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First Time Violin Repair


Stephanie Jakus
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I bought a student grade violin from the Goodwill for $50 and was going to experiment repairing a top crack, as I'm interested in learning how to do this as a hobby. I bought Behlen's hide glue over the internet, have watched Daniel Olsen's YouTube video on the topic, and have some spool clamps and deep throat clamps. 

Can I buy the wood for patches at the hardware store for this level of restoration? 

I called the shop where this violin was originally sold and they informed me that they use hot hide glue for gluing their violins, but the student grade varnish is possibly polyurethane. Will the polyurethane varnish make it harder to open the top? Can I sand it after repairing the crack?

When purchasing the violin, I didn't notice that the neck has been broken and reglued. Under the fingerboard it looks like there is damage to the top plate (possibly caused when someone tried to remove it before?) that has been fixed with some glue that looks kind of yellow.  Will this make it impossibly hard to remove the top plate without further damage?

Your advice is appreciated.

 

 

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4 hours ago, Stephanie Jakus said:

I bought a student grade violin from the Goodwill for $50 and was going to experiment repairing a top crack, as I'm interested in learning how to do this as a hobby. I bought Behlen's hide glue over the internet, have watched Daniel Olsen's YouTube video on the topic, and have some spool clamps and deep throat clamps. 

Can I buy the wood for patches at the hardware store for this level of restoration? 

I called the shop where this violin was originally sold and they informed me that they use hot hide glue for gluing their violins, but the student grade varnish is possibly polyurethane. Will the polyurethane varnish make it harder to open the top? Can I sand it after repairing the crack?

When purchasing the violin, I didn't notice that the neck has been broken and reglued. Under the fingerboard it looks like there is damage to the top plate (possibly caused when someone tried to remove it before?) that has been fixed with some glue that looks kind of yellow.  Will this make it impossibly hard to remove the top plate without further damage?

Your advice is appreciated.

Well, start out by taking out the strings/tailpiece/bridge and the soundpost so you take stress off the top (and put everything in a little bag so you don't lose them).  ;)

If your local hardware store sells some variety of spruce, you can buy wood there for cleats, but there are plenty of places online that sell luthier-grade tonewoods.

There are bunches of videos on YouTube about taking a violin's top off, and then about gluing cracks like that, and for a great article about cleats check out https://trianglestrings.com/making-installing-cleats/

The neck might be a whole new level of problems if they used the wrong glue (a problem I'm fighting with one I'm repairing too!). If it's properly lined up and stable, you might want to just leave it alone.

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Before doing anything else, Pop out the saddle. This Kind of saddle crack is caused by a too tighly Fitting saddle. When the top plate Wood shrinks due to the weather of aging (if it was too Young Wood), stresses are caused by the saddle, which results in this Kind of very common crack on cheap instruments. However this is a particularly Long  one, and is threatening to turn into a Sound post crack, which you want to prevent at all cost, since it is much harder to repair. So Pop out the saddle and release the tension, everything else, others will have to explain as I don't have much experience.

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I don't think I would remove the top completely. I would loosen the top from the lower block up thru the lower corners to see if that gives enough flexibility to pull the crack back together with a couple of over the arch clamps. If it comes together well then I would just glue it. If not then take the top off. 

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If the owner doesn't want to practice top removal (which can be a PITA for factory instruments glued with white glue or such) I would glue cleat to the end of the crack through the treble f hole before attempting to partially loosen the top from ribs just to prevent further damage during manipulation. Also I would check if the crack can be closed without any loosening of top from ribs. I think after removal of nut, strings and soundpost the crack will close with little clamping pressure, perhaps use some wedges between the clamps and the top to align the crack edges. The neck appears to have broken heel, the heel never parted the body and someone glued the neck back in place. The glue line looks fine and even though the repair person used Titebond the neck can be good enough (if it was originally set well).

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8 hours ago, Mike Spencer said:

I don't think I would remove the top completely. I would loosen the top from the lower block up thru the lower corners to see if that gives enough flexibility to pull the crack back together with a couple of over the arch clamps. If it comes together well then I would just glue it. If not then take the top off. 

This sounds like a good idea. I'd rather not try to remove the damaged top plate near the damaged neck. Would you add any other clamps to make sure the two  sides of the crack stay level? 

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5 hours ago, Brad Dorsey said:

I often glue cracks from the outside in the manner the Mike Spencer suggests, except I usually only separate the top from the ribs and block on one side of the crack.  Before gluing the crack, you will have to remove the saddle.  And shorten it before regluing it, as baroque cello suggests.

I will try to shorten the saddle. However, when cleaning the case, I took off the canvas to find the wood of the case splintered. At least some of the damage was caused by an accident. (I guess that much is evident from the broken neck.)

Edited by Stephanie Jakus
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1 hour ago, HoGo said:

If the owner doesn't want to practice top removal (which can be a PITA for factory instruments glued with white glue or such) I would glue cleat to the end of the crack through the treble f hole before attempting to partially loosen the top from ribs just to prevent further damage during manipulation. Also I would check if the crack can be closed without any loosening of top from ribs. I think after removal of nut, strings and soundpost the crack will close with little clamping pressure, perhaps use some wedges between the clamps and the top to align the crack edges. The neck appears to have broken heel, the heel never parted the body and someone glued the neck back in place. The glue line looks fine and even though the repair person used Titebond the neck can be good enough (if it was originally set well).

This is the H.K Schmidt model from Morey's Music shop in Southern California. I called them and they said they use hot hide glue on their violins, though thinking about it, I should have realized that they likely buy these made from China and put their label on it.

I'm completely new at this. Can you tell by looking at the blob of glue under the fingerboard that it is Titebond?

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On 11/22/2017 at 1:47 PM, FiddleDoug said:

That crack is pretty darn close to being a sound post crack! I would absolutely take the top off to make sure that it's properly glued and cleated to keep it from going further. How's the neck angle? I guess that I would leave the neck alone if it's close to correct.

Resetting the neck is probably a bit above me for now, as I'm just playing bluegrass in first position.

Edited by Stephanie Jakus
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On November 22, 2017 at 6:20 PM, Stephanie Jakus said:

This sounds like a good idea. I'd rather not try to remove the damaged top plate near the damaged neck. Would you add any other clamps to make sure the two  sides of the crack stay level? 

I suggested this technique in consideration of your experience level. You could do what Brad suggested first and if the crack pulls together nicely with out much pressure then only loosen half and be sure to remove the saddle before attempting to reglue. If it doesn't pull together then loosen the other side. 

There is another clamping set up that might be helpful in addition to the crack clamp(s) that you will need but would work better with the plate completely off. See the pic.

 

 

image.jpeg

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