Violin/violin

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Question
Recently i came across a violin at a pawn shop for 35 dollars. I have not been able to test the violin or check the brand yet, but the violin has a spot the size of a quarter of missing varnish, and stain somehow, on the scroll. The violin also needs a fingerboard and nut replacement. The main reason why this violin stuck out to me, was because of it having violin "machine heads" instead of pegs.
Based on what i have said, what would be the repair cost of the violin, and what should i look for before i purchase it.
Thank you very much,
Corey

Answer
Hi Corey

Obviously without seeing the instrument I am at a bit of a disadvantage and there could certainly be addition needs. A new fingerboard and nut will be in the $250-500 range.  The range is that different stores and regions charge different amounts, it may be even higher in places like New York City. With a new fingerboard a new bridge will be needed, so expect $50-150. The touch-up to the scroll could be very reasonable or run into the hundreds.

If you think you want to change the gears back to pegs, that could be all over the place in price depending on why the gears were originally installed. Some instruments from around 1900 had them installed when new, others had them installed because the scroll cracked off and this provided a structurally better solution to pegs. On some occasions, these gears were installed because the player could not use the pegs for some reason, either from difficulty with gripping the pegs properly or because they were unable to have them properly maintained to fit and turn smoothly.  This often happened when the instrument was being used in a region that was extremely far from a decent repair shop. So it could cost $100 to well over a thousand. Two other issue that I have seen with some of the violins that have had geared pegs, 1)the plastic parts on the pegs (the heads) may now be 100+ years old and are very brittle. 2) often the instruments that have these gears are the lower grade instruments and some of the internal structure of the instrument - the blocks, linings and bass bar, are sometimes omitted or of poor quality. Thus adding even more to the repair cost.

It is really difficult to tell you what to look for.  Obviously look to see if the scroll or for that matter any other place on the instrument has suffered any cracks. You never know if they were properly repaired, especially when buying through a place like a pawn shop.

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David Lashof

Expertise

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.)

Experience

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.

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

Education/Credentials
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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