Delabo

beyond economic repair ?

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My circa 1835 guitar shaped violin has developed a crack along the bass bar. I had a look inside with a camera and the bass bar has detatched half way along its length. Normally (with my limited skill set) I would remove the top and reglue the bass bar,but this violin has a very neatly applied ivory edge and I beleive it is way beyond my ability to even attempt a repair. Taking into account the likely value of the violin I am wondering if it is beyond economic repair. I should add that the violin has a wonderful tone,and I miss playing it.

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Economics often come down to whether or not it is worth it to the owner, and with in the scope of practice of the restorer (an assignment they wish to take on or not.)  I'd suggest getting a quote from someone who feels they able and qualified to get the instrument apart, and willing to do the work, and decide if it is worth it to you.  

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Taking violins „apart“ is generally not such a momentus decision. Instruments that have no edges that protrude beyond the ribs though are worth thinking about thrice before opening. I have never repaired such an object as the op violin, but remember opening a Kögl Gamba, which was a nightmare to put back together again. I suppose it is one thing if it belongs to you, but quite another if you are repairing it for a third person, where you are obliged that the repair is a success

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14 minutes ago, Jerry Lynn said:

Economics often come down to whether or not it is worth it to the owner,

Exactly. It sounds like this one is worth it. If you dont have the cash now, just put it away (bridge down)until you do.

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Jacob makes a good point, but there are some people in the US that deal with viol family instruments all the time that are ready for such jobs. I can recommend one or two if you send me a PM (not the cheapest though).

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I think what is making us all hesitate on this one is that it has no overhanging edges and a multi-piece decorative binding.  These features are standard on guitars, so perhaps this would be better handled by a guitar restorer.

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Many thanks for your replies.

The reason I am asking if it is beyond economic repair is because I paid £420 for it a few years ago,and I had it valued a few months back at just £200. Although I like playing the violin I have no wish to throw good money after bad for purely sentimental reasons. In the UK I am likely to receive a hefty repair bill for a violin that is worth very little. The valuer did not mention the bass bar crack,but if he had then surely the valuation would have been zero. Therefore I see my only option is to either attempt a self repair and risk throwing it in the dustbin.or just selling it for a minimal price.

Since posting here I have looked at the multi part binding with a jewellers loupe and it has wood purfling with what I have always assumed to be ivory.Is this the most likely material for it to be ? And is ivory flexible or prone to just snapping ?

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You can bend ivory by soaking it in vinegar, as I did once with a Heberlein violinn with ivory edges. If you try to bend it dry it will snap! i.e. best not to have to bend any.

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Brad make a good point re: Guitar/mandolin luthier [my main endeavor]..... However it should not be a real issue for a competent violin repair person.

I can't tell completely from the photos, but the binding/purfling  appears to be similar in depth and application to older Gibson mandolins, in that it only covers the actual thickness of the top and back plates and does not extend into the ribs. When removing the top and back plates on the old Gibsons is is usually un-necessary to remove the binding, all comes off together.

The challenge that does rear its head is maintaining the shape of the rib and getting the plate back on cleanly and accurately. This can sometimes be assisted by making an outside form, prior to disassembly, support the ribs while the plate is off. [I have use dense foam to trace and cut some of the temporary forms with good success on mandolin that had to be disassembled.

Good luck with what ever decision you make..... I do have a dustbin over here that has room if you make that unfortunate decision.   ;)

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17 minutes ago, Delabo said:

I have no wish to throw good money after bad for purely sentimental reasons

Some day you might. There is nothing wrong with spending money for sentimental reasons, or for getting something of unique playing properties. If you don't have the cash now don't go crazy, but there could be a time in your life when you have a little extra money.

Here in the US this would probably cost over a $1000, maybe $2000 to repair. A lot for a some people, but many guys blow that on a trip to Florida, and its the amount you can earn working a few hours extra per week in the summer.

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Just now, jacobsaunders said:

You can bend ivory by soaking it in vinegar, as I did once with a Heberlein violinn with ivory edges. If you try to bend it dry it will snap! i.e. best not to have to bend any.

Thanks for that advice !

I see no reason for trying to bend it,unless of course it goes out of shape if I  manage to remove it intact. I just have this sinking feeling it will snap while trying to remove it.

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35 minutes ago, Delabo said:

...

The reason I am asking if it is beyond economic repair is because I paid £420 for it a few years ago,and I had it valued a few months back at just £200. Although I like playing the violin I have no wish to throw good money after bad for purely sentimental reasons. In the UK I am likely to receive a hefty repair bill for a violin that is worth very little. The valuer did not mention the bass bar crack,but if he had then surely the valuation would have been zero. Therefore I see my only option is to either attempt a self repair and risk throwing it in the dustbin.or just selling it for a minimal price.

...

There is another option, or, way of thinking about it.  If you have already 'overpaid' for it (retail value) but enjoy playing it - and will play it if it is repaired, then it might be worth putting more money into - as a tool.  Let's just say another £200 (or whatever) covers the repairs.  Is it worth it in order for you to be able to play it?  Is it better to put in more money to have something you can use versus selling it at a loss and not having it to play?

Not all value is either retail or sentimental.  Some is purely practical.

...and as deans mentioned, how we value something varies.  Is the cost of repairing similar to the cost of experiencing some other form of entertainment?  Acquaintances recently went to a concert.  They bought the tickets ($300 each), bought plane tickets and spent money on the hotel, food, taxis, etc..  I wouldn't ever do that.  But I would repair an instrument I could use indefinitely...

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If yo do attempt to remove the binding, take care that only the binding itself is probably the full thickness of the plate... the inner b/w/b/w/b purfling is probably let into the plate.

The photos suggest that the areas at the waist may provide a good starting point to begin the work with your seam separation knife getting it all off "in-place". 

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11 minutes ago, Rue said:

There is another option, or, way of thinking about it.  If you have already 'overpaid' for it (retail value) but enjoy playing it - and will play it if it is repaired, then it might be worth putting more money into - as a tool.  Let's just say another £200 (or whatever) covers the repairs.  Is it worth it in order for you to be able to play it?  Is it better to put in more money to have something you can use versus selling it at a loss and not having it to play.

Not all value is either retail or sentimental.  Some is practical.

...and as deans mentioned, how we value something varies.  Is the cost of repairing similar to the cost of experiencing some other form of entertainment?  Acquaintances recently went to a concert.  They bought the tickets ($300 each), bought plane tickets and spent money on the hotel, food, taxis, etc..  I wouldn't ever do that.  But I would repair an instrument I could use indefinitely...

I wish that  just £200 did cover the repairs !

My experience with my local luthier is that hopefully it might cost  "X"  amount providing that ......... caveat - caveat - caveat......... lol.

I can see a repair bill of £1000 quite easily. And no guarantee of what the repair is going to look like given the difficulty of this type of material.

 

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Then of course, go ahead and do it yourself and hope for the best.

If you can only sell it, as is for  £200, or less...but can fix it and still play it - that would  be cheapest option with the best result (outside of selling it, I mean).

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2 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

Taking violins „apart“ is generally not such a momentus decision. Instruments that have no edges that protrude beyond the ribs though are worth thinking about thrice before opening. I have never repaired such an object as the op violin, but remember opening a Kögl Gamba, which was a nightmare to put back together again. I suppose it is one thing if it belongs to you, but quite another if you are repairing it for a third person, where you are obliged that the repair is a success

Well said, as usual.

2 minutes ago, Rue said:

Then of course, go ahead and do it yourself and hope for the best.

If you can only sell it, as is for  £200, or less...but can fix it and still play it - that would  be cheapest option with the best result (outside of selling it, I mean).

Yup.  If it was mine, I'd very carefully essay a repair.   As it isn't, I wouldn't touch it with an 18-foot sarissa.  :)

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How about you take it to a guitar or mandolin repair person to have the top taken off, take it to your luthier to have the crack repaired, and then take the top back to the guitar or mandolin repair person to be put back on?

The binding reminds me of a lot of mandolin bindings. A person experienced with F-5 style mandolins should not be too challenged by this.

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Yes, people who work with guitars, mandolins, viols. I suppose its a matter of having the right experience and tools. I don't, but others do. This instrument had its top popped and replaced to fix a center seam, no grumbling by the luthier, but I would have made a mess of it. I believe the binding all stayed with the top, but I don't know how it came back together as evenly as it did.

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The problem with taking off the top of an Instrument where the plate edge is flush with the ribs, is not the „taking off“ but the glueing the bloody thing back together again. Since all things under the sun suffer from the same laws of physics, all nearly 200 year old Instruments suffer from the usual „shrinkage“ problematic, i.e. the back/belly shrink slightly in the width, the ribs not. As often as not the ribs require shortening. This means on such a flush edge/rib instrument, that when glueing the plate back on, there is too much edge for not enough rib. This has nothing to do with the suposition that violin resorers are stupid, and that guitar/gamba restorers were born with some sort of silver spoon in there visage.

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15 minutes ago, jacobsaunders said:

This has nothing to do with the suposition that violin resorers are stupid, and that guitar/gamba restorers were born with some sort of silver spoon in there visage.

Nobody is saying that. Its just that guitar/gamba restorers would have more experience and practice in this area, since that's how their instruments are built.

I agree that regluing a flush top perfectly would have its challenge, but I've only done violins. There are guys that do this a lot, 100s of them, thats who you want to do the work. Unfortunately the best viol shop in the US is gone, some other guys are still around though.

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39 minutes ago, jacobsaunders said:

 when glueing the plate back on, there is too much edge for not enough rib. 

sorry, I should heve writen " too much rib for not enough edge"

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1 hour ago, jacobsaunders said:

sorry, I should heve writen " too much rib for not enough edge"

Hence my suggestion/practice of making a temporary "outside mold" prior to removing the plate. I won't, for a moment, suggest that it is the cure all in every case.... but it certainly gives you a fighting chance. 

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