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basic tools needed to begin?


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I'm curious about taking apart a few violins to see what makes them tick. I have very basic woodworking skills (with hand tools) and, as a result, have a well-designed and sturdy bench. And I'm selfishly retired, so have time to do what interests me. A local luthier recently passed on to that Great Symphony in the Sky, and the contents of his shop will be coming up for auction soon. Although it is likely grounds for divorce, I'd be interested in purchasing a few essential items for repairing violins -- eg clamps, glue, planes, etc. Would anyone care to suggest the contents of a Beginning Luthier's Bench, and maybe even what that bench should look like?

At present, I'm not interested in building, but only (with a lot of luck!) repairing. I'm far from a bike mechanic, but part of my pleasure of cycling is understanding how things like (clean) bearings and cogs operate. (That knowledge has also saved my bacon on various extended tours!) I'd like to understand the mechanics of violins in the same way. Any guidance or suggestions for websites would be appreciated. I promise not to touch a violin of more than $100 value!     Thanks
















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I am an amateur myself, but I will give a reply.  By "What makes them tick", I assume you are trying to find out how their construction influences the tone and how to get the best tone.  Admirable goal but be forewarned that violin mechanics are not as readily understood as bicycle mechanics.  When you consider that violins are influenced by the specific wood used and its properties, the arching, the wood thicknesses, the bass bar, the sound post and its fit, the bridge, the string angle over the bridge (there are more, too), then one realizes that it is a moving target and mastery can only be achieved through years and years of experience.  Still, you have to start somewhere. 


First, It is always a good idea to have a valid reason to open a violin since the process can damage the violin (especially for newbies) -  crack repair is the most common reason.   To acquire tools, one way to proceed would be to think through each repair you intend to do and buy the tools as you need them.  If there is a violin shop around, you may find someone willing to answer a few questions.  To repair a crack you would need the following tools:

- Opening knives

- crack clamps

- granular hide glue and a glue pot or cooking apparatus

- wood cleat material

- chisel to thin the cleats

- closing clamps to reglue the top

- crack filling and touchup materials (brushes, varnish, etc.)


The Maestronet data base is a gold mine of information on tools and skills.  Search for keywords and do lots of reading.   You also might just peruse the catalog of a violin tools supplier like http://www.internationalviolin.com/  and check out the tools and supplies.

Enjoy the journey.

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The first thing that you should do is get a copy of "Violin Restoration" by Weisshaar & Shipman. Learning the proper method of repair and restoration, and the tools required is essential. The "few basic tools" easily grows into dozens, each with it's own speecific use. Brad's list omits many essential items, like proper knives, planes, sharpening stones, saws, peg reamers and shapers, other clamps, and lots of others. I would highly suggest taking classes or workshops specific to violin repair/restoration. The other trick is to be able to recognize a violin "more than $100 value". It doesn't have anything to do with the price that you pay for it!

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a block plane, a knife, a square. make your own closing clamps with your bandsaw and drill press. Once you can sharpen the plane and the knife, with your new sharpening stones (a whole other discussion!), then go for the reamers and shavers.


hide glue is cheap, and I have been using a little dipper crock pot, available on amazon for 14.99 or less, to heat mine.


That will keep you busy for a while, and you haven't even touched a violin yet!

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Focus on buying at the auction the tools that are specific to violin repair, if that is your goal.

Buying planes and chisels etc. is easy enough to do, from regular woodworking sites, and fairly inexpensive compared to buying some repair tools.


I always hear musicians complaining about the cost of fixing a crack, but then again they never had to buy repair tools.


If a whole bunch of violin makers show up for the auction, just get them talking about varnish, as a distraction, and you will have no bidding wars then. :o

It works here at Maestronet all the time. ;)

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Thanks for these suggestions and the alert to "Violin Restoration" by Weisshaar & Shipman. My previous woodworking projects have been small tables, boxes, and often-amusing experiments with dovetailing, but always with hand tools. I have accumulated a small stash of planes, saws, chisels, clamps, etc., but imagine any parallel tools for violin repair will be smaller and more task-specific. I'll likely make a complete mess of an old fiddle or two (or three or four...) before I even approach making useful repairs, but it sounds a fun way to spend time. I have much greater affinity for wood grain than bearings, but wooded bicycles are too hard to pedal, especially in the rain. I'd like to understand why a luthier wants $100 to glue a bottom block or why he can say a split in an old violin has been repaired and is good to go. Actually MAKING a violin will have to wait for reincarnation. And understanding why one violin sings while another gasps for breath will take yet another incarnation!

   Thanks for these ideas. And I like the varnish diversion!  


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