Saturday, April 23, 2011

Antiquing tip #13

The current fashion in violin making is to make a new instrument that looks 300 years old. Some folks are really good at it, many are not. The current fashion is really an old fashion, since one can find factory instruments 100 years old that have a factory antiquing underneath a real antiquing.

Part of the problem is that the use of the fiddle has changed over the centuries, with the addition of chinrests, shoulder rests, good quality cases and such. What people want is a violin that looks like it was abused in a normal way -- varnish wear, rounded corners, worn edges, repaired cracks -- but that is actually in good physical shape. Oh, and don't put any scratches on it after you finish antiquing it.

There are various methods for creating wear marks, but the most successful seem to be a somewhat accelerated schedule of normal wear. Here's one method for antiquing the back of the scroll.

Ok - so that was a bit of a joke. I found the photo while looking through a Flickr site whose user name is "sonobugiardo."

But it's not far off. Some antiquing techniques literally consist of rubbing the instrument across the chewed up surface of a work bench. Here's a story I heard from a relatively high-end maker and I think it might be true. He was at a friend's house with a newly made violin that he was in the process of antiquing. His friend's young son had a remote-control toy truck that the kid was showing off by maneuvering it through the dug up, yet-to-be-landscaped, backyard. The idea came up to tie the violin to the back of the remote-control truck and let it be dragged across the ground for a while. It's one way to come up with random scratch patterns.


  1. Neat picture. I read about someone who has a jar of nuts, bolts, nails and other objects that they spill out on the surface of the plates to get random scratches and dents.

    I'm not sure how I feel about the whole antiquing process. People definitely like it though. There's something attractive about an "old violin". My first violin was slightly antiqued accidentally (long story) and people are attracted to that violin the most even though it is somewhat of a wreck as far as construction is concerned.

  2. Well, it takes about as long to antique a violin as to make it in the first place. So I'm concentrating on learning as much as I can by making. Maybe once I get the instrument's tone, shape, and such closer to what I want, I can think about antiquing.

    Used to be a similar thing when I was building muzzleloading rifles. People liked the guns as seen in the museum -- that is 100 to 200 years old and worn -- which is not the way the pioneers would see them, which was new. On the other hand, when I built a gun and then used it for a year, it put on a fairly good patina. Heck, one hunting trip in the mountains during rain and snow really works wonders on shiny wood and metal.

    So, if I want some antiquing done on a fiddle, I can just let it out in the rental pool for a year. Those kids will give it some use!