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Curious "Canadian"? fiddle ...


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Hello!

Curious if anyone might shed a bit of light on this curious fiddle that has recently joined my "flock." Am certain it's not worth much, and I'm guessing it may be made by an unknown (and maybe self-trained)  amateur. I don't yet know what it sounds like. But it does seem to have some personality, and some features that — in my limited experience — seem  a bit unusual.

Here are some of its better points as I see them (many caveats here, as I'm a player not a luthier!)

* Apparent skill in woodcarving, if not violinmaking, as seen in the effort to "texture" the purfling and in the carving of the head.

* Wood seems pretty decent, though the top goes quickly from narrow to wide on the last few rings.

* Varnish shows off the maple rather nicely when the instrument is turned slightly ...

Here are a couple of its oddball and more "unfortunate" points ...

* Idiosyncratic design of the points, which seems to have an extra curve. As a result (I think ...) of the idiosyncratic pattern, the points and also the shoulders of both top and back don't match up well with the ribs.

* Some very sloppy glue work inside, where the pieces of the back are joined, with 3 equally spaced cleats. Can't tell whether this was original or a bad repair.

The fiddle's label reads: "John Peel, Whitby, Ont." with a handwritten date of 1939. The upper block also has the handwritten date 1934. 

Grateful  to hear any thoughts...

 

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Before I read your description I thought I was looking at a 19th century Saxon violin of some sort. But then I saw the purfling. What's it made from? String?

It will be interesting to hear what the experts say about your violin.

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Thank you, Jezzupe and Aston4 — I'm glad to feel I'm not alone in seeing "something" in this fiddle.  And I do appreciate some of your recent posts to other threads, as well :)

I've not heard this violin played yet, tho am planning to take it to a luthier and get it set up in the next week or so. 

And Delabo, I very much appreciate your note re: the purfling — and  your invocation of "String Theory"(!)

Til this thread, I'd assumed purfling was always made from willow or some related wood (when not painted on ...). So I assumed that the undulations here are from carving. But, now that you say this, it does look a bit like a wound (cotton??) string. There are two spots where the purling has broken away; I can't tell the material myself, but am posting some more photos below, zeroing in on the purfling more.

Your "String Theory" message also  inspired me to check some earlier threads. And now I've learned that purfling sometimes also has been made from materials such as corn husks and (especially) parchment — which may shed some light on another instrument I have, with extremely narrow purfling. So thank you for the educational journey :)

Anyhow, as for this one, I too remain curious what else peeps might see in it ...

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Many thanks for your eyes on this, Jacob — very much appreciated. Am learning  :) Seems like I was paying overmuch attention to the odd purfling and scroll. My curiousity on this one will now focus mostly on getting it set up and hearing how it sounds. Thanks again!

 

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The purfling looks rather conventional in some areas, and in other areas, the serrated pattern seems to extend outside of the purfling. So perhaps the purfling was installed with some kind of serrated roller, or later decorated by making an impression with one, such as one of the wheels or stamps used for embossing decorations in leather?

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On 3/2/2024 at 6:45 AM, jacobsaunders said:

It looks like a low quality product of the Markneukirchen/Schönbach area cottage industry to me, which Mr Peel has manipulated to a certain extent

Would these be available in the white in Canada during that period, without purfling installed? I can't recall seeing that style of purfling in any German fiddles we've seen over the years, as mentioned the closest I've seen to something like that is herrigbone style for guitars. Also the wonky mortise cut gap seems pretty "early attempts" of a self taught guy, maybe? I suppose he could have dug out existing purfling and replaced it, but that seems a little far fetched.

I just think the varnish aged poorly and tons of gunk fell into the purfling depression and is masking it quite a bit.

but who knows I'd trust your opinion over mine about such things

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There are a couple of instruments, which occasionally visit the workshop, that have an embossed pattern over the purfling.

One is an old English cello, which has a repeating elliptical pattern. It is very neatly done, but I am not convinced it is actually original. I never saw this on any others.

The other is a violin, again English, which has a diagonal pattern. On this one, it is quite haphazardly applied over painted purfling.

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4 hours ago, Dave Slight said:

There are a couple of instruments, which occasionally visit the workshop, that have an embossed pattern over the purfling.

An embossed pattern was my best guess too, after zooming in on the photos, along with viewing on a fairly large desktop screen.

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11 hours ago, Dave Slight said:

There are a couple of instruments, which occasionally visit the workshop, that have an embossed pattern over the purfling.

One is an old English cello, which has a repeating elliptical pattern. It is very neatly done, but I am not convinced it is actually original. I never saw this on any others.

The other is a violin, again English, which has a diagonal pattern. On this one, it is quite haphazardly applied over painted purfling.

Not coincidentally Mr. John Peel was a British immigrant to Ontario, Canada.  

There's a long tradition of violin makers who were direct descendants of cobblers.  In the 1931 Canadian Census Mr. Peel self-identified as a shoe merchant, age 69, emigrated to Canada in 1872.  In commercial directories of Ontario there's a Peel & Sons Shoe Store.  He also had a son named John.

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2 hours ago, Hempel said:

Not coincidentally Mr. John Peel was a a British immigrant to Ontario, Canada.  

There's a long tradition of violin makers who were direct descendants of cobblers.  In the 1931 Canadian Census Mr. Peel self-identified as a shoe merchant, age 69, emigrated to Canada in 1872.  In commercial directories of Ontario there's a Peel & Sons Shoe Store,  He also had a son named John.

Fascinating to follow this purfling discussion! Thanks to you all,  I looked up some embossing rollers (for leather). And of course, these days it's easy to find contemporary versions of tools certainly around for so many years before ...

And Hempel — I have to say, what a lovely, and beautifully specific, glimpse back to a particular time and place. Maybe this kind of story shouldn't really matter much, but  I do so appreciate your smart research that's now offered some ground-level social context. It is an unexpected gift for you to have put a story like this together, especially for such a humble fiddle. Grazie! :) 

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