When I bought my Soviet violin mentioned earlier here I had been e-mailing back and forth with Graham Wickham from chicoviolins.com. I was recommended this shop by a person with a handle of “fiddlepogo” on the Fiddle Hangout forums. Graham was very courteous in each and every one of his e-mails. Sometimes the responses would come with a one or two day delay but I know that he’s busy. He has a brick and mortar store to run as well. I told him where I was at in my skill level (just starting out) and what I was looking for in terms of tone (bright and beautiful). He gave me a list of possibilities and he described each one. We went back and forth a bit trying to clarify things. He sent me many wonderful pictures of his instruments along the way. Eventually we settled on a late 19th century Stainer. It’s a beautiful old violin with a bright and wonderful open string tone. The violin came with a padded case, an entry level bow, and a box of light rosin. He shipped it via USPS Priority Mail. With his excellent packing job it arrived safe and sound.
I mentioned that he sent me some pictures of it ahead of time and I’ll post them here. There’s no need for me to take my own since the violin looks identical to what is shown in these pictures. I can’t take credit for any of these photos.
The violin has a somewhat dark complexion with what I would say is a deep and vivid grain structure. Let there be no doubt that this violin is made of wood! There are some repaired cracks but you have to look long and hard to see them. Graham says he fixed them himself and it looks like he did a great job doing it. The tailpiece looks like it is made of hard plastic and there is one fine tuner on the E string. A plastic chin rest sits to the left of the tailpiece. I don’t know if the fingerboard and tuning pegs are original or not. They look too clean to be over 100 years old.
The scroll and peg box look well finished. There are no cracks or chips in that area. The inside of the pegbox is finished with some sort of flat black paint but it looks relatively smooth. Four wonderful strings stretch across the length of the violin waiting for a bow.
The back of the violin is smooth and creamy. Look carefully and you will see that the back is made of two pieces of wood. One of the corners of the c-ribs was chipped off and repaired. You can see the Stainer named branded at the base of the neck. It’s not a very deep branding but it’s there. You can see how deeply contoured the body is if you look at the reflections.
This violin is very loud, very bright, and very vocal! The sound of the open strings sound like they can pierce through a solid barrier in order to get a message across. It is precisely the sound I wanted. The challenge is controlling that sound. fiddlepogo mentioned to me in an e-mail that this violin will be honest with me. If I make a mistake it will tell me loud and clear! I have played this violin for a few days now and he was right. A lot of people may be turned off by this effect but I relish it. I want to know where I made a mistake so I can go back and practice that stroke or that transition or whatever it was I was doing when the error occurred. Some people may also want a more mellow violin for whatever music they normally play. It could sound shrill in some cases perhaps. That’s all a matter of taste though.
So, the bottom line here is that I take my hat off to Mr. Wickham at chicoviolins.com. He took good care of me and he was very patient with me. I would recommend his shop in a heartbeat!