I recently restored my friend Devin's heirloom violin (it isn't complete yet, as I'm waiting for Devin to order some missing parts for it). At the same time, I dug out my thrift store violin and I decided to work on it at the same time. The violin was something I happened to see at Value Village one day, and it was something like 15$. It had no finger board, and none of the accessories to go with it (no tuning pegs, no chin rest, no bridge, no tail piece, and no strings). The only part that was still with it was the sound post.
I found that while the violin looked somewhat cheaply made, it was apparent that it had several repairs done to it during its life, and the edging details were interesting (done in short grain segments of wood around the perimeter). The back was also bird's eye maple, which is much less common than curly maple (though not entirely rare).
Not long after buying it I was able to buy a complete "kit" on eBay (direct from China) to repair the violin for a mere 35$ (around that). This kit included rosewood accessories (pegs, tail piece, and chin rest), an ebony fingerboard, a new bridge, sound post, fine tuners, and strings. It was supposed to come with a new nut as well, but this piece was missing.
That was a few years ago. Fast forward to around a month ago, and at that time I was able to glue the new fingerboard in place, as well as cut and fit the nut and bridge. I believe that cutting and hand carving the bridge took around 2 hours.
Shortly after this, the violin was pretty much ready to go. All I needed was to have it set up (sound post installed), and to get a bow. I didn't want to spend 60-70$ locally for a student bow, so I ordered one direct from China for 25$ including shipping. For around 12$ the quality is pretty amazing. It is hand carved rosewood with an ebony frog, and mother of pearl accents (which match my other rosewood accessories).
The only thing I really need now is a case to store it and transport it (40$ on eBay +10$ shipping) and a digital tuner (around 20$). For now, I'll just sit the violin on my ottoman.
My first lesson (I'm taking courses online on YouTube for free) was a little rough and scratchy, but not too bad! I'm currently learning just the open strings, as well as correctly holding the bow, and avoiding hitting other strings.
I'm already noticing that I might want a shoulder rest, as the violin seems to rest uncomfortably on my bony collar bone. We'll see.