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After finally settling down for the night and ending my practice (3 hours tonight!) I wanted to share an unforgettable experience from today.
Living in the Detroit Area of Michigan, I've found that coming by a truly good, reasonably priced and trustworthy luthier is a bit of a challenge...Until today. @Fiddlestix and I met up today after I finished up a few hours of work in the area near where he's at. He kindly offered to let me ride with him up to his Luthier in Flint, MI to have him take a look at my old girl and see what else could be done to her to get her playing the way she should (omit beginner player from the equation lol). What a great experience it was, not just to meet someone from here on the site in person but to be able to stand there and talk with the Luthier in length about several topics and also find out that my fingerboard needs to be reworked, need a new bridge and sound post, tailpiece (with built in fine tuners) as well as just a general sound adjustment (beyond what I've already paid 2 luthiers to do in the past few months).
While we were chatting away I had brought up the topic of my warped bow that I did try to straighten a bit myself (to no great avail lol) and how much I was quoted but would have to wait on it till down the road...Low and behold, the Luthier says "Follow me"...Walks to a small room on the side which looked like a workshop you would have seen back in the 1800's with violins hanging around the perimeter and cellos lining the walls, hand tools as far as the eye could see and a bench with 4 various flame lamps. Right in front of Ken and I he straightened my bow, taking about 8 minutes total while chatting to us the entire time. He finished up, sighted down the bow and said "so this is what they wanted 85 bucks for eh? Here ya go, on the house".
We started talking about my violin more and come to find out that it's a bit older than originally anticipated. Last estimate was an E Martin Sachen Maggini copy, dated at 100-102 years ago. He took a look at her and said, "This is no Maggini copy...You've got a Saxon Strad Copy, about 125 or so years old...Maybe a bit more actually." Got down to the actual nuts and bolts of the repair that is being done now and could have done down the road. For the entire current repair listed earlier (FB, Bridge, SP and TailPiece) with labor came out to 100 even. To repair the damaged section on the bottom near the end pin he quoted literally 1/3 of what others in the actual Detroit area had said. Finally found a great luthier in the area that will be trusted with my old girl for years to come...Here comes the kicker, I asked out of curiosity if he may have a violin that I could rent from him while mine is in the shop having had to turn in the student rental I had until yesterday. Without skipping a beat, he grabbed one of the dozens of violins off of a string and put it in my case. Gorgeous looking violin and without saying anything himself, I believe he personally made it... Pics Below:
Now on to the even cooler part! The entire trip was started with fiddlestix (Ken) and I chatting the other night about the shop he takes his violins to. He spoke so highly of him that I had to check out what he meant, to no disappointment! Riding out to the shop we had a great talk about anything and everything that came to mind about music or anything else really for that matter. Sharing experiences and trials over the years we've had in the music world and even got in to a bit of music theory talk ha ha. Listening to the luthier and Ken battle it out at times was beyond amusing, especially when he looked at the bridge and said "Look at this bridge, this is pretty bad...Ken did you make this bridge? How about this sound post that looks old and worn?" all the while with a giant mischievous grin haha. Meeting him in person after chatting on so many occasions in the chat box here on the site makes it all the better and the fact that this site is what made it all happen is simply priceless, thank you @Fiddlerman . Thank you so much Ken for a great experience and for introducing me to a great luthier who truly knows what it's like to live in a 'big city' with 'big prices'. Hats off to you good sir and until next time I bid you well. Sadly it slipped my mind to take pictures of the inside of the shop but will take some when I go to pick up my old girl next Monday.
Nice article, Chris (FD).
I'm glad you enjoyed the visit and you are pleased with his service, although I was at the other end of the shop shootin the breeze with David, (Marks employee) and didn't realize he told you Monday for pick-up.
You were talking about French polish on the violin, is he doing that too? I know he showed you a sample and asked if this was the look you wanted.
I also had a great time on the short journey.
What a fun and satisfying trip that must have been?
What's a french polish? I would love a fiddle that didn't look like it was dipped in shellac.
Opportunity is often missed because it wears suspenders and looks like hard work.
thats absolutely fantastic! how wonderful that would be i hope to find a luthier like that when i get back to the states! And that violin is beautiful that he let you borrow! congradualtions. its so good to hear such nice things about people helping each other out and just good honest workmen who pride themselves more on their work then on what they can charge. Thank you for sharing!
looking forward to some pictures of his place if you can post them
Lead me, Follow me, or get out of my way!
~General George S. Patton
So cool!! Connecting people - priceless!! I would love to see pictures of the shop.
Violinist start date - May 2013
Fiddler start date - May 2014
FIDDLE- Gift from a dear friend. A 1930-40 german copy, of a french copy of a Stradivarius. BOW - $50 carbon fiber. Strings - Dominants with E Pirastro Gold string.
@Fiddlestix I actually took a night to think about the french polish, but called him this morning and gave him the green light. Will cost a bit more and he'll have it for 2 to 3 weeks longer but well worth it. I think he knew what he was doin, giving me this shiny new violin as a loaner lol...Got me wanting mine looking snazzy too haha.
@1stimestar It was great fun indeed! Some call it varnish refinishing where others say french polish. Basically it's where the luthier restores the look of a violin to as close to what it would have been when it was made years ago. On really high quality violins it's discouraged because it can actually devalue the instrument but on a kicker like mine that I'd like to look good while having character I figured let him at it . It makes the violin look new but old at the same time. If you look up violin varnish restoration you'll see what I mean, it does give a shellac look but not overdone.
@KindaScratchy The film canister humidifiers work beautifully, almost too well at times lol! Someone else on here mentioned the aquabeads a while back, think it was Daniel but cannot remember. Right now the loaner is in a plush 53% humidity just with those guys inside . I didn't capture any pics of Ken and I unfortunately but maybe in the future there could be another meeting (maybe even with a bit of jamming so long as I can learn some songs haha) .
I'll be sure to get some pics of the shop the next time I'm there though for sure!
Went and picked up the old girl today and turned in the loaner. Didn't realize how much I missed my violin till I played a bit on it this evening. The work that Mark, the luthier did is amazing... The french polish looks unbelievable and the fingerboard is much easier to move about on, not to mention the tone... So mellow but powerful now. Even more so than before, but not in a bad way at all. I'll have to get the mic fired up and post some recordings of before/after and if I can get the webcam to work right (sync the audio with video) maybe even a youtube clip lol. Left my wood bow behind to get a new grip put on so I'm not being tortured by 80 year old surgical tubing lol. Took some pictures of the violin and of course as promised, a few of the shop as well . Ken will be happy to know that the violin the young man is working on in the picture is his old timer! Top photos are after the work was done. Tried to reorganize them but the site doesn't seem to want to let me lol.
What a beautiful finish
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