Full Size Later 19th Early 20th Century, “The Maidstone” Saxony Violin (Reference ♭)

NOTE: This violin has now been re-homed

This Maidstone violin would suit someone who wants to learn without being too loud. It’s a perfect adult first ever or, as you improve, your second purchased, higher quality violin, that won’t make you worry about disturbing the neighbours when practising.

It could also be well suited to a younger person who is approaching the advanced grades but doesn’t necessarily want to be the loudest violinist in the room. It can handle the more advanced stuff due to Maidstone’s quality vs affordability sweet spot. 

The tone is sweet and muted. It sounds pleasing to the ear but won’t make the new learner feel embarrassed when practising. It’s also quite easy to play and not overly resonant, meaning the student will not have to work hard to get a pleasing sound out of it. It is the perfect violin for blending into the back of the orchestra with! It would not however suit a soloist as it simply isn’t loud enough.

The only drawback for me was that I struggled a little not to catch the other strings when playing the D string, but with time you would get used to this.

If you are looking for an affordable starter violin of a reasonable quality, this would be a great instrument.

Ursula Donnelley (Violin teacher and professional violinist)

History, repair and refurbishment notes

Despite what you may have heard, all Maidstone violins are not the same. This is one of several full size Maidstone violins in my private collection of antique and vintage student violins. I also have many 3/4 size Maidstone violins in the collection.

Following the expert review of this violin by Ursula Donnelley, above, I adjusted the arch of the bridge of the instrument to ensure the G and A strings were each lowered by 0.25 of a mm to address the playability issue she experienced. Furthermore, I found I had set the sound post a little further from the foot of the bridge than the optimal position for volume. Therefore, also in response to Ursula’s expert review, I moved the sound post about 1mm closer to the foot of the bridge, setting it now at a ‘bridge foot’s thickness’ away from the foot of the bridge. The top of the bridge was also thinned fractionally, to increase the response of the instrument.

In consultation with expert Luthiers, I am informed that the patina finish to the varnish on this instrument was caused by it having been stored in an attic for many decades. In the UK, attics tend to get hot in summer and cold in winter. This causes the wood to shrink in winter and expand in summer. Years of this shrinking and expanded produces this aged effect to spirit varnish. It is also notable that at some point in history the ebony fingerboard of the violin was visited by woodworm. Close inspection reveals 8 ancient flight (exit holes) of a wood boring beetle leaving the wood. I asked a number of leading luthiers about this and was informed that this was certainly due to the ebony fingerboard having been, unknowing to the original German maker, infected with worm when it was put on the instrument over 100 years ago. This explanation was arrived at because the UK has no resident wood boring beetles that are capable of living in the UK climate that can attack ebony wood. I could have changed the fingerboard for a new one, but the exit holes have at some point been expertly filled and make zero difference to the playability of this instrument. Therefore, in keeping with my personal philosophy of sustainability I have left it as it must have been for over a century.

In addition to making the bridge for this violin and tuning it to the instrument, I made and fitted a new sound post, added a Wittner composite tailpiece with integral fine tuners and complimented this set up with a set of good synthetic core strings. Namely D’Addario Ascente medium tension strings. The lovely antique chinrest is the original Bakelite model that was supplied with the violin in the last century.

Interestingly, this Maidstone violin came from the attic of a nice old Victorian house in Tonbridge Kent, just a few miles from Maidstone where the Maidstone Orchestra for the People movement first began. There, it had been stored for many decades in its original wooden case. My son, who lives in Maidstone and has a business in Tonbridge picked it for me from the lady of the house, who expressed great, bemused, surprised that it was destined to be fully restored.

Today this genuine ‘loft find’ violin is once again being enjoyed in the hands of its new violin student owner.



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