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So I was hoping, with the help of experienced people, that I could make this topic into a checklist that you can have when trying to identify where your grandpa's Stradivarius, Grandma's Guadagnini, or that fiddle you found in the attic was made. I will list a few places, and if anyone want to share some of their time, please say what the traits would be for the violin. Most of what I used so far has been posted by Jacob Saunders in other threads. If I made a mistake with the categorizing, please note that the mistake is my fault. I will include all the quotes in Post # 2, as reference to who said what originally. If anyone have any other info to share on different places and those methods, please share. I will add everything to the original post.

 

 

 

 

Markneukirchen/Schönbach: (Dutzendarbeit)

Rib construction method: Built on the back. No mould (until later years)

 

Corner blocks: Cosmetic or proper. The Dutzendarbeit method didn’t necessarily require corner blocks and therefore often didn’t have any, where they do, they mostly have, seen from the plan view a more equilateral triangle aspect.

 

Ribs: The ends of the rib at the corners left long, so that you can get a cramp on to glue them together, and shortened afterwards, with the tendency to remain almost flush with the ends of the back outline at the corners. The Dutzendarbeit system involved making the ribs much longer first, so that they could be cramped and glued together and then rasped off afterwards. This leaves the joint either in the centre, or indistinguishable. The ends of their ribs were then often chamfered off at an angle, so that the rib ends don’t look so thick. The Dutzendarbeit ribs often end at the furthest protrusion of the back/belly corners.

 

Scroll: Dutzendarbeit tend to me more rounded off and over in both respects. Fluting finishes as early as 6 o’clock. Back of the scroll tends to finish less sharp, or have a kind of “delta” at the bottom.

 

Linings: Linings are not let in to these “corner blocks”.

 

Back/Belly: The Dutzendarbeit bellies were roughed out with integral bass bar, until they developed a routing machine which made fitting and gluing a bass bar necessary. This was a remnant of the old Markneukirchen tradition and was neither quicker, easier or a short cut.

 

Purfling: Dutzendarbeit often has stained blacks, where the stain hasn’t penetrated too the middle of the black strand, leaving a strange impression of grey/white/grey

 

 

 

Mittenwald:

Rib construction method: Inside mould.

 

Corner blocks: The blocks glued to the mould, then cut to shape in the middle

 

Ribs: Inside mould. This results in the Mittenwald ones having the join at the end of the ribs to the C bout side, the rib ends finishing cut fairly square. The bottom rib of a Mittenwald Verleger violin is with occasional exceptions in one piece (or was) and normally has a notch or notches (top and bottom) to mark the middle. Mittenwald rib corners stop a couple of mm before the end of the back/belly corners.

 

Scroll: Viewed from the profile, Mwald Scrolls tend to have a pronounced “back of the head” (Hinterkopf) also a prominent “forehead” with sharpish champers. The fluting in Mittenwald goes all the way into the throat. On the back of the peg box, the Mwald centre spine normally remains sharp right to the end (and is often prominent vis a vis each side)

 

Linings:

 

Back/Bellies: The Mwald Backs/Bellies are, although smother, no more carefully worked out, often being either too thick or ridiculously thin. They have glued in Bass bars.

 

Purfling: Mittenwald purfling is normally fitted far too deep, encouraging edges to break off. They tend to have “bee stings” which is less characteristic of the Dutzendarbeit. The black strand of the purfling in Mwald seems to be stained right through equally.

 

 

Mirecourt:

Rib construction method:

 

Corner blocks:

 

Scroll:

 

Linings:

 

Purfling:

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References:

 

A brief and necessarily incomplete blueprint for distinguishing between Mittenwald „Verleger“ and Markn/Schönbach „Dutzendware“

Scroll/peg box
Viewed from the profile, Mwald Scrolls tend to have a pronounced “back of the head” (Hinterkopf) also a prominent “forehead” with sharpish champers, whereas the Dutzendarbeit tend to me more rounded off and over in both respects. The fluting in Mittenwald goes all the way into the throat, whereas the Dutzendarbeit finishes as early as 6 o’clock. On the back of the peg box, the Mwald centre spine normally remains sharp right to the end (and is often prominent vis a vis each side) whereas the Dutzendarbeit tends to finish less sharp, or have a kind of “delta” at the bottom.

Rib construction
In Mittenwald they used an inside mould, the Markn/Schönbach Dutzendarbeit, no mould (until later years). This results in the Mittenwald ones having the join at the end of the ribs to the C bout side, the rib ends finishing cut fairly square. The Dutzendarbeit system involved making the ribs much longer first, so that they could be cramped and glued together and then rasped off afterwards. This leaves the joint either in the centre, or indistinguishable. The ends of their ribs were then often chamfered off at an angle, so that the rib ends don’t look so thick. The Dutzendarbeit ribs often end at the furthest protrusion of the back/belly corners, whereas the Mittenwald ones stop a couple of mm before the end of the back/belly corners. Mittenwald corner blocks cover about twice as much upper/lower rib as c bout rib and the invariably pine linings of the c bout are let into the corner blocks with a point. The Dutzendarbeit method didn’t necessarily require corner blocks and therefore often didn’t have any, where they do, they mostly have, seen from the plan view a more equilateral triangle aspect. Linings are not let in to these “corner blocks”. The bottom rib of a Mittenwald Verleger violin is with occasional exceptions in one piece (or was) and normally has a notch or notches (top and bottom) to mark the middle. Dutzendarbeit with a one piece bottom rib, is so unusual as to provoke suspicion. A let in Bottom saddle can be found both in Mwald and Mkirchen, as can a non let in one, so it isn’t a reliable identification criterion at all.

Back/Belly
The Dutzendarbeit bellies were roughed out with integral bass bar, until they developed a routing machine which made fitting and gluing a bass bar necessary. This was a remnant of the old Markneukirchen tradition and was neither quicker, easier or a short cut (as I discovered trying to do one). The Mwald Backs/Bellies are, although smother, no more carefully worked out, often being either too thick or ridiculously thin. They have glued in Bass bars. Mittenwald purfeling is normally fitted far too deep, encouraging edges to break off. They tend to have “bee stings” which is less characteristic of the Dutzendarbeit. The black strand of the purfeling in Mwald seems to be stained right through equally, whereas Dutzendarbeit often has stained blacks, where the stain hasn’t penetrated too the middle of the black strand, leaving a strange impression of grey/white/grey (see Mr. Hounds vn, just to the left of the button)

Beer
Both Mittenwald and Markneukirchen Beer has been brewed according to the “Reinheitsgebot” (purity requirement) for hundreds of years. This means that the only allowed ingredients are water, barley, hops and yeast (I think). In Markneukirchen it is served in half litre glasses, whereas the Mittenwalder like to serve it in one litre glasses (Maß). The British beer, by contrast, is murky, non transparent, warm, served in pints and tends to have a residual diluted washing-up liquid type flavour.

 

 

Lets have a look at Golden Plate's(?) violin now:

It is unusual to see an ebay violin in this Auction Scroll which is open, so that one can have a good look at the inside work. For quite a long while I wrote a short post on the significance of corner blocks, which one can normally only extrapolate from the outer visible features in violin pictures, for identification purposes. I have linked to it several times before, so please bear with me for linking to it again:
http://www.maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/328919-violin-id/page-3#entry594080 (Post # 46)
I noted the 3 most common building methods. One can see on the pictures of Golden Plates(?) violin, that the corner blocks cover rather more of the middle bout rib than either the upper or lower rib. This, using the rough template I gave in the linked post would exclude rib building method No.1 Inside mould (i.e. Mittenwald, or even Stradivari) since there, one would find the exact opposite. Rib building method No. 2, Outside mould, would also be unlikely (although not entirely impossible) since one would then expect the blocks to be roughly an equilateral triangle. Also one would expect the mitre of the ribs (i.e. the maple part) to only fit at the extreme ends, (see link) Since the appearance of the blocks is unlikely to have any vain cosmetic motivation (except if one were building a fake that I was expected to fall for) I would be inclined to exclude rib building method No. 2 as well. Leaves rib building method No. 3 Building ribs on the back. It would seem to me that this is a sub-section of method No. 3, since the ribs appear to have been built on the back around the corner blocks, as opposed to the opposite Saxon (amongst many others) method of just glueing the ribs on the back, with long protruding rib corners, so that one can put a cramp on, without any blocks at all. This is a method that I have only noticed in French (French = Mirecourt area) instruments, and since this doesn't seem to be usual in more recent French instruments, one could perhaps speculate that it is pre-WWI.

It is often, rather carelessly, spoken of “German factory instruments”, although the vast majority of those weren't actually made in a factory, rather by some out-worker (often formally self-employed) at home in his shed. The French though, really had violin “factories” with chimney stacks and railway sidings etc., which is possibly a reason why I have never really been particularly interested.

Lastly, the label is to be found in numerous books, which can be (and are) snipped out and stuck in, resp. copied and stuck in. There are numerous things that can set of ones snake oil alarm. A label in the majority of violins is placed so that one can read it through the f-hole. This one is placed a good inch higher up, which would suggest a degree of ineptitude, or unfamiliarity with violin making. Also, some old genuine labels are somewhat distressed, although one would wonder why or how it becomes distressed in a violin that has hardly been repaired (one short belly crack, and the belly centre join). Altogether a respectable school violin, no more, no less

 

 

 
Certainly, if you take the very useful discipline of corner-blockology to heart.
 
One should first remember, that back in times when one started learning violin-making as a 13 year old, one followed the master's instructions without thinking too much, and invariably proceeded to work along the same lines for the rest of one's life. This should not be confused with the present, where people drift into making, in their 20s or 30s, seriously or as dilettantes, and who mostly tend to have their heads seriously in the way. This, learning as almost a child, and learning the method of the area, is really useful for authenticating fiddles, although more for establishing what something isn’t, rather than what something is.
 
To try and simplify things, there are a variety of ways to build a rib cage; The most common:
 
1) Inside mould. The blocks glued to the mould, then cut to shape in the middle, then first the centre bouts bent and glued onto the blocks, the rest of the block shaped then the upper and lower ribs bent and glued on.  This will normally finish with a block with about double the length of contact to the upper and lower rib, that to the centre ones. It will also make one piece top & bottom ribs more common, since if your wood is long enough, you would have to be pretty daft to cut it in half, only to have to make a joint afterwards. Roger has explored elsewhere what function letting the middle bout linings into the blocks could have. When you have finished, you will plane the ribs (incl. blocks & linings) flat, giving a flat gluing surface.
 
2) Outside mould. (as I learnt it from my father as a child) First the upper and lower ribs are bent and put into the mould, with the corners shoved hard into the corners. This makes a one piece top or bottom rib unlikely, since you can’t shove both ends into opposite corners hard at the same time. Then the middle rib is bent,and cut off first a little to long, then bit by bit shortened until it mitres into both the corners at the same time. For this reason, anyone but the most fastidious nutter, will mitre the corners a little sharper than necessary, so they fit tight right at the end (where you will see it from outside on the finished violin) and not at the inside of the mitre, which nobody, except a future repairman who removes a plate will see. Corner blocks will then be inserted afterwards (i.e. the opposite of inside mould) and will logically normally be more lightly to be an equilateral triangle from the plan view, i.e. same gluing area on both middle and upper/lower bouts. Then the ribs (incl. blocks and linings) are planed flat.
 
3) Building the ribs on the back, without a mould: First the back outline will be made (more or less). Then the ribs will be bent, or bought ready bent with linings on from the “Schachtelmacher” and tacked onto the back. The ends of the rib at the corners left long, so that you can get a cramp on to glue them together, and shortened afterwards, with the tendency to remain almost flush with the ends of the back outline at the corners. This method doesn’t necessarily require corner blocks and often doesn’t have any. When it does have corner blocks though, there are two different sorts to distinguish between. There were both “cosmetic” ones, just a bit of wood leaned against the corner to betray origin, and “proper” ones, inserted to hinder the rib corners from coming apart. These were fitted and inserted into the corners as the ribs were still tacked to the back. They fit well towards the inside of the back, but are cut off at a ca. 20° angle going into the rib corner, i.e. do not form part of the gluing area between block and back, but rather are just there to hold the ribs together. This can be well seen on a Schönfelder violin I have the back off in my workshop at the moment (J. C. Ficker did it too, and others), where one can be surprised to find that apparently perfect blocks have a hidden cavity, full of old glue. This is the “glue pattern” seen on the OP VSO. One should not make the mistake of saying that a fiddle with such a corner block must be Saxon etc. though, since I have seen the same when removing the back of instruments of the Gagliano family (no fear of this mistake in OP case though!), leaving me to wonder if they first learnt from some immigrant from Füssen or Vils, who earlier did it like that too.
 
Thus the significance for identification purposes. One knows for a fact that the Vogtländer/Egerländer used method No. 3, and Vienna/Prag/Mittenwald/South Tyrol makers No. 1 etc. and that method No. 2 was much later. Thus a violin with corner blocks as in method No. 1 can certainly not come from Markneukirchen, one that used method No. 2 can not be from early 19th C. Prague, a Bozen Jais can not possibly have been built using method No. 3 and so on ad infinitum. This is really useful when appraising for a court, where one is generally confronted with a room full of lawyers, who couldn’t tell a violin from a cello, but who will want FACTS and not opinions, although it won’t hinder the Ebay Mischpoche from arguing with you.

 

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So I was hoping, with the help of experienced people, that I could make this topic into a checklist that you can have when trying to identify where your grandpa's Stradivarius, Grandma's Guadagnini, or that fiddle you found in the attic was made.

 

 

 

Great idea ! Though you shouldn't discriminate by using only the opinions of people who know what they're talking about. That's "opinionist" and a PC no-no.

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Great idea ! Though you shouldn't discriminate by using only the opinions of people who know what they're talking about. That's "opinionist" and a PC no-no.

 

:P Duly noted. Anyone may post relevant info should they have any. :)

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  • 1 year later...

what schools of making would result in high/broad arching, no corner blocks, and no upper block (one-piece neck and upper block)?   I'm working on an old fiddle that is branded Stainer below a very small button.   A broken neck near the neck root forced me to remove the neck/block and fit a modern upper block and spliced a new neck into the old scroll/peg box.

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what schools of making would result in high/broad arching, no neck blocks, and no upper block (one-piece neck and upper block)?   I'm working on an old fiddle that is branded Stainer below a very small button.   A broken neck near the neck root forced me to remove the neck/block and fit a modern upper block and spliced a new neck into the old scroll/peg box.

I have a violin that would match that mug shot from the Salzkammergut, but I would have to be daft to say that without seeing your violin first

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