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1950s German ½ size violin Login/Join 
Nosce te ipsum
Picture of Woodman
posted
A couple of weeks ago I passed a garage sale. The best kind. Made an offer on two student violins in unplayable condition. A ½ size and a ¼ size. Got the call back and picked them up last week.

I tightened up the old strings on the larger of the violins, liked its tone, so started with that one. Fit a new peg, straightened out the bridge – maybe, and cleaned up the entire fiddle with naphtha, then a Behlen polishing agent.



Turns out, after cleaning off the funk, that the ½ has real purfling, the ebony strips of wood inlaid around the perimeter. Also the two-piece back covers the heel of the neck; there is not a separate heel cap; a good sign.



Looks like we have a special violin here. As Steve Fields says, the better the student, the better the violin they should have when young. Some lucky kid will end up with this violin at a decent price when the D’Addario Helicore strings arrive.

The D’Addario Helicores arrived from Johnson Strings Friday, and Saturday afternoon was the perfect rainy day to string a violin and perform final shaping to the bridge. Despite my finest efforts to ruin yet another bridge, everything came out as close to perfect as I dare. This violin, unplayed since the ’70s, is back in fine fiddle. Clear tone, fast action, and LOUD.







The ebony "nut", the thing that the strings rest upon at the top of the fingerboard? I noticed it is nicely shaped, with a small footprint. A harbinger possible of good tonal quality.



















All done and ready for a young serious student, like a six or seven year old.

 
Posts: 5748 | Location: Mid-Atlantic Region | Registered: March 24, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Fool for the City
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BRAVO! I hope some young prodigy gets the benefit of your efforts.


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Posts: 4734 | Location: Pottstown, PA | Registered: April 26, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Partial dichotomy
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I admire your work, Woodman!

Hope you find the perfect owner for it.


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Posts: 33464 | Location: NW Indiana | Registered: November 22, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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there was a violin on the antiques road show once,

turns out that the bow ended up being worth four times the amount of the violin.





Safety, Situational Awareness and proficiency.



Neck Ties, Hats and ammo brass, Never ,ever touch'em w/o asking first
 
Posts: 44895 | Location: Henry County , Il | Registered: February 10, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Shaman
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I love vintage instruments!





Before there was man, the parrot ruled the world. Now man rules the world and the parrot has not forgiven - Native American Proverb.
 
Posts: 37828 | Location: Atop the cockatoo tree | Registered: July 27, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Very well done. A true talent.

PC
 
Posts: 609 | Location: NW Wyoming | Registered: November 23, 2014Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Nosce te ipsum
Picture of Woodman
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quote:
Originally posted by bendable:
there was a violin on the antiques road show once,

turns out that the bow ended up being worth four times the amount of the violin.


Bows can be outrageous. $10k might be a junker practice bow for a professional orchestra performer. Along with their $80,000 beater fiddle.


If the last fiddle posted, the centenarian+ we call "Yorke" because it was discovered in York PA, had purfling like this one, it would have been worth double. Evidently on these student models, you can only get so much.

A ¼ size fiddle I got at the same time has a "Made in Germany, American Sector" label in it. Has real inlaid purfling and a single one piece back. I am thinking these immediate post war copies will someday be worth a little more than they are now. Both of these may go into the back of the extra closet for 4 months or 2 years. There is a lot of trading going on, and once they're both tradable, a teacher can make money renting them.

Now that the ½ size is set up, with good strings, I'll let a pro play it. Take pictures, then loosen the strings and put it in the closet.

Note: a ¼ size fiddle is not a quarter as big as a standard 4/4 fiddle. Think "full size" as a 14mm wrench. The ½ is 11mm, the ¼ 10mm ...

A really beat up '30s fiddle with nice tight top grain is for sale on eBay. The seller wants $120 delivered ... for a $40 fiddle. He wrote "This came from the estate of a very elderly gentleman. I'm GUESSING this instrument is at least 100 years old and it may come from the 1800's." ... but he had a nice picture of the label, "Made In Czecho Slovakia" ... which did not exist until 1918 or 1919 ... Roll Eyes

I've emailed the seller, made a low offer, and included links to a history lesson. His ad is still up with no corrections.

So LET THE BUYER BEWARE. I've been pickled on a couple guitar purchases and a banjo buy lately, but not too badly mauled on a fiddle purchase. Lots of sellers think a $300 fiddle that needs strings should cost $200. But they're neglecting $400 in work to make it whole ...

That said, I would not know a $4,000 shotgun from a $40,000 shotgun.
 
Posts: 5748 | Location: Mid-Atlantic Region | Registered: March 24, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Age Quod Agis
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I love these posts and read every one I see.

Thanks for the great information and pictures.



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Oh stewardess,
I speak jive.
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Very cool.
 
Posts: 21558 | Registered: March 12, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Serenity now!
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I always enjoy your posts. It's always satisfying to watch something get transformed from old and ugly to old and beautiful.



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Posts: 3444 | Location: OK | Registered: August 15, 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Frangas non Flectes
Picture of P220 Smudge
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Very nice work, I love these threads.


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Posts: 8114 | Registered: February 10, 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Partial dichotomy
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A bit off topic, Woodman, but you mention using naphtha as your cleaning agent. Would this work for any kind of antique furniture as well? I've used a product called Cotten Cleanser in the past which I really liked, but it's quite expensive....if still available.


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Posts: 33464 | Location: NW Indiana | Registered: November 22, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Nosce te ipsum
Picture of Woodman
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I cannot figure out what is in Kotton Klenser Wood Restoration Cleaner. I've a feeling it is not solvent-based; maybe a soapy compound with suspended mild abrasive?

Naptha is charcoal lighter fluid. It is used to clean the spirit varnish of a violin. I use it on nitrocellulose also. It's pretty mild as solvents go. Spirit-based varnish uses denatured alcohol to thin it; if I were to clean the violin with 100-proof vodka, the varnish, the 100 year old varnish, would come off on my rag. I made that mistake cleaning an edge with a Q-Tip and gin, but it was not a disaster, it was an area I was retouching, but lesson learned.

I also learned the hard way which solvents can thin spirit-based varnish, and there is only one. Spirits. So we do not use spirits to clean, but naphtha, it cleans perfectly without removing any of the varnish. I've seen it haze some older nitro finishes, and I have to go back with a plastic cleaner to take the haze out.

At the more/most dangerous end is acetone, which is fingernail polish remover. That will melt plastics.

I have a bunch of others. Mineral spirits will clean oil varnish. It is like turpentine. I use very very little of it. Always test where you will not see it.

On guitars I start off with hot soapy water and a soft cloth, and wring the cloth out entirely. Give everything a good wipe. The violins, lighter fluid then right to buffers polish.

Take a good sniff of the Kotton Klenser Wood Restoration Cleaner. Does it smell like it has any volatile organic stuff? If no, then it is a glorified cleaner that works well. I use Behlens Buffers Polish that smells like the stuff they use to clean a bowling alley. Check the blog search function.

I've seen some "antique guys" liberally use turpentine, but these guys did go out of business. Try an end panel on some wreck of an armoire some time, see how it comes out with an old teeshirt and turpentine. And always test a small area to make sure you're not melting the finish off.

I'm guessing most antique furniture is finished with an oil varnish. Takes forever to dry/cure. Seems it is not going to come off on your rag from just a quick rub. It may lighten a dark piece as embedded dirt is removed.

Careful removed dirt does not become an abrasive on your rag.
 
Posts: 5748 | Location: Mid-Atlantic Region | Registered: March 24, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Partial dichotomy
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Wow, thanks for your detailed informative response! I really appreciate it. I haven't refinished furniture in some time, but can see getting back into it during retirement....still several years down the road. I like the idea of naphtha being a mild cleaning agent, but also understand the warning of starting in an inconspicuous spot.

If I can find Kotton Klenser, I may spring for some just to see and also see if I can figure out what's in it.

Thanks again!


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Posts: 33464 | Location: NW Indiana | Registered: November 22, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Little ray
of sunshine
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Do those old fiddles have French polished shellac sometimes?




The fish is mute, expressionless. The fish doesn't think because the fish knows everything.
 
Posts: 44345 | Location: Texas | Registered: February 10, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Nosce te ipsum
Picture of Woodman
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It is done but from what I hear, oil varnish is the usual on newer stuff. I've worked only with spirit varnish, which is damn hard because it dries so fast.

Guy I was getting my little bits of material from was carving a violin top a while back; he said he'd be doing French polish. He relocated to another shop down south and the local shop closed.

300-400 years ago, in a candlelit royal court, French polishing may have made the instrument better stand out.

Saturday a guitar maker in Reading helped me turn a slab of Adirondack spruce into mandolin blank tops; rip, plane, join, resaw, plane ... on old equipment. And I saw all his projects. All he does is French polish, and his specialty is rebuilding old Martin guitars, even ones missing most of the guitar! He also works on newer Martin guitars that are only a century old.

The French polishing I saw looked like a perfect nitrocellulose finish but maybe thicker? I'm not sure. There was something about it. Smooth as melted butter.
 
Posts: 5748 | Location: Mid-Atlantic Region | Registered: March 24, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Little ray
of sunshine
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The French polishing I have seen (on mandolins) looks warmer and thinner than nitro, but not quite as glossy. It is really pretty.

It is labor intensive, but easily repairable by someone who knows how to French polish.




The fish is mute, expressionless. The fish doesn't think because the fish knows everything.
 
Posts: 44345 | Location: Texas | Registered: February 10, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Nosce te ipsum
Picture of Woodman
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That's the word I was looking for. "Warmer". The guitars with that finish looked great.

I stay as far from any refinishing as possible. I'll just muck it up and spend weeks hiding my errors. These days, clean, buff, done. I'll spray a tiny bit of nitro now and again and buff it in, but refinishing a violin back, only if threatened.

The mandolin blanks are for a reclusive luthier in Chester County. He's giving me one of his finished mandolins for my six sets of aged-40-year wood plus his material cost - $50 Schaller tuners, maybe a few bucks for a used stamped tailpiece.

I'm trying to hunt him up more materials with now, in fact. May drive to Nazareth. Martin has a 2nds and rejects shop for builders; no whole instruments, but plenty of parts. Blems are literally dirt cheap. Just got off the phone with Collings; no dice on old-style stamped tailpieces; Collings went over to cast, and I had this idea I could buy out their inventory of stamped tailpieces cheap; the mice have gotten all the cheese, however.
 
Posts: 5748 | Location: Mid-Atlantic Region | Registered: March 24, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
King of Goodness
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Very interesting thread. I know more about a violin now that I ever did. Wonderful writing style as well. Thanks.
 
Posts: 6578 | Location: Dixie | Registered: February 10, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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