3/06/2012

c.1922 L.V. Baker 4/4 Walnut-back Violin


This is an American-made, small shop violin, built by an "L.V. Baker" in Seattle, Washington and dated July 1922. Furthermore, it's apparently a "copy of an H.O. Billings" instrument.

However, the most astonishing feature is not it's provenance -- it's that the back, sides, and neck are all made from flamed black walnut rather than the more usual flamed maple. Walnut is rather similar to mahogany in tone color on instruments and the unusual wood choices makes this a quite unusual instrument overall, with a good warm, full and salty fiddle tone.

Here are the words from the original owner of this instrument:

"It was made for me by a very talented cousin when I was I think seven years old. I am 89 now and hated to sell it but needed the money and wanted someone to have it that could appreciate it. I can not play anymore, arthritis in my hands. It was a beautiful very well made piece and have several photos of it and very fond memories. My cousin that made it was in Washington and came from a prominant family. He was very talented and a advanced professional musician."


My work included gluing up the soundpost crack to the top (and cleating it), replacing a broken tailpiece (but nicely "arts and crafts" carved original) with a vintage ebony one from my parts bin, some seam repairs, cleaning, and setup -- including a new soundpost (the original was chipped and cracked).


Note the interesting scroll which is a little wider than normal. Ebony nut and board. Pegs are ebony with inlaid copper bits on their buttons.


The original bridge came nicely fitted and is an Aubert lefty that's been cut as a righty with an ebony E string insert.



Here you can see some of that nice darker-colored walnut on the ribs.


...and beautifully flamed walnut, too!

Another interesting feature of this instrument is that it has a much flatter arch to the "lower bout" area of the instrument -- almost more similar to a Gibson carved-top mandolin than a typical "trade violin" from the times. It's also slightly wider.



Ooh, la la!


Check out that outrageous bookmatched flamed walnut! It's killer!


I like the decorative "diamond" in the back of the headstock.


It's hard to explain the thrill I get seeing a back on an old violin that is NOT maple.



The current strings are cheapy Chinese Thomastik "Dominant" knock-offs and the tone is nice with them, but I'd really love to hear (and feel) this with a new set of Thomastik "Infeld Red" strings. I love me them Infeld Reds!



The finish is sort of an even muted pumpkin color to the top -- and the top wood itself (spruce) is high-quality bookmatched stock as well.




Of course this came with a nice old vintage hard case, too!

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