Varnish damage next to the Fingerboard

Have you ever wondered why there is a groove in the varnish on the right of the violin fingerboard? I have and it has been a mystery to me for years! Until now! I have finally worked it out with the help of

Some of the contributors on this forum put forward the following suggestions:

“I have a violin that has a line worn in the varnish next to the fingerboard on the treble side. I always thought it was odd. I had seen this type of wear on other violins, and wondered how it happened. Then I saw somebody holding their violin with the same wear line tucked under their right arm and their hand under the top treble bout with their thumb right on that line.”

Here is what it would look like:

Wear-Thumb rest hold

Someone else said: “I’m with the pizz thumb nail theory on this. Just look around your orchestra and you will see varied and sometimes sloppy technique anchoring the thumb on the side of the board.”

That makes sense too! Here is a photo of how it could wear the varnish:

Wear-Thumb Pizzicato

Here is another comprehensive answer:

“Perhaps others have experience, but I have observed that it is often from fingernails.  Not only of the left hand, when the player’s finger slips off the FB accidentally.  Sometimes I’ve seen how the fingers of the right hand can dig in when the violin is held in a rest position and the player is gently plucking out his part with the thumb.   I warn our orchestra players (students) of this danger, as I’ve seen the damage numerous times.  Other sources are possible, I’d be very interested, because this damage is quite frequently observed on instruments that enter my shop, and sometimes even copied in antiquing.”

Here is the wear from the first finger as you pluck with the Thumb in rest position:

Wear-1st finger as thumb plucks

And finally, here is the wear you get from left hand pizzicato which Paganini was famous for: Firstly with the 3rd Finger on the fingerboard and the second photo with the 3rd Finger on the varnish:

Wear-Finger Pizzicato on

And then the 3rd Finger plucks and comes off:

Wear-Finger Pizzicato off

So what do you think? Which is your favorite way of damaging your varnish? If interested leave a comment below.



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