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Violin with Two-Layer Plates


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I have what I think is an interesting violin, or rather the pieces of one, and I am hoping to learn some more about it.  I do not believe that it has any particular value, other than perhaps the story it has to tell.

The main point of interest to me is the construction of the top-plate and back-plate, which are both layered.


Other than pictures, I only have a small amount of information I can provide.

The violin was given to my mother when she was a young girl, growing up in rural Arkansas (which would have been sometime in the late 50s or early 60s), which means that it is at least 50+ years old. 

My understanding is that it was never actually played since that time.  Eventually it ended up being stored in a shed for the better part of a decade during the late 70s into the 80s, during which time the condition severely deteriorated.  When I was maybe 8 or 9 years old I got it out and "repaired" it.  I glued the neck back on with carpenter's glue.  I sanded off some really disgusting varnish that had turned to almost a black tar in places.  I applied some cheap varnish and also painted the pegs and tailpiece.  I mention these things to point out that those aspects of the current condition in the pictures will not provide any useful information (and may also affect those with delicate sensibilities toward these sorts of things).

The tailpiece, which was on the violin when it was given to my mother, bears the trademark of Boonton Molding Company, formerly of New Jersey.


Those are pretty much all of the facts I have regarding the instrument.  So, it will just have to speak for itself in the pictures.










I have additional pictures and can provide them if it would be helpful.  I just don't want to put too many in this initial post.

Edited by Stratocastrius
Pictures were not attached properly in original post
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I'd think it wasn't 'constructed' that way but rather 'repaired'. Larger patches are a common technique.

I have not seen it taken to this extreme degree though. Rather horrible to see.

Hart to tell what is original and what is not, but the violin appears to have been constructed on the back and could be a low grade violin from Markneukirchen/ Schoenbach or somewhere from the mountains behind Salzburg.

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8 hours ago, Guido said:

I'd think it wasn't 'constructed' that way but rather 'repaired'.

Looks like it was run over by a truck, and another plate was constructed to hold all the pieces together, like the table you'd need to put a jigsaw puzzle together.  

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4 hours ago, vathek said:

The mark on the tailpiece has nothing to do with the  violin. It is a 'sold separately' item.

Thanks for the reply vathek.

I do understand that this tailpiece was manufactured separately, in this case by a plastics molding company, and therefore bears little information about the violin.  The only information the trademark can convey is about the tailpiece itself.  In this case, I have discovered that the Boonton Molding Company of New Jersey was active from 1920 to 1981.  The trademark was registered in 1965, but the registration says that the first use of the trademark was in 1925, so presumably it could have been in common use since that time.  My mother was given the violin, with this tailpiece, in the late 50s to early 60s.  So it seems that the tailpiece had to be produced sometime between 1925 and the late 50s to early 60s.

As you rightly state, all of that has "nothing to do with the violin".  The only thing it can inform is when it could possibly have been added to the violin.  I did/do not know if it is possible that the tailpiece is contemporary to the construction of the instrument and/or contemporary to the outer layers on the back plate and top plate if those outer layers were indeed added at a later date to the violin.

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5 hours ago, Don Noon said:

Looks like it was run over by a truck, and another plate was constructed to hold all the pieces together, like the table you'd need to put a jigsaw puzzle together.  

Indeed, outwardly it does look that way.  However, if you look closely, the violin was structurally not as rough as it appears.

Looking at the top plate from the inside, there is really only a single crack which extends along the grain from both ends of the f hole on the bass side (a seemingly common occurrence).  The inside of the top plate, which is book matched quarter sawn, is crudely carved and has an integral bass bar, but it is really the thin "veneer" layer on the outside of the top plate that makes it look like the violin was "run over by a truck".  Looking at the top plate from the outside, it is full of cracks and all-around deterioration.  This outer "veneer" appears to be one piece across the width (but ending at the purfling) and there appears to be a horizontal seam in it near the top of the f holes.  There is also the additional raised rectangle beneath the fingerboard (which is something I have not seen on other instruments).

If it were just the top plate that was like this, then my interest probably would not have been piqued.  However, the back plate is also layered.  There is no structural damage to the back plate other than the broken button, and the button was not broken until sometime in the 1980s, long after when the layering occurred, whether it occurred during initial construction or a later alteration.  The back plate also has relatively nice figure that appears nicely matched.  So I find it curious that one would laminate / veneer over the top of that. I also find the little square patch at the outside bottom of the back interesting (being something else I have not seen on other instruments).

This brings about questions of:
when was it done? initial construction or a later alteration
why was it done?
 repair? but what would it have actually repaired...
 alter the sound? though I assume it would have sounded worse
 alter the appearance? but the back plate would, in my opinion, look better without the outer "veneer" and the top plate would certainly look no worse, so why go to the trouble?
So then I think maybe someone could have been trying to imitate a very specific appearance, but still why bother with this "veneer" approach.

Alternatively, it could just be a weird one-off experiment / design expression, but that explanation assumes this construction was truly uncommon and not just unknown to me.  So, the question then becomes has anybody seen this construction/alteration before?  If so, is it actually common?  Is it typical of a place / time / school / maker?

Concerning the rest of the violin being apart: Owing to the fact that the violin is in rough condition and of little apparent value, I separated the fingerboard from the neck to further investigate.  There are some alignment marks but no discernible writing on the neck under the fingerboard.  There are two holes in that location that presumably could have been used for work-holding purposes when the neck was originally shaped.  I also previously removed the back and peeled/popped the outer "veneer" off the back.  The corresponding half of the back plate "veneer" that is not pictured had cracked, lifted and deteriorated, which is why I first noticed it was "veneered".  I used a thin knife to separate the back from the body (which was easy due to deterioration of the glue) and I used a flat scraper to remove the broken veneer piece and then the unbroken veneer piece you see in the pictures.

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