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Cheap Violins or VSO's
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Honorary advisor

August 9, 2013 - 8:46 am
Member Since: January 18, 2012
Forum Posts: 347
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I have notice on some (but not all)  cheap violins the finish on the wood looks more like glossy paint. On the more expensive violins that are oil rubbed or hand varnished the finish is usually not very glossy and the wood looks very natural... much as in its natural state.  But on some of the cheap ones it looks like paint giving them almost a plastic appearance. I would assume that some are painted and not varnished. Just as some violins don;t use ebony on the fingerboard but use a cheaper softer type of wood and they apply black paint. Am I correct on this ?

Also, I have noticed on some really cheap violins the string spacing is not correct. There is more gap between some strings than others. I could imagine this is due to improperly carve and incorrectly notched bridge. But might also the nut at the top of the fingerboard be improperly carved, shaped, and notched ? I'd imagine a bad bridge can be corrected but the nut is a bit more tricky, first to remove the old one then carve an new one properly.  I try carving a nut for a violin once but it comes out close but not just tight. Has anyone else found this true ?

Fort Lauderdale
August 9, 2013 - 11:33 am
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 14466

Stannislaus, The reason that the nuts are improperly spaced is that the person doing the notches did a fast and or sloppy job. The nut is small and it's easy for the knife to wander off to the side with Ebony. Some use needle files and they can slide as well.

It's a fairly easy task to fix the spacing by filling the grooves with super bond glue. After each drop of super glue spray an accelerator and repeat until the grooves are completely filled then you smooth the surface and mark the new positions with a white pencil and proceed to make the correct grooves. I've seen the luthier do it on a few occasions. Afterwards, you cannot see that it has been done.

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

Honorary advisor

August 9, 2013 - 3:48 pm
Member Since: January 18, 2012
Forum Posts: 347
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Hah, I just went over  my writing above and yes, I sound like I might be Stannislaus... Maybe the Stannislaus part of me comes out when  I am tired :)  

Interesting suggestion. I like the idea of filling in the grooves and then cutting new grooves on the original nut. It is of course a lot easier than softening the hide glue, removing the old one, carving a whole new nut from a blank, and then mixing a fresh batch of hide glue and attaching it. And then the new one still has to be notched anyway.  I will keep your suggestion in mind. Actually I am trying to fix up my old violine that I learned on as a child. I successfully re-attached the fingerboard with hide glue.  But I lost the original nut and now I have to carve a new one from a partially shaped blank... The fill in and re-groove method will be handy if I should make a mistake when I cut the grooves.  I will also have to cut, shape, and set a new sound post (I have the stock material and a sound post setting tool) and I will have to carve new bridge for it as well as add on a new tail piece and strings.  Eventually I might have to sand and refinish the top of the body to get rid of the dents, nicks and scratches that accumulated over the years. I would like to get it working again because I think it would be cool to show up to rehearsal one night with the original violin I played as a child.  I'll probably be posting more questions, pictures, etc. as I go about the repairs. The learning part of making the repais will also be interesting.


August 9, 2013 - 5:25 pm
Member Since: May 4, 2012
Forum Posts: 2379
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The inexpensive violins I've seen, the nut was always high enough that one could have trimmed it down quite a bit before having to replace it. 

Before trying to soften hide glue to take off a nut, try putting a dowel against it from the neck side and giving the dowel a light tap with a hammer.  Nuts are not usually held on with a lot of glue on an instrument, since they don't need to be.  The pressure of the strings on it does a lot to hold the nut in place.

From the few I have seen, the problem with severely inexpensive violins is that they are very inconsistent in workmanship and material quality.  While there are likely some that are quite good, there are certainly some that are pretty awful and which one you'll get when ordering is going to be a crapshoot.

On the Mendini MV300 that I had, the fingerboard was made of some light coloured wood.  It seemed to be hard enough to make a decent fingerboard, but I'm not keen on black paint.  Light coloured wood (often hard maple) has been and still is sometimes used for fingerboards.  Nothing technically wrong with it, it can work.  It will just need replaced more often.  Ebony doesn't last forever either, though, and when it gets grooved from the strings eventually it will need planed and when there isn't enough left for planing, it will need to be replaced.   

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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