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Violin/Help with an old violin



I know this is probably a long-shot, but thought I'd try it anyway.  I have an old violin that belonged to my grandfather that I'm trying to identify.  There are no maker's marks on the instrument.  You can see the glue where (we're assuming) a lable was affixed inside the violin but of course, that lable is gone.  My father said that he was told that it was purchased from a neighbor in 1920.  Is there anything that you can see in the photos (and I have more pictures of sides, bottom and bridge that I can send) that would help you identify a maker, area of manufacture, time period it was made, etc.?

Also, I'm the caretaker of this instrument for my brother but I know nothing about how to care for musical instruments.  Can you give advice on how it should be cared for (bees wax??) or could you direct me to a website that gives instructions for care of old instruments?  ANY information that you are able to provide would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks!

Hi Jeff,

Thank you for your question.  Well, I can't see much in these pictures, thought it looks like nice quality wood.  To make any sort of guess as to the quality of construction, though, I'd have to have larger pics / closeups.  Even then, it really would be best to take it to someone who could look at it in person.  It's very difficult to tell much from even good pictures.

As for instrument care . . .  Please put away the bee's wax! :)  A violin does not need much in the way of care.  Cleaners, polishes, etc. are often more harmful than helpful.  Keep the violin where you live - don't store in the attic or basement.  Don't store it by the heater or in direct sunlight.  Try to keep the humidity in the room between 40% and 60%.  If the room humidity drops below 40%, purchase and use a case humidifier or a 'Dampit' to keep the wood of the violin from drying out.  

If it is being played regularly, you'll want to check the bridge periodically to make sure it remains straight (perpendicular to the front of the violin), to prevent warping or breaking the bridge.  You'll also need to replace the strings and the bow hair periodically (roughly every 6-12 months).  The bow hair should be rosined before each use and loosened when not being played.  After playing, it is wise to use a clean, dry, cotton cloth to 1)gently brush the rosin from the strings and front of the violin, 2)gently wipe the rosin from the bow stick (not the hair), and 3)wipe the sweat off the strings and fingerboard.  The pegs and fine tuners will also periodically need to be lubricated.

Also, if it hasn't been seen for a while, you should consider having it checked by a professional for open seams, cracks, post tension and placement, and other potential issues.  That's particularly true if it has been in storage for a while.  At the same time, you could ask for an acoustical adjustment to see that it is setup correctly, and an appraisal of its value.

Hope that's helpful.  Good luck with it!

Best Regards,
Jim Fisher  


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James S. Fisher


Please Note: For an accurate appraisal of your instrument's value or history, I must advise you to take it to a local luthier or string shop for an evaluation. It's really not possible to do this with any accuracy via email.

However, I am happy to answer other questions about violins, bows, violin playing, and violin/bow repair. I can also talk with you about what bows, rosin, strings, cases, shoulder rests, etc. might work best for you and your particular instrument. (There are some great new products on the market.) I've taught violin and fiddle playing for the past 18 years and will answer questions about playing and technique.


I've been studying the violin for over thirty years. I started teaching in 1996. In addition to my training at Lebanon Valley College and at the Violin Institute, I handle violins, bows, and customer questions of all sorts on a daily basis in my shop - J.S. Fisher Violins,


I hold a Bachelor of Music degree from Lebanon Valley College, as well as certificates in violin repair, violin maintenance, and bow rehairing from the Violin Institute at the University of New Hampshire.

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