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Symmetric rosin stains


LongNeck
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Hey everybody,

I'm thinking of buying this old violin.  The symmetry of the rosin stains looks unusual to me, not to say that I know what rosin stains are supposed to look like.  Can you offer any understanding of this?

Thanks.

 

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"Steiner" or, more often, "Stainer" is the name of the old German violin maker Jacob Stainer (1619–1683) whose work this violin is purportedly a copy of.  The name has nothing to do with "rosin stains."  The color pattern that you see is an attempt to imitate the wear pattern often found on old violins.

From the varnish, I would guess that this violin was made in or near Mittenwald, Germany, around 1880 to 1910.  And it looks like a good buy at $100 from what I can see.

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Thanks for all the replies, which lead me to some new questions.

1) Would you expect that the fake wear pattern was applied when the violin was new?

2) Is the fake wear pattern supposed to imitate stains that would come from rosin?

3) I'm still not seeing why the pattern (real or fake) would have as much symmetry as it does.  For example I would expect the top near the neck to be worn on the treble side but not on the bass side, due to the left hand making contact while shifting.

By the way, does it look like the back seam is open?

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30 minutes ago, LongNeck said:

...Would you expect that the fake wear pattern was applied when the violin was new?...

Yes.

 

30 minutes ago, LongNeck said:

...Is the fake wear pattern supposed to imitate stains that would come from rosin?...

No.  It's supposed to imitate wear.  It's supposed to look like a violin that was originally covered with dark varnish that got worn of in some places, leaving a lighter color in those places.

 

30 minutes ago, LongNeck said:

...I'm still not seeing why the pattern (real or fake) would have as much symmetry as it does.  For example I would expect the top near the neck to be worn on the treble side but not on the bass side, due to the left hand making contact while shifting...

It's not symmetrical on the back.  On the top, it's roughly, but not exactly, symmetrical.  I don't understand how the top varnish would wear that much on the bass side of the neck, either.  But most antiqued violins that I see are shaded like this.  Make it's just a common mistake.

 

30 minutes ago, LongNeck said:

...does it look like the back seam is open?

I looks like the back seam in the upper bout was open at one time, but it's impossible to tell from the picture if it's been reglued.

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6 hours ago, LongNeck said:

Thanks for all the replies, which lead me to some new questions.

1) Would you expect that the fake wear pattern was applied when the violin was new?

2) Is the fake wear pattern supposed to imitate stains that would come from rosin?

3) I'm still not seeing why the pattern (real or fake) would have as much symmetry as it does.  For example I would expect the top near the neck to be worn on the treble side but not on the bass side, due to the left hand making contact while shifting.

By the way, does it look like the back seam is open?

1. Yes, it’s the same now, as when it was first varnished.

2. It’s meant to imitate the wear which happens over centuries of use, and has nothing at all to do with rosin, so forget about rosin.

3. The violins were varnished by people who probably neither played violin, or had ever seen a genuine old one. Therefore, the pattern of shading they have gone for is somewhat comical on the top. The simulated wear is in the right kind of areas, but totally the wrong shape.

4. Certainly looks like the back seam separated, can’t say if it’s repaired or open from those pictures.

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Thanks everybody for the answers, especially Brad and WB for making things very clear.   And extra thanks to WB for stating that the fake wear pattern was "comical" ... although I wasn't sure, it was pretty much what I was thinking!

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If the back seam has been repaired, as hinted by the light-colored streak, was it by inserting a sliver of material into the open seam?  I'm thinking that if it had been pressed closed with no material added, there wouldn't be such a noticeable streak.

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2 hours ago, LongNeck said:

If the back seam has been repaired, as hinted by the light-colored streak, was it by inserting a sliver of material into the open seam?  I'm thinking that if it had been pressed closed with no material added, there wouldn't be such a noticeable streak.

It’s possible that the light colored street was caused by some filler material in the joint.  But I think it more likely that it was caused by a mis-alignment of the joint or by varnish loss along the joint.  It’s impossible to tell from the picture.

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Posted (edited)

 

On 7/28/2021 at 7:55 PM, Brad Dorsey said:

"Steiner" or, more often, "Stainer" is the name of the old German violin maker Jacob Stainer (1619–1683) whose work this violin is purportedly a copy of.  The name has nothing to do with "rosin stains."  The color pattern that you see is an attempt to imitate the wear pattern often found on old violins.

From the varnish, I would guess that this violin was made in or near Mittenwald, Germany, around 1880 to 1910.  And it looks like a good buy at $100 from what I can see.

This was a craigslist find.  After six days, it seems he hadn't had any nibbles, so he dropped the price to $25.  I asked him some questions over the phone, then made the 45 mile round trip to look at it, and I bought it.

On 7/29/2021 at 9:07 PM, Brad Dorsey said:

It’s possible that the light colored street was caused by some filler material in the joint.  But I think it more likely that it was caused by a mis-alignment of the joint or by varnish loss along the joint.  It’s impossible to tell from the picture.

You are right, Brad.  The back seam is slightly misaligned, and the blackish finish has been rubbed away on the high edge of the joint.

Further, I find the following:

It is stamped/embossed "STAINER" near the button and "GERMANY" near the tail pin.  The paper liner of the case has some faint pencil writing: "1890" and "4-28-96" and a half dozen names, seemingly the friends of an early owner.  The nut is missing.  Instrument has a neck block, not a through neck (relieved at that!).  Four corner blocks and linings are present.  Looks clean inside and out (despite a couple cracks in the case) except for what looks like it might be some black mold inside.  The pegs are as smooth as can be---nicer than any of my other violins---really happy about that.  The seam in the lower bout of the top has been repaired by inserting a tapered shim that starts an inch south of the bridge and goes to the saddle, where it is 3 mm wide.  The top is joined very neatly to the ribbing after the top-seam repair. There is no label inside.  The repairing luthier's name is stamped on the inside, with an address near mine.  Also that name appears on the bass bar, which is not integral to the top, so maybe he replaced that at the same time as the seam repair. There is a hairline crack about a couple inches long reaching the treble f hole---you can see an indication of that in the photo, but you need a fingernail to feel it.  There is another hairline crack under the chin rest area.  A 5mm-wide x a few inches-long section of edge and purfling has been replaced under the chin rest. The underside of the (seemingly plastic) chin rest has been gouged/hollowed to accomodate the high arch of the Stainer form.  Distance from the top of the end of the fingerboard to the belly is about 17 mm---pretty low, I thought, but maybe not for a Stainer, given the arched top?  The bridge feet are a good fit for the belly.  Evidence of more recent poor setup:  the sound post seems to be too long and is not vertical and is at least a half inch south of the more usual location, and the tail pin looks like some kind of roughly-wittled short black plastic tube. 

The bow is slightly warped, I wouldn't say very badly. 

Kind of excited to fit the nut, sound post, and tail pin, string it and get it running again.

I would like some advice about the two hairline cracks---I don't know whether I should try to do anything about them.  Thanks.

 

 

Edited by LongNeck
bass bar seemingly replaced, ask for advice about hairline cracks
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To be a bit more serious and not sarcastic (though I fully understand the urge of sarcasm here) it looks like a typical cheap and nasty product of the late 19th/early 20th century Markneukirchen/Schönbach cottage industry, very unprobable from Mittenwald (though better photos would be helpful), mass produced with an abhorrent steep arching, possibly made with a milling machine. I have no idea why these are still called "copys" of Stainer, one of the neatest makers ever.

100 might be ok to use it as a sort of decoration, but to put it into a halfway playable state one should be aware that this might take an investment of another 500 or more.

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7 hours ago, LongNeck said:

I would like some advice about the two hairline cracks---I don't know whether I should try to do anything about them.  Thanks.

I appreciate your detailed post and the time it took to write it.

Respectfully, you have spent $25 for a low-quality violin that is worn-out beyond repair. Sure, it could be repaired, but to what purpose? You'd end up with a highly-repaired "cheap and nasty" violin that still would not be worth anything. 

If you're considering that "maybe it will sound good," then it is worthwhile to remember that these violins were made by workers who had no regard whatsoever to how they would sound. The chance that will "sound good" is virtually zero.

I understand the excitement of finding an old $25 violin on Craigslist. I also know that it can take a few of these $25 lessons to stop buying cheap old dreck violins. 

So if you do stop now, it will be $25 well spent. :)

 

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19 minutes ago, chiaroscuro_violins said:

Oh come on.  This fiddle is clearly nothing special, but "beyond repair?"  It needs a setup.  You could get this going for almost nothing.  

It is beyond economically-viable repair. 

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9 hours ago, LongNeck said:

There is a hairline crack about a couple inches long reaching the treble f hole---you can see an indication of that in the photo, but you need a fingernail to feel it.  There is another hairline crack under the chin rest area. 

„Hairline crack“ is widespread ebay diction. In real life, a violin has a crack, or it doesn‘t

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Assuming you do all the work yourself...

Average quality strings, nut blank, bridge blank, fine tuners, sound post:  ~$75

Basic chisel, file, knife, post setter, bridge template, glue pot, glue: ~$150

Crack on the treble side to the fhole should be repaired. Once you add a bridge and sound post and strings, there are significant shearing stresses applied along that line. Most likely it will get worse.

Removing the top is the most challenging part of the repair. Gluing the top back on can be tricky and also requires an investment in a set of clamps which is a non-trivial expense.

If you think you might enjoy working on your own violins, then this violin might be a good one for practice.

 

 

Edited by ctanzio
add crack repair info
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42 minutes ago, ctanzio said:

Assuming you do all the work yourself...

Average quality strings, nut blank, bridge blank, fine tuners, sound post:  ~$75

Basic chisel, file, knife, post setter, bridge template, glue pot, glue: ~$150

If you think you might enjoy working on your own violins, then this violin might be a good one for practice.

Thanks, and thanks chiaro.  I've made about five bridges, fit a couple of tail pins, made and/or set about five sound posts, even relocated a misdrilled tail-pin hole, with I think acceptable results.  So I already have some of the tools, materials, and knowhow.  I wouldn't probably attempt any of that on a $5000 instrument.  I'm thinking around $50 money cost for the setup.  If I'm not happy with it, I can reuse the strings on something else. 

Also, I expect the shorter-bridge, lower-power sound of the arched top might be more protective of a guy's hearing.

 

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58 minutes ago, jacobsaunders said:

„Hairline crack“ is widespread ebay diction. In real life, a violin has a crack, or it doesn‘t

I meant that the there is no apparent shearing/misalignment in the cracks.  Also no easily-apparent gap or separation.  Actually the cracks are narrower than a hair. I thought maybe all that would make a difference in repairing them or leaving them alone.

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16 minutes ago, LongNeck said:

I meant that the there is no apparent shearing/misalignment in the cracks.  Also no easily-apparent gap or separation.  Actually the cracks are narrower than a hair. I thought maybe all that would make a difference in repairing them or leaving them alone.

Oh, a „not bodged yet crack“ then

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