Choosing a Violin
Other points to check

Violin makers are particularly careful about the purfling corners. The purfling is a three-ply black, white, and black piece of wood that goes around the entire edge of the top and bottom plates to a depth of about 2 millimeters. The corner is where the body protrudes in a pointed edge, which occurs in four locations both on the top and bottom plates. The photograph shows the upper left corner of the top plate. The purfling comes from two different directions, and it is cut at an angle so that the two pieces create a single point. The cut of the purfling will affect the join of the two pieces, and it is important for the two parts to be symmetrical to form a perfect corner, so a microscope is often used to match these pieces. One of the characteristics of Stradivarius violins is that the corner has a long slope with a ratio of three to one.

The purfling corner  (Yamaha violin shown here)

The purfling corner tells a lot about the craftsman's professionalism and technical skill (Yamaha violin shown here).

Though the purfling is decorative, it also has another purpose: to prevent cracking. The edge of the body is generally known as the cut end of the wood, and through the absorption and release of moisture and the force of banging, is prone to cracking. If through some misfortune a crack starts here, it can easily continue all the way up the instrument; purfling helps to stop cracks at the edge.

Before buying an instrument, check that the pegs turn smoothly, that the body is not scratched (or that any scratches have been properly treated), that the chinrest fixtures are not loose, and that the strings are not extremely old. If anything seems wrong or out of place, ask the dealer about it and ask that the problem be fixed.