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To fix or not to fix


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I have a neighbor who has an old violin and I am about 95% sure I am going to buy it from him.I don't know who made it but it has a "Antonio Stradivari sticker in it and a date of 17 something on it and Cremonea . I don't hold any allusions of anything other than a good quality reproduction but it came from Europe nearly a hundred years ago and an old German couple gave it to a family they met in California for their children.Etc,etc. The children weren't musical.

The violin appears well made,and in good condition for the most part except that the back has come loose . I planned on fixing that but there is a peice of the edge of the back plate that has been purposely removed apparently to facilitate installation of the chin rest.The section removed would be from the purfling to the outer edge and the width of the lower part of the chinrest.

I was planning to pretty much leave the surface condition as I received it but that missing peice of wood bothers me.Should I patch it to original contours or leave it/ The surface is intact and in passible condition but there is no shine to it and there appears to be grey/black dust across the whole waist section which I assume might be rosin residue.The workmanship is fine and I hesitate to do too much but it seems too nice to waste by not doing any repairs. It comes with a small arched wooden case and two bows,neither of which are haired .

What would you recommend if I laid it on your workbench?

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I knew someone was going to say that.I will attach pictures but I don't have the violin in my possession now. I am going to Fairbanks,Alaska first thing in the morning and won't be back for a week. I will do my best to supply closeup pix at that time. Thanks for the quick reply.

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Best, of course, is to take it to a luthier.

On my bench, first a very detailed inspection for sure. Let's say that we've done a complete inspection of all seams, edges, neck angle, pegbox, bassbar, corners, purfling and surfaces for cracks and old repairs. And, the "only" thing wrong is broken edge near chin rest and back has open seams.

I'd clean the glue from the loose back. Heat up my hide glue (don't even try anything but the real thing). Line up clamps and trial fit back exactly. Then glue and clamp. Then find wood with matching grain to replace the broken edge. Shape it to fit (with grain lines matching) then glue with hide glue. Then match color and blend in replaced edge with original.

It's probably not that simple. You may have to do things like open and trim ribs at the button or secure linings or blocks.

As I said in the beginning, the best path is to take to a luthier for "hands-on" advice.

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Thanks Regis,

I kind of live in left field .It is 149 miles to Missoula, Montana and 168 to Idaho,Falls Id and not a whole lot in between.There was a very good luthier here in town but old age got him. I'll do some looking but I also was leaning towards splicing in a peice and matching the finish. The splice would be fairly easy,but the color match will be a bear!I had also read that you shouldn't do any repairs that aren't reversible. I do have plenty of hide glue to mix up.

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Hi Jack,

Yes,I live in a beautiful place and it is both a blessing and a curse. You mentioned Engleman spruce. I know where there is an engleman spruce standing dead that is nearly three feet thick at the butt and approximately thirty feet to the first limb . It is about 60 feet tall to the broken top and clean straight and dead . And it is within 300 feet of a stream in the Salmon National Forest so it can't be cut. Some fish loving environmentalist has convinced the powers that be that fish die when wood is cut within three hundred feet of water.Go figure!!It's enough to make a crook out of an honest man.

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