Violin/fingerboard shaping


QUESTION: Hi David,   I've just bought (by mail) a Neuner & Hornsteiner 1927 violin. There are some details that aren't quite right with it (though the neck angles are good -- which was a great relief) and a bit of advice about how (or if) to put them right would be very valuable to me. In order of importance:  1. the overstand is equally 6 mm (or 5 mm -- depending on where it is read) on the e and g string sides; should I shape the fingerboard lower on the e string side? It needs changing anyway  -- it's a disaster.  2.  the bridge (not very good quality but in good shape) has a very large heart. Could you say what sound properties this associates with?  3. The cork of the chin rest is stuck fast. Is there something that might help dissolve the seal?  I've no clue whether the varnish is oil or spirit, but you might -- if it really is an N & H. The scroll was very startlingly large. I'm quite happy with the violin. It's much prettier than the photos, and desppite nut/fingerborad/bridge/strings(ancient and fractured)troubles has good volume and a sound I like (except NO high g string). Sound post fits well -- thick one (set at 2 mm down and 1 mm in). Do you think it might really actually be an N&H as the label states? Thank you,  karen.

ANSWER: Hi Karen
N&H instruments are almost always spirit varnished especially the ones after 1900.  Yours is fairly late and is considered in the more commercial of quality. I would leave the fingerboard alone except for the proper width and length curve. If anything the gluing surface of the fingerboard to the neck should be slightly lower on the E side, but in general I wouldn't bother.  It is just more important to have the fingerboard shaped properly. A large heart in the bridge usually means that the bottom of it has been enlarged and will weaken the bridge and also the sound. If the top of the heart is raised, the "D" string especially will get brighter. As I said above, probably the varnish is spirit since it is such a modern N&H. I usually just used a sharp gouge to carefully cut away the stuck cork, when it is down to a sliver, often times just some water will take care of the rest. If the instrument got hot, the cork could have melted into the spirit varnish and some of the varnish will need to be removed to get the cork off and then touched up again. Without seeing the instrument, it is impossible to say with the information provided if it is or isn't a N&H violin but given the date, I doubt someone would try to pass off another instrument with that date.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Thank you: it helps a lot.

I've always admired the pre 1900 N&Hs but hey are always at least $2,500. and because of a reputable seller's recent quick and dirty appearance on ebay (... they own my favourite N&H), I've so lost faith in reputations. This one cost me $710. on ebay, at least I risked less money. I thought it might stop me longing for the other one

I really value you answer about the bridge. I am starved for any little bridge tips. I keep them together in a file AND this is a really nice detailed one.

I'm sure I've seen your name on Violinist or Maestronet. If you get the chance, please thank Michael Darnton for me. His gift of the book that he is working on (re: violin making and repair) is a wonderful and amazing one.  How would I shape a fingerboard without it.

I also imagined that the label might be real and for the same reason but you guys are always saying to distrust labels so I thought I'd check.

Would it be all right if I asked a question as often as once a month. Is that too much?  They will always be of the set-up/repair type.

Again, thank you for your help. That you do this is ALSO wonderful and amazing.


I am also working on a book on making and setup. I have a draft of my bridge section if you would like to see it. If so, send me an email at and I can send either a word or pdf version. I am trying to write this book from the point of view of a novice reading it so I would be grateful for any feedback.

Its been a real long time since I did anything on Violinist or Maestronet as Violin Makers can tend to be very hard nosed in their opinions and I don't do this for that aggravation but for the fun of helping people. We all have a point of view, it doesn't make it wrong or right so you may have seen me as a regular on Yahoo Answers.  Feel free to ask me a question any time either directly through the above email address or through AE.


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David Lashof


I can answer questions on violin, viola, cello and bass making, repair and maintenance as well as supply general violin value ranges and information on instrument makers’ assuming the instrument's as labeled. I don't give values for modern makers as many of these modern makers are yet unknown to me. I can only give you feedback based on what information you give me, and no authority on the instrument can know every maker's work that ever lived. I have access to many books on makers and auction prices on over 25,000 makers, as well as having 36 years of experience with selling and appraising violins. Without having the instrument in hand, any estimate over the internet is just a guess as the label inside an instrument is more often wrong than right, so just having that information is not very useful. Pictures can sometimes be helpful but only so much, as the "feel" of the instrument along with small clues in workmanship and varnish cannot be seen in pictures. Any pictures should be high quality close-ups of the top and back. Additional photos of the front and treble side of the neck are also useful. It is always best to have an instrument seen in person at a violin shop that does appraisals. I can also provide advice on bows, rosin, strings and other string instrument accessories. As I am now retired, I have no bias towards selling anything; I only wish to share my knowledge and experience by providing information for those that may be getting confused by misinformation, misdirection or conflicting statements. (While I have seen many thousands of instruments and have performed numerous appraisals; if I have not evaluated an instrument in person, any information I set forth in an opinion is just that, an opinion based solely on what you have provided. Thusly, no financial decision should be based on that opinion, but rather, further investigation should be performed by having the instrument examined in person.)


I am a retired violin maker and repairman with 35 years experience having worked in Chicago and Maryland at 5 different violin shops and music stores including the first violin repairman at William Harris Lee in Chicago, the head repairman at Weavers Violins in Maryland, and in my own shop of 25 years. I have made 160 instruments and have restored countless professional level and student grade instruments. I am an accomplished violinist having performed with semi-professional as well as amateur groups although I haven't played for years and mostly stay away from questions about playing. I have taught violin making and restoration to about 20 students; three of which have gone on professionally and now have their own shops. I know violins from playing, selling, repairing, making and teaching.

Violin Society of America (VSA). American String Teachers Association (ASTA)

I graduated from the prestigious 4 year Chicago School of Violin Making in 1981 under Master Violin Maker Tschu Ho Lee. I also studied with violin maker Willis M. Gault in Washington DC from 1973-75, who was the former owner of the oldest known example of an instrument from the modern violin family, an Andreas Amati Viola.

Awards and Honors
2008 Chester Petranek Award for service to the music community. ASTA award for service. Top All Expert in Violin for 2014 and 2015.

Past/Present Clients
I have worked with many professional musicians from DC area Symphonies as well as players from all over the US. Here are just a few, Leonard Slatkin - Former conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra. Doris Gazda - Nationally renowned string specialist and composer. Bernard Greenhouse, Tanya Anisimova - Internationally renowned Solo Cellists. Jody Gatwood, Mark Pfannschmidt, Lori Barnet, Doug Dubé, Judy Silverman - National Philharmonic Orchestra. Robert Blatt, David Hardy, Glen Garlick - National Symphony Orchestra. Eddie Stubbs, Brendan Mulvahill, Nate Leath - Professional Fiddle Players. David Basche, Pat Braunlich, John Knudson, Romano Solano, Ed Ferris, Fred Lieder - freelance musicians.

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