String clearance at nut is way too high (about 2 mm).   String clearance at the end of the fingerboard is way too low (about 2 mm on E).

   Saddle is “maple”.  Soundpost is about ½ inch from where it should be. (Actual location was where the little green square is. Should be behind the treble foot) Fingerboard, pegs, and nut are dyed hardwood.


(Violin Shaped Object)
Quite a few people see the inexpensive violins listed on auction sites like EBay and think- “What a deal!” When it arrives they often find that the instrument is almost unplayable. After some frustration trying to play it, they then bring the instrument to me and ask what I can do for them. Here is an example of what I found on one instrument.


Top and back are plywood about 3.8 mm thick. Inside linings and blocks looked like they were carved with a machete.

In order to get it into reasonable (not great) playing condition, I had to make a new bridge.  You’ll notice the difference between the old bridge and the new bridge. The original soundpost was really poor wood, with about 2 grains across the soundpost . A new soundpost of good quality wood was cut and properly fitted. The nut was filed down to proper height, string grooves were cut, and the nut was dyed black to simulate ebony. I also installed Helicore strings on this instrument to drive the thick plates and to get a reasonable sound. The result of this work was a reasonable playing instrument. This repair cost the client about $100 over the cost of the original instrument.

 There are several other problems that I might have found:

The bridge could have been too high.

The fingerboard could have been poorly shaped.

The pegs could have been poorly fitted.

The neck angle could have been way off.

Adding in any of these last three could have raised the repair cost into the “way too costly“ range.

Yes, I can often turn a VSO into a playable instrument, but I can sell a client a much better quality instrument, already nicely set-up, for about the same price or very slightly more. Before you think about buying the $29.95 (plus shipping!) EBay special, talk to your local violin shop or luthier. You might find yourself much better off in the long run.

Violins and Violas