumb onto the tail end "finger" and gave it a significant push, but instead of breaking off as it would were this actually done, the "finger" remained depressed. And it's not a trivial amount. It is about 1/8" below where it "should" be.

The edge damage is also typical and your instrument doesnt look too bad, again it can be fixed but is probably not critical. Something to show a luthier, the photos dont look as bad as you say. The cracks would need to be repaired if they are loose but they dont look that bad either.

There is edge damage just to the bass side of the top above the tail button and that is obvious in the photo. But, there is also more (and to my eye more significant) edge damage that may be less obvious from the photo. It is on the treble side of the top at the widest point. It looks as if the wood had been abraded to the purfling over the years, and now a section of 2" or so is gone.

The instrument has been maintained in the sense that all cracks are closed and tight, and one, a SP crack on the back is cleated.

Obviously it needs pegs, bridge, tailpiece etc. Maybe you have some that are usable. But if not you'll need a whole settup. With this instrument I would take it to a good luthier and pay some money, it will be worth it. If your in the Boston area I would take it to Reuning and Sons, there are others too. I would think that you could get this instrument up and running for under $1000.00 and it would be well worth it. But there could be something not showing in the pics......

I have had the fiddle up and running. I stripped it of strings and pegs when I made the photos.

I take it from your comments that in your view it is worth fixing up and I do think I will do that. Might you have any sense (even wide ballpark) of the value of such a fiddle?

It is also funny that you commented on Boston. Indeed, I am in Southeastern New Hampshire, but my earlier mention of "Boston" related to the name "A.C. Fairbanks" rather than my own location. As you might know, he was one of the great Boston banjo makers of the turn of the last century.

WHat's the answer to the bonus?

Well, you have earned it...

It is (as mentioned by someone else) a turkey track...

All the best, and thanks again,

A.C.

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As far as value goes, a few years ago I looked at a very nice Ficker at a higher end shop that was 14K. This probably represents the top of the spectrum at retail price. Auction prices are typically in the low to mid thousands. Yours looks like a very nice example, the problem is the sound post crack on the back, that would probably knock the price down quite a bit. STill worth fixing up, in fact I dont see that instrument needing a whole lot more. Take it to a good luthier. Its a cool old instrument worth playing.

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