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A 'new' fiddle, a Maggini copy, is gifted to me, though with caveats.

Posted by Mandogryl on Sunday, May 30, 2010

I was playing music with an elderly man, he on guitar, me on fiddle, a few months ago. He sang his old songs, and was ‘moved’ at the end, as it brought back memories of his youth. I am a very patient person, and I allowed this to take place, without any temptation to launch into one of my lightening fast Scottish reels. I just let him reminisce, and all I did was to back him up. At the end he mentioned having an old fiddle somewhere, probably in the attic (ugh), and that if he could find it he would give it to me “…for spare parts…” as he knew that I liked building stringed instruments.

He finally found the thing, and brought it to me, and I thanked him, and he left. Just gave it to me. I instantly recognized the style, but when I saw the condition I knew it would be placed on the back burner with all the other projects I have taking place right now. I am currently on a strict schedule to finish up a Del Gesu-inspired violin and today will be working on the neck joint mortise, and then when varnish time comes I will continue a mandolin commission.
I placed five pictures of this violin at my profile. Basically the wood is in excellent shape with the exception of the strange wear under the bridge feet that for the life of me I have never seen like that before. It almost looks as if someone made a crude attempt to fit bridge feet by sanding the top plate! I am quite tickled by the three-turn scroll, however, but I am not a fan of the double purfling.  Too busy looking. It is what it is.
The first order of business, when I get to it, will be to remove the neck and the back, and restore the rib glue joints, checking that everything inside is sound. I will take more pictures after I open it up. Then I will check the back thickness and modify if need be. After gluing the back on again, I will turn my attention to the top plate, re-thicknessing where necessary. Evaluating, flexing, tapping, measuring, etc. I am interested to see if it has a carved-in bass bar, as well, and if it does I will replace that. Time will tell if the tuning peg holes need to be bushed.
Although I was admonished on a different forum when I mentioned the thought of refinishing my old German Strad trade fiddle, I think I might refinish this one. I am not sure, though, as the back has an interesting stain pattern that I am rather fond of. When the old gentleman mentioned giving me a fiddle my first reaction was “oh, no” to myself, but now I view it as good practice in repair. And who knows, it might sound really nice. I wanted a good fiddle for EEBE tuning anyway, so maybe this one will be it, for the time being.

7 comments on “A 'new' fiddle, a Maggini copy, is gifted to me, though with caveats.”

mudbug Says:
Sunday, May 30, 2010 @6:22:19 AM

Congradulations on letting this man have the jam. Musical moments can be powerful for those that don't get them often. That must be very satisfying, working on instruments.

Humbled by this instrument Says:
Sunday, May 30, 2010 @11:56:39 AM

Stephanie, I'm reading "[I will] remove the neck and the back and restore te rib glue joints, checking...." Do you know what would happen if I tried any of this stuff? I tip me hat to those of you who can remove necks and restore glue joints, really. I'm downright proud when I change a light bulb successfully.

PeterG Says:
Sunday, May 30, 2010 @6:27:31 PM

Let us know what you decide to do about the wood loss around the bridge area. I am a self taught maker so I am always looking to see what the other person is doing.

bj Says:
Tuesday, June 1, 2010 @5:10:10 AM

My friend and a luthier, Maggio, told me that a fiddle back should never be removed. I don't know what his reasoning is, but he did say it had to do with structural integrity. Anyway, I offer that for whatever you can make of it.

Re refinishing, IMHO I believe it's better for things (and people) to show their age. Trying to make old things look like they're new is an unfortunate reflection of our throwaway society.

I do hope you can get it playing. Your friend who gave it to you might really be tickled to hear it singing sweetly again. And a lot of the players who play oldtime love those old maggini copies, so I suspect you'll like the sound you get out of it.

daniellestanleyful Says:
Tuesday, July 13, 2010 @7:55:15 AM

Wow...a freebee. I'm hoping you have a nice treasure there. What creative fun to be skilled enough to work on it. Please let us know how it sounds when you're done.
That other one you've made from scratch is a honey. Reminds me of a bee. I once had a violin teacher who was advising on tonalizations and said to think of bees buzzing as you hug those strings. How apt

john timpany Says:
Tuesday, August 3, 2010 @7:43:19 PM

"When the old gentleman mentioned giving me a fiddle my first reaction was oh, no to myself" - yes, that would be my first reaction too :)

Mandogryl Says:
Wednesday, September 1, 2010 @12:51:10 PM

The prevailing opinion that I've been receiving from luthiers is indeed to leave that lower plate on the rim. THis means that I will not regraduate it. I did selectively thin the top, though, since it was off the instrument, but I did not take the top as thin as I would have liked as the spruce is rather road weary. But the new bass bar was installed today, and I should have her closed up in about a week. Thanks all for looking.

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