Highlights of a 1961 Svindsay Violin

Highlights of a 1961 Svindsay Violin

I recently had the opportunity to examine a Peder Svindsay violin from 1961 (sometimes spelled Pete or Peter Swindsay).  Peder’s style is interesting, the fluting of his scroll is broad and sweeping and I’ve included a picture of that below, however, i was particularly impressed with his corner miters.  These manage to include a graceful sweep along the c-bout line and have a certain liveliness and energy.   Corner miters are always done by hand and are clear sign of the maker’s patience and care.

Peder was originally from Norway and a founding member of the Violin Maker’s Association of British Columbia in 1957.  He was an accomplished violin, viola, cello and bow maker.  He owed a shop in Vancouver for some time and won many awards for his work at the Association competitions and internationally.

The Violin Makers Journal

The Violin Makers Association of British Colombia is a violin making club located in Vancouver, Canada.  The club has a long history dating back to its founding in March 1957.


I’ve recently become involved with the club and discovered the 60 issues its journal published from November 1957 to August 1964.  The Journal covers topics from editorials on violin making, violin making techniques and science, as well as the usual discussions on plate graduations and violin finishing.  The journal even includes direct correspondence from notables such as Carleen M. Hutchins.

I’ve begun digitizing and placing the editions on the club’s website, located here.  The remaining editions will become available as they are scanned.

This is a fascinating look into the recent history of violin making.  I’ll also be placing interesting articles from the journals here in the future.

Resources Section Expanded

Resources Section Expanded

Hi all, I’ve expanded the list of books in my Resources Section.  For the most part these are standard references for those interested in violin history and violin making.  Many of these are available from local libraries either through local collections or inter-library loans.  WorldCat is a website that has bibliographical information on almost every book out there.  The great thing about WorldCat is that it also has access to the catalogs of many libraries, so by entering the book information and your postal/zip code you can find out if it’s in a library near you.  I’ve included the WorldCat links for each book.

A tailpiece in Time

The factory violin I’m restoring came to me with an old ebony tailpiece in the tulip style.  Since i’m replacing the spruce fingerboard (yes spruce), with one of rosewood, I decided to make a matching tailpiece.    For those interested in making a similar tailpiece I documented the dimensions.  Here are some pictures of a preliminary tailpiece, along with to-scale pdf of the dimensions.

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Scale dimension diagram

Modern vs. Old Instruments

Modern vs. Old Instruments

There is, what I believe to be, a commonly held belief that any older instrument is likely to be better than any newer instrument.  Particularly, anything over a couple hundred years old must be better then anything made today.  This is predicated on the mistaken beliefs in lost ‘ancient wisdom’ and techniques of making, and that aged instruments gain some quality that cannot be instilled in modern instruments.

I won’t weight in on this topic myself, but I there have been a series of articles in recent years about this.  There are many factors to consider, including the variety of factors that go into any scientific study.   As well, there are semantic arguments that have been raised in the past which may or may not apply, such as the size of the room, if it is a concert hall – is it full or empty.

One of the most recent articles is published in ‘The Strad’ magazine.  This article looks at a set of new and old instruments (some of which were may be the most famous makers) and did a double blind test (see picture).  Some very interesting results that give hope to new instrument makers.  The article is here.  Worth reading!

An Oldie

I picked up this instrument at a local flea market last summer.  The instrument was ‘out-of-commission’ when I got it and I’m undertaking it as a project and plan to restore it to playing condition.

The instrument is without corner blocks and is made with a mortised top block/neck.   The ribs are fairly thin, as is the back.  The front is roughly carved on the inside with a small bassbar.  The finish is a ‘combed’ finish, popular with furniture markers in the early 20th century.  There was a small crack under the bottom circle of the right f-hole and there is one at the sound post 😦    The seams were not intact.  The saddle and fingerboard appears to be spruce.

I’d love to hear if anyone has any information on where or when this old ‘factory’ instrument might have been made.  It did not contain a label or any other markings.