A Silk Purse From A Sow’s Ear

A while back, I purchased a used ‘Cecilio’ violin outfit as part of a comparison project. The idea was to see first-hand which violin among the ‘entry levels’ was best value for the money.

The Cecilio was, by far, the worst of the lot. With this in mind, I began a forensic investigation to see if I could figure out exactly what made it the worst of the lot.

Upon removal of the top, it was obvious that, to quote violin-maker Carsyn Klassen, there was a lot of lumber in this instrument. In fact, where plate thickness should have been 2.6 to 2.8 millimeters, in places it was over 5 mm. No wonder it was like trying to make music with a 2×6!

I set about graduating both top and bottom plates, tuning them as closely as possible to the template I’ve been using. Luckily, there was plenty of material to work with. Once graduation was complete, I replaced the top and reassembled the instrument, careful to make no other changes.

It’s hard to describe the anticipation one feels while waiting to test an instrument after major changes. In this case, the result was nothing short of metamorphic! The violin literally sings out, with projection, evenness across strings and ease of playability about tenfold better than the original.

The nut was, in my opinion, very poorly done and the fingerboard was stained pearwood. I decided the instrument was worthy of an upgrade, so I replaced both with ebony. A set of new Tonica strings, and the violin now rates as one of my favourites, especially with regard to playability. I simply love it!

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