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William Lewis & Son / Einsele with problems


Tom_R
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38 minutes ago, GeorgeH said:

Just because a violin sounds bad to one person does not mean it will sound bad to everybody.

Somebody might like the OP's violin just the way it is. Well, with new strings, anyway.

(And maybe a new bass bar as per @Don Noon's suggestion.)

This happens a lot. I’m amazed at the amount of times someone has become frustrated with a violin, giving up on it, and becoming emotionally detached.
Quite often, with a bit of work, a full set-up, and more appropriately chosen strings, it will sell within a month of going into the shop.

I often come across are instruments, where during one persons ownership, they seemed reluctant to spend any money on maintenance. Any work they did have to have done was with some guy who wasn’t that good, but was cheap. Ancient strings, bow that hasn’t been rehaired for 8 years....
Again, with some proper work and the correct adjustments, the instrument is transformed. It can be a night & day difference.

I’ve come to realise that some will never find out how good their instrument could be, before they move it on, to buy something “better”.
Once it has reached that point, it’s best for another musician to love the old violin, and everyone is happy with the outcome.

In the OP situation, after so many years on not liking their violin greatly, it would seem an appropriate point to begin the search for a replacement.

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Is there no such thing as a bad violin? Maybe I'm deluding myself, but as long as a violin has all its bits in more or less the right places I think I can tell quite quickly whether it's redeemable or not. A number that I bought unheard still sounded awful after a considerable amount of tweaking. Maybe others' criteria are different from mine, but in my experience there's pretty good agreement amongst players as to what qualities we're looking for.

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10 minutes ago, matesic said:

Is there no such thing as a bad violin? 

I came across a Strad (labeled) which was from when he was working in Columbus, Ohio.  It was horrid.  I also heard a genuine Strad that sounded even worse, but I think something very bad must have happened to the wood.  On a lesser scale, I have accumulated a number of cheap clunkers to experiment with, and most of them could be made tolerable if you don't demand clarity and projection.

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31 minutes ago, matesic said:

Is there no such thing as a bad violin? Maybe I'm deluding myself, but as long as a violin has all its bits in more or less the right places I think I can tell quite quickly whether it's redeemable or not.

There certainly are bad violins, but I think it depends on what level.

The lowest grade rotters are truly despicable, terrifying even, with a dull hollow sound, lacking any kind of core. The sort of thing people are buying on eBay, the violins which go unsold at auction, and are then snapped in the after sale, by those with some money, and no sense whatsoever.
There aren't enough bins to put this stuff in, and those who would play upon one have no technique, and appear to be tone-deaf anyway.

As we move up the quality scale, I can well believe that a violin could be turned around by those with specialist set-up experience. Although, whether they want to work on mid-range stuff is another matter.

At the top end, it's been proven time and again, that the best at adjusting, and the knowledge behind it can really make something sing, even if it didn't do so before. Bad can become good at this level, even if it might not reach excellent.

 

 

 

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Thanks again for the continued interesting discussion. With only 2 posts/24hrs allowed for a new member I'll try to capture what I can here. Also, with the delay of moderator approval, a few new replies may accumulate before mine is posted.

11 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

If you have spent 15 years, not liking your violin, it would be good sense to buy yourself a different violin that you do like, rather than spend another 15 years trying to clear it’s nose.

Indeed I've taken your good advice about a dozen years ago! Two of the violins I've restored have become my daily players. The favorite is a Markneukirchen violin on a Guarneri model, labeled Heinrich Th. Heberlein, Jr. 1922. Received in pieces, only repairs and setup involved, no internal modifications. This Lewis & Son has mainly sat in its case and I'm deciding what to do with it now.

Most likely outcome: Start with good, new classical strings and tailpiece, set it up as well as I can using the suggestions shared here, and explore placing it for consignment sale at one of the shops within a 100 miles or so of here. But since I do have a strong interest in violins and how they work (or not), I'm of course interested in other options. Beyond setup, I was only considering increasing the projection a bit and/or replacing the bar. Less inclined to spend the time on that now. BTW, regraduation is/was not under consideration, so no need to poke that hornet's nest on my account.

4 hours ago, Don Noon said:

Is this violin unusually heavy?  What does it weigh without the chinrest?

A fiddle with a "stuffy nose" I don't think is going to be cured with adjustments or new strings, but something is fundamentally off in the structure.  New violins often have this problem for a while, but this is not a new violin.  If it is excessively thick, with the nutty bass bar to get some flex out of it, then the cure attempt would be to pop the top and regraduate it, with a normal bar (and there's no assurance that this would work).  If it is not excessively thick, and a few simple adjustments or new strings don't do it, Jacob Saunders made a good suggestion.  The wood might just be hopeless.

I'm sorry but my scale only goes up to 300g so I can't provide a weight. My sense of it is similar to Don's comment quoted here. Having tried various setups and compared strings with greatly different properties (Dominant vs. Prim) without changing the basic character, I suspect it's more intrinsic to the wood, graduation, odd bass bar, or...all of the above. Not to disagree one bit that a skillful luthier could bring out "its best" or that it might appeal to someone else.

4 hours ago, Violadamore said:

Don, IMHO, the violin is a shop-labeled trade fiddle, but it's probably not trash on the current market.  If a genuine Lewis, it may be worth a few thousand dollars when restored.  I'd advise the OP to be a little cautious here. 

Violadamore, thanks for your background on the "usual." Your comment quoted above leads me to what I think would help me most from here if there is still interest in the topic, i.e., sorting out its origin and relationship to Wm. Lewis & Son so I might better assess what shops may suggest for a selling price. So, back to the violin:

  • It does have the appearance of upper corner blocks, either real or sham.
  • The work is pretty clean. Scroll seems fully carved into the throat, beyond that of the Heberlein I mentioned.
  • There is a tiny label inside the back with typewritten 4001
  • There is no varnish drippage inside under the f-holes as I've seen in lower quality trade violins.
  • Following Blank Face's comment about varnish color differences, here's a shot of the inside of the pegbox. 
  • The only apparent internal work apart from the Szymanski bar is cleating along the center seam under the tailpiece. Now that the tailpiece is off I seem some signs the seam had opened a bit.

From what I've read about Lewis / Einsele relationship, if the hunch about it being a German violin is correct it might imply that: 1) Einsele bought various violins in the white for sale through Lewis, from sources other than Garimberti; or 2) Lewis sold violins with the Einsele label that had no relationship to him; or 3) the Lewis / Einsele label was added after the fact by someone else.

We'll see if there's any interest or patience left to speculate from here. 

Thanks again for what's been offered so far,

- Tom

Pegbox varnish (Small).JPG

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2 hours ago, Wood Butcher said:

There certainly are bad violins, but I think it depends on what level.

The lowest grade rotters are truly despicable, terrifying even, with a dull hollow sound, lacking any kind of core. The sort of thing people are buying on eBay, the violins which go unsold at auction, and are then snapped in the after sale, by those with some money, and no sense whatsoever.
There aren't enough bins to put this stuff in, and those who would play upon one have no technique, and appear to be tone-deaf anyway.

As we move up the quality scale, I can well believe that a violin could be turned around by those with specialist set-up experience. Although, whether they want to work on mid-range stuff is another matter.

At the top end, it's been proven time and again, that the best at adjusting, and the knowledge behind it can really make something sing, even if it didn't do so before. Bad can become good at this level, even if it might not reach excellent.

 

 

 

The major problem with your statement here is that some newbs may read it, and believe it. 

On the one hand, no venue or provenance (with the exception of plywood and plastic VSOs) has an unqualified claim to produce irredeemable "rotters", and on the other, it isn't until you get into the exospheric price category that you may have any expectation that all shortcomings of sound are the fault of the player (because most supremely expensive violins are known to have been preowned by someone who sounded exceptionally good).  Even in the last category, however, a deficient setup can instantly force things from euphony to cacophony, and restoration scars abound, so we don't absolutely know that those elite wooden ranks don't harbor a few remediated howlers.

The few antique violins I've encountered which totally fail to resonate have been "beaver chewed" (and therefore uncompleted) examples which can serve admirably as "kits" to recarve for those of us who care to do so.

IMHO, your statement with regard to the violins is not just grossly oversimplified, but seems heavily biased toward an agenda of suppressing violin repair as a hobby, as well as frightening consumers into opening their wallets to you.

With regard to your statements about who buys and plays inexpensive violins, "those with some money, and no sense whatsoever" and "those who would play upon one have no technique, and appear to be tone-deaf anyway", are nothing more than vicious ad hominem libel, which has no place on this forum.  :P

Oh, BTW, define quality:lol:

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2 hours ago, Strad O Various Jr. said:

Its a customer's violin, just a generic Lewis and Son, hardly historically important, a very professional and high priced shop just appraised it at $2200, at my shop it would be $1000, not worth the effort to photograph!

It's historically important to those of us trying to figure out a cutoff date for B-O-B in Markneukirchen.  :) :lol:

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5 hours ago, nathan slobodkin said:

Blank

what time period would have markneukiirchen violins using outside molds

I have a dated photo from 1912 showing a Markneukirchen workshop with an outside mould, what I#ve seen personally being made this way was more from the 1920s onwards, when I remember it right.

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53 minutes ago, Tom_R said:

 

Indeed I've taken your good advice about a dozen years ago! Two of the violins I've restored have become my daily players. The favorite is a Markneukirchen violin on a Guarneri model, labeled Heinrich Th. Heberlein, Jr. 1922. Received in pieces, only repairs and setup involved, no internal modifications. This Lewis & Son has mainly sat in its case and I'm deciding what to do with it now.

Most likely outcome: Start with good, new classical strings and tailpiece, set it up as well as I can using the suggestions shared here, and explore placing it for consignment sale at one of the shops within a 100 miles or so of here. But since I do have a strong interest in violins and how they work (or not), I'm of course interested in other options. Beyond setup, I was only considering increasing the projection a bit and/or replacing the bar. Less inclined to spend the time on that now. BTW, regraduation is/was not under consideration, so no need to poke that hornet's nest on my account.

 

 

If you make a new bar etc. and come to the conclusion it doesn’t sound any different afterwards, you will only risk depresive complexes. If you wish to be rid of it, you would probably be best advised to stick it in the next T2 sale as it is, and let someone else inherit your quandary

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56 minutes ago, Tom_R said:

Following Blank Face's comment about varnish color differences, here's a shot of the inside of the pegbox. 

I was talking about the outside; at the photos I've marked the zone of obvious difference in colour. I'm just wondering why the person who stripped the original varnish from the rest just left it there?

1631453782_Scroll_side(Phone).jpg.211df04927e1a3f6db97d0be7964fec0.jpg

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4 hours ago, Violadamore said:

Violins like you describe are the "missing links" in the transition process between built-on-back and mold methods in making Saxon trade fiddles.

That sounds somehow weird. I don't think that a "missing link" is necessary between two pre-existent construction methods, that's more a term from the realms of biology.

There's also no "cut-off" date in the way that they stopped building on the back, this method is still used today.

If a stripped instrument of this quality ever will "be worth a few thousand dollars when restored." (to what state?) is also debatable.

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1 hour ago, Violadamore said:

The major problem with your statement here is that some newbs may read it, and believe it. 

On the one hand, no venue or provenance (with the exception of plywood and plastic VSOs) has an unqualified claim to produce irredeemable "rotters", and on the other, it isn't until you get into the exospheric price category that you may have any expectation that all shortcomings of sound are the fault of the player (because most supremely expensive violins are known to have been preowned by someone who sounded exceptionally good).  Even in the last category, however, a deficient setup can instantly force things from euphony to cacophony, and restoration scars abound, so we don't absolutely know that those elite wooden ranks don't harbor a few remediated howlers.

The few antique violins I've encountered which totally fail to resonate have been "beaver chewed" (and therefore uncompleted) examples which can serve admirably as "kits" to recarve for those of us who care to do so.

IMHO, your statement with regard to the violins is not just grossly oversimplified, but seems heavily biased toward an agenda of suppressing violin repair as a hobby, as well as frightening consumers into opening their wallets to you.

With regard to your statements about who buys and plays inexpensive violins, "those with some money, and no sense whatsoever" and "those who would play upon one have no technique, and appear to be tone-deaf anyway", are nothing more than vicious ad hominem libel, which has no place on this forum.  :P

Oh, BTW, define quality:lol:

I know you like to defend a certain type of instrument, but in the grand scheme of violins, there are a lot of rotters which were churned out in the 19th and early 20th century. Basic instruments, made to a low price, intended for export. They weren't good then, and they aren't better now. Indeed, a moderate Chinese violin can often beat them into the ground, though many of those need to go in a bin too.
As for the tonal shortcomings, no serious violinist would want something with a hollow sonority, which lacks focus, colours and dynamics. That is exactly what I'd describe as a rotter, and usually lauded as sounding lovely by those who cannot play, or only ever play alone.

A good instrument (or bow, too!), encourages you to do more every time you play. Something dreadful does not.

Nothing in my post mentioned hobby repairs. That people should waste their money and ruin a violin at the same time is a matter for them, I only feel sorry if a nice violin becomes wasted/worthless due to negligence and incompetence.
For the record, I don't do repairs, I don't charge people for repairs, and the only instruments I've sold were my own when trading up. So I'm not sure how you see this as steering people to open their wallets to me.
When I do need a repair or service, I take my instruments and bows to the appropriate person, one who is qualified to do exceptional work, and pay them for the privilege.

Quality, I would define as the exact opposite to the type of instrument I mentioned at the start of my previous post.

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I can easily buy a better grade Markneukirchen genuine antique violin for $200 on ebay put $2-300 into set up (new bridge, soundpost, level fingerboard, new strings and possibly new pegs) and sell it for as little as $1000 and it will blow away almost all the Chinese instruments in that price range that other shops are selling. Of course these same shops might charge $2500 for my antique German violin and at that price you can find better Chinese violins but only at that higher price point IMHO

And on this topic, I don't think I would bother investing in Lewis and son violin for $200 when I can find better instruments for that money, for instance I just bough a JA Baader Mittenwald for $130 free shipping.

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2 minutes ago, Wood Butcher said:

For the record, I don't do repairs, I don't charge people for repairs, and the only instruments I've sold were my own when trading up. So I'm not sure how you see this as steering people to open their wallets to me.

When I do need a repair or service, I take my instruments and bows to the appropriate person, one who is qualified to do exceptional work, and pay them for the privilege.

So, basically, despite your username, you have no real dog in this fight or any hands-on experience in the business, but you like to argue with the rest of us anyway.  I'll be nice and not unleash a certain pithy Jacobism on you, but I'm thinking it very loudly.  :P :lol:

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9 minutes ago, Violadamore said:

So, basically, despite your username, you have no real dog in this fight or any hands-on experience in the business, but you like to argue with the rest of us anyway.  I'll be nice and not unleash a certain pithy Jacobism on you, but I'm thinking it very loudly.  :P :lol:

What is a "pithy Jacobism" please?

Since the recent Maestronet makeover, your self assessment as a purveyor of rubbish above your avatar and beneath your name seems to have been purged, do you still have a "dog in the fight"?

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7 minutes ago, jacobsaunders said:

What is a "pithy Jacobism" please?

Since the recent Maestronet makeover, your self assessment as a purveyor of rubbish above your avatar and beneath your name seems to have been purged, do you still have a "dog in the fight"?

E.g., "piss off".  :lol:

Yes, I just lost my "marquee" in the makeover.  Since the titles seem to be lost, I'll add those, and my old signatures, to my profile.  :)

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9 hours ago, Wood Butcher said:

I know you like to defend a certain type of instrument, but in the grand scheme of violins, there are a lot of rotters which were churned out in the 19th and early 20th century. Basic instruments, made to a low price, intended for export. They weren't good then, and they aren't better now. Indeed, a moderate Chinese violin can often beat them into the ground, though many of those need to go in a bin too.
As for the tonal shortcomings, no serious violinist would want something with a hollow sonority, which lacks focus, colours and dynamics. That is exactly what I'd describe as a rotter, and usually lauded as sounding lovely by those who cannot play, or only ever play alone.

A good instrument (or bow, too!), encourages you to do more every time you play. Something dreadful does not.

Nothing in my post mentioned hobby repairs. That people should waste their money and ruin a violin at the same time is a matter for them, I only feel sorry if a nice violin becomes wasted/worthless due to negligence and incompetence.
For the record, I don't do repairs, I don't charge people for repairs, and the only instruments I've sold were my own when trading up. So I'm not sure how you see this as steering people to open their wallets to me.
When I do need a repair or service, I take my instruments and bows to the appropriate person, one who is qualified to do exceptional work, and pay them for the privilege.

Quality, I would define as the exact opposite to the type of instrument I mentioned at the start of my previous post.

I agree with most of the above but confess to being a hobby repairer myself, although only of violins that are clearly cheaply made, have only superficial damage and cost next to nothing - violins that you'd never find in a dealer's shop and certainly not worth the expense of professional restoration. After first thinking every hulk deserves a hearing I'll usually go through a "well, that's not too bad" phase, but ultimately out of a dozen or two there hasn't been one I ever want to play again.

I'd say their tonal shortcomings fall into three main categories: 1. dull and lifeless. These I often think might sound decent if I just worked a bit harder on the vibrato, but eventually decide it isn't worth the effort. 2. nasal and shrieky, seems to apply most often to violins with steep arching. 3. boomy and unfocused, maybe more often applicable to violas.

That's just the initial impression. I try not to pass judgement until I've had sufficient time to discover how well they play (how well I can get them to play) in various sorts of music. Some of the borderline cases may perform acceptably in slow lyrical stuff but become nigh on impossible to get to speak in faster or more complex music.

I initially thought it might help me come to some objective judgement to record myself and see how each fiddle sounds in playback, but that way it actually becomes much harder to tell the difference. I can easily understand why audiences are less discriminating than players.

And not just the old junk - the same applies to most modern mass-produced stuff and a large proportion of the amateur-made British violins of the last century that I've got to try out in auction houses. It's these that I most wonder about - are they truly beyond help or is it just a matter of setup and the right strings?

 

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Amateur violins are in a category all of their own, and probably deserve a new post.

At the beginning, I’m sure they all had good intentions, but a lack of knowledge, and inevitable mistakes during construction leave the majority wanting.

I’d feel less confident about turning one of these around, than a tatty trade violin.

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