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Sep 17, 2021 - 12:27:46 PM
14 posts since 12/15/2017

Would you try to fix this or put up with it? I was disappointed to spend $4000 on a fiddle made in the Ozarks by Tony Sigman. I had heard other stories about the bad finish but did like the sound it had. Sigman ought to get the finish better to command that price, they rarely discount them. I have had some tell me to just leave it alone. (Including the store I got it from) Now, it did peel right where my finger rests on the top but I have seen 200 year old fiddles that haven't peeled there. Any advice or thoughts, Thx


Edited by - violindroneo on 09/17/2021 12:31:25

Sep 17, 2021 - 1:40:24 PM

Mobob

USA

172 posts since 10/1/2009

Doesn't speak well for the dealer, they ought to make it right when you spend that much for a fiddle.

Sep 17, 2021 - 2:53:43 PM

14 posts since 12/15/2017

I agree, but got no help from them. Even made a special trip to the store. I also had concerns about leaving it with and didn't want an obvious patch job. I was told the maker got in a car accident, could not make anymore fiddles at the time, but had cut out the wood for this one before the accident and was then able to assemble it afterwards. The finish seems to be good on the sides and bottom, just not of high quality on the top.

Edited by - violindroneo on 09/17/2021 14:55:26

Sep 17, 2021 - 3:27:50 PM
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981 posts since 6/26/2007

The maker is the one who should fix it. I have refinished one of mine because of varnish failure, but figured out what happened and don't do that any more. Yours looks like it lacks an effective ground coat.

The dealer would not have the facilities or expertise to refinish an instrument.

Sep 17, 2021 - 3:33:34 PM

14 posts since 12/15/2017

I think what you're saying makes the most sense. only the maker would know what happened. However this violin maker,Tony Sigman, is extremely private. he has no website almost no information on the Internet about him and it appears to me that he doesn't like much interaction. just sends the fiddles to the music store to sell. Not an accessible fellow.

Sep 18, 2021 - 2:35:38 PM

981 posts since 6/26/2007

Maybe if you offer to send the fiddle back to him for a refund he might be a little more "accessible."

Sep 18, 2021 - 4:01:38 PM

14 posts since 12/15/2017

Ha. Good one. Not sure how to find him if he didn't pay up! I am headed to Mountain View, Arkansas and will see their excellent luthier, Scott, at Mountain View Music, and see what he thinks. Someone who just saw it the fiddle said it looked like a cheap spray finish. I played last night and actually had a piece of the varnish come off, stick to my finger.Thx

Sep 18, 2021 - 6:57:38 PM

Mobob

USA

172 posts since 10/1/2009

Get in touch with the store (dealer), they must have contact info for him, as they still have one of his fiddles for sale on their web site, for $4,400. They have to know where to send the money, they should feel obligated to help you get in touch with Mr. Sigman.

Sep 18, 2021 - 7:27:36 PM

14 posts since 12/15/2017

The store always seems hesitant to convey the problem to Mr Sigman, and just makes excuses. Maybe they don't want to rile him?? I have brought the subject of the peeling finish up repeatedly with them. Their fiddle expert had me go to Walmart when I first made the purchase, and try rubbing some gunstock oil and coloring on it. I did it but it didn't help much, and has now peeled much more.

Sep 18, 2021 - 8:38:44 PM

530 posts since 3/1/2020

That kind of peeling looks more like a polyurethane varnish than spirit or oil. It’s hard to tell if there’s a ground underneath the varnish or if that’s just bare wood. If it’s the latter, the varnish may never have really adhered to the plate.

Varnish can really make or break an instrument. It’s crucial to use a good quality varnish.

The maker may be the best person to ask, although some makers supply shops and don’t really deal directly with customers. At Weaver’s we have several makers who supply new instruments. They only make instruments for us and they don’t talk to customers because they don’t want to have to put down their tools to talk. Our best Italian maker doesn’t even speak English, anyway.

If the problem is getting worse, it’s better to return the violin. A bad touchup will be visible forever. Lacquer varnishes are a nightmare to retouch as well. The violin could be revarnished, but unless it’s done by an especially good varnish person or the maker, the instrument will lose most of its value.

The suggestion of gun stock oil is odd. If there’s exposed wood, rubbing an oil in directly is not a good idea and it’ll weaken the wood. If the oil has lacquer added (like a Danish oil), it’ll choke the sound out as if you’d stuffed the violin with socks.

Sep 19, 2021 - 7:27:06 AM

14 posts since 12/15/2017

Thank you so much for the detailed reply and your expertise. supposedly the maker, Tony Sigman used a real thin varnish because he thought a hardshell varnish would reduce the vibration of the wood and the sound of the fiddle, so I have been told. I think o return it now is not possible, after 5 years. When it first started peeling, after 30 days, would have been the time, but the music store didn't mention that option, nor did they want to do anything themselves. As I recall,, they showed me a 5 string fiddle he just made to see I'd I would be interested in purchasing. . Morgan Music in Lebanon, Missouri is the sole distributor.

Sep 19, 2021 - 6:07:57 PM

530 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by violindroneo

Thank you so much for the detailed reply and your expertise. supposedly the maker, Tony Sigman used a real thin varnish because he thought a hardshell varnish would reduce the vibration of the wood and the sound of the fiddle, so I have been told. I think o return it now is not possible, after 5 years. When it first started peeling, after 30 days, would have been the time, but the music store didn't mention that option, nor did they want to do anything themselves.


I didn't realize it had been five years since the violin was purchased. That does complicate matters a bit. I will say that if you can show that you've maintained the violin properly during that time and that it's clearly the varnish itself that's at issue, the shop may be willing to work with you to find a solution. A lot can happen in five years, so it might be an uphill battle. If it really did start having problems in 30 days, I agree that it would have helped to take it in.

It's true that a really thick varnish can deaden the sound, but lacquer will do that at any thickness because it doesn't work like a violin varnish. It's essentially like coating the violin in plastic.

Sep 20, 2021 - 6:59:16 AM

14 posts since 12/15/2017

Thank you again for your thoughts I think what complicates my decision is that the fiddle actually does sound really good. I've had a number of experts and even recording artists play it and say it's a real keeper and a good instrument. I may have to pay the price and just put up with the bad cosmetics at this point something like Willie Nelson playing his old beat up guitar for years, because it had a great sound.

Sep 20, 2021 - 9:03:40 AM

5401 posts since 9/26/2008

Look are just that, looks. There's an old thread here somewhere that is about ugly fiddles that's worth a read and look if the pics are still available. I have one that's pretty homely as well as one that's very nice to look at. They both sound good.

Sep 20, 2021 - 9:09:24 AM

14 posts since 12/15/2017

I'll look for that thread and will look forward to reading that thanks for the tip.

Sep 22, 2021 - 8:35:04 AM

14 posts since 12/15/2017

Just an update. The seller of the fiddle has offered to send it back to the maker, to see what he can do with the finish. Not sure yet, if I want to ship it to Missouri from Arizona. I would be worried about damage in transit. Anybody have experience shipping a fine instrument? And what carrier to use Thanks.

Sep 22, 2021 - 10:52:31 AM
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530 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by violindroneo

Just an update. The seller of the fiddle has offered to send it back to the maker, to see what he can do with the finish. Not sure yet, if I want to ship it to Missouri from Arizona. I would be worried about damage in transit. Anybody have experience shipping a fine instrument? And what carrier to use Thanks.


The key to shipping safely is packing well. Take bows out if you don't need to send them to avoid them falling out and hitting the top. Put a piece of foam on either side of the bridge and a piece of paper or thin foam under the tailpiece. You can fill in empty spaces in the case with newspaper, just don't pack it too densely. Put a sheet or two of bubble wrap on the bottom of the box, then put the case in. Fill in all empty spaces with balled up newspaper, then put a sheet or two of bubble wrap on top. Tape the box with at least two layers of packing  tape and cover all seams. Mark the box "Fragile" in several locations.

If you're sending without a case, use a smaller box that just fits the violin and pack with newspaper. Cut a little piece of cardboard to put in the bottom on one side as a riser to keep the back from laying directly on the bottom.

I prefer UPS ground for shipping. FedEx is good as well. I would avoid USPS--far too many issues and often much slower delivery. Basic ground shipping has tracking, so use that and forward to your recipient.

If the humidity is going to change dramatically (I'd expect that given your location and that of the maker), put a Dampit in the violin before packing. Figure out how many days it should take and ship the violin on a day that will minimize time spent in warehouses and trucks. If you ship at the end of the week, the box will sit over the weekend, and you have to hope it's in an air-conditioned/heated room. 
 

I hope the maker can take care of the problem--that's the best solution. 

Sep 22, 2021 - 11:39:58 AM

DougD

USA

10290 posts since 12/2/2007

That's good news! I agreee that its the best solution. I'm sure Rich knows about shipping, but you could ask the dealer for advice, especially if they're going to ship it on to the maker. If you're going to ship it in a case, make sure its a good one and remove anything else in there.

Sep 22, 2021 - 12:27:33 PM

316 posts since 1/5/2009

Sep 28, 2021 - 11:07:04 AM
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5620 posts since 7/1/2007

I can repair that so it will be very hard to see where the original damage was, but I can't guarantee it won't crop up somewhere else. I just Checked a similar repair I had just done on a 1927 Neuner and Hornsteiner with a light varnish and similar sized holes in the varnish, and I couldn't find where I had worked on it.

I'm not gonna rag on untrained makers, except to say that I'd expect the vendor to require the maker to make good on his product, but I doubt it's gonna happen, because I don't think he has the skills, else he would have made it right in the first place. Your best option is to get the vendor to pay someone who DOES know what he's doing to make it good, or for you to pay someone a couple hundred dollars to make the damage go away. It doesn't need refinishing, just a good touch-up artist, preferably in a "better" violin shop.

Sep 28, 2021 - 2:15:13 PM
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5620 posts since 7/1/2007

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

That kind of peeling looks more like a polyurethane varnish than spirit or oil. It’s hard to tell if there’s a ground underneath the varnish or if that’s just bare wood. If it’s the latter, the varnish may never have really adhered to the plate.

Varnish can really make or break an instrument. It’s crucial to use a good quality varnish.

The maker may be the best person to ask, although some makers supply shops and don’t really deal directly with customers. At Weaver’s we have several makers who supply new instruments. They only make instruments for us and they don’t talk to customers because they don’t want to have to put down their tools to talk. Our best Italian maker doesn’t even speak English, anyway.

If the problem is getting worse, it’s better to return the violin. A bad touchup will be visible forever. Lacquer varnishes are a nightmare to retouch as well. The violin could be revarnished, but unless it’s done by an especially good varnish person or the maker, the instrument will lose most of its value.

The suggestion of gun stock oil is odd. If there’s exposed wood, rubbing an oil in directly is not a good idea and it’ll weaken the wood. If the oil has lacquer added (like a Danish oil), it’ll choke the sound out as if you’d stuffed the violin with socks.


I have to disagree on a few points. I spent decades doing industrial finish design and supervision, then antique restoration on everything from primitive finishes to the whole gamut of historical wood finish evolution. Later I did custom finish design and finishing and faux finishing, making maple pianos look like mahogany, and similar work. Later worked for Guardsman, getting paid $80/ hour to do finish touchup in people's homes, and since 2006, applying transferred skills to violins. First, lacquer is one of the easiest and fastest touchups ever, if you are trained and set up for it.  Second, touchups should always be 100% reversible, and good touchups are near invisible, except by black light. 

I agree that too much varnish or a penetrating oil finish will absolutely kill a fiddle or violin. Disagree about lacquers, because the hardness, thickness, and elasticity and method of application are almost infinitely controllable, as are many other characteristics, and ruling out a whole class of coatings, including all spirit varnishes (technically lacquers) is an act of ignorance. Additionally, what they call "polyurethane varnish" these days is a total misnomer. Has about as much relation to polyurethane as my Aunt Fanny does to a kangaroo. 

Sep 28, 2021 - 3:39:14 PM

14 posts since 12/15/2017

Just an update on the fiddle. We are in Mountain View Arkansas the folk music capital of the world and I took the fiddle down to have a new bridge made and strings put on at Mountain View music. Scott is the owner and luthier and is one of of the most knowledgeable gentlemen on fiddles I've ever run into. As a point of interest, his daughter Rebecca, at age 14 made her own fiddle and won the Arkansas state fiddling championship with it so these folks really know fiddles. he looked at the finish and said that there was a good base sealant applied and the varnish Is in the spot where my index finger rests on the fiddle just didn't stick to the base sealant, but it wouldn't be a problem if I didn't do anything at all and he recommended I leave it alone. Scott said something interesting... when they have a violin come in for evaluation. and there's a spot missing on that index finger point they usually think that it was a very good player and a good instrument because that's where the index finger rests when a violin is not being used in the Symphony performance and that's the one spot that tends to wear off 1st so he said in many cases, it's a mark of good quality. They know it was a skilled player and a violin good enough to be used in orchestral settings.

Sep 28, 2021 - 5:05:37 PM

5620 posts since 7/1/2007

I have over 50 violins hanging on display in my shop with an average age close to 100 years. I just checked them all, and NOT A ONE of them has any wear in that spot. I've done a lot of touchup on violins / fiddles over the past 10 years, and I can't remember ever doing touchup in that area on a violin or fiddle, although you do get a wear pattern parallel to the fingerboard on the E side pretty often, just not up near the top edge.

You're about 5 1/2 hours from Kansas City. If that's anywhere near your itinerary, you're welcome to visit and get your fiddle fixed, and maybe talk fiddles a bit. You're also 2 1/4 hours from Branson, where there are a few pretty good, hard-working fiddlers.

Sep 29, 2021 - 11:09:56 AM

530 posts since 3/1/2020

For simplicity’s sake, I refer to varnishes in three categories when explaining them to customers:

1) Oil
2) Spirit
3) Lacquer

I’m aware that there are many different lacquer varnishes out there, although I distinguish them from spirit because they’re relatively new and don’t dissolve in alcohol. Oil is the oldest of the three, but spirit has been in widespread use since the 1700s. A good spirit varnish can be indistinguishable from oil, as many (e.g. 1709) have things like elemi or spike oil added for flexibility, extended drying time, and brushability.

Polyurethane or nitrocellulose varnishes are great for many different applications, especially where surfaces wear heavily or are subjected to significant moisture. However, they just don’t produce good results on violin in terms of wearing life and especially tone, and this is why no good makers use them as a rule. Cheap factory instruments are varnished that way because it’s easy to spray varnish that way and because the tougher varnish will be less susceptible to damage or the climatic stresses of shipping overseas. There are plenty of autodidacts, cabinetmakers, or furniture restorers who use those varnishes out of ignorance, but the results speak for themselves. I’ve seen some instruments made and varnished very well and evenly with lacquers. It was a real shame because the varnish killed them and rendered all the hours of labor meaningless.

Another thing to think about is the refractive index of the resins in the varnish. By using the right resins, the character of the wood can be brought to life and enhanced. Lacquers can make the flame stand out, but they often leave the flame rather lifeless and dull. The figure in the wood can really be animated when the instrument is tilted in different directions if the ground and varnish are well chosen.

The story about wear at the index finger area is a myth similar to the one about better players having more rosin buildup on the top or the one that better players break more bow hairs. Some people argue that better players will wear the varnish off the top edge and upper rib on the right side of the neck because they are skilled enough to spend more time at the high end of the fingerboard. I don’t really put a lot of stock into that idea because I think varnish wear has more to do with the type of sweat and the atmosphere. There are many top notch players who leave no visible evidence of practicing on their instruments.

Sep 29, 2021 - 3:02:20 PM
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14 posts since 12/15/2017

All fascinating and insightful. Appreciate ypu taking time ti respond indepth.

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