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Jason Thomas

My First Violin Refinishing Project Done at Last. Nash is complete!

September 4, 2006 at 7:06 PM

I finally finished the re-varnish job on "Nash" my 100 year old JB Clopton Violin, owned orginally by Marshall JF Nash of Bastrop Texas, whom I received by the kind goodness of his grandaughter Gloria.

To make a long story short: I purchased a violin from Violins etc... in Austin 2 years ago, my first violin. The Violin was made in Elgin, Texas by a little known American Maker JB Clopton. The violin is very unique in that is yellow in color and in the russian style. We named him "Jed" (as in Clampet), we name all our violins. Jed is number 22 of Mr. Cloptons Violins. Here is a picture:


I put out feelers to see if anyone on the web had heard of this maker and I was contacted by "Gloria" (other info left out for her privacy). Who told me she had a violin made by Clopton that was her grandfather's. JF Nash was the town Marshall of Bastrop, played in the Bastrop Orchestra, owned a stage coach company and was in the McDade gun fight.

Gloria was interested in transfering the violin to someone who would use it and finding it a good home. However, she was unwilling to ship it for fear for damage. She sent me some pictures of the violin which I digitized for her to send other potential buyers. I kept a dialog with her for about a year. She lives many hours away from Austin and I was unwilling to drive out to her. She was kind enough to share the history of your grandfather with me and point me to many sites to learn a bit of Texas and Bastrop history.

About a year after our initial talks, Gloria made here way to Bastrop and agreed to meet me and my wife for lunch. We had a nice lunch and she brought the violin with her. I looked at it and refered her to Brian Duckworth ( to see what it would take to restore it. Gloria left the violin with Brian for me.

Thus by the grace of Gloria, now I have two pieces with real character and age, but also cool history associated with them that I can document. Gloria was kind enough to make a scrap book for me with all kinds of photos of her Grandfatehr to keep with the violin.

When I got "Nash" as my girls named him. He was in need of repair. There was no nut, no saddle, sound post was laying down and the finger board was on crooked. Nash is #20 of Mr. Cloptons Violins.

Brian was able to help me get the violin in playing condition. However, the varnish was in horrible condition, due to storage and some sort of solvent that appears to have spilled on it. A lot of bare wood was exposed(probably someone tried to clean it up with alcohol).

Here is the before picture:


After, weeks of research and advice from net friends and some e-mail with Gloria, I decided to re-varnish "Nash" and restore him to his due glory.

My goals were:

1. Restore the Varnish on the violin to what it would have looked like with out the alcohol incidents. Ie... Not new, bring it to a state as Marshall Nash might have left it.

2. Match the color of the "Jed" as both "Jed" & "Nash" appeared to have the same varnish. I expected some color difference, because "Jed" seems to be made of Pine on the top instead of Spruce, but wanted to get in the general vincinity of a matchin color. "Jed" also appears to have a shiny coat of shellac on him that I did not intend to duplicate.

3. Make the violin playable. I have a deal with my girls that, if they are still studying violin by the time they graduate highschool that for their highschool graduation they can pick a violin off my wall as a present.

Macalah my 7 year old has her eye on "Nash". She loves two things, Charlie Daniels and Aslan from the Lion the Witch & the Wardrobe. The idea that "Nash" was the violin of a US Marshall and Stage Coach Driver (read REAL COWBOY), tickles her to death.

Yes, I have more violins than any human should. :)

The results see for yourself:


Here are some side by side comparasons Jed is on the left, Nash on the right:







I'd welcome any comments or thoughts on the project and advice if I ever try this again:

Here are some big pictures if you want more visual detail:

Nash After:


Jed & Nash:


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