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Repairing An Old Violin?
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October 6, 2017 - 4:21 pm
Member Since: December 15, 2016
Forum Posts: 24
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Hello, all!  So I was in a little emporium today and a vendor was selling his old violin projects as he was getting out of collecting/repairing.  

I found a few violins there that I could barely stand to leave there -- for extremely low prices, as in $200 for a 1760s violin--and wanted to ask what kind of work would need to be put into repair for an extremely old violin. Is it any different from repairing one from...well, this century?  One was a Guarneri from the 1760s and another was a Maggini from the same time period according to labels, and a nice-looking C. Meisel but there was ink splotched over the date.  They each have similar issues: two need soundposts, all of them need bridges and new pegs/complete new set of pegs.  What kind of work goes into the restoration of an instrument that old?  I was terrified to even hold the Guarneri once I saw what it was!  I can assume that I wouldn't dare to do the repairs myself (definitely not the soundposts?) although I was recently able to repair my troublesome Mathias Thoma that I've posted about before.  Also, what kind of strings would they take?  I'm thinking that steel strings would not be good for them since steel core probably wasn't in use/existence back then.  

(And on a side note, does Fiddlershop take repairs shipped to you for instruments like this?) 


I'm super excited to simply have seen and held such history!  Now -- the biggest question is how much work/dollars it will take after jumping for one of them? Is it worth it? Any information would be greatly appreciated.  

Honorary advisor

October 6, 2017 - 8:27 pm
Member Since: June 7, 2016
Forum Posts: 250
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If you can pick one up and play it, pay what you think its sound is worth.

It's highly unlikely that those are genuinely from the 1760's, or made by Guarneri, etc. If you can find an expert willing to come with you to check them out (and willing to sign a contract saying they won't buy any of them), you might find some actual gems.

A guy brought a violin into the shop where I take lessons. They were able to determine that it was (if genuine) made by the guy who taught Amati. It was probably worth about $1.5 million.  If it was a 200 year old fake (which was the other likely possibility), it was worth about $30,000.

The odds of you finding one (or more!) of the genuine articles are extremely high against you. Finding one of the fairly old, and fairly valuable fakes is a possibility.

If you want to collect, get the expert I spoke of.  If you just want a good violin cheap, try them out, and pay what you think it's worth. (Comparing it against what other violins that sound that good go for. If it's for sale for less than that, and it seems to be in good condition, you're doing good regardless of what it ends up being worth.  And if you have a gem fall in your lap that way... who's complaining?

Addressing your actual question: I'd imagine you'd repair them much the same way you'd repair any violin, but with rather more care on any aspects that require some force.  Wood doesn't get stronger as it ages.  Unquestionably have a luthier do it, and if you can find one that specializes in older instruments, that's who I'd go to. (Assuming you can afford it. Specialists tend to be more expensive.)

Sorry to burst your bubble on the awesomeness of the old violins, but there's still a possibility you can get a very nice violin cheaply.  Good luck on the hunt.

October 6, 2017 - 11:47 pm
Member Since: December 15, 2016
Forum Posts: 24
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Thanks for the reply!  Ah, but oftentimes a burst bubble equates to a return on reality!  I'm thinking that two may be relatively old (not the C. Meisel, though) because they have a lot of blackish discoloration on the tops and wear on the back, labels hard to read for all the fading and dust inside, but I'm also now assuming that the dates on the labels refer to a copy of (like how the Strad copies sometimes are labeled).  Your mention of "wood doesn't get stronger as it ages" definitely brought another thing to consider too. I'm not looking to collect any, just was fascinated by their perceived age and thought it might be fun to learn about the older instruments hands-on...maybe these ones are a bit *too* hands-on!  I unfortunately can't try any of them out because they're in need of a setup, basically--pegs, bridge, tailpiece, etc.  Again, thanks for the reply!

Fort Lauderdale
October 9, 2017 - 1:06 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 12636

We do take on repairs that are shipped to us. We'll give you a free estimate and many options.....

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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