Berl Mendenhall/Bill Weaver
Does anyone know anything about this luthier? I can't seem to find much about him on google except for a couple of instruments (mainly from around 2013 so nothing recent) and an article on thestrad.com about his method of purfling from 2018, but nothing about his background or anything. I suppose if he was able to get on a magazine issue for thestrad then he must be somewhat known, but I can't find anything.
Any help is appreciated.
As far as I know his violins don’t go for too much money but they latest violin I could find online that sold was I think in 2016. A lot can happen in 4 years.
I believe he lives in S.E. Ohio and is a member of Maestronet. I don't think he has posted in a while.
A Berl Mendenhall violin sold at auction (Bromptons) in 2014 for $1298 (below estimate of $1,800 to $2,500).
Contact him on Maestronet.com. He is somewhat active there.
I suppose I could contact him, but it’s more a question about the quality of his instruments and if they are a good buy. I read through his “Berl Mendenhall’s bench” threads on maestronet and his work is really beautiful, but of course looks have nothing to do with sound, playability, and what not.
After emailing the shop who had a Mendenhall I found out that the one they sell is actually a Bill Weaver Violin that is carved by Mendenhall and then sent to Bill Weaver for finishing/setting up. I've heard good things about Bill Weaver's instruments are they good?
You're confused. That would be a Mendenhall; the luthier that does the set-up does not normally put his name on the violin. The "finish" sometimes includes varnishing if the violin is received "in the white".
I know it’s actually a Mendenhall instrument I’m just saying that it’s sold through Bill Weaver’s shop which is where the violin shop I saw the violin gets them from. The violin shop told me that the finishing and setting up is done by Mr. Weaver who receives it in the white. I suppose I could have worded that better.
That's a bit surprising -- that a contemporary individual maker would wholesale their violins in the white as well as fully making their own instruments.
makes you think he might be regraduating white violins himself????
You're right it does sound a little strange. I wonder what the logic is for doing it this way...
Specialization only seems to require explanation because it's easy to fall into thinking that the romantic vision of a solitary "auteur" violin maker is the essential truth of the field, when in fact on the whole it's comparatively rare.
Many years ago Bill Weaver created a violin line from instruments he bought from good sources in the white, then varnished himself. He wasn't buying $50 junk white instruments--these were real violins.
I last saw Berl at the 2016 VSA convention, and his last post on Maestronet was a little over a year ago, where he briefly mentioned battling cancer (not clear if it was past or current). Recently someone asked about his whereabouts, but there was no answer.
I work at The Violin House of Weaver. After reading this thread I asked Mr. Weaver about Berl. It’s a shame to hear his work dismissed. I’ve met him a couple times when he’s visited the shop with his good friend and renowned violin researcher, Bruce Babbitt, and I’ve seen a couple of his violins in the shop over the years. As a result of the conversation, Mr. Weaver asked me to write the following response on his behalf.
I'm guessing the violin in question is this one at Quinn:
Yes, that is the violin in question.
That violin appears to have been removed from the link's listing.
Well that's the other shoe dropping I think.
Interesting contradiction here, that Weaver himself states that he only sold violins by Mendenhall but never did anything extra to them, while the posting claims it was finished by Weaver from a violin in the white (that is how I interpret the "carving by Mendenhall").
Mr. Maxham stated, "Mr. Weaver has never had any reason to revarnish or regraduate Mendenhall violins" The link said that he finished a violin in the white, carved by Mendenhall.
Yeah I noticed the violin had been taken off of their website as well along with another one by Eric Caldwell. In terms of the two statements contradicting it could be the fact that a portion of violin shops rarely update their website except every once in a while when they need to take something off that is no longer available or if they finally decide to do that page that has been “in development” since forever and a day.
Thank you to Lydia for finding the link to the violin. The listing was not accurate, so Mr. Weaver contacted the shop and asked that they change it. That’s why it’s been removed. I posted before to clarify that Mr. Weaver had not varnished the violin but there was some confusion given the listing. Hopefully it’s cleared up now. I’m not sure if the Caldwell’s listing had the same issue. In my time in the shop I’ve never seen any violins that Eric made but didn’t varnish.
Thanks for the clarification, Rich.
Interestingly, the website's mistaken information works in quinnviolins favor, as no violin by a single maker can be so affordable these days, regardless tonal quality and playability. Not even the lesser known chinese makers charge (relatively) so little for their own, non-workshops instruments, I believe. If I am wrong, feel free to correct me, but I do not know of any modern violin that can cost $6,000.00 under normal circumstances.
I believe the Ming Jiang Zhu Violins run for $2500-$7000 or so depending on the level of the violin.
I got in contact with Berl a few days ago, and is apparently alive and well, but not doing much with instruments these days. The violin in question was a mystery to him. He never carved instruments in the white for someone else to varnish, and even imported a few white instruments to varnish and re-sell (labeled appropriately).