Fingerboard wedge instead of correcting neck angle


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Hi there,

 

I recently saw a violin that someone "fixed", where instead of removing the neck and setting it to the correct angle, the person put a wedge under the fingerboard to raise it to the correct angle.

 

Is this sometimes considered an acceptable fix? This should actually make playing harder in higher positions since it makes the neck thicker the closer you go to the body of the violin. Basicly the neck is almost straight with the body.

 

So is this fix acceptable? Personally I would remove the wedge, and set the neck to the correct angle. But why wasnt something like that done in the first place? Disreguarding it being non-invasive on the violin.

 

Thank You. :)

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Maybe it wasn't worth the trouble.

 

Possibly. It was another German trade instrument. Nothing extraordinary. The guy also revarnished it, and if he had the time to do that, he might as well have done the correct repair on the neck though. Plus the violin belongs to him.

 

 

The wedge is a fix that I try hard to talk customers out of. The neck angle should be corrected without leaving such a visible testament to the repair. But repair work is expensive, so sometimes...

Indeed. I dont think the wedge is a good solution. As I just said, the violin belongs to him, and he repairs violins, so it wouldnt really cost him anything other than his own time to have it fixed.

 

 

Off-topic, but still relevant, when giving a quote on repair work, does one take in account the value of the instrument? For example, you cannot really charge 300$ for a repair on a 50$ violin. Unless ofcourse, you had to buy spesific items nececary to do the repair.

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...Is this sometimes considered an acceptable fix? This should actually make playing harder in higher positions since it makes the neck thicker the closer you go to the body of the violin...

 

Yes, this is sometimes acceptable.  The thick-neck problem than you mention can be remedied by removing wood from the playing surface of the neck, or on some instruments the neck might have been too thin before the wedge (often called a shim) was installed.

 

Another shim consideration is the overstand (the distance between the top and the underside of the fingerboard at the end of the neck).  A shim will increase the overstand.  So if the overstand is too small, a shim might bring it up to where it should be; and if the overstand is correct or too big, a shim would make it worse.

 

 

...Personally I would remove the wedge, and set the neck to the correct angle. But why wasnt something like that done in the first place? ...

 

In the first place, when the instrument was being built, there would be no need to remove and reset the neck.  It would have just been put in at the right angle.

 

But sometimes the neck is put in at the wrong angle, and sometimes the geometry of the instrument changes with age, shrinkage and string tension so that the angle becomes wrong even though it was correct when the instrument was made.  Installing a shim is faster and less intrusive than removing and resetting the neck, which sometimes makes it the preferred solution.

 

Another possible, ever faster,  solution is to raise the fingerboard projection by opening the top seam in the upper bout, pulling the neck back to the right angle and regluing the top seam with a shim between the end of the neck and the top.

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...you cannot really charge 300$ for a repair on a 50$ violin...

 

You can, and sometimes I do.  I tell the customer that the cost of the repair is more than the value of the violin, and that I wouldn't do it if the violin were mine.  But sometimes the customer wants me to do it anyways, because the violin has sentimental value.

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Yes, this is sometimes acceptable.  The thick-neck problem than you mention can be remedied by removing wood from the playing surface of the neck, or on some instruments the neck might have been too thin before the wedge (often called a shim) was installed.

 

Another shim consideration is the overstand (the distance between the top and the underside of the fingerboard at the end of the neck).  A shim will increase the overstand.  So if the overstand is too small, a shim might bring it up to where it should be; and if the overstand is correct or too big, a shim would make it worse.

 

 

 

In the first place, when the instrument was being built, there would be no need to remove and reset the neck.  It would have just been put in at the right angle.  But sometimes the neck is put in at the wrong angle, and sometimes the geometry of the instrument changes with age, shrinkage and string tension so that the angle becomes wrong even though it was correct when the instrument was made.  Installing a shim is faster and less intrusive than removing and resetting the neck, which sometimes makes it the preferred solution.

 

Thank you for the reply. I should just clear this up. When I said "Why wasnt it done in the first place" I meant correcting the neck angle by resetting the neck. Not "why was the violin made this way".

 

 

You can, and sometimes I do.  I tell the customer that the cost of the repair is more than the value of the violin, and that I wouldn't do it if the violin were mine.  But sometimes the customer wants me to do it anyways, because the violin has sentimental value.

 

Ahh I see. That makes sense. Thank You. :)

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FWIW, on this subject, you will sometimes see "folk" violins around here that were originally made with wedges instead of using a modern neck angle.  The tradition that does this has probably been doing it since Mozart was a pup and still does it today.  An example is shown in Foxfire #4 Plate 121.

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Sorry I'm late into the discussion. Does the violin has a through neck? In that case resetting the neck angle could be more difficult than if it had a modern neck and upper block. So the shim could be a more cost effective solution.

This is exactly the case I am dealing with a violin right now. Nice old German, quite decent sounding instrument but with low fingerboard projection. I'm planning to use some useless rib stuff to make a shim.

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Sorry I'm late into the discussion. Does the violin has a through neck? In that case resetting the neck angle could be more difficult than if it had a modern neck and upper block. So the shim could be a more cost effective solution.

This is exactly the case I am dealing with a violin right now. Nice old German, quite decent sounding instrument but with low fingerboard projection. I'm planning to use some useless rib stuff to make a shim.

 

Hi, the violin does have a modern neck and a normal upper block as far as I know.

 

For interest sake, why are you choosing to use a shim here instead of setting the neck at a better angle?

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If the fiddle is mine, and it's worth doing, I prefer to reset the neck.

If I do make a wedge I prefer to make it as part of the fingerboard, with a little step cut so that the tail of the fingerboard is of normal size. I don't like a separate maple wedge. I'll do this repair when, for example, the client can't justify a neck reset, or on a good violin with an original neck setting that I don't want to disturb.

I think long and hard about taking a neck out; I consider it major surgery, especially on a good fiddle. A great many instruments with slightly low overstand, made originally with a slightly wedged board can be played very comfortably with a fingerboard of the modern length fitted.

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Hi, the violin does have a modern neck and a normal upper block as far as I know.

 

For interest sake, why are you choosing to use a shim here instead of setting the neck at a better angle?

Kalie, he is stating that his violin has a "through neck", basically the neck and upper block are one.  Major surgery in comparison to a normal neck reset.  Remove top, new upper block, reset neck etc.   Also, as Conor states, if you have that old a violin with the original through neck, then it's getting harder to find these and the "conservative" approach would be to leave well enough along by doing something (wedge, or wedged fingerboard)reversible.   jeff

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Kalie, he is stating that his violin has a "through neck", basically the neck and upper block are one.  Major surgery in comparison to a normal neck reset.  Remove top, new upper block, reset neck etc.   Also, as Conor states, if you have that old a violin with the original through neck, then it's getting harder to find these and the "conservative" approach would be to leave well enough along by doing something (wedge, or wedged fingerboard)reversible.   jeff

Exactly.

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If I do make a wedge I prefer to make it as part of the fingerboard, with a little step cut so that the tail of the fingerboard is of normal size. I don't like a separate maple wedge. I'll do this repair when, for example, the client can't justify a neck reset, or on a good violin with an original neck setting that I don't want to disturb.

 

That is a really cool idea. I take it that in such a case you use ebony for the wedge?

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I recently had a batch of intermediate-level new Chinese violas with the fingerboard projections too low. The fingerboards, as is often the case with this kind of instrument, were enormously thick, so I planed a wedge-shape on the underside tapering towards the nut. Neck resets were simply not a viable economic consideration in this case.

 

Otherwise I do neck resets to correct a low projection. I've made a few wedges in cases where the necks were thin enough to allow for this.

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That is a really cool idea. I take it that in such a case you use ebony for the wedge?

I make a wedged fingerboard and cut the underside to make the free end thinner.

 

I've seen a few separate wedges with glue joints that have failed, and they can be a curse to fix if both joints are loose and if they're thin.

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Kalie, he is stating that his violin has a "through neck", basically the neck and upper block are one.  Major surgery in comparison to a normal neck reset.  Remove top, new upper block, reset neck etc.   Also, as Conor states, if you have that old a violin with the original through neck, then it's getting harder to find these and the "conservative" approach would be to leave well enough along by doing something (wedge, or wedged fingerboard)reversible.   jeff

 

Thank you I wasnt sure if the violin he was referring to had a through neck.

 

 

On a different question, is there any sound difference on a violin which has a wedge in to correct the angle instead of having the neck set to the correct angle?

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But why wasnt something like that done in the first place?

Perhaps the person who did it, being a non-professional, didn't know you could reset necks. Slapping in a wedge is the most immediately obvious way to raise the fingerboard. Or, as has been mentioned... the overstand was also too low? On my second violin, the projection and overstand were both too low, so I put in a wedge. Yep, the neck is thick at the body, but it's used for a fiddle. No biggie.

 

On a different question, is there any sound difference on a violin which has a wedge in to correct the angle instead of having the neck set to the correct angle?

The only way I could see a difference would be if the mass and/or stiffness was different. Even then, I would expect the effect to be very minor, in only the lowest frequencies, and not much of a tonal difference.
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The most important thing is to have the right angle. If the nut is too much above an imaginary drawn straight line extended from the ribs, the bridge will bend forward. If the nut is way below this line, the bridge will bend backwards. This effects the sound very much depending on how "stiff" the violin is.

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...is there any sound difference on a violin which has a wedge in to correct the angle instead of having the neck set to the correct angle?

 

I suggest that you conduct an experiment to answer this question and let us know the results.

 

You will have to find a violin that has a wedge under the fingerboard to achieve the proper fingerboard projection.  Play it enough to familiarize yourself with the sound.  Then, remove the neck, remove the fingerboard wedge, reglue the fingerboard to the neck, reset the neck so that the fingerboard has the same projection as it did before and play the violin again.  Compare the sound with the sound you remember from a few days previously.  Be sure you use the same bridge in the same position, and make sure the soundpost doesn't fall so it will be in the same position, too.  Also the temperature and humidity should be the same for both playing tests.

 

My point is that I doubt there's any realistic hope of answering your question.

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The most important thing is to have the right angle. If the nut is too much above an imaginary drawn straight line extended from the ribs, the bridge will bend forward. If the nut is way below this line, the bridge will bend backwards. This effects the sound very much depending on how "stiff" the violin is.

 

I've never heard that before. Neither have I seen it. Bent bridges I've seen for sure, but the cause you put forward is new to me.

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I've never heard that before. Neither have I seen it. Bent bridges I've seen for sure, but the cause you put forward is new to me.

 

Assuming we fix the bridge height at 32 mm as standard:

 

It is actually that the angles before and after the bridge should be as equal as possible. otherwise the bridge will bend towards the less steep angle. As the tail piece angle is more "fixed" it's easier to just look at the neck angle. But you can for example compensate a steep neck angle (that has as a result a low overstand) with a lower sadle. This does not bend the bridge but puts more straight down pressure on the top. Vice versa with a gentle neck angle and a high sadle, less straight down pressure on the top. This is only basic physics so it should be fairly easy to calculate.

 

However it is not easy, as usual with violins. The flexibility (body modes) plays a great role in this whole "triangle drama"!

A flexible violin with low body modes (especially the top) can't handle a steep angled neck. Vise versa with a stiff violin and a less steep angled neck (with high overstand and sadle).

 

This comes down to playability and how the sound is "popping" out. So when we talk about different types of violins and if the bridge should be high or low, we really should instead fix the bridge height and discuss angles.

 

I figured this out many years ago when I reglued a top that had become unglued on an old folk music fiddle. This violin had the bridge very much bending forward. I knew the player who likes to play Irish style folk music. I had also been fascinated by the popping sound that he made. He used a lot of resin on his bow too. As I had his violin for a week I had the possibility to play it a lot and learn.

 

The violin had great unbalance between the angles, very high overstand and gentle angle before the bridge. What suprised me was the that the strings where very tense. As a result of less straight down preasure on the top, the strings becomes more tense as the violin body does not give the flexibility. This got me into experiments with weges and angles on my own violin. Together with this I studied an article on bridges by Joseph Curtin.

 

 

Peter

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Assuming we fix the bridge height at 32 mm as standard:

 

It is actually that the angles before and after the bridge should be as equal as possible. otherwise the bridge will bend towards the less steep angle. As the tail piece angle is more "fixed" it's easier to just look at the neck angle. But you can for example compensate a steep neck angle (that has as a result a low overstand) with a lower sadle. This does not bend the bridge but puts more straight down pressure on the top. Vice versa with a gentle neck angle and a high sadle, less straight down pressure on the top. This is only basic physics so it should be fairly easy to calculate.

 

However it is not easy, as usual with violins. The flexibility (body modes) plays a great role in this whole "triangle drama"!

A flexible violin with low body modes (especially the top) can't handle a steep angled neck. Vise versa with a stiff violin and a less steep angled neck (with high overstand and sadle).

 

This comes down to playability and how the sound is "popping" out. So when we talk about different types of violins and if the bridge should be high or low, we really should instead fix the bridge height and discuss angles.

 

I figured this out many years ago when I reglued a top that had become unglued on an old folk music fiddle. This violin had the bridge very much bending forward. I knew the player who likes to play Irish style folk music. I had also been fascinated by the popping sound that he made. He used a lot of resin on his bow too. As I had his violin for a week I had the possibility to play it a lot and learn.

 

The violin had great unbalance between the angles, very high overstand and gentle angle before the bridge. What suprised me was the that the strings where very tense. As a result of less straight down preasure on the top, the strings becomes more tense as the violin body does not give the flexibility. This got me into experiments with weges and angles on my own violin. Together with this I studied an article on bridges by Joseph Curtin.

 

 

Peter

 

Peter, all I can say is that I seem to be working with different numbers and experiences to yours.

 

My starting point is a string angle of 158º over the bridge (for violin) coupled with a bridge height of around 31mm. These two are the critical measurements, and from these are derived the amount of neck root overstand and neck angle. The arching height will affect the last two, but ideally not the first two. My understanding is that "standard" setups for all periods would involve a somewhat tighter string angle behind the bridge compared to in front. The way bridges are fitted and trimmed takes this uneven split of the string angle over the bridge into account.

 

Perhaps you are expounding your own ideal theory, but what you are certainly not doing is documenting standard practice.

 

I think it is very important to understand that there is an "ideal" or standard bridge height, and an "ideal" or standard string angle. In my experience the string angle can sometimes be increased to exert more pressure on a strong or rigid top, or sometimes the response and tone will benefit from less downward pressure. However, such adjustments are best made without messing too much with the standard bridge height - rather adjust saddle and overstand height, or string angle. The amount of adjustments needed to make an unusually low (or high) bridge function optimally can in the end become little more than guesswork. Adjustments work best when the fewest parameters are addressed at a given time, while the "standard" ones remain standard.

 

By the way, the bridge will bend in the direction of tuning (either with the pegs, or with finetuners), regardless of what is done or isn't done, even if it is fitted and shaped optimally, UNLESS THE STANCE IS OCCASIONALLY CORRECTED.  It will NOT bend in the direction of the smallest string angle, that is pure nonsense. You may have figured something out, but I'm not sure you understand what it is.

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