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Joe Swenson

Cello Repair question - am I getting in over my head?

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I got this old beat up Mittenwald cello which has obvious sentimental value to the owner last week.  They wanted the gear tuners replaced and real pegas put in.  Looking at it superficially looked like a reasonable request.  After taking it apart the pegbox is pretty baadly cracked and was repaired omce already, with a partial pegbox wall replacement on both sides.  That repair is failing on the bass side and so needs to be re-repaired.  I feel I have to put a complete pegbox wall replacement on both sides.  This will hide all the drill holes and screw holes and will end up hiding any bushings I have to put in the original pegbox peg holes.  

 

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I have Weisshaar, so it outlines the necessary steps.  This will be my first repair of this magnitude.  My concern is getting the old repair faces off without further damage to the obviously damaged pegbox that these repairs were meant to stabilize.  I can't tell if the crack in the back of the peg box was glued properly. But it's clear the crack that runs through the G-string peg hole is not.  

 

I'm not sure gluing in the bushing material in all 4 peg holes or filling the pegbox with dental compound is appropriate until the pegbox crack is glued and stabilized.  The front of the pegbox looks good so I could glue in those bushings.  But my thought is to cut a piece of spruce or willow to slip fit inside the back of the pegbox  while I attempt to plane down the walls.  I'm tempted to put it on the band saw to remove the bulk of the walls.  Seems like it would be less stress and much quicker than planing down that much material.

 

I'd appreciate your comments on this.

 

Cheers,

Joe

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What a mess.  Of course without seeing it in person, it's hard to see all the potential problems.  But for discussion purposes, I'm thinking off the top of my head.  First off, it might be good to bush the holes first, before taking the old cheeks off.  That might add stability.  Also, I would use a chisel to remove the old stuff, but that's me (it's my most comfortable tool).  Does the cheek graft only cover the D and G pegs?  It looks like there isn't anything on the C and G.   

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Oy' that's pretty messy. Seeing how were not talking Cremona, I would suggest making a copy of the scroll and just grafting a new one on. That way you only have to worry about having one good joint. Standard pegs exerting "bushing" torque on those holes would leave many sleepless nights wondering if all glue joints would hold over time. I just don't see preservation and restoration of "original parts" as paramount in this situation, I would want longevity and functionality of the repair, so I'd just graft a new one on. Not saying it couldn't be repaired well, on the other hand this is one of those that looks like it could create call backs. 

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What a mess.  Of course without seeing it in person, it's hard to see all the potential problems.  But for discussion purposes, I'm thinking off the top of my head.  First off, it might be good to bush the holes first, before taking the old cheeks off.  That might add stability.  Also, I would use a chisel to remove the old stuff, but that's me (it's my most comfortable tool).  Does the cheek graft only cover the D and G pegs?  It looks like there isn't anything on the C and G.   

 

Yes -m only D and G pegs.  Chisel seems like it would exert too much fotce for my liking .  I the scroll were not already cracked.  That's why I thought band saw or even scroll saw to remove most of the cheeks down to the level of the old repair which is half the wall thickness.

 

Oy' that's pretty messy. Seeing how were not talking Cremona, I would suggest making a copy of the scroll and just grafting a new one on. That way you only have to worry about having one good joint. Standard pegs exerting "bushing" torque on those holes would leave many sleepless nights wondering if all glue joints would hold over time. I just don't see preservation and restoration of "original parts" as paramount in this situation, I would want longevity and functionality of the repair, so I'd just graft a new one on. Not saying it couldn't be repaired well, on the other hand this is one of those that looks like it could create call backs. 

 

Based upon the exisitn fracture, where would you graft ojn the new scroll?  Or are you talking new pegbox and scroll?  What would you charge for a new pegbox/scroll graft as opposed to just cheeking the pegbox?  It sounds like a more expensive option.  The pegs will exert half their torque on the new cheek faces.  Even so I I definitely want to be able to get at that G peg hole crack and either remove it or glue it.  But I'm going to half to take the old cheeks off first.  

 

Still waiting to hear back from the customer as to what they want to do.

 

Thanks,

Joe

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Thought I should report back on the cello pegbox repair. The customer was more than happy to go ahead with the repair. And they were more than happy with the way it turned out.  

 

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I probably could have done a better job matching the varnish color and "age" but I didn't feel comfortable experimenting with "antiquing" and delaying the finished job any longer than already has been done.

 

First had to rebush all the "good" holes - except for the bass side D string where the new crack had developed because the bass side flank repair had started to fail. That would have to be fixed before it could be properly rebushed.  Treble side flank repair was still in good shape but it all had to be refaced.

 

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I was quite concerned at the digression of the repair when the scroll came off again while removing the previous flanking material.  It had previously broken off and been repaired but the old repairs were failing and the scroll repair as well was not secure any longer.  

 

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Once I got all the cracks glued and last peg hole plugged cut out the the plain maple flanks from a viola neck block I bought especially for this repair.  I'm not sure what kind of wood the original pegbox and scroll were made of but it was really soft wood compared to the maple.

 

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Before I could glue on the new flanks I had to repair and old bushing that had fallen out , next to the one I had just put in on the G string.

 

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Glued on the flanks shaped them and layed out the peg holes, and then varnish...

 

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which took a few tries to get a good color match.  

 

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Last step was drilling and reaming out the peg holes and fitting the new pegs.  Started with two violin peg reamers to get things started in the right direction.  Becuase the pegbox and scroll were quite twisted I was concerned how the pegs would look.  I didn't think they would be able to be put in perfectly straight.  But it worked out nicely.  I used some old pegs from my Kay cello to help line things up.

 

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You can see the new peg holes were really far off from where the bushed peg holes were located.  

 

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I was quite happy with the results.
 
:)
Joe

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Gears be gone. Looks nice. 

 

Thanks Stephen,

 

A definite improvement... and perhaps a good advertisement when Orchestra rehearsals start up again in September.  :)

But I've been told - be careful what you wish for...  :rolleyes:

 

Cheers,

Joe

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 Try another one for practice if you can find another cheap scroll on eBay.  Do the same job filling the peg holes, but make a thinner cheek piece to cover them and feather it in on the top. And then work for no glue line.  If you just do one side of a scoll as practice with a 1/16 " thick cover piece with mininal glue line you can just show it was a sample. You'll get work from that.

 

Structurally you added another cello to the world of music. And I like that.

 

BTW which orchestra? I used to live in that area.

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 Try another one for practice if you can find another cheap scroll on eBay.  Do the same job filling the peg holes, but make a thinner cheek piece to cover them and feather it in on the top. And then work for no glue line.  If you just do one side of a scoll as practice with a 1/16 " thick cover piece with mininal glue line you can just show it was a sample. You'll get work from that.

 

Structurally you added another cello to the world of music. And I like that.

 

BTW which orchestra? I used to live in that area.

 

Thanks Stephen,

 

I was going by the previous repair and had to match the thickness of the first flank pieces that covered the G and D strings and also the previous "glue line"...  If you look the damage due to the gears went more than halfway through the pegbox wallls so it would have been less stable I think to leave more of the inner pegbox wood which is not good wood.  You might have seen the dowel in the chin of the scroll indicating someone had to reattach the whole scroll to the neck at some point.  It must have shattered in the past.  

 

But I get your point.   :)

 

The owner had been playing it for years in the Livermore Amador Symphony.  But it was buzzing and rattling and was not solid.  The top still has cracks that need to be addressed as well as a damaged soundpost area.  I'm not sure if they want to go further until the top starts to fail more than it is now. 

 

Not Mittenwald, sorry

 

I believe that is what she thought the maker was.  Belonged originally to her father-in-law.

 

Do you have an idea where it was made?

 

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Label inside is the usual "Antonio Stradivari ... Faciabat  17xx... Made in Germany"

 

At what point did they start adding the "Made in Germany" part to the inside label?  

 

My first violin I bought from an antique shop had the fake "Antonio Stradivar.. Cremonsis .. Faciabat 17xx" but no admission that is was a copy made in Germany.  It was stamped "Germany" on the ribs near the end button. I guess at some point they were forced to label the country of origin and that it was in fact a copy and not an original "Strad".  

 

I believe the Cello was purchased new around 1920.

 

Thanks,

Joe

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I believe that is what she thought the maker was.  Belonged originally to her father-in-law.

 

Do you have an idea where it was made?

 

 

Cheers,

Joe

Dear Joe,

The cello will have been made for the Markneukirchen wholesalers presumably in Schönbach. It is without a shadow of doubt NOT from Mittenwald.

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Dear Joe,

The cello will have been made for the Markneukirchen wholesalers presumably in Schönbach. It is without a shadow of doubt NOT from Mittenwald.

 

Thank You Jacob! I will pass this information along to the owner.  :D

 

Cheers,

Joe

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I agree, nicely done. 

 

And thanks for the in depth illustrations. Chronicling this repair looks like it was a project in and of itself!

Yes, nicely done, and great photography.

I'm thinking that I may have gone with a grafting a new pegbox/scroll, as jezzupe suggested at the start, but I must admit this - was very well done and nicely illustrated.

 

Thanks again, everyone here benefits from being shown such projects as this.

ct 

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Just getting around to reading your thread, Joe.  Thanks for posting.  Very thorough explanation of your very handsome work.

 

I agree, nicely done. 

 

And thanks for the in depth illustrations. Chronicling this repair looks like it was a project in and of itself!

Yes, nicely done, and great photography.

I'm thinking that I may have gone with a grafting a new pegbox/scroll, as jezzupe suggested at the start, but I must admit this - was very well done and nicely illustrated.

 

Thanks again, everyone here benefits from being shown such projects as this.

ct 

 

Excellent.!

Thanks so much for the feedback. :D I debated for a couple weeks on putting up these pics of the repair wondering if they were up to MN standards  ;) Glad it was the case. I am still gauging what folks find useful here on MN..  Thanks again!

 

If you want to see more detail visit my JswensonViolins Facebook Page Cello Pegbox Repair Album.  This and other projects are posted there.  You don't have to be a Facebook member.

 

Cheers,

Joe

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Looks good. Joe are you just starting up a shop? This area needs more repairmen.

Thanks Dean(s)

Yes that is the idea. Getting my feet wet with local referrals. Trying to make new instruments.  I got started basically for the reason you mentioned. The guy doing repairs for the local music store did a really shoddy job on my first violin I bought from a local antique shop. I new I could do it better myself. It was all over once I got started buying and repairing EBay violins and ones I would pick up a local flea markets. Got up the courage to build my first violin from scratch (via Johnson and Courtnall), and now I'm completely hooked.

My retirement plan... :)

 

I wish more repair threads would be posted on MN. Pictures speak a thousand words. Nicely done. Thanks

I agree. I think most makers are really too busy to document things like this.

You gotta have pictures for sure. I will post more as they happen. I have another project on the shelf. A violin button repair and cracked back plate I'm going to start working on. Soon I hope :)

Thanks!

Joe

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... I have another project on the shelf. A violin button repair...

 

I took some pictures of a button repair that I just did:

 

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... 

The owner had been playing it for years in the Livermore Amador Symphony.  But it was buzzing and rattling and was not solid.  The top still has cracks that need to be addressed as well as a damaged soundpost area.  I'm not sure if they want to go further until the top starts to fail more than it is now.

I'm confused...if it's buzzing and rattling and the body needs work...why wouldn't they address that first...then worry about the scroll?

...btw...very nice work on the scroll! Looks great! :)

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Very cool... Did you use dental compound or Plaster of Paris?  

 

This is my latest $35 find at Alameda Flea Market.  :D 

 

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I have a little repair work to do before I reattach the button.  

 

I am preparing some tower clamps to fix the crack in the back.  Then I'll re-glue the button.  

 

After that I will do the button patch like you show above which should replace a lot of the questionable joint I will end up with after I'm done gluing it all back together.  

 

The rest is in good shape - a couple small cracks in the top and a soundpost bruise which is easy to fix.  But nice wood so this may be a nice violin when I'm done.  

 

Cheers,

Joe

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...Did you use dental compound or Plaster of Paris?...

 

I used the full plaster of Paris cast seen in the first picture. I showed how I make a cast here:

 

http://www.maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/328734-plaster-cast/

 

Your button situation looks a bit different from the one that I fixed as shown in the pictures in post #19.  My button was broken off pretty cleanly at the purfling.  The break was all end grain.  My button patch spanned the break and went into the purfling, making the button stronger than it was when the violin was new.

 

Your button break has lots of gluing surface area that will probably make it as strong as when it was new after it is glued together.  That's not very strong because the purfling channel cuts through the base of the button, so I would want to reinforce the button.  I think I would use a patch like the one I showed in my pictures.

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I'm confused...if it's buzzing and rattling and the body needs work...why wouldn't they address that first...then worry about the scroll?

...btw...very nice work on the scroll! Looks great! :)

 

It was clear that the buzzing and rattling was coming from the cracked pegbox, loose worn screws in the gear plates and just generallu poor condition of the old repair. The bass side flanking was coming loose at the crack at the D-string peg hole.  The crack in the top was a minor issue compared to the state of the pegbox.

 

I don't want to push them to get the top fixed unless it becomes a noticable issue.  I'mm thinking I could stabilize the crack without haveing to remove the top, but the it does need a soundpost patch.  There s a large depression where the soundpost sits, so I'm sure its affecting the sound. 

 

Joe

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I used the full plaster of Paris cast seen in the first picture. I showed how I make a cast here:

 

http://www.maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/328734-plaster-cast/

 

Your button situation looks a bit different from the one that I fixed as shown in the pictures in post #19.  My button was broken off pretty cleanly at the purfling.  The break was all end grain.  My button patch spanned the break and went into the purfling, making the button stronger than it was when the violin was new.

 

Your button break has lots of gluing surface area that will probably make it as strong as when it was new after it is glued together.  That's not very strong because the purfling channel cuts through the base of the button, so I would want to reinforce the button.  I think I would use a patch like the one I showed in my pictures.

 

Thanks Brad, for the info on the cast making. I just got back from Lowe's where I bought a 4 lb box of Plaster of Paris.. Should be enough.  The next size they have is a 25 lb bag.

 

I plan on doing the patch like you show.  I have a little complication in that the button had been repaired once already and the condition of the wood in the crack is in question.  Its not a clean surface that I'm gluing.  I don't know what kind of glue was previously used.  So I think the button patch could remove much of the questionale gluing surface and strengthen the button back to where it should be.

 

The surface of the neck root had some strange stuff on it as well so I need to try and clean that well before resetting and gluing the neck when I'm done.  

 

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I don't think the old repair was done my an actual  Luthier.  The back was pinned into the neck block on each side of the back crack.  The neck block was split as well when I got the violin.  That is repaired already.

 

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Joe

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Joe, In my opinion, that repair you have there would really be best suited with a button graph.  Old repair and lack of original button would push me to that decision.  It would also help that the graft would go deep enough to help with the other issues in that area.    jeff

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