1/18/2013

c.1890 German-made Johann Schonfelder 4/4 Violin


This violin bears the label: "Johann Adam Schonfelder" with the date of 1743 and maker's town listed. Though the Schonfelder family was pretty famous, I doubt very much that this was made by them and certainly not in 1743. This appears to be more of a late-1800s Stradivarius-style violin. It's very peculiar, though, in that it's finely built but not from the fanciest materials or with clean appointments: the top is well-graduated and the scroll is nicely done but the back and sides are relatively plain maple and the top purfling is actually penned on. A curious piece!


The work I did on this violin included some seam repairs, a new chin rest and tailpiece, new pegs, new bridge, fine tuner, endpin, cleaning, and setup. I've got it strung with a set of John Pearse perlon-core strings which are very similar to Thomastik Dominants in character. This instrument definitely doesn't want to use steel strings: it's built for the (period) tension of gut or nylon-core strings.

It has a nice, fundamental voice with good volume and clarity.


Nice scroll. Because the peghead had a crack on the A-string shaft holes I decided to fit this with banjo-style friction pegs. I can tighten these up to the sidewalls of the headstock and it makes for a very stable mount, easy use, and less of a chance of opening up that crack due to ratcheting an A-string peg in there. These also hold better than regular wood pegs.



The nice true ebony fingerboard is polished-up nicely, was obviously hand-planed and sanded, and has an arc/scoop to it that's very "classical" in feel and setup. It has more relief than I'm used to with my straight-cut board and fiddling, but it's very useful for vibrato effects as you have more under-string room to play with.


The new bridge I added was simply hanging out in my parts bin. A little bit of fitting and voila, ready to go.


New ebony tailpiece, older over-the-tailpiece chin rest. I like these better as I feel I have a bit more control over the instrument vs. the small chinrests.



Fairly plain flame on the side maple.




This has a one-piece, medium-flamed back.





This instrument's finish is original, and while there are hairline cracks on the top and rosin deposits under the strings, it still looks very warm and welcoming. Unassuming.




The hairline racks seen in these last 3 photos were repaired long before me.

Update May 2013: ...and have remained stable in service! I've been using this as a "2nd" fiddle since setup in January.

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