Wednesday, March 23, 2016

1900ish Stainer Violin

After several months of watching low-priced violins on ebay I finally found this beautiful 100ish-year-old German-made violin! I've seen similar fiddles slip through the proverbial cracks on ebay many times before (attracting little attention and few bids), but this one looked particularly nice. The dramatically sloped top and bottom suggest that real effort and time were put into this instrument. I bid a maximum of about $165 and won it for $108!

(These three images are from the original ebay listing.)

When it arrived I was disappointed to discover that the fingerboard had cracked in transit! The seller took the bridge down for shipping, leaving the fingerboard vulnerable. He also accidentally missed the insurance option when shipping but offered me $60. I accepted the partial refund and decided to replace the fingerboard myself at the Appalachian Artisan Center luthiery where I apprentice.

I removed the old one and discovered that it wasn't the original and not even ebony, but a cheap replacement. It was a low quality repair job-- it was not well matched to the shape of the neck, was not well glued and was made of ebonized pearwood.

Doug Naselroad, the master luthier at the shop graciously supplied me with a fingerboard blank. It took three or four hours for me to sand and shape it... But hey, it was my first time! And ebony is some hard stuff!

We made up some hide glue, heated the neck and the fingerboard with a hair dryer, and then clamped it to cool and dry.

Then the neck and fingerboard needed to be sanded down to create a smooth junction where they meet. I also sanded away some of the neck joint around the body where it showed on the sides of the fingerboard.

After some nice 600-grit sandpapering, the back and sides of the neck really do feel smooth like silk. And some linseed oil helped blend the appearance of the new with the old.

The original bridge worked fine, but Matt over at WMMT gave me a bunch of old fiddle spare and junk parts and I decided to try some lower bridges. One made the D, A and E strings so much easier to play ...but the G buzzed a bit. I copied its contour onto a vintage Dresden bridge blank, but kept the G a little higher. After an hour of careful shaping, cutting and measuring I brought the strings up to tension and one of the bridge's feet snapped off, startlingly! ;( ;(

I was able to cut down the Teller bridge which came on the violin to a similar shape and it plays marvelously!

This chin rest needed some serious work (bending, sanding, gluing), and it had no cork to keep it from scratching the fiddle. I used two bits of leather with good results.

I found this old wood hardshell case at a thrift store in Hazard. I haggled to $15 for it and a vintage ukulele case!

Some piece was missing which secured the bow on one side, so I cut and sanded a scrap of wood to serve this purpose. I'll have to stain it tomorrow since Kate and Doug have both suggested it!

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