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.
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:
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