1890s Unmarked 4/4 "Trade" Violin

Update: This violin is now for sale and comes with a functional vintage (1900s) case plus a decent wood bow that pulls a nice darker tone out of this guy.

Despite wear and tear, this is a great-sounding (warm and sweet) old full-size fiddle. It's unmarked but more than likely a German-made "trade" violin from the late 1800s. This one's coming in via a trade-for-work deal and my work on it included some seam repairs, a good fit of the soundpost, installation of antique geared tuners, and fitting of a new (old case-candy) Vuillame bridge.

It's got a nice old "worn-in" spruce top, one-piece back, and generous flame in the maple bits. I've set it up for a quick fiddle style with a set of John Pearse (made by Thomastik) perlon-core "Mezzo" strings and they're my favorite set at the entry-level price point ($25-30). They sound... like Dominants! So, warm and sweet with low tension.

The arching is fairly shallow and the build pretty lightweight.

Once-upon-a-time someone had reamed/mucked-up the pegholes too large so rather than filling all of that and then fitting new friction pegs, I used an old made-for-violin set of guitar-style geared tuners instead. These are approximately 14:1 ratio and eliminate the need for fine tuners and the "weather watching" -- waiting for humidity/dryness to either get your pegs "stuck" in the box or pop out and release all your tension. What a pain!

Too bad this 100+ year-old idea never caught on. Whenever I've had fiddles that use these I always silently thank them when I'm tuning up... because I rarely need to!

If you take a look at the board you can see it's a usual "trade" wood -- dyed maple or fruitwood of some sort. I've cleaned it up, dressed, and polished it. I also added a light stain to remove the sort of "greyed out" look these get with fading and now it looks more "woody" light brown in the worn areas.

The (original?) tailpiece lacks its "saddle" but still does the job.

The back is pretty-looking maple, huh? It's also got the only crack to speak of on the instrument: a tiny 1" hairline up near the heel.

Nice plates, no?

Some nylon "tailgut" replaced the old gut "tailgut" for safety's sake.

The original hard case is functional but pretty bare-bones.


bonnybroome said…
Sound clip? For sale?
tanyaabc said…
I have an older violin, that I was told was a copy. (many years ago and they did give a date) I am trying to date when it may have been produced. It has exactly the same replacement gear peg set-up as this one. But I can not find anything on it. Where did you find your info? How do you determine a date?

Oscar Stern said…
The Geared Tuner idea really has to catch on.