Old (English??) cello identification


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Hello all,

I'm hoping somebody can help me age and identify this cello. It's not for sale. It has arrived with myself after being in an attic for the past 40-50 years, and it belonged to a great aunt. The only clue is a small disc with the name: Douglas & Co 7 South Street, London, E.C - but from the small bit of info I can find online I think that is just the name of the retailer, not the maker. They seem to have been selling instruments in the very late 1800's to the early 1900s. So I'm estimating that this instrument is around 100 years old, but my knowledge is very limited. I am a cello beginner and I have a fairly nice 50 year old instrument that I'm enjoying, but I'd like to have this one restored/repaired/setup properly. It's actually not in bad shape, no major damage, just age related stuff. I'm hoping it's worth bringing back to its former glory, but either way it would be great to know it's age and origin. There doesn't seem to be any labels inside the instrument (unless very well hidden amongst 50 years worth of dust).

Thanks in advance for any help with this!

Rick

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1 hour ago, jacobsaunders said:

Quite clearly a late 19th C. “Dutzendarbeit” from somewhere like Schönbach, of a cheaper grade. Douglas & Co. will have been the importer.

Thanks for your response. Dutzendarbeit? Dozen work? my knowledge of this industry is limited, so this doesn't mean a lot to me, but I get the gist - made in numbers/more generic. Any other clues? Do you think it's worth restoring such an instrument? It seems very well built. And even as potentially a lower grade instrument for its time, it has much more character aesthetically than most modern budget instruments I've seen. Obviously I can't comment on its sound!

Thanks

Rick

Edited by Rickolls
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If you put "Dutzendarbeit" into the search function at the upper right corner of this page, you can read about it all evening. The short translation would be "product of cottage industry". One could "restore" it if you like, but it wouldn't be a great comercial proposition

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8 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

If you put "Dutzendarbeit" into the search function at the upper right corner of this page, you can read about it all evening. The short translation would be "product of cottage industry". One could "restore" it if you like, but it wouldn't be a great comercial proposition

I’m not remotely concerned with it as a commercial proposition. I’m not interested in selling it. It didn’t cost me a penny, so if I thought it could make a nice instrument to learn on I’d happily invest a little in bringing it back to life. 

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6 hours ago, Rickolls said:

I’m not remotely concerned with it as a commercial proposition. I’m not interested in selling it. It didn’t cost me a penny, so if I thought it could make a nice instrument to learn on I’d happily invest a little in bringing it back to life. 

Fine, it's a free country. Good luck finding someone who would do it for you though

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4 minutes ago, jacobsaunders said:

Fine, it's a free country. Good luck finding someone who would do it for you though

You obviously know your stuff Jacob. But I must say I’m quite surprised at the hostility I’m receiving here. I was just making an honest post and looking for some helpful advice. I’m really unsure why that seems to annoy you so much?

Thanks anyway 

Rick 

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29 minutes ago, Strad O Various Jr. said:

If your 50 yr old cello is a generic German factory production, this one could quite possible have a better sound

This is my thinking exactly. I’m not concerned with turning a profit from it. My current cello is English and from 1975, it cost me £500 and is nice to my ear, but maybe this one could be a nicer instrument with some tic and a proper setup. Hmmm

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I think you should just take it to a good luthier, have him/her look it over and give you an estimate of what it would take to get it running. From what I see, I think its worth getting fixed, that is if you want an old German cello. It wont be cheap though, needs a new fingerboard and set up work. Who knows what else. Even though it looks like its in good shape, it still needs some real money.

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3 minutes ago, deans said:

I think you should just take it to a good luthier, have him/her look it over and give you an estimate of what it would take to get it running. From what I see, I think its worth getting fixed, that is if you want an old German cello. It wont be cheap though, needs a new fingerboard and set up work. Who knows what else. Even though it looks like its in good shape, it still needs some real money.

Thanks for the input. I'm sure to a real aficionado this isn't very exciting at all, but to me it has a lot of character and it seems like it deserves rescuing. Obviously this is all subjective. At the same time I don't want to pile money into it if it's not going to produce a nice sounding instrument. Do you have a rough idea of cost for this? I do have some good makers/repairers/restorers/dealers in my local area but they are all closed for the time being due to Covid. Thanks again for your response

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2 hours ago, Rickolls said:

You obviously know your stuff Jacob. But I must say I’m quite surprised at the hostility I’m receiving here. I was just making an honest post and looking for some helpful advice. I’m really unsure why that seems to annoy you so much?

Thanks anyway 

Rick 

If you don't like answers, it might be better not to ask questions

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2 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

If you don't like answers, it might be better not to ask questions

You are being rude for no reason and should keep your nasty comments for yourself. Rick is just asking some simple questions, so let him be.

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3 hours ago, Rickolls said:

Do you have a rough idea of cost for this?

Just looking again, it looks like it also needs pegs too. I live in a high rent area, I would want to have better than 1K, closer to 2K in the bank before I bothered with a local shop. I agree that it should be rescued, but good luthier work isnt cheap, and many have a lot on their plate right now.

 

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1 hour ago, deans said:

Just looking again, it looks like it also needs pegs too. I live in a high rent area, I would want to have better than 1K, closer to 2K in the bank before I bothered with a local shop. I agree that it should be rescued, but good luthier work isnt cheap, and many have a lot on their plate right now.

 

The big shops I've talked to are not doing well and wanting any work they can get, do you live in some country unaffected by Covid?

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28 minutes ago, Strad O Various Jr. said:

The big shops I've talked to are not doing well and wanting any work they can get, do you live in some country unaffected by Covid?

I was wondering a similar thing.

By virtue of being online, Maestronet is essentially a worldwide site, so quite how someone can decide that "all luthiers are too busy", or saying "good luck finding someone who would want to do it" seems both wrong, and also irresponsible. There are some posts here which do not portray shops or restorers fairly.
There are a lot of businesses out there which will have been almost crippled by the covid situation, and may only be a few jobs away from having to close the doors for good. I'm sure they would be happy to take on a cello such as the OP's.

While the cello under discussion would not make the principal of the Berlin Phil become overly excited, there is no real reason it cannot be restored. Depending on what needs doing, it may not be financially viable ultimately, but someone who can look at in person will be better placed to decide this, and say for themselves if they are busy or not.

 

 

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11 minutes ago, Strad O Various Jr. said:

The big shops I've talked to are not doing well and wanting any work they can get, do you live in some country unaffected by Covid?

The bay area is a weird place for a lot of things, especially SF. Compared to east coast cities there is a shortage of violin shops to serve the volume of customers.  Perhaps things have loosened up with Covid but I doubt it. 

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24 minutes ago, Wood Butcher said:

I was wondering a similar thing.

By virtue of being online, Maestronet is essentially a worldwide site, so quite how someone can decide that "all luthiers are too busy", or saying "good luck finding someone who would want to do it" seems both wrong, and also irresponsible. There are some posts here which do not portray shops or restorers fairly.
There are a lot of businesses out there which will have been almost crippled by the covid situation, and may only be a few jobs away from having to close the doors for good. I'm sure they would be happy to take on a cello such as the OP's.

While the cello under discussion would not make the principal of the Berlin Phil become overly excited, there is no real reason it cannot be restored. Depending on what needs doing, it may not be financially viable ultimately, but someone who can look at in person will be better placed to decide this, and say for themselves if they are busy or not.

 

 

Excellent comment and spot on!

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