Burgess Violin(s) Wanted

March 6, 2015 at 12:29 AM · Need some fiddles in a hurry, looking for a David Burgess violin or two to buy, and thought maybe someone in the player community might have heard of something.

Does anyone know of any for sale?


Replies (48)

March 6, 2015 at 12:00 PM · Seize thy sawsall and get thee to the lutherie! [or whatever you call that workshop)...

March 6, 2015 at 01:04 PM · Elise, I'd be all in favour of a lutherie, though I'd prefer a calvinie (as in John, rather than Melvin - I think the most prepossessing of the Ox Phos lot were Britton Chance and Peter Mitchell, with Jennifer Moyle of course. I remember the former going well out of his way to visit the latter in Cornwall as early as the mid '60s, whereas Calvin and Arnon were noted for their mutual hatred).

March 6, 2015 at 08:53 PM · David, what's up? Did an orchestra order a full set?

March 6, 2015 at 10:56 PM · Tis a bit odd - I mean you would have to buy them back for more than you sold them for!

Maybe this is why luthiers are not generally millionaires...

March 7, 2015 at 12:43 AM · Elise wrote:

"Tis a bit odd - I mean you would have to buy them back for more than you sold them for!"

Elise, I was hoping to find a violin which was already for sale, as opposed spending what it would take to buy from someone who doesn't want to sell. ;-)

Not that I haven't spent more to buy one of my instruments than what the owner paid.

It's nice if I can get a little margin though to help cover expenses. Right now, for instance, one of the reasons I'm looking is for a player in Korea who won't wait several years for a commission. This might involve a few rounds of shipping back and forth, or a trip there, and it would be nice to at least break even.

March 7, 2015 at 04:45 AM · You can pop out one of those puppies in a few weeks. Just need a bunch o' Chinese parts and some boat varnish. LOL

March 7, 2015 at 12:13 PM · This could easily be a wonderful study for an economist trying to understand market forces, when supply goes down and demand goes up. Presumably, now that the market knows that the supply is going down, prices will rise. We simply need to index the prices of a Burgess violin before and after the declaration of declining production. In many ways, this is a cool study, since the maker is still among the living. In the art world, something most tragic must occur for prices to rise momentously.

PhD dissertation anyone? I think the empirics will be available and are at the moment dynamic. You could even test the hypothesis by watching prices fluctuate when a cache of Burgess violins is discovered in someone's storeroom.

March 9, 2015 at 04:03 PM · Eric's right. After all, companies buy back their stock sometimes too.

March 10, 2015 at 11:09 AM · Paul wrote:

"You can pop out one of those puppies in a few weeks. Just need a bunch o' Chinese parts and some boat varnish. LOL"

Paul, I once had a guy visit my shop, saying that he was interested in violins. He looked around for a while at things in various stages of construction, and finally said,

"You're stupid to do all this work."

Somewhat surprised and shocked, I asked, "What do you mean?"

He responded, "We can make your violins for you at for a very attractive price". It turned out that he was a representative for some kind of instrument-making outfit in China.

Do some "makers" work this way? Probably, but I don't really know for sure.

March 10, 2015 at 07:09 PM · David, wow that's amazing. It's times like those that make one wish one had security cameras rolling on the premises! That would make one hell of a youtube video.

March 10, 2015 at 08:01 PM · doesn`t the `one family, one child,` policy cover this. Or am I confusing it with women holding up the sky?


March 12, 2015 at 11:06 AM · Tell'em to give up and make do with a Strad!

March 13, 2015 at 12:45 PM · That's an interesting story, David. I'm sure there are some people that would take advantage of that -- if only for parts to be assembled later. Hopefully they would also openly disclose this to their customers -- but I'm guessing not!

March 13, 2015 at 01:59 PM · Douglas and David B. This practice is in no way hidden. I have seen a shop where you can pick your instrument in the white and they will finish it.

I am in no way associated with the "Old World Trading Company" and this is not an endorsement. I am merely pointing out that there is an open trade in selling pre-made instruments.

This is a link to Old World Trading Company.

If memory serves me correctly, as unlikely as that is, the price has gone up since I first encountered this vendor / Luthier.

March 14, 2015 at 02:57 AM · How do you pick out a violin from a selection of unvarnished instruments?

"I'll take the Burgess in electric blue, please."

"Okay, that'll be $25k. Do you want fries with that?"

March 14, 2015 at 03:58 AM · Greetings,

If David`s violins are going to be sold `in the white` then he had better be sponsored by a toothpaste company. They could call it Burgess and MacClean. (Bit of dark English humor that shows my age)

if you ask a zen master about religion they will talk about the weather. If you ask them about the weather they will talk about religion.

I have always admired David`s patience almost as much as his violins.



March 14, 2015 at 11:06 AM · John wrote:

"Tell'em to give up and make do with a Strad!"

LOL, it does appear that it's easier to find Strads for sale.


So far, I have been offered one violin as a result of this thread, on the condition that I make another to replace it. That carries some risk though, because the owner is happy with the sound of the one they have, and I can't make exactly the same sound every time. It also doesn't really help with my backlog. But it was a wonderful offer, from someone who I think was bending over backward just to try to help me out. Much appreciated.

March 14, 2015 at 10:04 PM · Don't make the same sound. Make a better sound. :)

March 15, 2015 at 12:12 AM · Kevin, unfortunately, what is "better sound" to one person isn't always to another. There's a fairly narrow range of sound and playability characteristics which will be generally considered to fall into the "good" category by most high-level professional players, but this narrow range can also be subdivided into much smaller increments, depending on playing style, the instruments they're accustomed to playing, and personal taste.

March 15, 2015 at 12:28 AM · How about take the violin and loan it to the person who needs one desperately and then make a new one. If the person who responds to your call likes your new violin, then everyone is happy. Otherwise give the new violin to the desperate soul and get the original back. Everyone is happy again.

March 15, 2015 at 12:57 AM · David, we joked about using Chinese parts, but what about a skilled partner to help you do the work? Is that considered "workshop", presumably you would supervise and apply your own hands to the most critical bits. I realize everything is important in a handmade violin, but carving necks and scrolls cannot be the same as grading the top.

March 15, 2015 at 01:05 AM · Greetings,

of course David has his own response to this so peas scheme me.

However, if I was buying an instrument of is quality (at this price ) I would demand that it all be made by David. Perhaps the scroll does not make so much difference but somehow there is soepmethimg not quite kosha about as canvas where an apprentice has filled in the even numbers as far as violins are concerned.

The neck, I am not so sure. I never questioned this much for most of my life but anew years back a luthier in Osaka explained to me about differnt shapes , mtheir purported names (not sure that is general) and re shaped the neck so it was much better for my hand . If this was going to be the case it is something I would prefer to discuss with the maker.



I love the ipad ism so please note the food reference is actually please excuse me.....

March 15, 2015 at 08:43 PM · Sure, I understand that Buri but if the sound is the same and the appearance indistinguishable except to an expert then maybe someone would take such an instrument if it meant a shorter wait or a lower price. Maybe David doesnt want to do that, but other makers might.

Speaking of scrolls, would a violin be easier to hold up without any scroll whatsoever? Not all that much weight, but it's farthest from the fulcrum, and the real issue is torque, not weight.

March 15, 2015 at 08:45 PM · It actually doesn't take David that long to carve a neck with scroll in the overall scheme of things.

March 15, 2015 at 09:00 PM · But theres lots of tasks that are time consuming and they must add up, no?

March 15, 2015 at 11:38 PM · Greetings,

telling an artist not to do time consuming things.......?!

And what is one going to do in that free time? Play TV games is one option I suppose.;)

But you may be onto some thing re the scroll. There are so many useful things one could clip on the end. An I phone for texting during Wagner. A light for working in the pit. A picture of Rachel Welch in Journey to the Center of he Earth. A mini dart board. A mirror to check out the chicks during Wagner.

Sorry, too much coffee,

I'm going to scroll off,


March 16, 2015 at 01:36 AM · What he does with the extra time is make more great sounding violins than he could working alone, or he could engage in R&D leading to even better violins than he can make now.

March 16, 2015 at 03:30 AM · so the choice is between Taylorism and nerdism?;)

March 16, 2015 at 08:18 AM · Paul, I don't anticipate having assistants in the future. This is partly because the regulation and paperwork burden associated with having an employee has gotten so high. It looks to me like I'd be trading higher involvement in making, for higher involvement in paperwork and regulatory matters.

I'm much more fond of making than I am of paperwork. I guess that might have something to do with why I became a fiddlemaker, rather than an accountant. LOL

There's supposed to be some kind of a "break even" point when it comes to the number of employees. The record keeping and regulatory burden takes a huge jump when you hire your first employee, but then it doesn't change much when you add more. Last I heard, this break even point was around two employees, depending on the type of business. I'm quite sure that there's not enough of the making work that I'd feel comfortable handing off to other people, to keep two employees busy. Not even one full-time employee.

Another local shop and I once talked about sharing an employee. We even had someone picked out who was eager to come. But this person didn't have the papers needed to legally work in the US, and obtaining these is yet another regulatory nightmare for tiny businesses like ours.

March 16, 2015 at 01:17 PM · If I were to start a violin shop, I would get a high quality CNC first than hiring assistants.

March 16, 2015 at 05:01 PM · Kevin,

If the technology had been there, you could have had van Gogh draw The Starry Night in computer software, and print it out via high quality printers.

You might end up and end product analogous to what you're suggesting fine violin makers do with a CNC machine.

March 16, 2015 at 05:38 PM · Douglas, it's interesting comment that you make about paintings because I once had the idea to take a 3-D image of a painting, mill the texture of the surface into 1/4" aluminum, mild steel, or a suitable plastic using CNC, and apply the image using ink jet technology. The resolution of these methods is very high now. I bet that except for the most highly textured, painterly works, you could get a pretty keen likeness. And it's not on the risky edge of being considered counterfeiting since nobody who has the opportunity to examine the work will be fooled.

Besides the obvious commercial potential, museums could use such a "3-D" likeness to display while the original is being restored or is on loan to another institution, and with software (glorified photoshop) one might be able to reverse the effects of aging and envision what a painting might look like before colors faded, before being covered by soot, and before cracks had formed in the original paint. Strads get their cracks fixed, why not Rembrandts?

I understand purists will turn up their noses at such a thing, just as they will disdain the idea of a Burgess violin having a scroll made by Joe the Luthier. I and respect that desire -- that need -- for artistic purity. But I think we should also maintain a progressive outlook and at least be willing to talk about some of the possibilities that technology offers us. It's not really authentic, for example, to play the Bach S&P after having been vaccinated for polio or while burning an electric light...

March 16, 2015 at 05:51 PM · There is a rumour that Vuillume did not have a CNC to carve plates but a contraption that could rough out several tops or Backs at a time.

March 16, 2015 at 07:16 PM · Paul — Aren’t you talking about making a copy from an original, not creating the original in an altered way?

Kypros — Never played a Vuillaume that I liked :-D But Hilary Hahn has a nice sound with hers.

March 16, 2015 at 08:00 PM · If a violin maker wants any sort of help, then he/she needs to consider every option available out there. Otherwise, what's the point of getting help? In theory, a high quality CNC can rough out a plate or a neck in exactly the way you want it. The same cannot be said for most human assistants. Clearly, Mr. Burgess is interested in neither machines nor assistants because he doesn't need them.

March 16, 2015 at 09:00 PM · Douglas,you should try mine, I'm sure your opinion about Vuillaumes will change as mine has.

March 16, 2015 at 09:14 PM · Kevin, the term "roughing out" might be worth taking a closer look at. For me, roughing out by hand doesn't take very long, and is a very small part of of the total labor. It's all the fine work which comes after that can consume huge amounts of time.

The fine work applies to sound too. Unfortunately, with the natural variations in wood (even wood from the same tree!), one can't just go by a set of dimensions, and have every violin turn out sounding the same, or even similar.

March 16, 2015 at 09:27 PM · I know that the way top makers work, very little time can be saved in relation to the total. But some members are talking about what kind of help one can get to speed things up. In a factory setting, a CNC is pretty common. I see them used in China to carve a few necks at a time. But the violins all look the same and sound equally unrefined. That is obviously not the kind of work you do so there is really no solution to your "problem", if we can call it that. :D

March 17, 2015 at 01:32 AM · Kypros -- would love to. As I said, I think Hilary has an extraordinary sound both live an in recordings.

I think we've got this thread distinctly off track!

March 17, 2015 at 01:59 AM · Methinks David has too much competition to buy his own violins, LOL.

March 17, 2015 at 05:27 AM · The beauty of the painting analogy is that it does point to a problem with machine made art and instruments.

Unless you can load your printer with the exact pigments as mixed by the artist you will never achieve a true copy of a painting.

One has only to compare a high quality print of an Impressionist or Pre-Raphaelite painting with the original to realize the depth the actual painting has. Pigments have varying degrees of transparancy / opaqueness. Some pigments have crystalline structures, so do not. Light can pass through some colors, reflect off the base and shine back through the surface.

I've seen guitars with photo finishes trying to imitate wood, just as some cheap violins have painted stripes on the so called maple.

I think we are a long way from a machine being able to do what the human hands can do especially considering the variations in wood.

I've read that Stradivarius's sons carved some of the scrolls on his violins. But David has already covered the problems of assistants.

March 17, 2015 at 11:53 AM · Patrick, indeed there are challenges. Why not see if science and engineering can face them down? Improvements in imaging and reproduction will benefit everyone. I dont agree that a successful reproduction necessarily will use the same materials. We dont make airplanes from feathers.

March 18, 2015 at 11:21 AM · I thought this thread might be really boring, but it's generated some interesting side-discussions and some fun humor. Thanks everyone.

Yes, I'm still looking.

March 18, 2015 at 11:44 AM · When a top maker is looking hard to buy his own instruments, it cannot be boring. :D

January 18, 2017 at 09:17 PM · Update: Still looking, or it might be more accurate to say that I am looking once again.

Got one fiddle out of Austria, probably as a direct result of this thread (I met up with the person in Sweden to check it out, and ended up purchasing it). Used it as a "sample" fiddle for a while, but ran across someone who had a hankering for that particular fiddle, and an immediate need (was involved in major orchestra auditions, and the juries had repeatedly said that their current fiddle wasn't cuttin' it), so it is now gone.

Hoping to find something to replace it.

January 18, 2017 at 10:20 PM · If you don't mind me asking and i will never be able to afford a David Burgess Violin , a three year waiting list for people queued to buy one of your violins?

January 18, 2017 at 10:32 PM · I can tell you why they are hard to get...

I have one, and David will have to pry it from my cold dead paws :-D

They are fantastic instruments.

Sorry David, clearly off topic!

January 21, 2017 at 09:52 AM · Thanks, Douglas.

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