RLC

Cedar top repair question

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For years I have had a violin at the back of my cabinet, sitting in an unplayable state with a bad crack on the top plate.  The crack runs from top to bottom, straight through the soundpost position.  I am confident in carrying out this repair, however, I have never carried out a soundpost patch on a cedar top.  I realise that cedar tops are quite unusual, and as such there might not be much experience of repairing them.   The cedar seems fairly brittle to me, which I suspect is the cause of the crack.  The top plate is almost 5mm thick, which I suspect is deliberate to compensate for the cedar.

Does anybody have any advice before I begin this repair?

Here's what I have been thinking about;
Should I use cedar (not common in the UK, but I could order some), or else use spruce, which I have, and am used to working with?

Should I follow the standard size of patch?

Being that the top is so thick, and the material brittle, should I still go down to .5mm?

Having never heard a cedar topped violin before, should I be expecting a reasonable sound?

Any advice greatly appreciated. Thanks.

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1 hour ago, RLC said:

Having never heard a cedar topped violin before, should I be expecting a reasonable sound?

Any advice greatly appreciated. Thanks.

If it's a Jackson-Guldan, it probably never made a reasonable sound to begin with.  And yes, I can say that.  I own one.  :lol:

Use cedar to patch cedar, IMHO.  To avoid grief and mischief, don't regraduate, just patch and cleat.

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It's not a Jackson-Guldan.  It is quite an unusual violin, however.  Made by David Weir of Glasgow in 1913.  The ribs are double 'ply', with no linings. Peculiar convex rib mitres. Cedar top with the inside possibly stained.  Very widely spaced f'hole eyes.  Flattish arching.  It has a really nice scroll, in my opinion.  I'm really looking forward to finding out how this instrument will sound. 

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Edited by RLC
Adding photographs.

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I'll go out on a limb....

I've done one patch on a cedar top, and that was in the upper block area.  For that repair I used spruce because I didn't have cedar either.  Hindsight being 20/20 I wish I had the resources at the time to find cedar of a similar type.  (Resources being the ability to call colleagues I trust who may have some lying around.) When replacing wood I think you get the most longevity from the repair by matching the characteristics of old as closely as possible.  If I were to come up short on finding a suitable match for cedar, I think I might be inclined to use a lower density spruce.  

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No cedar scent that I can detect.  It just smells like an old fiddle. I had thought the stain was maybe to hide the bright redness of the cedar, but then who is going to be looking inside...other than us?

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Is there a particular species of Cedar that would be good for a quite warm violin? Silly me, of course there is, I just don't know which that would be - could someone enlighten me?

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When I saw the color of your wood I immediately thought that this looked like California Redwood. The comment about there not being any cedar smell makes me even more inclined to think it's Redwood.

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I've made four western red cedar bass tops and they all sound great; warm, open, and loud. However, the cedar is soft, and yes can be a bit splitty, especially during top removal. None of my tops has cracked yet. FWIW, if I were to put in a soundpost patch, I would have very few qualms putting in a spruce patch, as the wood is harder, and in that nodal location I doubt whether there will be significant tonal change. If you want to use cedar, go for the tightest grained piece you can find. I would also consider spruce for top and bottom block area patches. (I have just about used up all my qualms ... does anyone know where to get them these days? I tried my scruples supplier - but he's gone out of business too.)

 

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On 11/3/2017 at 12:43 PM, Frank Nichols said:

Is there a particular species of Cedar that would be good for a quite warm violin? Silly me, of course there is, I just don't know which that would be - could someone enlighten me?

Western red cedar.  After all is said and done with making a wrc bellied vso,  one will have to accept the fact that what he/she made using cedar can only be called a fiddle, not a violin. 

Others have mentioned that cellos?, violas and fractional sized instruments can be had with cedar but not the 14" violin size - for some reason it doesn't work soundwise.

30 to 40 grain lines per inch if you want to experiment.  Cutting purfling channels are a pain along with belly removal issues are a few things I remember about cedar.  

Maybe Martin or Ben have an old Craske made with cedar laying around somewheres to provide sound samples - probably a waste of time.  

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2 hours ago, uncle duke said:

Western red cedar.  After all is said and done with making a wrc bellied vso,  one will have to accept the fact that what he/she made using cedar can only be called a fiddle, not a violin. 

Others have mentioned that cellos?, violas and fractional sized instruments can be had with cedar but not the 14" violin size - for some reason it doesn't work soundwise.

30 to 40 grain lines per inch if you want to experiment.  Cutting purfling channels are a pain along with belly removal issues are a few things I remember about cedar.  

Maybe Martin or Ben have an old Craske made with cedar laying around somewheres to provide sound samples - probably a waste of time.  

Thank you.

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 just moved my shop and tossed a bunch of cedar scraps. Too bad I could have mailed them to you.  Cedar should made a loud instrument, you can get a lot of volume out of cedar but it's touchy because the point of no return is really easy to reach. Then the instrument gets tinny. If you thin it go easy. 

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