1950s “Hillendale ½”

A couple of weeks ago I passed a garage sale. The best kind. Made an offer on two student violins in unplayable condition. A ½ size and a ¼ size. Got the call back and picked them up last week.

I tightened up the old strings on the larger of the violins, liked its tone, so started with that one. Fit a new peg, straightened out the bridge – maybe, and cleaned up the entire fiddle with naphtha, then a Behlen polishing agent.

Turns out, after cleaning off the funk, that the ½ has real purfling, the ebony strips of wood inlaid around the perimeter. Also the two-piece back covers the heel of the neck; there is not a separate heel cap; a good sign.

Looks like we have a special violin here. As Steve Fields says, the better the student, the better the violin they should have when young. Some lucky kid will end up with this violin at a decent price.

The D’Addario Helicores arrived from Johnson Strings Friday, and Saturday afternoon was the perfect rainy day to string a violin and perform final shaping to the bridge. Despite my finest efforts to ruin yet another bridge, everything came out as close to perfect as I dare. This violin, unplayed since the ’70s, is back in fine fiddle. Clear tone, fast action, and LOUD.


Lastly, 1/16″ cork was used to restore the original ebony chin rest.  And a wipe of linseed oil to complete the refurbishment. 

Acquired at the same time,  Hillendale ¼, with a “Made In Germany, US Zone” label,  has amazing tone as well!

Never say lastly;  there is always something else.  Steve Fields played the ½.  It’s original bridge, though tweedled with, was still tweedledum.  And the sound post …  So I fiddled with the sound post and recut the existing bridge.  Olivia tried it the following week;  not enough arc on the bridge, and 1.5mm at the G string.  Wow, we’re not doing the Limbo here, Jim.  Too Low!  Back to the shop.

New bridge fit from a blank.  Perfect.  New sound post.  Splintered!  For the 3rd try, I cut and shaped a piece off an old slab of Adirondack spruce.  Finally finished, with a fine-tuner tailpiece as well.  Wait, never say finished …  ∆

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