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Effects on tone of top crack repair with cleats.


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I have an old Seraphine copy made in 1888, that was given to me free many years ago, because someone stepped on it and snapped the top into three seperate pieces (oddly, the rest of the instrument was undamaged). It's not valuable, as it has seen many other repairs and several refinishings. At the time, I was just getting into violin making, so I decided to try repairing the top, and did successfully, making a jig to hold the top pieces aligned while I wicked glue in the cracks and planted a number of small cleats. The cleats were small and nicely shaped, and the original cracks are still very tight. Okay, big deal and waste of time some might say, but I was new to violin work and I really liked the fiddle (still do) and wanted to save it.

But in the years since then, the tone has constantly degraded, and new top cracks have appeared needing further repairs (could be bad wood I suppose). I have no doubt this is the cause of the degrading tone. Or am I wrong. How far can you go with cracked top repairs before enough is enough? I don't have the time these days to carve a new top for this thing, so I've been considering replacing it with a fully finished plate that some companies offer. Are they any good, and who offers a cheap one (or does anyone out there have a basically reusable Stradish style 4/4 top they'd sell me?) PM if so.


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As I has been told that the top is the most important part of the sound producing department. Repairs work done of it only can

make it playable. Other than that anything could go wrong. None of my repair jobs on my broken violins sound any good but I have

no idea how good they were before. No way I can do comparisons. Perhaps they were bad to beginwith. My marvelous work won't make a difference

to them. Just a self congratulation thought is given to. Hope you would have the same thought.

My best violin is an old German, upon careful examination it had been open many time but last time was "perfect" (some years ago, God knows who?)

A lot of wear but it has no defects. A good luthier can make a decent violin from a junk. A light touch of my bow, the sound jumps out. I don't even

believe I am doing it.

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I have replaced top plates before - for much the same reason.

If I like the violin, I'd consider doing that in a heartbeat.

Just buy a raw billet (I would avoid a pre carved one) - join it and draw a pattern from the existing rib assembly - so that the plate will match the existing rib assembly/blocks perfectly (don't forget - the rib pattern is reversed from a tracing - please don't ask me why I am stressing this particular point..., ok, so, I actually cut one backwards once - grrrr.)

No risk of the plate not matching perfectly. Plus, you'll have complete control of the thickness and arching.

Varnishing an entire top plate to match this way (at least for me) is much easier than matching a portion, or touching up cracks, plus, there is nothing quite as sastisfying as making a plate from scratch.

If you just get on it, it is quicker and easier than repairing and re repairing a continually problematic plate.

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Well, this is a little embarrassing, but it was my first attempt at serious crack repair. Here's some pics.....


The lower bout on the bass side was broken off in 4 seperate pieces. The longish cleats are actually over two cracks. The centerline has begun to spilt at both ends and is repaired and well as a few other small cracks. On the outside only one crack is plainly visable. The plate is actually quite strong, but even a simple knuckle tap test results in a rather quiet dull thud. My idea at the time was to try and save the original plate, but I feel that it's seen it's last days.

Should I not consider this a strad type plate? What are Seraphine copies a copy of? Should I ditch this plate for another? Like I said, the instrument isn't worth much (but it is to me).

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Okay, I'll give it a try. I mentioned that my repair skills have improved (at least a little) over the years, but I remember that this plate really was a mess to begin with. These were complete cracks resulting in 5 different seperated pieces. Though it can't be seen in the pics, I also had to add little slivers of wood here and there to replace missing wood in the cracks. They are tight, blend fairly well, and don't pass any light. So how might I approach it differently now? Smaller cleats (I used the long cleats seen, as two of the cracks were less then 5mm apart)?

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