Long Time No See!

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Long Absence!

Several Repairs and Two Completions


I had several repair projects over the last nine months…a couple of violins, two minor cello repairs, a classical guitar repair and a fairly major cello repair, from which I will eventually share a lot of photos.

One of the violins was pretty pleasant, in that an 82-year-old man brought me his mother’s violin which he had never heard played, and asked me to restore it to playability. There wasn’t a great deal wrong with it, which was fortunate, as he was moving to another state that weekend. I was able to clean it up, hair the bow,make various minor repairs, and have it playable by that Saturday, and he met with me Sunday morning, and was overwhelmingly satisfied. I played “Amazing grace” for him (very poorly– I truly am not a player), and he was pretty choked up.

Another repair was an elderly plywood cello owned by a friend. It had open seams, a missing bridge, and a few other things. Pretty easy stuff, though. Her husband’s classical guitar (also plywood) also had open seams, and very bad old strings, so I glued up the seams, replaced the strings and took both instruments back to them the next week.

My son’s friend brought me her cello, inherited from her grandmother. It was a nice, old Mittenwald carved cello, and she had been told there was a lot wrong with it. I looked it over very carefully, trying to find the things that were so “wrong”, but there was nothing… It seemed to only be missing the bridge. I finally said, “There’s nothing wrong with your cello; it just needs a bridge!” She said, “Oh, the bridge is here!” and produced the missing bridge. Even the soundpost was in place…so I installed the bridge, tuned the instrument, and played a couple of old hymns, just to check the sound. All was in order, and fully functional in about 15 minutes. She went home ecstatic, and I got a big smile, too.

Two Completions

Viola Completion

Another was not really a repair, it was the completion of a small viola for a family whose son is a fairly good player, and who wanted to switch to viola, but they could not afford a handmade viola. I proposed that I buy a 15-1/2″ viola-in-the-white, and complete it for them. As it turned out, the projection was way too low, so the job required that I change the neck-set angle before completing the finish-work and set-up. In the end, they got a very good viola for about a third what I charge to make one from scratch. That worked out well for them, and for me as well, which is good, because in the midst of all of the above, a fairly major job came in:

Cello Completion:

A lady in New Hampshire contacted me to say that her father had begun a cello around 30 years ago, but died without having completed it. The unfinished, unprotected cello had rested in her attic for eight or nine years, and was badly cracked in a few places. It ultimately turned out to be nearly a complete rebuild, but the result was very satisfactory for her and for me. It just took me a lot longer than I had predicted. This job ended up requiring:

  • Scroll-graft, to salvage the scroll her father had carved, while replacing the damaged neck.
  • Replacement of both the upper and lower end blocks.
  • Removal of both upper corner blocks, and reinforcing both areas with false blocks.
  • Repair of ten cracks, collectively, in the two upper ribs, both caused by wood shrinkage at the upper corner blocks.
  • Re-establishing the outlines of both front and back plates,
  • Installing purfling, and a new back button.
  • Re-checking and graduating the front and back plates,
  • Re-shaping the bass-bar.
  • Reassembly of the corpus,
  • Re-setting of the (new) neck, in the new upper end block.
  • Installing and dressing a fingerboard,
  • Installing a uniquely-shaped nut, to match the uniquely-shaped scroll cheeks.
  • Installing an oversized saddle to fill the oversized  cutout already removed from the front plate.
  • Complete varnish-prep, including correcting damages, as well as cleaning up (most but not all) tool-marks.
  • Complete varnishing-process, from raw wood.
  • Installing a Rosewood end-pin assembly.
  • Installing and fitting a sound-post, as well as a bridge, and a Rosewood tailpiece with four built-in adjusters.
  • Plugging the original peg-holes, as they were in the wrong places, and establishing correct locations to install the new Rosewood pegs.
  • Strings, final adjustment and set-up, as well as a week of play-in, and applying a wolf-eliminator.

It was lots of fun…her father had chosen beautiful wood, and the resulting instrument has decent sound, too. It just was far more time-consuming than I had expected, so she patiently waited to get her cello back, and was quite gracious about the extra time involved. Over all, it was a very good experience, and we both went away happy.

The whole saga was posted on Facebook, so I allowed my website to languish during all those months.

I will post photos soon.

Thanks for looking

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4 Replies to “Long Time No See!”

  1. Glad to see you back posting again Chet! I really admire the personal stories behind what you do, keep it up!!

  2. Chet, my beloved cello is singing so beautifully, here in New Hampshire!! I love it and I am grateful for the phenomenal work that you did! You took such care with it, and that means the world to me. Thank you!! Sincerely, Maryanne Jensen-Gowan

    1. Ah, Miss Maryanne!

      That is good to hear! I have been feeling fairly discouraged about things in general (probably due to the stress of recovery after surgery), so it is especially good to hear “good news from a far country!” (Proverbs 25:25) Thanks so much for the encouragement!



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