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Tag Archives: Maidstone violin

The Maidstone violin that I wrote about in my last post has found a new home. A young violinist friend, who has grown out of the half-size instrument that I made for him a few years ago, came around to see it at the weekend and liked it enough to take away to try it out properly. If the speed with which he adapted to the new string length, and the good sound that he got out of it, are anything to go by, it will suit him well until he needs a full-size instrument. It’s rather pleasing to think that this abandoned fiddle may have a second lease of life making music again. Here’s the violinist, trying it out in my workshop.

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A couple of years ago, I was given a three-quarter size violin in an old wooden case. It was in a shabby state and evidently hadn’t been played for many years. Nor had it ever been a valuable instrument: the scroll and pegbox were crudely carved, the fingerboard and nut were made out of dyed wood rather than ebony and although it had laid in purfling, the job had clearly been done by someone with more concern for speed than accuracy.

There was no label inside but a small brass plate on the wooden case gave a strong clue about its provenance. This was a Maidstone violin, probably made in Bohemia at the end of the 19th century and imported by John G Murdoch and Co in large numbers to provide cheap instruments for schools and for a contemporary movement that sought to bring music to the people by providing group instruction for adults. (See here for more information about this enterprise.)

Although restoring this violin made little sense financially, I thought it would be worthwhile – partly for the opportunity to practice repairing skills on an instrument of little value and partly for the pleasure of returning something that had fallen into a decrepit state back to its former glory. So I took off the fingerboard and substituted a decent piece of ebony, cut out and replaced some wormy wood at the bottom of the pegbox, rebushed the pegholes and fitted new pegs, renewed the edges where they had been damaged and gave it a new bridge, a new soundpost and a new tailpiece. It was an interesting exercise and a rewarding one too, because, when set up with Dominant strings it made a very nice sound indeed.

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