Tostra

Identification and cleaning of an old violin

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Hello there, I'm a new member, but I've used threads from this forum as an information source many times before. 

I'm a Danish cellist with a lot of hobbies, one being restoration of old violins. I'm rather new to it, though, and have only repaired one violin yet with a nasty sound post crack, so I need to gain a lot of experience. 

I picked this violin up from a luthier's shop window in Schleswig, Germany. He told me it's a 200 or more years old violin from Mittenwald. I asked why the maker didn't use flamed wood for the neck when the body seems to be of rather nice wood and he said that it was probably made by another person than the body like some sort of production line, just like the trade instruments. 

After staring at it in admiration ever since I purchased it, I've formed a theory that the neck might actually be made later instead of a neck graft. I think there is lots of attention to detail in the body, but not so much in the neck, and the combination seems weird to me. However, I don't have much experience, so I would love if someone could help me identify it. 

I have taken pictures with my phone, and I've observed a few details:

The fingerboard seems to have been too low on this neck and have been lifted with a thin, angled piece of maple. Is that normal? 

The fingerboard has grooves from the strings

The upper right corner where the left hand might rest is weared down a lot so it has a curve down and is even cracked along the purfling. 

The back has marks after having a chin rest mounted for both a right- and left handed player. Maybe it's been a student violin and used by many people? However, it only has marks in the c-bout on the treble side. 

It has been repaired in five cracks in the top and one in the side. 

The stamp on the inside looks a lot like the one of Christian Wilhelm Seidel, but especially the d is not as swung. I can't find anything anywhere matching this font. Does anybody recognize this branding? 

I can't upload my photos from my phone, so they're on Google Drive: 

https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B0fyVNePhekSc2hsa2xxT3pTSWM

 

My last question is one that I know has been asked too often: It's horribly firty with rosin buildup etc, how should I clean it? I've done my best with a damp cloth, but it's not really enough. I've heard turpentine should be safe on rosin varnishes (this should be dragon blood according to the seller), and it seems to work, but I don't really like how hard the turpentine itself is to get off the surface. I'm not asking how I should clean my instrument casually, but how I should do if I want to be the amateur luthier who enjoys making  old stuff play again. 

 

Lastly, of course I won't do anything stupid to a really good instrument while I'm still learning, and it will under any circumstanced be taken to my luthier when I get home before I touch it. 

Sorry for the long post, but I hope someone out there can help me. 

- Tobias :-) 

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Welcome to MN!

The scroll looks like lower commercial-quality Markneukirchen work. Is the lower rib one-piece or two-piece?

This link will help you identify the violin origin:

https://maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/325798-quiz-for-addie/&do=findComment&comment=538590

Also, I find Simple Green useful for cleaning rosin residue from varnishes. I would never use turpentine! ALWAYS TEST FIRST!

See:

 

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Thank you for your answer :-)

First of all I of course tested turpentine on a small section first, and it doesn't hurt the varnish of this instrument. I remember hearing of Simple Green, but I can't find it here in Denmark. I'll look for it again though. 

The scroll also seems a little too rough to me, which is why I thought the neck has been replaced by a luthier student or a less skilled one. However, I can't say and that's why I ask you more experienced people. 

The lower rib is in two pieces, and it has corner blocks. The finish on the inside is quite smooth compared to the trade instrument I worked in earlier. 

The cracked top corner may actually be caused by too deep of a purfling? 

 

- Tobias 

Edited by Tostra

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Ugh! again.

Simple Green will soften and damage the varnish on Roth violins, I know...from many moons ago. Clean a bow with it, yes, a violin, never. It won't strip the varnish, just soften it, and no, it doesn't harden back up. This is for oil varnishes.

Don't try to clean it yourself. Let one of us who do this professionally do the cleaning.

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Thank you, Duane, I will definitely get my luthier to restore it if he thinks it's worth it, and I'll probably let him clean it even if I decide to repair it myself. However, I really want to learn, so just getting it done professionally won't do me much good there. I know it's stupid and that I might do more harm than good, but I must start somewhere, as long as I am careful and don't get too adventurous with a nice instrument. 

Why do you mention Roth violins? Because this is a Roth or just as an example? I know that Oskar Hermann Seidel was a name used by Roth, but it was on a label, not a stamp, if my sources are correct? 

- Tobias 

Edited by Tostra

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The neck looks Mark/Schoen to me, too, but it could have been added.  Please read this, https://maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/333119-how-to-photograph-an-instrument-for-identifcation-purposes/

In the case of telling if something is Mittenwald or not, oblique corner photos and a face-on close-up of the lower bout at the tailpiece peg are a must.  Photos through the f-hole of corner blocks/linings, and any labels or stamps are needed too.

You will be able to upload photos here once you have 10 posts approved by the Admin. :)

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Violadamore, I have added a few more that show what you ask for, I hope. There's also one showing the stamp again with the sound post in frame for size and one showing the corner crack. I'm not familiar with all terms, so I hope I understood you right :-) 

I'll take a picture through the end pin hole when I find a lamp... 

 

- Tobias 

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1 hour ago, GeorgeH said:

Thanks for the extra pictures. Nothing suggests Mittenwald to me. Everything now looks like Mark/Schoen.

Yup.  It's a Markie.  Welcome to the proud ranks of us "rubbish" owners.  Now, how does it sound when played?  :)

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Hi :-) 

Sorry for my late answer, the reply box has been gone all day for some reason. I have a few questions:

First of all, how do you identify it as a Markneukirchen violin? What do you see apart from what's in that article? I'm perfectly satisfied knowing the origin, but in order to not bomb you with questions in the future and of course bringing some good violins I'd like to gain that sort of experience :-) 

Then there's age and maker. I still haven't found a stamp that looks like this one except the branding of C. W. Seidel. Could this be some variation or copy of his stamp or is there another Seidel who used an internal stamp as his mark? I'd very much like to know these things since a great part of this whole violin thing is imagining the history of this piece of wood(note how I weighted details that are probably irrelevant. They're quite interesting to me). 

I'm aware that Markneukirchen is not as good as Mittenwald, but not quite why? I've heard that many don't appteciate the sound as much, is that mainly because it's not as fine of a title or because they don't play as well? How would it affect the price? I'm probably not going to sell this one since I quite like it, but in the future this hobby might be some sort of income so I can finally buy the cello of my dreams :-) 

As to sound... I picked it up in that condition on a sailing trip that I'm not yet home from. I will be in a few days, but right now it doesn't sound at all :-P

And I'm a cellist, so it probably won't sound very good in my hands anyway... However, silly as it may sound, I have some idea of the sound from holding and tapping it, and I expect it to be quite dark and maybe(sadly) a little dull sounding. But that's just guesswork. I'm thinking of finding a tuning fork or a sound therapy bowl that we couldn't resist and put ti in contact with the body. Maybe that'll give some idea of the sound? I hope for some dark, pleasant sort of sound to match the colour and the familiarity of a cellist in this case :-) 

 

- Tobias 

Edited by Tostra

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I'm wondering if the Markneukirchen attribution is correct. Mainly because of the neck, as you can see, the overstand under the fingerboard starts practically exactly where the upper rib is, I believe there is a continuous purfling below the fingerboard, very unusual! It is not something one would expect to see with a through neck like you would have on a standard markie, is it? I also find the ultra wide white of the purfling and the very thin black lines unusual. I quite like the scroll, it doesn't look so quirky, like most markie scrolls do, apart from that the fluting ends at 6 o'clock. I'm wondering if it couldn't be something else, a similar building technique to Markies (see the corners and "delta" at the chin) but something else nonetheless? No fake neck graft, no bad shading of the varnish, lots of repairs... I dunno, it just doesn't look serial enough to me.

On cheapo, worthless instruments I use super nikco. Is takes off anything, is not poisonous or dangerous and doesn't dissolve the varnish. But it is a very mild abrasive, therefore the varnish will be highly shiny afterwards, and theoretically a small portion of the varnish will have been removed. Many here will call it a capital sin. I don't think I'd use it on this instrument though.

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Hi baroquecello, I think you're right. It's really incredibly dirty in there, so I can't tell for sure, but it could seem like tge purfling continues. I've practicly had it in my hand for days, but I never noticed that detail. 

And no, I don't think I want to go too risky on this instrument. I like its look a little too much. I. May try it on some violins I have at home. They're not worth much as instruments, but as practice playgrounds they're quite good :-) 

 

- Tobias 

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Tostra, looks like the top seam is open, and see a white looking cracks on left F hole top and bottom, you can lightly press and see if they move, so you most likely need the top removed to do crack repair, I would not clean it until any repairs get done , you do not want to get those cracks any dirtier. also looks like it's been varnished over the rosin that was on the violin.

DSC_0685.JPG

DSC_0684.JPG

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Hi, I'm aware og those cracks, but I think most of them are closed. It'll ve necessary to take the top off anyway to fix the left hand area, so I'll check the ones I'm not sure of then. I'm pretty sure the rosin is on top of the varnish, but it does have a weird surface. I think it's from handling, though. 

 

- Tobias 

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I just checked, they're all closed. That over the f-hole is just a scratch, but I'm still not sure about the joint. 

When I press top to see if the cracks open, the whole area flexes a little if I press too hard. Does that mean that the plate is too thin or that I'm too brutal or is it normal? 

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