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Turn of the century European Trade Violins: German, French, Czech, Italian
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EricBluegrassFiddle
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November 29, 2014 - 9:06 am
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Ok guys, hopefully you'll find this thread and we can start commenting here.

Like what Bfurman said: "My friend who revoices these old Hopf's and Mittenwald violins, he mentioned the same. He said the tops on most were way too thick and the instruments ended up being "quiet" and kind bright sounding. However, he said the qulaity of workmanship is basically sound and they used good quality European tonewood.

So he just regraduates them to luthier specs in the tops, backs, shaves down the kerfing ( which is usually too thick ) pulls up the necks ( neck angles are usually too flat ) repairs any cracks, open seams, resets peg holes, new pegs, bridges, planes fingerbopard and that's it, unless it needs a new nut etc...

He doesn't touch the finish or anything and 9 times out of 10 he says they turn out to be really good instruments, much improved and professional quality. He buys these trade fiddles from dealers and acutions and private sellers and revoices them. He's sold several to some pro classical players as well as some name Bluegrass fiddlers and Nashville session fiddlers.

He has some from the mid 1800's, some from the early 1900's and a few modern ones even from the 60's, generally nothing much newer than that. Recently he turned out a few Maggini Violins ( German made ) which are good but were too heavy. He said once he regraduates them they are like "fiddles on steroids" lol...as he describes them.

Many though are non-repairable and some even have the old fahsioned grafted scrolls....I've never seen one of those before LOL

Be curious to hear everyones comments. Anyone have any of these or ever played them before?

" I just keep telling myself...."It's all about becoming one with your bow"

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bfurman
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November 29, 2014 - 11:43 am
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Here is a fellow who does this sort of thing:

http://www.greenwayviolins.com.....icing.html

I was glad to be introduced to this topic.  I didn't realize how commonly done this is.  Makes sense that it's nothing new....

One caveat is that if the arching of the top is too shallow, then the top can't be thinned much because it will either crack at the sound post or all the way implode.  Point being it's a case by case decision best left to a luthier.

I can see why most shops would rather just start with violins in the white from Gliga, GCV, etc.

Edit to add:  Bill Weaver also does these mods.  The instruments sell for $1500 and up, so not in the beginner category....

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EricBluegrassFiddle
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bfurman said
Here is a fellow who does this sort of thing:

http://www.greenwayviolins.com.....icing.html

I was glad to be introduced to this topic.  I didn't realize how commonly done this is.  Makes sense that it's nothing new....

One caveat is that if the arching of the top is too shallow, then the top can't be thinned much because it will either crack at the sound post or all the way implode.  Point being it's a case by case decision best left to a luthier.

I can see why most shops would rather just start with violins in the white from Gliga, GCV, etc.

Edit to add:  Bill Weaver also does these mods.  The instruments sell for $1500 and up, so not in the beginner category....

I'm not sure what this other gentlemen charges but I'd say they start around $700 or $800 and up.

The thing is, with these Violins, I'd only consider one of these old ones if it's been revoiced, also and if it's had repairs, were the repairs done correctly. Besides, not all of these old Violins end up sounding very good anyways....you really have to see one and play it first and examine it and know what you're looking at.

" I just keep telling myself...."It's all about becoming one with your bow"

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Tucson1
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Howdy Eric ,

Nice to see this post ....I do have some input if y'all are interested ...having posted pictures elsewhere in the past of old German violins I have had apart fer repairs and one of those that sorely needed a re-voice ...

Yer link seems to understate the trails and tribulations involved in this process and I would point out the monetary rewards are not in line with the work involved as well .

So , if ya like , i could post some of those top off 100 year old violins along with a brief description of additional works need on this thread as well ...Amazing what ya can find inside .

Here's an after picture of a revoice i did last year ....had to re-finish it as well 'cause someone had their way with the original finish ...violin-1267IMG_2200.JPGImage Enlarger

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EricBluegrassFiddle
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Tucson1 said
Howdy Eric ,

Nice to see this post ....I do have some input if y'all are interested ...having posted pictures elsewhere in the past of old German violins I have had apart fer repairs and one of those that sorely needed a re-voice ...

Yer link seems to understate the trails and tribulations involved in this process and I would point out the monetary rewards are not in line with the work involved as well .

So , if ya like , i could post some of those top off 100 year old violins along with a brief description of additional works need on this thread as well ...Amazing what ya can find inside .

Here's an after picture of a revoice i did last year ....had to re-finish it as well 'cause someone had their way with the original finish ...violin-1267IMG_2200.JPGImage Enlarger

Sure, I'm intrigued! Please educate us and let's hear more! It's interesting how they rework these old timers and breathe new life into them!

" I just keep telling myself...."It's all about becoming one with your bow"

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Tucson1
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Howdy ,

Here's some pics of what ya might expect to run into once the top is off ...cracked end blocks , bass bar too small , no corner blocks on some , sound post area in need of a patch and patches in other ares , , open center seams and or cracks , etc ....and of course peg box issues ...even the occasional scarf joint neck repair ...

Yer quote of " fiddles on steroids " is scary to me ...i've heard some of those and it's a fine line between "a boomer " and a fiddle that is lacking in many ranges of play ...very problematic  issues ...to the point of not being able to play many tunes ...typical result of too thin a top ...bunny-headbang

Then there is the issue of stringing an old fiddle after putting in all that time , work and money into it and finding that the tone is indeed different but not necessarily better ...and watching it slowly self destruct when the humidity swings from 2 % to 90 % over the course of the next year 'cause ya didn't take it completely apart and re-glue everything ...bunny-headbang

All said , i still love restoring old 100 plus year old German fiddles , many of which have no need fer a revoice , although one did look like the top was carved inside with an ice cream scooper ...that one i did re-voice and replace the bass bar ...

So , have fun and fix up those old fiddles ...violin-1267bunny_pole_dancerIMG_2159.JPGImage Enlarger

 IMG_2014.JPGImage Enlarger

 IMG_2001.JPGImage Enlarger

 IMG_2736.JPGImage Enlarger

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EricBluegrassFiddle
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Quote: "Yer quote of " fiddles on steroids " is scary to me ...i've heard some of those and it's a fine line between "a boomer " and a fiddle that is lacking in many ranges of play ...very problematic  issues ...to the point of not being able to play many tunes ...typical result of too thin a top ..."

 

Well, I think he was trying to be funny, but what he was saying was that the projection and fullness of the tone was so much better, literally transformed. He had a couple that he'd redone and he said that he thinks the tone and volume, projection of the fiddles would beat just about anything that's out there. Yet, before he revoiced them, the tone was rather thin and weak.

He's described much of the same things you've described, often mentioning tops that are thick and too heavy.

You could even tell through the youtube recordings that the fiddle had a great tone, very full and a nice "growl" to the G string. Alot of Bluegrass fiddlers like that on the low end.

After he revoices he'll say whether he thinks the fiddle would be suitable for Bluegrass, Old-Time or Classical and he's showed a few that he's certain would have that richness, sweetness and tonal complexity that classical players would love. he says he doesn't know what he's got until he revoices it.

" I just keep telling myself...."It's all about becoming one with your bow"

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Tucson1
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Howdy ,

Yep , i hear ya  (him ) ...i'm not knockin ' his work ...and i like that he leaves the original finish ...an important point fer dating an old violin and fer value as well ...i've seen many a $7,000 and up fiddle reduced to $ 1,000 or less because someone refinished or French Polished it ...does not affect some but is true of most ...

Am interested in the value and resale value of the fiddles he's done / sells ...?violin-1267

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bfurman
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Couple questions:

1) Why does French Polish typically devalue the instrument?

2) How do you separate the hide glue without damaging the varnish?

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Tucson1
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Howdy ,

Answer # 1 ..'cause original finish is highly sought after on most but not all violins ...

# 2 ...ok , we know that alcohol can damage yer finish if it's old school shallac and / or varnish ... but rubbing alcohol of 50 - 70 won't ruin finish right away so you have time to wipe it off if it gets where ya don't want it ..if blushing does occur ya can just use a little polish and the blushing goes away ... so , an eye dropper is used on , say , top or bottom seams with the aid of an artists palate knife to separate  the seams  ...watch a video fer clarification ...alcohol turns the hide glue to gel ...

If it's a modern fiddle built with wood glue like Tightbond , then just heat the knife and go to work ...violin-1267

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coolpinkone
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Wow.. So cool Tucs.  I might need some help in the future on this thanks... For giving me the insight.    I wanted it to be rehomed... But I don't think anyone wants an old factory fiddle from. The 70s... Good thread... You are amazing. With violin repair knowledge!

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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bfurman
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coolpinkone said
Wow.. So cool Tucs.  I might need some help in the future on this thanks... For giving me the insight.    I wanted it to be rehomed... But I don't think anyone wants an old factory fiddle from. The 70s... Good thread... You are amazing. With violin repair knowledge!

 

Curious... is it a Roth by chance?  Reason I ask is that I had a Roth with a sticker that read 1979, but it turns out that sticker was just a reflection of the most recent in-shop adjustment.  The violin was actually made in the '50s.

Knowing what I know now, I might have kept it.  But it was donated to charity, so perhaps it's doing more good in a different way.

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EricBluegrassFiddle
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I have a question, a bit "off topic"

The folks at Gliga recently responded to me by email the other day. My Gliga Genial-1 ( which I LOVE by the way ) has what they call an "oil finish to it. It's a dull finish, kind of a "matte" color and it's VERY thin, not gloopy or thick at all. I don't think it's Tru-Oil, like what they use to finish Gun stocks ( Mandolins also use this varnish

Anyways, I noticed Gliga markets some of their Violins as "Shiny-antiqued" and these fiddles are REALLY shiny. Anyways I asked about these varnishes because I thought maybe they were a form of "French-Polish" or "Spirit-Varnish" and this was the response:

Hello, Eric!

The shiny finish is still oil varnish, way superior to the varnish used for the genial instruments.

The shiny finish is thinner; I mean the varnish is thinner. Because of the thinner varnish, the violins tend to have a more powerful sound, as the wood vibrates stronger.

 

Please help me with my ignorance, I mean, Is this true? I say because to me, the shinier varnish looks thicker, but that's only from the photos. I mean, the Oil varnish that my Gliga has is PRETTTY thin, I can't imagine it being much thinner. It resonates REALLY well and it's light as a feather, it's not a thick varnish at all. Can anyone offer any insight? I mean they are REALLLY shiny and to me look kinda weird.

" I just keep telling myself...."It's all about becoming one with your bow"

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bfurman
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December 10, 2014 - 7:21 pm
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Hi, Eric,

I don't have much experience with violin varnish, but I have a fair amount of general wood finishing experience.

I believe the usual Gliga varnish is a pretty standard polyurethane.  It's thin, as you say, but plenty robust.  I polished my son's instrument from the stock satin sheen to a semi-gloss luster without any ill effects.

I'd wager the shiny instruments are mechanically buffed.  The varnish is thinner because they've removed more of the surface by buffing.  Perhaps they're also using a higher-resin formulation without any flatting agents.  They may even have switched to a phenolic-enhanced varnish, which tends to buff out better than a straight polyurethane.

You can look through the Waterlox catalog online to see how different varnishes are formulated.

The "depth" of a finish doesn't necessarily reflect actual film thickness.  The chatoyance of the wood depends as much on how the grain is stained as it does the topcoat.  In violin making, the ground layer is the basic stain, and the topcoat is an amber varnish that may or may not contain shellac, sandarac, and other resins.  Harder resins tend to be more glossy, and shellac is very transparent, giving a glass-like depth.  Shellac can also be compressed during padding, as with the French polish technique, to give a very dense and tough film with very little thickness.

In my view, there is no finer finish than padded shellac, which is why I expressed surprise at the devaluation of antique instruments.  Of course, I understand that historical accuracy is important for any restoration, but for pure aesthetics French polish can't be beat!

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Tucson1
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Howdy ,

Nice to see this thread expand into finish interest ...good fer y'all...

The annual VMAAI convention held here in Tucson each October has many workshops thru out this week long event including a finish workshop ...y'all should come if ya can ...much to be learned there ...too much to get into here in detail ..

I make my own rubbing varnish and rubbing shellac old school ...pumice is traditionally used in the ground ...the wood is not stained or colored traditionally but other filler besides pumice , with a moes hardness of 6 , is used as well ...i personally prefer gem quality aluminum oxide with a moes hardness of 9 - 9.5 for the extra hardness and gem like light play it offers ...there's more to a finish than shine ...it is important to final tone but not sure the average player would really see / hear the difference ...

Ya really can't compare a modern finish such as Gilga and others use now-a- days to old school or even to a hand rubbed finish ...but hey , it's yer fiddle so ya should do what pleases you , not someone else ...it is important that the top finish be very hard not just fer tone but to withstand the bridge feet as well ...thus my tops are of hand rubbed shellac and the rest is spirit based varnish ....many use oil based varnish because it is easyer to work with ...coloring agents is a whole 'nother ball game that figures in as well ...

French Polish does look very nice indeed but to my eye on a hundred plus year old violin it looks like a violation of the elements of the age of the fiddle , still it can become a necessary evil when wear and tear overcomes the desire to keep the original finish ....some less shine on the French polish is more to my taste ...

I can not put enough emphasis on the fact that it's yer fiddle , yer taste in what pleases you fer everything ya do with yer fiddle and or admire about other fiddles ...

It's just like Bugger King ...have it your way ...violin-1267

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EricBluegrassFiddle
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So, what you're saying is that both of you guys agree then? The shinier antiqued oil finish has been buffed out to a gloss and is therefore most likely even thinner than the Matte kinda dull satin oil finish? So, then what he said is correct, the shinier ones would probably resonate and the wood vibrate more freely?

 

Not that I'm questioning the response, I guess I was suprised cause I really would've though the other way around......thanks for educating me on this guys!

" I just keep telling myself...."It's all about becoming one with your bow"

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Tucson1
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Eric ,

No ...that is not what I'm saying at all ...

The thinnest finish is a hand rubbed finish because it has been reduced to a lesser viscosity ...I see yer going to draw yer own conclusions to fit yer agenda regardless of my input here so i'll just conclude this with a statement that tone is aquired by a number of effects , only a few of which are finish related to diaphramatic response in the top plate ...violin-1267

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EricBluegrassFiddle
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Tucson1 said
Eric ,

No ...that is not what I'm saying at all ...

The thinnest finish is a hand rubbed finish because it has been reduced to a lesser viscosity ...I see yer going to draw yer own conclusions to fit yer agenda regardless of my input here so i'll just conclude this with a statement that tone is aquired by a number of effects , only a few of which are finish related to diaphramatic response in the top plate ...violin-1267

No, I understand that overall the affect on tone is a combination of a variety of factors besides finishing but speaking in terms of "only" the 2 different kinds of finishes that Gliga uses as I've described them, the shiner antiqued oil-finish is probably going to be more conducive to the violin vibrating and resonating better?

 

That's my question...

 

Or maybe it really has little affect at all, because it's really such a diverse combination fo factors?

" I just keep telling myself...."It's all about becoming one with your bow"

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bfurman
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It's poly.  Slightly thinner poly is still poly.  It won't make a significant difference in the sound.  You are reading ad copy from the manufacturer, who will naturally say it's an improvement.

Traditional violin varnish is a composite.  There's the ground, the oil, the resin, and all kinds of other crap like honeybee propolis that people add in there to increase the voodoo mojo.  One thing is for sure, that look is hard to duplicate with any single product.  I tend to look at it like an artist's palette.

We are all prone to listening with our eyes....

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EricBluegrassFiddle
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bfurman said
It's poly.  Slightly thinner poly is still poly.  It won't make a significant difference in the sound.  You are reading ad copy from the manufacturer, who will naturally say it's an improvement.

Traditional violin varnish is a composite.  There's the ground, the oil, the resin, and all kinds of other crap like honeybee propolis that people add in there to increase the voodoo mojo.  One thing is for sure, that look is hard to duplicate with any single product.  I tend to look at it like an artist's palette.

We are all prone to listening with our eyes....

Cool, thanks for bringing me up to speed on this stuff. I theink the super shiny looks odd at least anyways, but if it doesn't affect the sound any more for more or less it's all good..

 

Thanks I was just curious

" I just keep telling myself...."It's all about becoming one with your bow"

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