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WWII Smugglers violin ID?


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Hi Everyone! 

A couple of years ago I inherited an old violin. It belonged to my great uncle that had been an artist and I assume he used this violin as a study object for drawing. I am really curious what kind of violin this is. There is no label. The one thing I found inside was an old ration coupon so this violin has probably been used during WWII for smuggling of those coupons. I'm from The Netherlands, smuggling of coupons, food and other goods was something that happened a lot here during WWII. So the violin is at least from before 1940's but my guess is that it is probably a bit older (around 1900?). 

Some other specs I found:
- inside looks nicely finished (smooth surface)
- I first thought the purfling was painted on but then discovered tiny cracks around the edges of the purfling so it might be real?
- bulging ribs on upper left and lower right :(
- interesting collection of (customised) pegs :lol:
- one of the original strings is made of a material I can't identify (catgut?)
- blocks in at least the bottom corners
- sound post placed exactly on middle seam 
- rather unfinished bass bar? (looks like a simple, long, v-shaped piece of wood with sharp edges, from what I can see with my dental mirror)
- sad, abused bow that has been under a lot of tension :( (deformed) but does create a nice sound and has inscriptions "student" and "Germany"
- a few loose seams where glue has dried out and two cracks in front of body
- chin rest was originally on the other side
- "nails" on top and bottom of body? (at saddle and under fingerboard)  

When I first got the violin I tried to put the strings back on but the endpin snapped (horrible experience!) probably because it was all dried out. So I never got to hear what this violin actually sounds like. The last couple of weeks I started to play violin again since a long time and I was wondering if it was worth it to get this old violin repaired. I never really liked the sound of my own violin that wasn't cheap but new and sounds "new" :) I would love to have and play an instrument with a little bit more character. And I love the general look and flamed back of this violin.

I have been reading a lot on this forum and other places about identifying old violins (from Markneukirchen and Mittenwald) but I'm such a noob so I hope you can tell me a little bit more! ^__^ Is it just rubbish or will it be worth it to invest (probably a couple hundred of euros) in repairing the cracks, loose seems, new endpin, bridge etc.?

After this crazy amount of information I will now also attach an inappropriate amount of pictures... ^____^

Thank you for your time and thoughts! 


Edited by Pizzicatooo
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I would say it's a student grade fiddle from maybe the 20's, German.  I'm guessing probably not Mittenwald or Markneukirchen either but I'll let the experts comment on that.  It doesn't seem to have any major damage aside from the small crack, so since you didn't have to pay for it, if you brought it to a shop to fix and set up I imagine the cost to fix it would be about the same as buying one at a retail price. 

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It's a typical violin from the Markneukirchen/Schönbach cottage industry dating from roughly late 19th century, obviously with an integral (carved, not glued) bassbar, which was the usual methof there. It seems to be very well preserved, so taking it to a luthier to let it being set up would be worthwhile and probably not too expensive. The crack starting from the saddle pin needs the most attention, maybe it would be good to open the top for repairing it, releasing tension and shortening the saddle. Don't let anybody persuade you to replace the bar, which is usually fine this way.

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Are there cleats running up the back seam?

Can you post some close-up in-focus pictures of the rib-joins?

I wonder if that neck and scroll are original to that body, i.e. the deeper fluting, flat eyes, no delta, and unblackened pegbox are not typical Markneukirchen/Schönbach cottage industry. Also, the neck-joint at button looks like it was modified.

Is that half-edging on the upper bass side of the top?

Is that a remnant of a sanded-off brand-stamp underneath the button?

If you carefully drill a hole in the center of the endpin, you can screw in a screw and possibly remove it. Then you could see the condition of the top and bass bar. (You can also take pictures from the endpin hole.)


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1 hour ago, GeorgeH said:

I wonder if that neck and scroll are original to that body, i.e. the deeper fluting, flat eyes, no delta, and unblackened pegbox are not typical Markneukirchen/Schönbach cottage industry. Also, the neck-joint at button looks like it was modified.

I am glad you also noticed this. I pondered it earlier on and wondered if the whole thing had not been re-varnished including cleaning the black from the peg box. Its always possible to correct a delta and touch up the varnsh. The area  that seems to have been missed is under the scroll chin where it still has the old varnish in place.

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50 minutes ago, Strad O Various Jr. said:

GeorgeH thinks everything is French, no matter what the experts say.

Ah, really ? I am guilty of hoping that everything is Italian !

Not  fussed if it is cheap junk Italian, Testore will do,  beggars cant be choosers :lol:

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I tried very, very hard to find anything French, or any evidence for unoriginal or overworked scroll, button or neck heel but couldn't find any.;)

In my eyes is everything consistent and nothing than a built on the back Mnk/Schb with the typical purfling (thin middle stripe, right stopping in the mid corner), chippy varnish overall and "Hinterkopf" scroll, as well as the OP clearly described the integral bar.

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Hello again!

Thank you all so much for your comments and follow up questions! Very interesting!! I drilled a hole in the endpin: scariest thing I did in my life! (felt like doing neurosurgery without a license.. :D ) Then I tried to remove it with a screw but it didn’t budge so I gently destroyed the whole thing. :)

I attached some pictures from the inside. I could now see that the bass bar is not integral but glued on: seam and glue visible. It was also more finished and carved than I first could see from the f-hole.

I took a closer look at the top plate and it looks like it is made from two parts. Because there’s a seam and the grains of the wood come together in a v-shape.

I think the violin did have some kind of repaint. There’s a much thicker, more shiny layer of varnish at the scroll and edges of the body. I wonder what that means and what would have been a reason for a repaint: I don’t see any signs of other earlier repairs (as far as I am able to see such things). I also think there might have been a stamp at the button that has been sanded off. There’s a structural change but no readable letters anymore.

I don’t think there is a cleat on the back.
I don’t know about the half-edging. Is that when they made the edge thicker? The edge on this violin look very flat to me (compared to my other violin).
I attached some new pictures of the rib joints and close up of neck joint and button.
The scroll does have (or had) some blackening, I think.

I am a bit worried about the bulging ribs: is that fixable?

What are some things that suggest a violin is French? Thinner lines at the purfling? Scroll a little bit more refined/elegant? Edges of body more curved? I watched a lot of pictures of French and German violins, but I just can’t see it. :D Really impressed with all your violin wizard eyes! ^____^


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20 hours ago, Pizzicatooo said:

What are some things that suggest a violin is French?

Thanks for the extra pictures. I am glad you were able to get the endpin out safely. 

There is really nothing at all that suggests this violin is French. It is what @Blank face first said, except maybe early 20th century rather than late 19th. All of your new pictures confirm it.

If it was revarnished, the original pegbox blackening may have been stripped out, as @Delabo suggested.

Oh, be sure to get your soundpost installed correctly before you set it up..


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9 hours ago, GeorgeH said:

Oh, be sure to get your soundpost installed correctly before you set it up..


The internal pictures also seem to show some open seams to the left of the top block that will need proper regluing.

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