Caution- VSO-caution

 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.


Saddle is “maple”. Better saddles are made from Ebony.


String clearance at nut is way too high (about 2 mm).


Soundpost is about ½ inch from where it should be. (Actual location was where the little green squa


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



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.  Fingerboard, pegs, and nut are dyed hardwood. 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.