Technical Notes

Data & Measurements

A caliper was used for most measurements. Plate thickness was taken with a Hacklinger gauge in the soundpost/bridge area. Violins were weighted fully mounted, without chinrests, with two fine tuners as seen on the pictures, in an environment of about 40% humidity. Italics in the label transcriptions show handwritten text. Under "restoration" only luthiers who did structural work are mentioned, such as opening the instrument, repairing cracks, changing the bassbar, modifying the neck, etc.


Description

Since photographs are detailed, I try not to state the obvious (i.e. a two-piece back). I trust the viewers to see for themselves the qualities of the instrument featured. What's interesting to me is the artistic coherence of the violin. What did the maker have in mind? Do I feel beauty? I haven't formally studied violinmaking and therefore don't over-analyze execution details such as corners, edges or purfling. Here you won't find technical information such as which tools were used, the species of wood for purfling or blocks, or whether the varnish is spirit- or oil-based. This said, the text does point out details that are unusual or specific to that maker.


Maker / History

The information compiled here comes from books, magazines, and the Web — mainly the sources listed in the bibliography section. I haven't traveled to unveil new documents or done extensive historical research.


Acquisition

The violin world has a long history of secrecy about provenance and price. Those taboos are thankfully receding, especially in the USA where data sharing is encouraged. Well, I won't tell you how much I paid for most instruments — the seller deserves privacy — but am still making a transparency effort. Let's hope the low prices revealed here will encourage violinists to look into lesser-known makers.
The process of choosing a violin is interesting. Don't we fall in love with violins as we do with people? But to start with, where do you search for a new partner, what do you look for, and how do you make the decision? And then, years later, how do you look back at the purchase?


Tone

As a violinist, tone is what matters most to me. I find it hard to believe that beautiful, excellent books describe the best instruments ever made in detail — forms, materials, craftsmanship, provenance, value, etc. — without ever mentioning sound! As much as practically feasible, I've played each violin extensively (some of them for decades) in different concert situations and with different setups. And I keep updating this website, as violins evolve over time — the quest for the optimum setup is never-ending. Of course, tone being subjective, these descriptions are only my impressions, and my colleagues'.


Playability

Violins are made to be played. Due to construction, size, proportions, wood, setup, etc., and some mysterious factors, some are easier to play than others. This is essential to the violinist because a lot of the feel comes from the sense of touch, not from hearing. Again, these musings are only my perceptions.


Strings

Strings are paramount in violin playing. It is the strings that the violinist plays, the violin acting merely as sounding box. Finding the right strings for an instrument is a long trial-and-error process, and depends substantially on the stiffness of the top, the shape of the bridge, and other variables. When you realize that a violin needs about two weeks to adapt to the tension of new strings, it gets very time consuming — not to mention expensive. Many players feel frustrated about the lack of information from manufacturers. According to the latter, every brand and make has all the qualities... Some don't even publish string-tension data. So, I'm sure violinists will be interested in this section.


Bibliography

In addition to the classic reference books, I've included sources with photos of instruments (signaled by the small camera logo), and some webpages to look at right away. I've tried to keep to relevant information. Websites in foreign languages are translated with Google Translate.



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