Byrdbop

Humour me. Self indulgent post ahead...

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JON_8335.thumb.jpg.72754015d77a1bd57ec3de04b15ac97a.jpgI've posted my violin before.  I am somewhat obsessed with it. 

How is it that completely unknown amateur living in Edinburgh in 1899 was able to craft such an accomplished and imo beautiful instrument?  I've found no other examples of C Nicolson's work or any historical records of his occupation.   Could this man have been schooled by a know luthier or was it possible to have learnt the skills necessary from books alone?   These are the questions that run through my mind every time I play it.

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23 minutes ago, Byrdbop said:

I've posted my violin before.  I am somewhat obsessed with it. 

How is it that completely unknown amateur living in Edinburgh in 1899 was able to craft such an accomplished and imo beautiful instrument?  I've found no other examples of C Nicolson's work or any historical records of his occupation.   Could this man have been schooled by a know luthier or was it possible to have learnt the skills necessary from books alone?   These are the questions that run through my mind every time I play it.

What leads you to believe that this is a very accomplished fiddle?

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12 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

What leads you to believe that this is a very accomplished fiddle?

It's sound.  I won't be selling it any day soon.   Accomplished for someone who probably worked in a bank for most of the day.  No other examples of his work have sold at auction and he is not listed as a know maker as far as I am aware.

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37 minutes ago, Rue said:

...less distractions? Growing up around woodworkers? Woodworking as a young child?...

No children and a healthy bank balance  too I would imagine.  Life was hard for most in Edinburgh in 1899. 

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26 minutes ago, Byrdbop said:

It's sound.  I won't be selling it any day soon. 

If you have found a fiddle that you are personally happy with, good for you!

If you try to post it as a superior fiddle in the worldwide scheme of things, you might get a little blowback. :lol:

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I am sure the maker of that violin is smiling down on you! :)

We all want to be appreciated.

I was at a funeral this morning. Young woman, unexpected, unpredictable death. :(

Life is short. Enjoy it in as many ways as you can. Make others happy. Win-win. 

 

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20 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

If you have found a fiddle that you are personally happy with, good for you!

If you try to post it as a superior fiddle worldwide, you might get a little blowback. :lol:

Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  My interest is related to the knowledge an amateur could have gleaned at the time in order to make a half decent violin.  As an expert what influences (if any) do see in my fiddle?  Does it look to be well or poorly constructed?  Good materials/varnish?  Was there a maker working in Edinburgh that may have provided lessons as a sideline to his/her business?   I've read that James Hardie provided instructional classes but alas cannot find the source of this information now.  Coincidentally James Hardie & Sons were based on Nicolson Street in Edinburgh at the time my violin was made. 

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At the very end of the nineteenth century there is a trend towards violin making as a hobby. Books such as those written by Herron-Allen, gave a lot of information, and were clearly hugely influential at the time.

The quality of work varies with ability, but many people who were skilled woodworkers, such as cabinet makers, joiners, carvers, shop fitters etc. were able to produce some fairly accomplished work, providing they understood the fundamentals. Having a violin as a reference example, no doubt would help.

While many are of a rather loose classical interpretation, their amateur status is often given away by overly large dimensions, outlandish corner shapes, and necks which blend strangely into the root and chin. A thick oil varnish usually completes the picture. Wood could be obtained fairly easily, and there were a number of varnish makers who would supply small quantities for a single instrument.

Although you may not have come across instruments like yours before, there are literally hundreds of poeople who were doing the same, at a similar time. They aren’t valuable, but it is nice that they are still being appreciated.

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3 hours ago, David Burgess said:

What leads you to believe that this is a very accomplished fiddle?

It’s not? I never claimed to have expert eyes, but it sure looks attractive to me

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4 hours ago, Byrdbop said:

Local auction house. Stupidly cheap.

Looks well made to me, beautiful wood, a few idiosyncrasies (particularly around the pegbox), but nothing to make fun of.  If it's serving you well, what else matters, anyway?  :)

3 hours ago, David Burgess said:

................... you might get a little blowback. :lol:

Here's yours.  partytime.gif.b3da63b39c052ac6cf91db69dabe4a70.gif  :lol:

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The wood looks nice, the varnish too. But these were easily attained by the many amateur makers in Edinburgh and the South of Scotland at the time.

The construction is very gammy - tiny button, crude square edgework, neat but highly "personal" f-holes, a wierd model and some trouble with the arching particularly as it graduates to the corners.

I would expect it to be pretty heavy - for some reason amateur makers are always shy of taking off too much wood, and end up leaving too much.

However, there is no reason why it shouldn't sound good, and it definitely has character. 

Very hard to sell this kind of things for 4 figures ... although I kind of like them.

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2 hours ago, martin swan said:

Very hard to sell this kind of things for 4 figures ... although I kind of like them.

Depends on where you put the decimal point.  ^_^

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Violins are easy to love, especially by amateur players like me (us?). We don't care much about the orthodoxy of the business which tells us which we should admire and which shun.  I still remember the disdain on the face of the man behind the counter at Beare's when I asked him about my baby ("I suppose it's by some English amateur"; "Fine, powerful tone and exemplary workmanship" according to Jalovec). Time will come when the British amateur tradition is valued for injecting a little fresh DNA into the inbred violin gene pool.

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It doesn't look like BB is thinking of putting this instrument on the market as 'a superior instrument'. It's great to be in love with the instrument you're playing and to have a special connection with the guy who made it, long ago.

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8 hours ago, martin swan said:

The wood looks nice, the varnish too. But these were easily attained by the many amateur makers in Edinburgh and the South of Scotland at the time.

The construction is very gammy - tiny button, crude square edgework, neat but highly "personal" f-holes, a wierd model and some trouble with the arching particularly as it graduates to the corners.

I would expect it to be pretty heavy - for some reason amateur makers are always shy of taking off too much wood, and end up leaving too much.

However, there is no reason why it shouldn't sound good, and it definitely has character. 

Very hard to sell this kind of things for 4 figures ... although I kind of like them.

Not especially heavy Martin bit it's definitely a masculine violin.   

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1 hour ago, matesic said:

Violins are easy to love, especially by amateur players like me (us?). We don't care much about the orthodoxy of the business which tells us which we should admire and which shun.  I still remember the disdain on the face of the man behind the counter at Beare's when I asked him about my baby ("I suppose it's by some English amateur"; "Fine, powerful tone and exemplary workmanship" according to Jalovec). Time will come when the British amateur tradition is valued for injecting a little fresh DNA into the inbred violin gene pool.

My father was a master carpenter and he could craft anything out of wood and always to the highest standard.  So if a master craftsman makes a violin or two the line between amateur and pro becomes somewhat blurred imo.  

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2 hours ago, matesic said:

Violins are easy to love, especially by amateur players like me (us?). We don't care much about the orthodoxy of the business which tells us which we should admire and which shun.  I still remember the disdain on the face of the man behind the counter at Beare's when I asked him about my baby ("I suppose it's by some English amateur"; "Fine, powerful tone and exemplary workmanship" according to Jalovec). Time will come when the British amateur tradition is valued for injecting a little fresh DNA into the inbred violin gene pool.

Would it be better if everything were without standards? If there are to be standards, who should set them?

1 hour ago, Byrdbop said:

My father was a master carpenter and he could craft anything out of wood and always to the highest standard.  So if a master craftsman makes a violin or two the line between amateur and pro becomes somewhat blurred imo.  

Being a master carpenter doesn't automatically mean that one can make a violin to the highest standard, any more than being a master violin maker means that one can perform carpentry to the highest standard. While there might be a little bit of overlap between the two, it's not much.

 

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