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Should this bother me?

I took my violin to a "local" shop to have a new bridge made and rented another one for the duration. I thought it would be a good experience as I have near zero time on any other instrument than the one I bought 50 years ago.

I was told that it was quite a bit better than mine and added that to the reasons for renting it. $850 vs $300 50 years ago and China vs Germany.

After playing it a bit, neither I nor my wife can say it is any different from the one I had but this has to rely on memory but it is a data point. It seems to play a little easier than my bridge hack but not a lot.

I noticed the location of the sound post and started scratching my head. Did some research and came up numbers ranging for under the foot to a few mm South. One guy claimed the "perfect" number is whatever the thickness of the wood above it is.

I measure this one at about 15 mm. Is there any possible rationalization for this?

I also find that my template doesn't fit perfectly on top of the strings and the height gauges can't even enter under the strings let alone reach the tick mark.

This thing was supposed to be cleaned up and adjusted before going out again. Even had a brand new rosin and a thermometer in the case.

I ordered a commercial template tool to be forearmed when I pick up mine but I expect a bit of a hassle.

Guess this is one of the reasons why I wanted to do it myself.

Jack










 

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7 minutes ago, JackSchmidling said:

Should this bother me?

I took my violin to a "local" shop to have a new bridge made and rented another one for the duration.

I wouldn't be bothered, it is a rental one after all, so you can just return it and be done with it.
I'm a bit surprised they made you pay rental, however. Most places would have something to lend out, while yours is getting work done.
The loaner might not be great quality, but it's better than no violin.

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Kind of off topic, but how long could it take to make a new bridge for a violin? I would be surprised that it takes so long that you would need a loaner or rental. I am not a luthier and I could do a cello bridge "while you wait." Even if a shop has a queue it would seem smart to have some time allocated just for basic setup jobs. 

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"I am not a luthier and I could do a cello bridge "while you wait.""

The big question is- what kind of quality is your "while you wait" cello bridge???

It probably takes me about 45 min. to do a nice quality bridge for a violin. I suppose that you could call up a shop, and say "I want to reserve a luthier for an hour, to make a bridge, at 2pm on Tuesday" You could then give them your credit card info, so that if you don't show, they can charge you (like missed doctor's appointments). Rates are probably $70/hr or so.

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34 minutes ago, glebert said:

Kind of off topic, but how long could it take to make a new bridge for a violin? I would be surprised that it takes so long that you would need a loaner or rental. I am not a luthier and I could do a cello bridge "while you wait." Even if a shop has a queue it would seem smart to have some time allocated just for basic setup jobs. 

If the job is top-notch, it really could take kind of a while.  There's the queue like you mentioned.  It's a lot easier on the repairman, and more efficient, to be able to schedule work at their own convenience rather than the customer's.  Furthermore, OP said the shop was '"local,"' meaning it's probably quite a ways for him.  So maybe he didn't have the time or justification to make a special trip to the shop.  

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21 hours ago, FiddleDoug said:

Rates are probably $70/hr or so.

Your prices, or idea of appropriate prices...it is just best to avoid this sort of thing. I know people who charge $150 for a bridge. A client recently was in NYC and broke her bridge. It cost her $350 to replace it there.

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21 hours ago, FiddleDoug said:

"I am not a luthier and I could do a cello bridge "while you wait.""

 

A friend has a Victor Gardner cello. He told me that when he went to pick it up from Victor that the bridge was started but not finished. Victor told hi that he had an errand to run, gave him a plane, some sand paper, a knife, and some carbon paper, told him to work on the bridge while he was gone. The player said that he had a bit more respect for luthiers after that incident.

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15 hours ago, duane88 said:

Your prices, or idea of appropriate prices...it is just best to avoid this sort of thing....

I see no harm in discussing prices here.

 

15 hours ago, duane88 said:

...I know people who charge $150 for a bridge. A client recently was in NYC and broke her bridge. It cost her $350 to replace it there....

A recent customer of mine was quoted $400 for a violin bridge from a high-end shop.

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When I worked in Munich, there was a price list glued to the wall. One could work out easily that a bridge was expected to take one hour, so I made bridges in one hour. Later I moved to Bremen, where there was also a price list stuck on the wall. Their price list allowed 2 hours for a bridge, I thought “oh thats nice”, and followed my British working class DNA, and took two hours. I discovered that my 2 hour bridges were better than the one hour ones. I would always avoid the question, should someone ring up and ask how much “just a bridge” would cost, since it is rarely “just a bridge”. There is almost invariably other things that need doing (post, pegs, glueing, getting basically hygienic etc.)

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4 hours ago, Brad Dorsey said:

I see no harm in discussing prices here.

 

A recent customer of mine was quoted $400 for a violin bridge from a high-end shop.

I agree. Discussing prices is fine. Saying what it should cost is another matter. If the OP is expecting a $70 charge because Doug says that is what it should cost, or less since his number was expressed as an hourly wage and someone fits a bridge in 45 min, and the shop wants twice that, that has set up an expectation that may be unreasonable and make the OP feel like they are being cheated or abused.

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1 hour ago, PhilipKT said:

Jay charges $120 for a bridge.

Joshua costs $250

David charges $450. 

Joshua’s bridges are wonderful and beautiful. Jays bridges are fine and I have one on my cello right now.

“What the market will bear.”

About pricing in general...I don't think most people mind paying for skilled work.  But I do think they mind paying for work when they 'think' it is overpriced, or even under-priced (raises suspicion).

So?  How does the customer know when they are getting a fair price?

The customer should certainly pay for skill level and material costs. But should they pay a premium for low-quality materials used?  How much should they pay for overhead?  If someone sets up shop in a high-rent district, should the customer pay for that?

...just thinkin'...

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15 minutes ago, Rue said:

How does the customer know when they are getting a fair price?

The customer should certainly pay for skill level and material costs. But should they pay a premium for low-quality materials used?  How much should they pay for overhead?  If someone sets up shop in a high-rent district, should the customer pay for that?

...just thinkin'...

No one should pay a premium for low-quality materials, no. You should pay a premium for higher quality, or custom materials if required, however.

Many string shops are set up in areas where it's convenient for musicians to travel to, this may well mean being in a high rental area, close to a concert hall, or music college for example.
You could have the best shop in the world, but if it's at the arse end of Timbuktu, no one will go anyway.

Would you feel happier going to an out-of-town, run down industrial park unit, with no windows, or to a smart high street shop with easy transport links?

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36 minutes ago, Rue said:

About pricing in general...I don't think most people mind paying for skilled work.  But I do think they mind paying for work when they 'think' it is overpriced, or even under-priced (raises suspicion).

So?  How does the customer know when they are getting a fair price?

The customer should certainly pay for skill level and material costs. But should they pay a premium for low-quality materials used?  How much should they pay for overhead?  If someone sets up shop in a high-rent district, should the customer pay for that?

...just thinkin'...

Well, Joshua does fine work, but what is “fine work” worth? A labor rate of $100/two hours? That’s reasonable. Jay does fine work too. I don’t know where they get their bridge blanks, but because those are bought in bulk, it is doubtful that that justifies the price difference.
I like Jay’s bridge fine; it’s the one I have on my cello right now, but Joshua made a bridge for another one of my cellos, and it was a splendid bridge. I am curious about how much difference one of his bridges would make on my cello, and I may find out one of these days.

A bridge is one of those things that is difficult to price because people know so little about them.

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20 minutes ago, Wood Butcher said:

Would you feel happier going to an out-of-town, run down industrial park unit, with no windows, or to a smart high street shop with easy transport links?

From 1985-2004, Jay was in a low-rent part of Oak Cliff, just south of Dallas, and people came to him.

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16 minutes ago, Wood Butcher said:

Were there any other shops in the area, at that time?

In this part of Texas there are never very many shops, but there were two or three other shops locally, but people came to Jay from all over people regularly came from Shreveport Louisiana or down from Oklahoma to have him work on their stuff. They would make arrangements to bring the violin or cello or whatever when he opened and pick it up at the end of the day and then they would spend the day in Dallas doing whatever tourists do in Dallas. He was also fairly close to Southern Methodist University, and downtown Dallas which is where the Dallas Symphony Orchestra rehearses, so he got a lot of their business as well.
But Jay is one of the most beloved people in the local music business. People will go to him wherever he is.

When the rent went up in Oak Cliff he did move to a more central location in 2004, and then he Semi retired in 2019, works out of his house, and people still go to him.

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59 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

Well, Joshua does fine work, but what is “fine work” worth? A labor rate of $100/two hours? That’s reasonable. Jay does fine work too. I don’t know where they get their bridge blanks, but because those are bought in bulk, it is doubtful that that justifies the price difference.
I like Jay’s bridge fine; it’s the one I have on my cello right now, but Joshua made a bridge for another one of my cellos, and it was a splendid bridge. I am curious about how much difference one of his bridges would make on my cello, and I may find out one of these days.

A bridge is one of those things that is difficult to price because people know so little about them.

How would you feel if I told you that I know 3 individuals who charge north of 1k for a fine cello bridge?

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7 hours ago, duane88 said:

How would you feel if I told you that I know 3 individuals who charge north of 1k for a fine cello bridge?

I would wonder why?

I mean think about it? Can a bridge create $1000 worth of difference in a cello’s sound? Especially if the existing bridge is already top quality?

It might be, and far be it from me to suggest otherwise, but I remain skeptical.

Like Mark Twain and the cigars, I question whether a bridge made by “famous expensive guy” But stamped with the logo of “obscure unknown guy” would satisfy, even if it’s the exact same bridge.

Besides, it’s like charging $200 for a piece of Sashimi. No matter how good it is, you put it in your mouth, chew, taste and swallow and the entire experience takes less than a minute at the maximum. Is that tasty 45 seconds or so worth $200?

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Most of the cost of a good bridge is in the skill, experience and expertise of the person making the bridge.

Some just use the first blank at the top of the pile, cut a bridge to the spec they were given at school, tune the cello up, and call it done.

Others will spend a great deal more thought on the wood selection, bridge model, mass and flexibility of the bridge as they work it.
The best will play the cello and further adjust the bridge afterwards, this may happen several times, along with post adjustments too.
Often with old cellos, the top can be very distorted, which will involve fitting the feet into craters, caused by compression of the wood fibres over several centuries. One leg may need to be made longer than the other to compensate, so that the bridge will still stand correctly etc etc. 

From the first case to the second and third, there’s a big difference in the amount of time invested.

For some players, they just see a bridge as the piece of wood which holds up the strings, and this person is never going to understand the function or subtleties, but will be very focussed on a low cost.

On a fine instrument, a good bridge will bring out it’s best qualities, and doing A/B tests of different bridge models, weight, mass distribution, arch heights and so on, is quite a revelation.

If you happened to have a Strad cello, or similar, $1000for a bridge and the expertise which goes with it, seems a good investment to keep it performing at it’s best.
 

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