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wooden

Opening a violin

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Hello. I would like to know if you have a preferred method for opening a violin eg. removing the top. I mean: do you use a hot knife? Moisten the joints? Both? How long does it take: 10 minutes, 10 hours...? Sometimes glue is very strong and seems difficult to remove the top without taking out some splinters. I would like to know if there is a "secret" method that allows to do it easily. Thank you very much in advance.

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A very thin knife. Potentially hot, but thin is important. Mine is 0.2 mm at the edge, so the steel has to be strong. If it is difficult to unglue the joint, alcohol or warm water can be used, but be very careful with the varnish. I will go in at a corner block, then another, then slide the knife between, opening the c bout. Both sides, then I work my way up to the top block and bottom block. The top block is a little tricky so I do this last. One can separate the sides of the block, then the sides of the neck from only the belly edges, not the ribs. Some people have a very long knife to reach the back of the top block from the other end, but it usually just opens at this point. 

It is important that the knife edge is round, not sharp. The joint can be widened with a thicker knife for more access further along. 

Look on the internet, there are some articles/videos which explain it.

gluing it back on can be just as hard, as there are bits of glue and sometimes splinters, so clean everything thoroughly with water before gluing, and fill in any larger gaps.

take your time with it, I would give myself half an hour for the first time. 

Good luck 

 

 

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Hi Wooden - visit a flea market and look for a 60 year old ordinary table knife. The one I have is super thin and flexible at the rounded "point".

Failing an obvious loose spot, start by gently trying to insert the edge of the knife at the four mid-points - 2 off between the top-block/upper C-bout blocks and 2 off between the lower-block and lower C-bout blocks. One will give way with an alarming crack and give you a starting point.

When you have recovered, slip the knife blade along the joint, working it slowly tip-forward, straight across, tip-trailing. This will usually persuade the seam to pop open just ahead of the knife blade.

Corner blocks - more of the same - some just take longer.

Running a drop of 90% +  alcohol down the knife and into the crack works miracles. The alcohol dehydrates the hide glue and it lets go with another alarming crack. I use a glass hypodermic syringe with a fine needle to make sure that I don't lose positioning of the drop. You don't want it to run onto the varnish.

Run the drop, pause and think nice friendly thoughts for a few seconds before applying a little more "wedging" with the blade, repeat, repeat, repeat....

Ask your pharmacy if they can order 97% alcohol for you - that's about the highest concentration that can be readily distilled. Only get about 100ml - it absorbs water like a desert.

If you are unlucky to meet a white-glue case - you are just plain unlucky.

I'm facing removing the top of my cello - knowing that ~60 years ago I removed it and replaced it with white glue! I've been avoiding that job for more than 20 years.

I'll probably use a heated knife.

To remove white-glue-attached fingerboards a hot air gun from above and the knife supplying the wedging from below works like a charm.

 luck to you - edi

 

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Thank you both for your very kind and useful replies! They have been of great help. It's a pleasure to count on so many generous people. 

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3 hours ago, edi malinaric said:

...slip the knife blade along the joint, working it slowly tip-forward, straight across, tip-trailing. This will usually persuade the seam to pop open just ahead of the knife blade...

This is the basic technique.  But you should watch very closely to make sure that the seam is actually popping open ahead of the knife.  If the top edge starts splitting, you should try approaching that area from the other direction.  If it splits working from both directions it gets trickier.

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2 hours ago, Brad Dorsey said:

This is the basic technique.  But you should watch very closely to make sure that the seam is actually popping open ahead of the knife.  If the top edge starts splitting, you should try approaching that area from the other direction.  If it splits working from both directions it gets trickier.

What Brad said. Be careful! I opened one last week that was a real son of a gun. In spite of care and experience, several good size splinters from the top ended up stuck to the ribs, and it took a couple of hours to carefully remove the splinters from the ribs, and glue them back into their appropriate positions on the top.

image.png.3f9e248b3915ead76217ad8727209d39.png

 

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3 hours ago, Nick Allen said:

Does no one use the hammer and block method? I find it easier in a lot of cases. 

I haven't experimented with it, but if Pasewicz claims it's good for very limited areas, it probably is.

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I have only done this a cuople times and i am not a professional. 

I have found that A cake icing spatula is perfect for the job.  Very thin, rounded edges, and good stiffness. 

Go to a high end kitchen supply store so that you can evaluate the metal quality firsthand.  Some of them lack the stiffness you want.

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Make sure to regularly clean and polish the surface of the blade to reduce friction.    It also helps to periodically rub some dry soap on the blade surface for the same reason.   

Usually, I have best results when I work from neck to bottom block direction on the bass side and from bottom block to neck on the treble side.   I don't use any water; the alcohol drops almost always 

You may need to drill out locating pins on bottom block and cut through them on top block.   At the upper block, make sure you release the table/neck joint.   When I have all released except the top block, I will sometimes lift the plate and, using an eye dropper, aim some alcohol drops right on the table/block interface (helps to have already used the knife to get a slight opening.... make sure no alcohol makes its way to outside (varnish)).

The process is always an opportunity to curse or praise  the luthier who most recently closed the box.

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Really, the very best way to learn this would be to look over the shoulders of someone who is really good, and then have them look over your shoulders as you attempt it.

Some things are difficult to describe adequately with words alone, with acknowledgement to the people in this thread who have done a spectacular  job with their descriptions.

If you want to come by the Oberlin Restoration Workshop two weeks from now, I'll try to set up a top or back removal for you. Might be able to set up a pre-arranged two hour window, but no more. Yes, this would need to be pre-arranged. The workshop is not only full, but wait-listed, and entertaining a non contributing participant may not sit well with all the highly trained and experienced people who have busted ass to be there.

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One note is that it’s important to use the knife at 90 degrees to the centre line when you get to the top and bottom blocks, and go steady. 

 

These areas are  prone to cracks at the saddle or the neck joint because the lack of purfling. 

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6 hours ago, David Burgess said:

I haven't experimented with it, but if Pasewicz claims it's good for very limited areas, it probably is.

I use it too to start on end grain if the top is healthy.  If you can sense the purfling channel is cut deep it's best to avoid it, other wise you are looking for a piece of edge on the other side of your shop :D.

 

 Speaking of JP,  I think triangle has an article on top removal written by Greg Tracey.  Probably worth checking out.  

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Hint from Hans : Keep your elbow close to your body -- hard up against it. Helps eliminate any tendency to rotate the spatula off alignment with the plane of the ribs/top joint (with consequent top damage).

FWIW

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12 hours ago, A432 said:

Hint from Hans : Keep your elbow close to your body -- hard up against it. Helps eliminate any tendency to rotate the spatula off alignment with the plane of the ribs/top joint (with consequent top damage).

FWIW

That's good advice, applicable to many different operations.

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18 hours ago, Brad Dorsey said:

 

It's been previously discussed a number of times on this forum.  Here's one where I put up pictures:

https://maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/332304-tips-tricks-methods-take-off-violin-top/

 

I see you quoted my brutal method there :)  Of course the hammer and knife was too big, it was ment as a joke. The situation was real though, after an hour or so I got angry and took a big hammer and knife from the kitchen. The top was glued with some sticky PVC or someting

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4 hours ago, Peter K-G said:

I see you quoted my brutal method there   Of course the hammer and knife was too big, it was meant as a joke. The situation was real though, after an hour or so I got angry and took a big hammer and knife from the kitchen. The top was glued with some sticky PVC or something

Brutal? You guys want brutal...

 

390184931_V-tools-openingadoublebass.thumb.jpg.4e779396dc750a1249f1ce6c7fb41cd9.jpg

As the good book says - the bigger the problem, the bigger the hammer!

The patient survived the treatment.

cheers edi

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1 hour ago, edi malinaric said:

 

390184931_V-tools-openingadoublebass.thumb.jpg.4e779396dc750a1249f1ce6c7fb41cd9.jpg

As the good book says - the bigger the problem, the bigger the hammer!

The patient survived the treatment.

cheers edi

An admirably "man-like" approach  ;)

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On 6/19/2019 at 8:53 PM, Nick Allen said:

Does no one use the hammer and block method? I find it easier in a lot of cases. 

... Florian Leonhard does.... He posted a video on YouTube in which he opened a Del Gesu. He started near the saddle area with a small hammer and a block of wood.

I tried his method when repairing my #3 violin, and the outcome is perfect.  

I think for inexperienced hands like mine, hammer method is a safe way to create the first opening.     One thing special with hammer/block method is that  force can exert on a wide area simultaneously so that the whole region pop open without much bending.  

 

 

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On 6/19/2019 at 3:36 AM, wooden said:

Hello. I would like to know if you have a preferred method for opening a violin eg. removing the top. I mean: do you use a hot knife? Moisten the joints? Both? How long does it take: 10 minutes, 10 hours...? Sometimes glue is very strong and seems difficult to remove the top without taking out some splinters. I would like to know if there is a "secret" method that allows to do it easily. Thank you very much in advance.

I'm no Leonhard, but I coincidentally just got done making a video about this subject...

 

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