Cincitaipei

$25 ebay violin suggestions

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So I got a $25 violin on ebay. I have a son heading into a 3/4 size and have also bought another, newer shop-adjusted Chinese violin that should be more immediately playable. This violin should arrive in a week and I can post more pictures then. 

The person selling the violin is interesting--he's out of Texas and seems to mostly sell used violins, in various states of repairs. I'm guessing not a luthier because some are like this. At first I bid $15 but didn't make the reserve and then he offered it for $25, which I thought was friendly. He said it definitely "plays." Most repairs I probably flat out couldn't do (damage to peg box or new pegs). Some would be fun to try but I may well fail (anything involving opening up the top). I'm thinking I can probably do a chin rest, a new bridge and strings. It looks to me like the nut is bone or ivory, which would mean it's probably pretty old and the back seems to be one piece (but maybe painted?). The top (and ribs?) look like maybe they've been stripped. My 9 year old is excited about us just playing around with it. From reading here, I'm assuming it's an old factory violin. It sure looks like it hasn't been played in decades. What do you think is the best case/worst case scenario? It sure looks like the top is unvarnished, right? Do you think it's the original or is this mix-and-match? 

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It's original.  The top varnish has been stripped off.  The back retains its original varnish with fake flaming.  It's hard to tell from the pictures, but the bridge might approximately fit the top.  I can't tell about the bridge height.  The bridge might be usable even though it's crude. The strings are old steel strings which should be replaced.  If you put on steel strings, you will want to add fine tuners.  The fit of the pegs and presence of a sound post are open questions.

Worst case:  firewood.

Best case:  Ugly, but playable after you put on strings, fine tuners and chinrest.

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Hi Brad and Nicolas, thank you for the encouragement! Are there strings I could put on without changing the tailpiece? Synthetics of some sort? I'll probably get a 3/4 wittner, but thought I would ask.

I was thinking about what to do with the unfinished top. At first I was thinking of a stain and a simple varnish and figured it will just be one ugly fiddle. Then I saw some guitar/violin sharpie art and wondered if maybe it could be an art project for the 9 year old. It might be an incentive for him to practice if he could sharpie it with his own drawings and then we could varnish it. He's really into sharks lately, so if it went well, we would be the proud owners of the one-of-a-kind "Megalodon Strad." 

Another question: the back looks dull and worn. My wife's grandma actually had an old German violin with a back like this. Is there anything that can be done to polish it? This is truly a nothing-to-lose violin, so I'm curious if a wax, oil, or something else might make it look a little nicer.

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Please post pictures after you let him go at it with a sharpie!

I think bullseye shellac would be a perfectly fine sealer/varnish for this project. 
As for polishing, if you have any Johnsons floor wax around the house, that would do the trick.

 

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6 hours ago, Cincitaipei said:

...Are there strings I could put on without changing the tailpiece?...

Yes.  But if you keep the tailpiece you probably should add fine tuners.

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Guido   

That doesn't look too bad at all.

I'd also think bullseye shellac will be your friend. It'll also help with the back.

1 Just clean the violin with a damp cloth and some patience. Don't use and wax/polish or cleaning agents yet.

2 Try your luck with bullseye shellac. It'll make the back pretty again, too. A couple of coats for the front.

3 Have him do his artwork onto the shellac ground, seal with another coat of shellac, but test first if the shellac doesn't solve and smear his work.

4 Make sure there is a soundpost standing straight when you look trough the treble side f-hole. If not, do not string up the instrument! Seek help.

5 A cheap bridge blank may only be $1 but fitting it to the violin is necessary and will cost about $100. Try to make use of the bridge you have. The feet look ok from a distance. Height and arching is hard to tell.

6 A Wittner tailpiece is a good idea. It'll double your investment in the violin ;-) but you also save the fine tuners and the strings will thank you. Don't buy the $3 Wittner copies. They usually don't work at all.

7 You can buy Chinese King Lyon synthetic core strings for $15 a set (they are not too bad despite what people say) or get some reputable steel stings at about the same price (maybe a little more). But don't buy the $1 a set Chinese steel strings.

8 Your pegs look as if they could be ok. You can work with soap and chalk if they don't turn smoothly. Be very careful with the soap - only use tiny amounts and wait a week before you use more if they are still sticky. It's better to have them too sticky than to have them slip and not hold. Most of the daily tuning will happen on the fine tuners anyway.

P.S. Looks like violin from Markneukirchen ca 1920.

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Thats true, the alcohol in the shellac will probably act as a solvent for the sharpie. 
Another type of marker or paint pen might be better. 

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Dear All,

The violin arrived. There are some funny things about it. It came with an optimistic price label attached for $600 labeling it a little strad ¾ v-22. It looks like a modern, early 20th c factory violin.

First, the good:

-The pegs are good

-The fingerboard is off but in good shape and can be reglued

-The cracks look “closed”

-The sound post is up

-The bridge is “okay for now”

-From plucking the strings it sounds nice

The negative:

-The sound post has a fairly huge piece of string attached to it, so I’m assuming someone else started a home repair

-the nut has some rough patches

-The violin feels light, which could be good—I wonder if it’s been regraduated

Questions on varnish. As you know, I’d been thinking of letting my son sharpie the top and then shellac. Some caveats:

-Should I try to stain the top and then do a layer of whatever comes next? (Maybe with coffee or tea?) This would give the top a darker, more natural look.

-I am reading that alcohol-based finishes will dissolve the sharpie. I think this would include either shellac or spirit varnish. Woodworking sites have mentioned either a powder coat, a water-based clear coat, or a poly coat.  What do you guys think? If I were doing it I'd probably do a paint pen instead and then do shellac, but I think my son would do better with sharpie and then whatever comes next.

-If we decide not to do sharpie and then do shellac, I saw that the recommended bullseye comes in spray and brush formats. Any recommendations? 

Will eventually post before-/after- pictures, but this is probably a slow, summer project, so it may be a while.

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carl1961   
47 minutes ago, Cincitaipei said:

Dear All,

The violin arrived. There are some funny things about it. It came with an optimistic price label attached for $600 labeling it a little strad ¾ v-22. It looks like a modern, early 20th c factory violin.

First, the good:

-The pegs are good

-The fingerboard is off but in good shape and can be reglued

-The cracks look “closed”

-The sound post is up

-The bridge is “okay for now”

-From plucking the strings it sounds nice

The negative:

-The sound post has a fairly huge piece of string attached to it, so I’m assuming someone else started a home repair

-the nut has some rough patches

-The violin feels light, which could be good—I wonder if it’s been regraduated

Questions on varnish. As you know, I’d been thinking of letting my son sharpie the top and then shellac. Some caveats:

-Should I try to stain the top and then do a layer of whatever comes next? (Maybe with coffee or tea?) This would give the top a darker, more natural look.

-I am reading that alcohol-based finishes will dissolve the sharpie. I think this would include either shellac or spirit varnish. Woodworking sites have mentioned either a powder coat, a water-based clear coat, or a poly coat.  What do you guys think? If I were doing it I'd probably do a paint pen instead and then do shellac, but I think my son would do better with sharpie and then whatever comes next.

-If we decide not to do sharpie and then do shellac, I saw that the recommended bullseye comes in spray and brush formats. Any recommendations? 

Will eventually post before-/after- pictures, but this is probably a slow, summer project, so it may be a while.

I would make sure the cracks or strong , now would be the time to fix any issue before varnishing, then a ground coat (sealer)  old timers tied a string the the sound post to set it. that needs removing.

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2 hours ago, Cincitaipei said:

...The fingerboard is off...The bridge is “okay for now”...From plucking the strings it sounds nice...The sound post has a fairly huge piece of string attached to it...

If the fingerboard is off you can't assess the bridge height exactly.  And you should loosen the strings to avoid warping the neck.  Some people who don't have sound post setters use string to set up posts.

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