Darnton Violins Blog

My Observations (Large and Small) About Violin Making and Restoration

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Prime Choice

Modern makers think they need the very best wood, with particular grain widths, specific gravity, ideal species, from the right side of the mountain cut at the right time by the right person saying the right incantations. The old Italian makers weren’t so fussy. This ¾-size cello is from around 1780, and it sounds great. Go figure.

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I have quite a few shots of varnish texture in my collection. This very attractive example is on a Gand & Bernardel violin from the 1860s. Sometimes texture only shows in protected or low spots, like the location above. This particular violin had it all over–here’s another shot:

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Printed Antiquing

I’ve seen maple curls that were painted on, but how about some stamped-on antiquing?

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Good News

A violin, bought as a fake, with this obviously fraudulent label. The violin looks like it’s from the same town that the label indicates, but it certainly isn’t as old as the label says: Notice how the label isn’t glued in all that well, though. It’s in the wrong place, near the center of the back, looks hastily slapped on,…

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grad chopper

Pinpricks and Dimples

There’s a tool in Stradivari’s collection of tools that’s designed to prick depth marks to be used in the graduation of the plates. It looks somewhat like the sketch above, which is a drawing of the device I made for use in my own shop. It is used to punch holes to a depth that leaves unpunched the desired graduation…

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Varnish Pinholes

Old violins often have pinholes in the varnish. No one knows exactly how they got there, but they imply some things about how makers 300 years ago varnished, and what was important to them (pinholes obviously didn’t bother them much). This probably wouldn’t happen if the wood under the varnish was too well sealed, except we can see that sealer…

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Finger Painting

The instrument head in this photo is a Peregrino di Zanetto viola (read about this instrument and maker at the link) that was made around the middle of the 1500s. The varnish appears to be original, and it also appears to have been applied with fingertips, not with brushes, as you can see by the fingerprints of color all over…

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