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The Violin Beautiful

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  1. I have two violins in the shop that were savaged by the same person. I have been putting off dealing with them as much as possible.
  2. I see a lot of soundpost cracks caused by tight sound posts where there is no evidence of any other damage. I have also seen someone put a soundpost crack into a brand new instrument while moving a post that was too tight. If the post only comes from into contact on an edge, that edge can act like a knife edge and put a lot of pressure into the top. Often a palpable ridge will appear, and it will eventually turn into a crack. Impact is definitely a common cause. A good number of the cello sound post patches I’ve done have been on cellos that fell over while in their cases.
  3. I often need to make adjustments to the knot after tying it for the first time. I haven’t tried the shim idea, but I can see how that might make it easier to adjust without having to retire the knot. What’s worked well for me has been to keep the ends of the gut equal in length. When I need to adjust the afterlength, I loosen the knot and adjust both sides so I can keep track of the amount of change. I’ve found I can often get it to the right length on the second try.
  4. String height is about the distance from fingerboard to string, or the amount of clearance a string has at rest. The middle and top of the string are not relevant because they aren’t the surfaces that come into contact with the fingerboard. You’re right that string diameter matters, and that’s exactly why using the middle or top of the string isn’t practical. To fine tune the curvature of the bridge, a template can be placed over the strings to be sure that they’re all in good positions relative to each other for bow clearance, but that’s a separate thing, not a measurement of string height. You’re missing a lot of crucial information. String height is only one part of what determines how a bridge is cut. There are many more important measurements.
  5. Measuring to the bottom. Measuring to the middle is less practical because it isn’t really a measurement of clearance, as a string is stopped by pressing its bottom surface against the fingerboard.
  6. The reason why the G and E heights of the strings above the fingerboard are given and not the D and A is that only two points are needed to establish the bridge curve. Once the heights for the G and E are laid out, the bridge template is positioned so it meets both points. The curve is then traced onto the bridge from the template. Then the exact spacing of the strings may be determined by using dividers. As far as the standard for fingerboard radius, 42 or 41.5 are more common. If the fingerboard is properly shaped and the bridge follows a good template, there shouldn’t be any serious issues with the heights of the middle strings. One detail to consider is the diameter of the D or A string. If it’s thinner (like a steel core A or silver D) the string groove will need to be shallower to correspond.
  7. I agree that the black marks are just crude antiquing. The marks in the wood on the back do seem to suggest something being used to scrape the original varnish off at some point.
  8. A toothed plane blade could leave marks like that as well.
  9. I’m not entirely certain, but the marks look to me like they were made by heavy grit sandpaper or a scraper. Perhaps someone removed varnish and got too aggressive, leaving scars in the wood. When new varnish was applied, it sank into the low spots, making the marks more visible.
  10. I would definitely get rid of the wedge under the fingerboard unless the neck is too thin without it. Then the projection can be re-evaluated. If it’s considerably low, a full neck reset is in order. If it’s not too far off and there’s enough edge overhang, a New York neck reset would be a good fix. If the neck has been dropping, try to find out why. Is the cello going through significant changes in humidity? Is there a weak glue joint at the top block? Was a different kind of glue used to put the top on that might creep over time? Is the neck solidly in its mortise? Any of these things could cause a neck to move. It is up to the customer to decide what work should be done. If the luthier is good, I would recommend the customer consider any advice given for a solution, but work shouldn’t commence until there’s a clear agreement.
  11. Regular hair for violin bows is fine. You can purchase coarser white hair or black hair and use that or mix it in with white to make salt and pepper hair. I have a gauge I made for measuring hair a while ago. I use that as a guide, then adjust the amount as needed. I get requests for black hair a few times a year, so I do keep some. Fiddlers occasionally ask for it as well.
  12. I’m not sure about other readers, but my reason for not voting thus far is that I don’t really like violins to be monotone. My favorite varnishes have a variety of colors. Some will change with the light source.
  13. The shady relabeling business will continue to thrive so long as people put faith in labels. There are forgeries and duplicitous practices in most (if not all) fields. It’s frustrating to have to navigate through the uncertainty, but it’s a reality, and that is why expertise is so valuable. There isn’t a simple solution because it’s not a simple problem. Some might argue that it’s better to only buy from a living maker, but that isn’t always a guarantee, given that there are plenty of makers who put their names on instruments they didn’t make. That’s one of the reasons for the formation of organizations like the Cremona Consortium or the AFVBM.
  14. The cost for this repair is dependent on the amount of stress on the ribs. If they’re bulging out, they’ll need to be shortened to avoid the area popping open again. The top or back do not need to be removed. If there isn’t actually too much bulging of the ribs, the seam can be reglued. It will generally cost a little more than the average open seam because the bottom block is loose as well, but it isn’t a big problem. Even if the ribs do need to be shortened, it’s not a major job. It might approach the retail cost of the violin, though, so just keep that in mind.
  15. I think this demonstrates a couple important points: 1) One shouldn’t automatically dismiss attic-found instruments as fakes, even if they’ve been sitting unseen for decades. The overwhelming majority are low quality, but it’s important to approach each instrument with a certain amount of respect. There are all kinds of reasons why violins, even great ones, to fall into disuse and neglect. 2) It’s not a new idea, but labels are not a good identifier. When everything else is known, they can be a supplement, but the identification process should never start with them. In this case it’s especially important because a bad label was in a genuine violin. This kind of thing does really happen, and more often than one might expect. Good labels are sometimes stolen and replaced with forgeries in order to trick people into believing in fake violins on the strength of their genuine labels.
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