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Johnmasters

Sorting of new violins by price

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I wonder about the pricing of Chinese violins that all look alike.  The same would apply to mass-produced instruments in the past;  from the same source.  Given that the properties of wood seem to differ a good deal,  and that it is difficult (for me at least,)  to anticipate the quality of an outcome,  does it seem reasonable that violins are sorted after being made (and perhaps having a ground and coat of clear varnish) that they are priced at this stage?

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I recall reading (but not from where) that at some point during it all, those that are better sounding and/or look slightly better crafted, float to top of that particular pile (which depended on the appearance of the woods and quality of the fittings) and are then given a name/price accordingly. 

Ex. VSO100, VSO100A, VSO200, VSO300...VSO Maestro...

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There are people who always buy the cheapest, there are people who look for good value at a middle price point and there are people who will just go for the best. So, simplified, if you sell a violin at three different price points you will sell 3x the number of violins. You may vary some easy to observe differentiators that consumers can latch onto like different quality set-up elements, or a nicer case. And you want to have a line-up of model designations like cars so consumers can feel safe about exactly where they like to see themselves in their choices.

I would highly doubt that any of that has anything to do with the actual violin.

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I think it's still common practice to follow the Mirecourt concept ie. to get the instruments to a certain point of completion, to grade them according to sound quality, and then to finish and label them accordingly.

Of course, as Rue is about to say, this has to be done within broad pre-existing categorisations to do with quality of workmanship and materials. 

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The figured wood has to play a roll. Even if the bestest violin ever crafted had a plain figured back, it wouldn't out price a worse sounding violin with a beautiful back.

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3 hours ago, Rue said:

The figured wood has to play a roll. Even if the bestest violin ever crafted had a plain figured back, it wouldn't out price a worse sounding violin with a beautiful back.

I should have spoken of a run of instruments from the same stock of wood.........

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3 hours ago, Guido said:

There are people who always buy the cheapest, there are people who look for good value at a middle price point and there are people who will just go for the best. So, simplified, if you sell a violin at three different price points you will sell 3x the number of violins. You may vary some easy to observe differentiators that consumers can latch onto like different quality set-up elements, or a nicer case. And you want to have a line-up of model designations like cars so consumers can feel safe about exactly where they like to see themselves in their choices.

I would highly doubt that any of that has anything to do with the actual violin.

Now,  THAT is cynical !!!   LOL

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If you read the information that the companies that sell these factory instruments send out, they make it quite clear that they use a system based on the grade of the wood. They assume that the sound will correspond to the wood selection, which is not always the case. Honestly, I ignore any descriptions of tone for factory instruments; I look for consistency in workmanship.

From what I’ve seen, the cheapest models are made from locally sourced Chinese wood with very little figure. The next levels are determined by the amount of flame in the maple. Then, they start offering models that have European tops with Chinese backs. Their “higher end” instruments purport to be made entirely of European wood. So, to make a decision in ordering, first one determines how much Chinese or European wood one wants, then one chooses the amount of flame desired. After that it’s a matter of picking the other parts of the outfit. 

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34 minutes ago, The Violin Beautiful said:

If you read the information that the companies that sell these factory instruments send out, they make it quite clear that they use a system based on the grade of the wood. They assume that the sound will correspond to the wood selection, which is not always the case. Honestly, I ignore any descriptions of tone for factory instruments; I look for consistency in workmanship.

From what I’ve seen, the cheapest models are made from locally sourced Chinese wood with very little figure. The next levels are determined by the amount of flame in the maple. Then, they start offering models that have European tops with Chinese backs. Their “higher end” instruments purport to be made entirely of European wood. So, to make a decision in ordering, first one determines how much Chinese or European wood one wants, then one chooses the amount of flame desired. After that it’s a matter of picking the other parts of the outfit. 

Yeah, that sounds about right. Interestingly, I have seen some pretty intensely figured maple out of Yunnan province. China has some huge, ancient forests. There's gotta be great fiddle wood in there somewhere

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50 minutes ago, JacksonMaberry said:

Yeah, that sounds about right. Interestingly, I have seen some pretty intensely figured maple out of Yunnan province. China has some huge, ancient forests. There's gotta be great fiddle wood in there somewhere

And if we buy it, whether or not to varnish already off the shelf or billets, I would hate to think that anyone cutting down ancient forests would not be crushed to death by a freak accident, you understand that comments are not taken with senses of humour by ppl on here. You know...You have to not be cryptic in a pathos enriched comment. Just buy my wood. It's real...wood.

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Not to mention the 'professional level sounding violin made from solid woods' you can get for $99 and free shipping :P

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1 hour ago, JacksonMaberry said:

Yeah, that sounds about right. Interestingly, I have seen some pretty intensely figured maple out of Yunnan province. China has some huge, ancient forests. There's gotta be great fiddle wood in there somewhere

I’ve seen some rather attractive figure as well. The problem seems to be that the wood is very high in moisture when it’s used and just behaves like it’s water-logged. I haven’t been able to discern whether the wood itself is inferior acoustically because I haven’t come across a sample that was aged and dried properly before being used yet.

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25 minutes ago, The Violin Beautiful said:

I’ve seen some rather attractive figure as well. The problem seems to be that the wood is very high in moisture when it’s used and just behaves like it’s water-logged. I haven’t been able to discern whether the wood itself is inferior acoustically because I haven’t come across a sample that was aged and dried properly before being used yet.

What a shame!

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Regarding ancient forests: once cut, how long does wood need to age?

someone told me that beyond a certain age, there’s no further benefit. The tone wood I saw at the Metropolitan Music booth was said to be 120+ years old. It was gorgeous but I wonder whether it was better than or even as good as wood 100 years younger?

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7 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

Regarding ancient forests: once cut, how long does wood need to age?

someone told me that beyond a certain age, there’s no further benefit. The tone wood I saw at the Metropolitan Music booth was said to be 120+ years old. It was gorgeous but I wonder whether it was better than or even as good as wood 100 years younger?

Wood can only get so dry, regardless of age, unless you do something artificial to it. Don Noon knows a thing or two about this. Hemicellulose degradation, oxidation, and other effects of wood age are another matter. 

A lot of makers pay insane sums for "super old" wood. Del Gesu appears to have been just fine using wood that was, in some cases, barely a year past it's cut date. I think, like with a lot of things in this field and others (looking at you, deBeers), we've all been made to drink the Koolaid so somebody else can make a buck.

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2 hours ago, JacksonMaberry said:

Got plenty, but thanks!

From China? Or red maple? One piece backs from red maple aren't easy to carve unless they are softened. They tend to split, if dried out. I tried carving a piece from Canada off someone and it was no use, it bit down my tools very quickly and needed a wooden chisel hammer for everything.

It's like working against the grain and too tough, waste of time.

Maple or Sycamore is dependant on softness against hardness isn't it? If it's well moisture content without being soaked okay, it's still brittle. And ruins tone.

I have some Fine Cut logs tight sized but as the tree was being topped slowly, bit by bit Brough down. It's split naturally outwards from it's heart. I'd rather that it will be a two piece back than a one piece shattered backed in the future.

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12 hours ago, The Violin Beautiful said:

I’ve seen some rather attractive figure as well. The problem seems to be that the wood is very high in moisture when it’s used and just behaves like it’s water-logged. I haven’t been able to discern whether the wood itself is inferior acoustically because I haven’t come across a sample that was aged and dried properly before being used yet.

I bought a Chinese white some years ago for varnish practice.  It's been hanging in my shop that stays around 50% RH, and has never been strung up or had a sound post.  I just noticed yesterday that a crack in the top running up from the treble f-hole upper eye has emerged.  I wonder if this is an effect of using green wood?  

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12 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

Among the wood that Metro offered were some beautiful 100+ year old cello backs selling for 3-5K each.

yikes.

Everyone I know who has tried to use wood this old says it's nigh on impossible to carve ...

As Jackson says, once wood has reached EMC it has reached EMC. It definitely alters in its properties with age, but I think this alteration is best undergone as part of a finished violin.

The classical Cremonese instrument seem to have been made with wood that was generally about 5 years old, often less.

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On ‎11‎/‎18‎/‎2019 at 9:31 PM, Guido said:

There are people who always buy the cheapest, there are people who look for good value at a middle price point and there are people who will just go for the best. So, simplified, if you sell a violin at three different price points you will sell 3x the number of violins. You may vary some easy to observe differentiators that consumers can latch onto like different quality set-up elements, or a nicer case. And you want to have a line-up of model designations like cars so consumers can feel safe about exactly where they like to see themselves in their choices.

I would highly doubt that any of that has anything to do with the actual violin.

Really? I find that the great unwashed can see crap when they see it and want the best. If you look at fancy photos, it's still obviously obvious that a newly handmade violin with superior looks takes a blink of the eyes to see reality and quality, compared to obvious Chinese junk.

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