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Student Instruments, Glue in the sound post


Dwight Brown
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I know about a dozen reasons why you would not want to do this on a good instrument. But after having the 1 millionth sound post fall on a student cello the other day I got to thinking.... Why not glue the damn things in on student instruments! It's not like we are going to sit with the violin maker and adjust the post back and fourth for hours. If gluing the post was toooo horrible why not glue just the end against the back. OK let the feeding frenzy begin!

Dwight

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Because a falling post is a symptom of improper fit. Well fit sound posts just do not fall (well, very rarely, and when they do, it is usually with severe weather changes and slacking off strings completely). You can do anything you want, glue, tape, drywall screw through the back, but you will never derive any satisfaction from these things. And also because someday the cello will find its way into the hands of a competent repairman, and he will laugh at you, or call you awful names. And years from now (assuming you are going to continue work on instruments) you will regret even one cello in the field with this defect.

They're falling because you are doing something wrong. Find out what it is and solve it. For starters, you absolutely need a mirror and light to see what is happening at the top. If your fit is good, then you may need to insert it with more force, and with good perpendicularity in both planes.

One fairly harmless thing you could do to get more tack or friction (in the event the top, bottom, or post ends are glazed up in some way) is to apply a little powdered rosin by pressing a smidge onto the post ends.

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They're falling because you are doing something wrong. Find out what it is and solve it. For starters, you absolutely need a mirror and light to see what is happening at the top. If your fit is good, then you may need to insert it with more force, and with good perpendicularity in both planes.

One fairly harmless thing you could do to get more tack or friction (in the event the top, bottom, or post ends are glazed up in some way) is to apply a little powdered rosin by pressing a smidge onto the post ends.

These are not instruments I set up, I was not clear. These are instruments that belong to the school where I work. I doubt I would spend a great deal of time putting in new posts etc. Besides I am a disaster at setting up posts. These are typical heavy-duty student instruments that get a lot of hard use. I was just thinking in terms of instruments that get bounced off the floor etc. they would be better off with the post fixed.

Dwight

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If you are resetting posts, then you are still doing at least one component of set up. If you are a disaster at setting up posts, then one asks, why are you setting up posts, or resetting posts that have fallen?

Your original question was to ascertain why not glue posts in.

The simple reason again is that it's unnecessary, and never done by anyone but the most incompetent persons. Given that you know that it should not be done, you cannot even take refuge in incompetence, since truly incompetent people never even bother to think long enough to inquire if something is being done wrong.

Can you not get the school to have the operation performed by someone who knows how to install a post without glue? If not, you might reconsider trying again with the provided tips of applying a little chalk or rosin to post ends, making sure there is full contact top and bottom using a mirror, and inserting more firmly. It is possible to master a single luthier task like posts without being a luthier, and probably quicker than you imagine, provided you have O.K. hands and eyes.

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At first I hated setting posts. Now I don't mind it at all and it's one of those satisfying little challenges that I'm faced with. If my youngest daughter is handy while I'm working on a violin and the soundpost falls, she will burst out laughing. The ka-plink of a soundpost falling over is a common sound in my workshop!

I recently fixed up an old Czech 16" viola, a retired school beater, and I had to make and fit a new post. For the first time in my life I actually took the time to move the post fore and aft a little at a time and was astounded by the difference in tone. Traditionally I would stick it in there and get it into the textbook position and walk away. Didin't seem to make much difference in the Glaesels, Scherl & Roth, and other school violins. This time, for whatever reason, I truly heard a marked difference.

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Well..........we are 150 miles from the nearest repairman and seldom have any budget to speak of. I don't ever set up posts, I know my limitations at the moment. I was just thinking out loud about doing this on some instruments that see very hard use. I still have not heard any reason not to except "it just isn't done" It seems like 'cellos especially if the bridge falls (school bus rides with soft cases) you can bet the post will go down. In any case don't worry I haven't done anything yet it's just that school repairs are a bit like bailing a boat with a strainer. Just remember we are talking about kids that could damage a fiddle if it was made out of cement. As a public school teacher you get to teach everyone not just the angels.

DLB

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Well..........we are 150 miles from the nearest repairman and seldom have any budget to speak of. I don't ever set up posts, I know my limitations at the moment. I was just thinking out loud about doing this on some instruments that see very hard use. I still have not heard any reason not to except "it just isn't done" It seems like 'cellos especially if the bridge falls (school bus rides with soft cases) you can bet the post will go down. In any case don't worry I haven't done anything yet it's just that school repairs are a bit like bailing a boat with a strainer. Just remember we are talking about kids that could damage a fiddle if it was made out of cement. As a public school teacher you get to teach everyone not just the angels.

I have done the following, and it works very well.. I did it for a salvage viola which had a post pushed through the top. The only reason I tell you guys is because it is not something that I would not try to patent because of the sceptics.

It works only if you have to take off a top for some other reason.

Use a foot from (violin, vla, or cello) adjustable bridge. Cut the round swivel part horizontally in half. Put a dimple in that surface and glue the foot centered at the nominal position of the post. Don't "fit" it, it will deform without printing a mark through the [thick] top. It will also be in the "right" spot for reasons I will not try to explain.

Sharpen a post, round this off suitably, and size the point with thin superglue. Fit the bottom when assembled, which is quite easy at this point. The sound is very good, I play the salvage viola myself in orchestra, and it sounds just like any other good-quality instrument. A pencil sharpener works great for viola and violin posts. For cello, you can use a belt sander.

For the sceptics: There are now two bridge feet displaced by the distance of the lever-arm. If you don't like a shoe on a soundpost, why do you like it on a bridge? The only problem is that it is not adjustable, but can be put in the right place, which is an offset slightly more than the wood thickness; whatever you like. It is not "shrill" which some might expect if the intuition says that the diameter of the post suppresses overtones of this wavelength (in wood). It works FINE and I am pretty good player.

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Dwight, I read this post to get a good laugh, but now that I've read it I feel pity for your situation. Also, no one has really given you a good answer. The truth is, if you've been in the violin business long enough, you'll know that you can do no wrong with school instruments. They are completely disposable. You just want them to last as long as they can until the day they get sat on or dropped off the bus, which they definitely will.

So, you're best option is to get a good repairman to make good fitting posts which can stay in indefinitely if they're made well. But, if that's just not possible, do what you have to do.

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"Well..........we are 150 miles from the nearest repairman and seldom have any budget to speak of. I don't ever set up posts, I know my limitations at the moment. I was just thinking out loud about doing this on some instruments that see very hard use. I still have not heard any reason not to except "it just isn't done" It seems like 'cellos especially if the bridge falls (school bus rides with soft cases) you can bet the post will go down. In any case don't worry I haven't done anything yet it's just that school repairs are a bit like bailing a boat with a strainer. Just remember we are talking about kids that could damage a fiddle if it was made out of cement. As a public school teacher you get to teach everyone not just the angels"

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Of course there are compelling physical reasons not to glue the post in. For instance, future repairmen may damage the top or bottom when trying to remove or adjust it. Or it may leave glue residue that will have to be removed in order to make the surface smooth to refit the post. Gluing just the bottom is perhaps as risky if not more so since the top may still slip, leaving torque on the bottom and the top coupling to rattle or buzz. Most importantly, the very fact they need gluing in indicates they are not only fit improperly, they are fit as bad as is possible, and thus the instrument is just that much farther out of decent setup.

You might say the kids are so rough on the cellos, it does not matter if they sound good. If this is really true, then they might as well cancel the music program. But if you want to inspire kids to play and perhaps have the odd one really take to an instrument, the probability goes up if it sounds better, so every little thing that improves the sound is beneficial even if it is not immediately apparent. In addition, general care of instruments should be part of the music program. Instilling a certain minimum of respect for instruments is something that should at least be attempted at regular intervals, and I would wager there is nothing of the sort occurring at present.

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But you might say the kids are rough on the cellos and thus it does not matter if they sound good. If this is really true, then they might as well cancel the music program. But if you want to inspire kids to play and perhaps have the odd one really take to an instrument, the probability goes up if it sounds better, so every little thing that improves the sound is beneficial even if it is not immediately apparent. In addition, general care of instruments should be part of the music program. Instilling a certain minimum of respect for instruments is something that should at least be attempted at regular intervals, and I would wager there is nothing of the sort occurring at present.

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I am going to stop writing on this thread as it has become tiresome. Of course the students are taught to take care of their instruments. And we talk to them constantly about how to take care of them and help them last a long time. I tell the kids that if an instrument is taken care of it can last forever. And I tell them about seeing people play on DaSalo and Maggini instruments that are about 400 years old. We even look at pictures of fine instruments and learn about some of the Cremonese and other makers. My point was that cost of a new sound post is a large portion of the price of a $250 instrument I know the thing is bound to sound better if the post is up as opposed to down. I have 27 years in the trenches behind me, and I was just floating an idea to get a few extra years out of some school instruments.

DLB

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Upon further consideration, I would add one other observation that regardless of whether you received the answer you desired, at least three different responders provided specific advice on solving the problem without glue, and yet you could not find any compelling reason to acknowledge these helpful hints as possible options, let alone offer appreciation. This is disappointing.

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Hey Dwight, I sympathize with your situation!

From reading past posts it sounds as if you're interested in getting your feet wet in the making/repair world, which isn't a bad idea

considering where you're located and your job. Hats off to you by the way for what you do with the kids. Unfortunately most school districts give little money for their music/art programs and you guys must make due with what you get.

If you're somewhat comfortable with a soundpost setter, I'd recommend adding a thin shim of maple veneer to the soundposts. Don't try to refit them, just Krazy glue a small piece to the end, file it round to match the diameter of the post, rub a bit of chalk on the ends and re-position them in the instruments. Posts that are too loose will move the easiest so if you can lengthen it a bit, it may help. If you are REALLY desperate, you could put a dab of very diluted gelatin on the bottom end of the post, it may be enough of an adhesive to keep the post standing, and a good sharp tap with a setter would most likely break the bond if necessary...who knows, maybe a luthier will open shop in you town one day! Good luck.

I just re-read Dwights previous post where he said he is not comfortable with a s.p setter....Dwight, take one of the crummiest cellos home over Christmas break and practice taking the post down and setting it up again and again, it's hard...but not as hard as getting those kids to play and count!

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1) OK, a properly measured # 2 pencil with erasures on either end

2) Thumbtacks inserted into the post through the belly and back for good measure

Sorry, couldn't resist. Better to get some more schooling to master this chalky -skill.

I also know others who dampen the ends at times (to expand for a time the grain) , if the post is a hair too short; but only for annoying customers who are never satisfied.

best wishes -tom

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Great suggestion Brad, that's a terrific tool to have around.

Maybe this topic could give rise to another "summer seminar" aimed at those people in

similar situations as Dwight. I think there are some printed guides available for educators

but there is nothing like being shown how to do something by qualified and competent

repairmen. A course like this could be geared specifically to the school teacher and the

like who have little or no hand skills but the responsibility and need to take care of their

schools instruments but small or non-existent budgets to do so.

Also, those of us in the business can help out our own schools on occasion.

Once a year we ask our local high school conductor to pick out

the most problematic instruments and bows and donate some time in order to get them

into shape (within reason of course!).

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Nice job fitting that post, Martina.

I guess the top didn't fit as well as the bottom, or the post would have remained attached to the top? :)

No, wasn´t me who did that post, I just took the top off...

Might have been done by someone who licks posts while fitting next to munching on sth. sticky- like gelatine drops :)

martina

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