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Dave of Elmont

trying to ID a violin

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I'm looking for some assistance in trying to determine the period in which a violin was made.  For your perspective, I'm limited in experience having built just two violins, and have no experience in determining a violin's probable age or region of origin.  The violin (pictured below) has no label, and I don't see evidence of label glue.

I purchased the violin shown at auction.  I got it on the cheap ($23 US).  I thought it might be something beyond ordinary export grade based on the nicely figured wood, and that it appeared to have been played extensively.  Some aspects of the craftsmanship would be considered to be poor by today's standards - but it does have character and the poor aspects are just symmetry issues.  I have inspected it as best I can via external measurement and internal inspection with a mirror and peeping through the tailpiece pin hole.  I noted the following aspects that might help identification:  

  1. There is no neck block (it's a through neck); nor are there lower corner blocks.  I don't believe there are upper corner blocks, but I haven't gotten a good look.
  2. The upper ribs appear to be inset into the neck.
  3. The plates are nicely formed.
  4. The fingerboard is stained.  It is a firm wood, but I don't believe it is a hardwood.  There is a tapered shim between the neck and fingerboard which is attached to the fingerboard.  The shim appears to be a soft wood (a pine?).  The neck is set between 4 and 5 degrees and the wedge adds 2 to 3 degrees.
  5. Both the neck and fingerboard have been channeled down their centers.  Both the neck and fingerboard have the number "72"  written in pencil in their channels, appearing 4 and 5 times respectively.  
  6. On the lower end of both the neck and fingerboard channels, there is what appears to be a letter.  It appears to me to be a stylized "E" or possibly a "G".
  7. There is plaster or similar material plugging both ends of the tunnel created by the fingerboard and neck channels.  
  8. There is one locating pin which is on the lower belly (into the lower block).
  9. The purfling lines are clear/distinct/well defined, but they wander a bit.
  10. The f holes are pleasing, but they are positioned differently longitudinally by several millimeters (including their notches).  It appears that the string length would be generous at about 335 to 337mm.   
  11. You can't tell in the photo, but the belly is nicely figured (bear claw).
  12. The button is tapered such that it gets thinner as it progresses toward the neck.
  13. I do not see any obvious modifications to this instrument. 

The body dimensions are approximately:  

  • overall length excluding the button 14.25" (362mm);
  • bout widths (upper/mid/lower) 167/111/213 at the plate edge, about 161/105/208 to outside of ribs;
  • ribs are 32mm and not tapered;
  • belly max height is slightly more than 17mm;
  • back max height is slightly less than 15mm;
  • f hole upper eyes are set 42mm apart.

I don't know what exactly to make of this instrument.  If anyone would like to provide me some guidance, I would be grateful.

Thanks,

Dave  

 

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Geo H - the neck length is 130 to 131mm.  Thanks for asking.  

If anyone is curious about any aspect, please ask.  Happy to measure and take pics.  

Something I failed to mention is that the rib corners are flush, or almost flush, with the plate corners. 

 

Dave

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I have a couple of more tidbits of info:

The base bar is fitted, not carved from the top.

The top and back interior surfaces are smooth, not rough.  Tapping sounds good.

I was hoping to get feedback before I begin any work on this violin.  Thanks to Butcher and George.  But based on the limited feedback, should I conclude that this instrument doesn't raise much interest, or that the info I provided needs expansion?

I live near Richmond Virginia.  Does anyone know of a shop within driving distance (e.g., 100 miles) which is good at instrument identification?

Thanks, Dave  

 

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27 minutes ago, GeorgeH said:

I agree with wood butcher. Schonbach, lower quality,  pre-WWI. 

I'll also agree. Somewhere in that area. The flaming on the back looks fake from where I'm sitting.

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The flaming is quite real.  The belly is also nicely figured, but that doesn't show in the picture.

I found this instrument to be a conundrum.  It displays a general disregard for craftsmanship in many regards except that the plates are well worked.  I found the nicely figured wood to be in conflict with other indicators of a lesser instrument.  Also, the belly staining indicates a well used (appreciated?) instrument.  Guess I'll set it up and give it a test drive.

Two final curiosities:

  1. Anyone have an idea of why the number 72 appears repeatedly on the neck and fingerboard?  I can't correlate it to anything.
  2. Also, any thoughts on the plaster-like material noted in my original post?  To keep glue from running out?

Thanks. 

 

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In general I would guess that the OP violin was made a short time before 1900, because it features a style being out of fashion at this time.

The Markneukirchen wholesalers delivered big masses of tonewood to the whole world, so there was no shortage of nicely figured maple there, and a lot of the simplest instruments were made from such.

A through neck violin of this period was nearly unvariably (with a very few exceptions) built with a carved, integral bass bar and usually more or less roughly finished inside, so I would strongly assume that the OP was overworked at some point, smoothening the inside plates and installing another bar. Maybe the same or another person thought it would be a good idea to close the glue channel under the FB with this white mass for aesthetical reason, otherwise this won't make any sense.

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5 hours ago, Blank face said:

In general I would guess that the OP violin was made a short time before 1900, because it features a style being out of fashion at this time.

The Markneukirchen wholesalers delivered big masses of tonewood to the whole world, so there was no shortage of nicely figured maple there, and a lot of the simplest instruments were made from such.

A through neck violin of this period was nearly unvariably (with a very few exceptions) built with a carved, integral bass bar and usually more or less roughly finished inside, so I would strongly assume that the OP was overworked at some point, smoothening the inside plates and installing another bar. Maybe the same or another person thought it would be a good idea to close the glue channel under the FB with this white mass for aesthetical reason, otherwise this won't make any sense.

Thanks Blank face.  Interesting info.  I had read on this forum that through necks with no corner blocks were not uncommon back from the 1700's through the early 1900's.  But you're information regarding the masses of nice tonewood certainly helps with my conundrum regarding workmanship quality vs material quality.  You're thinking that the plates and base bar may have been reworked is supported by the addition of the fingerboard wedge, and I saw a small splinter hanging from the upper lining where a tool may have been inserted under the top.  Do you know about how far back in time this combination of quality material and lesser manufacturing occurred?

I didn't receive any input yet on the number "72" repeatedly appearing along the lengths of both the fingerboard and neck.  So, I developed my own crazy theory.  I measured the fingerboard thickness as best I could (it has the wedge on it), and it is right at 7.2 mm thickness throughout its length where it mates with the neck.  My theory is that the neck was shaped and then measured, and "72" written along its length indicating a 7.2 mm thick fingerboard would provide the overall desired thickness of combined neck and fingerboard.  72 then appeared along the length of the fingerboard showing verification of the fingerboard's thickness.  This makes sense to me if there are multiple workers.  But what I find odd about my own theory is that both the neck and fingerboard appear to have similar marks which might be the same worker's initial.    

Thanks again. 

 

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Such numbers are very common in large workshops. They are assembly numbers, so all the right parts go together.

The material quality in nothing unusual for what it is.

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6 hours ago, Dave of Elmont said:

Do you know about how far back in time this combination of quality material and lesser manufacturing occurred?

I think they started to deal with not-homegrown tonewood (f.i. Bosnian or Carpathian )from the mid 19th century on; nonetheless a violin with nicely figured wood was certainly always more expensive than one with plainer, even if workmanship was similar. At least I don't think that your violin is so bad, there were lots made much more roughly and faster.

6 hours ago, Dave of Elmont said:

I didn't receive any input yet on the number "72" repeatedly appearing along the lengths of both the fingerboard and neck.

I agree that this is most probably a sort of assembly mark, and they could have been similar numbers inside, now possibly removed.

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59 minutes ago, Blank face said:

I agree that this is most probably a sort of assembly mark, and they could have been similar numbers inside, now possibly removed.

Thanks so much Blank face.

I had thought that 72 could be the year (1872), but couldn't rectify that because it was written so many times (9 times total in the neck and fingerboard channels).  I thought about an assembly number too, but had a similar reaction as I did to 72 being the year - that writing it once on each piece would suffice. 

The reason I kept thinking it was dimension related was the appearance of "72" 9 times.  To add some more info that I should have included earlier, the four 72's on the neck appear where the neck thickness is constant (constant when viewed from the side).  The four neck's 72's begin and end where that constant thickness meets the radii at each end (at the heel and at the scroll tail).  The four 72's are evenly spaced.  The five 72's on the fingerboard channel are also evenly spaced, and the fingerboard is a constant thickness of about 7.2 mm all along its length where it mates to the neck.  That all went into the generation of my crazy theory above.

SOSPIRI - I see how you would think the back could be poplar given the figure and how the photo turned out, but it is maple.

Thanks, Dave.

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15 hours ago, Dave of Elmont said:

SOSPIRI - I see how you would think the back could be poplar given the figure and how the photo turned out, but it is maple.

Thanks, Dave.

I have a Bohemian violin with a poplar back. Very nice. And another which I think is poplar but looks like maple so I was just wondering...

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