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Instruments: How much does it cost to repair an old violin that hasn't been played in a long time?

From Nathan Ashe
Posted May 24, 2006 at 03:48 AM

Hi everybody,
I've been reading this forum for a little while now and its very nice, but i have a question. I have recently inherited a violin that was my great grandfathers, it is old but as far as i can tell nice. So my question is, how much do people estimate it may cost (i don't need any specific numbers, just what you may think) and is it worth it to get it repaired (as in how far could the repair go? would it be better to not repair it and get a new violin? etc.). Now unfortunatly i can't post the pictures that i took of it, i know this is asking alot but if anyone can help i'll email them or if anyone knows a website that i can post 25Megabyte pictures that would be greatly appriciated. Thanks everyone.

From Kevin Huang
Posted on May 24, 2006 at 03:50 AM
Take it to a luthier.

Even if you posted pictures, your violin still needs to be handled by a professional.

From Michael Richwine
Posted on May 24, 2006 at 01:30 PM
The software that came with your camera should allow you to resize your pictures to a more manageable file size, say 50 or 100k. Save them as JPG, medium quality. Nobody's going to get much use from a file that size on a computer, and I think it's way too big for an attachment.

You need two pieces of information: "What would the violin be worth in playing condition?" and "How much would it cost to get it into playing condition?"

If you can take it to a couple of violin dealers, most of the ones I know will give quick, casual evaluations
- not formal appraisals - for free. They'll usually give you an idea af an instrument's age, country of origin, and very approximate value, or at least the quality level. (Don't be surprised if opinions differ.) You need to be sure whether they are quoting retail, or fair market value. Fair market is what a violin might go for at auction or in a private sale.

Any repair shop that does a fair volume in violin repair can give you an estimate as to what it would cost to get it into playing condition. Often the violin dealers do their own work and can provide you with a repair estimate as well as an evaluation.

I wouldn't give too much credence to an evaluation from the shop that would be doing the repair work. Conflict of interest warps objectivity.

I work on violins a bit, and used to buy and sell them as an adjunct to my main business. If you can get your pix down to a manageable size, and Email them to me, I MAY be able to tell you whether it's even worth pursuing. Ideally, I would need good straight-on shots of the front and back, a side view, plus a decent close - up of the scroll from the side, and a close-up that shows a one of the sound holes and a corner.

In the meantime you could start by getting a little inspection mirror, like a dentist's mirror and a small flashlight. Look inside the violin and see whether it has blocks in the corners where the C bout (the cutaway part) meets the upper and lower ribs, and whether the bass bar (long bar running the length of the violin) is made of a separate piece of wood glued in place, or whether it is carved in.

No corner blocks + carved bass bar = very cheap violin. Might be playable, but never worth much.

From Jeffrey Holmes
Posted on May 24, 2006 at 03:06 PM
"I wouldn't give too much credence to an evaluation from the shop that would be doing the repair work. Conflict of interest warps objectivity."

I'm sure this may happen in some shops (unfortunately), but frankly, most decent repair/restoration persons I know are turning away business at this point... choosing to support those who are already clients and/or selecting more interesting jobs on better instruments. Also, a good appraiser/restorer will evalutae first and estimate second. If you're not familiar with the shop, passing through the door with your personal BS meter on should help avoid pitfalls. Referrals are usually handy as well.

Now then, that would bring up what the definition of decent is.... which I'll refrain from expanding on a public forum. :-)


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