Making and Repairing


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I build instruments as well as repair them. I've often felt that the two go well together-that one activity informs the other.

But I sometimes have a hard time switching from one to the other. If I'm making instruments it's hard for me to stop to do repairs. Maybe a bit easier to go from repairs to making.

The two activities have completely different mind-sets.

What do you think, is it helpful for a maker to do repairs? A restorer to build instruments? Are the skill sets complimentary or mutually exclusive?

Oded

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Good question!

It is fair to say that making and restoration have some quite different aspects to each other, and I can think of plenty restoration techniques which would not really help you to make a better instrument, although I do feel that there is a fair bit of crossover, rather than them being mutually exclusive.

The biggest advantage for me in doing restoration work is that it has allowed me to have a large number of fantastic instruments through my hands, which in turn has informed my making. If I didn't have this access to fine Italian, French, English and German instruments etc. I doubt my making would have got to the point where it is now.

What someone has described in a book, and what you can learn when you have the instrument in your hands are very different!

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I earn my living restoring violins. Making new ones is more or less my hobby. I think I would get bored just making new ones, but doing it occasionaly is a great way of trying things out that I have seen on old ones, so I agree with you that one compliments the other.

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I build instruments as well as repair them. I've often felt that the two go well together-that one activity informs the other.

But I sometimes have a hard time switching from one to the other. If I'm making instruments it's hard for me to stop to do repairs. Maybe a bit easier to go from repairs to making.

The two activities have completely different mind-sets.

What do you think, is it helpful for a maker to do repairs? A restorer to build instruments? Are the skill sets complimentary or mutually exclusive?

Oded

Oded,

Part of this has to be a personality thing. As a cabinetmaker I could not do repairs....I wouldn't fix a drawer, I would just throw it out and make another one....not so advisable with violins! I had a long conversation with Stacy Stiles about this while she was at the workshop last year....she said her curiosity was fired by new making [in this case varnishing] as opposed to the "limits" of repair work.

Joe

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A big difference between the two is that a new built instrument should be sold. That is not always an easy job. Repair work to be done on an instrument is in most cases in commission.

On the other hand most of the skills obtained in making can be applied in repair work although some repair work is not used in new making.

In that view I think both skills are complementair.

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I'll agree that they are complimentary skills. I do repair/restoration work, and have taken quite a few classes with Hans J. Nebel. We often have students in the class, who have completed three years of instrument make at schools like the North Bennett St. School, in Boston. These students have made about 6(?) instruments, but the repair/restoration work is different enough that they find the classes beneficial.

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Oded,

Part of this has to be a personality thing. As a cabinetmaker I could not do repairs....I wouldn't fix a drawer, I would just throw it out and make another one....not so advisable with violins! I had a long conversation with Stacy Stiles about this while she was at the workshop last year....she said her curiosity was fired by new [in this case varnishing] as opposed to the "limits" of repair work.

Joe

My father was a cabinet maker as well as an artist. Later in life he got into doing repairs and restoration of antique furniture, which is what i would consider comparable to doing violin repair and restoration.

Oded

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my time in the business, almost 30 yrs has been split about 50/50 between making{clavichords} and repair/restoring violins. making is for me a very egotistical and time consuming endeavor that over time was not as rewarding for me as restoring antiques where i cultivated a love for the old masters, not myself, i know some top builders that juggle building and running a shop, but overall i see benefits to concentrating on one or the other, most of the techniques used in the two are similar but some things are very different, being a good maker does not make you a good restorer and vice versa, in other words its easier to excel in one field than both, but experience learned in one field can definetly benefit the other

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Seriously though, I find that they are two sides of the same coin. One is seriously lacking in this field of one doesn't have experience in both.

Perhaps the maker is at more of a disadvantage for not having strong restoration skills then the other way around.

Making 10 violins is a great start.

Making 10 bridges and fitting 10 sound posts isn't a start at all.

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if youre very talented and work long hours, by all means do both, they definetly compliment each other, however in this buisiness the value of your work is proportional to how many times youve done a job, be it make or restore violins, if youre working less than full time and or see this as a hobby, you may be better to concentrate in one field or the other, id rather be good at one thing than mediocre at two......

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For me, at least, repairing is a necessary part of making: I have to fix a screw-up here and there, like splicing in a cut-off button, repairing an edge that got bashed when I dropped it on the floor, removing a top and replacing a bass bar when it doesn't quite sound right, and a raft of other similar things. The basic tool skills for making and repairing have quite a bit of overlap; if you're a total klutz at one, you're not likely to be very good at the other. I think it's just a question of which task you would PREFER to do.

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I see repair as way more involved ....kinda like going from white picket fences and flowerpots,and 1950's leave it to beaver images, to pulp fiction and utter chaos! I can't at this point imagine some of the restorations how they were done...I can imagine that the pay scale must be better....surgens make more than midwives...

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I see repair as way more involved ....kinda like going from white picket fences and flowerpots,and 1950's leave it to beaver images, to pulp fiction and utter chaos! I can't at this point imagine some of the restorations how they were done...I can imagine that the pay scale must be better....surgens make more than midwives...

I'm sure there are all levels of repair, from re-gluing popped joints and fitting a new bridge, to re-arching and re-setting the neck on a Strad. You might be able to do repairs, but not high level restorations.

Similarly, there's making fiddles, and then there's making bench copies of famous instruments for world-class musicians.

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if youre a total klutz, or any kind of a klutz at all, please stick to making, and if youre interested in restoration, please get a formal education working for somebody, not just a summer class. running a shop one of the biggest dissapointments we face is incompetently repaired violins that are sometimes completely ruined, incompetently built violins cause me no grief, but incompetently repaired otherwise beautiful violins is a real bummer, thats why i say making a couple violins does not make you a restoration expert, you can be a self taught violin maker, but self taught repairman can be a plague to this industry

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just a note of caution, according to wikidapediaTM, the average violin repairman working on a genuine stradivarius violin, actually does 20,000-100,000usd damage or devaluation/hour they work on it, an amateur repairman tried to work on a stolen stradivari cello(the general kidd??) in los angeles and it took experts at robert cauers shop 8 months and something like 150,000usd to fix it

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just a note of caution, according to wikidapediaTM, the average violin repairman working on a genuine stradivarius violin, actually does 20,000-100,000usd damage or devaluation/hour they work on it, an amateur repairman tried to work on a stolen stradivari cello(the general kidd??) in los angeles and it took experts at robert cauers shop 8 months and something like 150,000usd to fix it

I will certainly keep this in mind the next time I am working on a Strad! :huh:

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...the average violin repairman working on a genuine stradivarius violin, actually does 20,000-100,000usd damage or devaluation/hour they work on it...

I find that to be an interesting statistic. It means that if I'm average, it would take me anywhere from 10 to 50 hours to reduce the value of a $1 million Strad to zero. Not a bad week's work.

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again according to wikidapediaTM the average violin maker, no matter how bad they are always produces something that is of some value to someone and works for 1-100usd/hr on average.

the average self taught heart surgeon kills 4 out of 5 patients he works on and risks life imprisonment.

the amateur repairman who almost destroyed the general kidd? strad cello was not prosecuted, as he claimed he was unaware of the value of the cello, or of it having been stolen.

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