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Michael H

Cello Fingerboard projection concern

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I realize this topic has been discussed, but not quite like this. I have an old cello that has a fingerboard projection of 74mm. This is quite low, 6-8mm by modern standards. The cello sounds good, and is a bit meaty. I am afraid that if I boost the projection, it will only become more meaty and harsh. I have found that celli with too low of projection tend to sound like I am playing on pillows, though this does not. Do I keep it with a French bridge that has a lower arch, or do I correct it? Does the 82-84mm standard apply to older instruments?

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I've also been accused of being meaty and harsh. 

If the axe is worth the trouble, I'd be inclined to get the projection addressed and have the rest of the setup looked carefully at while you're at it. If the instruments doesn't perform after the projection, bridge, post and perhaps nut and saddle are brought within norms, there are other things to look at (for example, bassbar). 

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4 hours ago, Michael H said:

Does the 82-84mm standard apply to older instruments?

I presume, when you speak of “projection” you mean the surface of the fingerboard, projected to and measured at the bridge. If so, I am not aware of a “standard” of 82-84mm, which I would find too high. I would aim for a “projection of roughly 80mm, which you could achieve with a gentle wedge under the fingerboard.

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I don't really know what "meaty" means but suggest we rename it regardless.

Does the instrument have problems with bow clearance ? If not then other issues might be addressed first to see if the sound can be improved. 

I generally set necks on new instruments quite high but aim for them to settle in at 80-81 mm. On older instruments there may be other factors which must be considered.

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I'm a Cellist and have a few Questions about this.

1. the height of the Bridge (projection) and ist relation to Sound have something to do with the pressure on the top, Right or wrong?

2. meaning, if the neck overstand is low, which often is the case on older Instruments, then, Sound wise, you can achieve the same effect with a lower projection as on an Instrument with more neck overstand and a higher projection, Right or wrong?

3. The angle of the strings over the Bridge is a better indication of what will happen, Sound wise, than the actual projection, Right or wrong?

4. if the projection is low because of a low neck overstand, if the wish exists to bring Things up to modern Standard, then the neck overstand is the first Thing that Needs to be corrected, Right or not?

5. assuming the neck overstand on this Instrument is low-ish on this Instrument and the projection corresponds to that, and the Cellist doesn't find the low overstand problematic, and there is enough bow clearance when playing the a and c strings, there is no Need for any correction, Right or wrong?

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I should note that most of my newer celli have fingerboard projections of 82mm. There are no clearance problems. I wanted a Belgian bridge, but the result is seen in the the photo, which was ultimately changed to a lower arched French bridge to “normalize” the appearance. 
 

EB65FAE1-F0B8-4AF1-8A83-E768CB165531.jpeg

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19 minutes ago, Michael H said:

I should note that most of my newer celli have fingerboard projections of 82mm. There are no clearance problems. I wanted a Belgian bridge, but the result is seen in the the photo, which was ultimately changed to a lower arched French bridge to “normalize” the appearance. 
 

EB65FAE1-F0B8-4AF1-8A83-E768CB165531.jpeg

That Looks like a "Belgian" model bridge blank to me. Perhaps you could ask your supplier about his "French" model ones

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Yes, this is a Belgian bridge... the clearance from the heart to the top is rather low for my liking. I have done a French bridge (not pictured). I’m not sure I understand your comment.

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8 minutes ago, Wood Butcher said:

Do you mean that you wished there was more wood under the D string? Not sure what heart clearance is.

The distance from the heart to the top of the bridge

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I think that the question in your first post, rather depends on if the Cello belongs to you, and you will be marketing it afterwards, of if you are repairing it for a third Party, like some parsimonious local Music school

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1 hour ago, jacobsaunders said:

I think that the question in your first post, rather depends on if the Cello belongs to you, and you will be marketing it afterwards, of if you are repairing it for a third Party, like some parsimonious local Music school

It belongs to me, and most likely will market it afterwards, though might decide to keep it for collection, as I think it is a pretty instrument

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Then I suppose one could, should one wish an optimal solution, remove the neck, add some wood to the heel, and re fit with the school “Overstand” and projection. Those saxon celli mostly have necks which seem close to falling out on their own anyway.

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15 minutes ago, jacobsaunders said:

Then I suppose one could, should one wish an optimal solution, remove the neck, add some wood to the heel, and re fit with the school “Overstand” and projection. Those saxon celli mostly have necks which seem close to falling out on their own anyway.

Thanks, Jacob, I appreciate your guidance. I have not had a chance to show it to my luthier yet, but I will take his and your suggestions for my next move. It looks a lot better with this French bridge. I find the scroll and ffs are rather handsome. 

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3189443E-B738-413E-8021-0C7F4D4543CB.jpeg

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72 mm is way too low a projection. That’s well below the standard even for a 3/4 cello. Assuming it was closer to the normal projection for full size originally, the neck has dropped drastically. That suggests an issue that might necessitate a full reset. When it’s only a couple millimeters off, a New York neck reset can be quite handy, but anything this severe usually needs to be addressed by a full reset.

As to what is “standard,” 81 is what I was taught to use as my template for new instruments. However, one of the shops I work with goes by 82-84. As described above, old cellos are a different animal and need to be evaluated individually, but I don’t think 72 would be likely to work on anything. 

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8 minutes ago, The Violin Beautiful said:

72 mm is way too low a projection. That’s well below the standard even for a 3/4 cello. Assuming it was closer to the normal projection for full size originally, the neck has dropped drastically. That suggests an issue that might necessitate a full reset. When it’s only a couple millimeters off, a New York neck reset can be quite handy, but anything this severe usually needs to be addressed by a full reset.

As to what is “standard,” 81 is what I was taught to use as my template for new instruments. However, one of the shops I work with goes by 82-84. As described above, old cellos are a different animal and need to be evaluated individually, but I don’t think 72 would be likely to work on anything. 

What sort of issues would low projection on an older instrument pose? Clearance is not an issue. Tone is good, a gamble whether or not it will improve. I suppose I can put a higher bridge in to see if the open strings have an improved tone. Button and heel are flush. What might I be missing that may be an issue? Jacob’s suggestion of putting wood between the back of the heel and button would correct the overstand, but if the over stand is pushed from 16 to 20, the other 5 mm needed would require a clavette. Is one more important than the other (overstand/fb projection), or should I have both 19-20mm overstand with 81mm fb projection? 

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13 minutes ago, Michael H said:

What sort of issues would low projection on an older instrument pose? Clearance is not an issue. Tone is good, a gamble whether or not it will improve. I suppose I can put a higher bridge in to see if the open strings have an improved tone. Button and heel are flush. What might I be missing that may be an issue? Jacob’s suggestion of putting wood between the back of the heel and button would correct the overstand, but if the over stand is pushed from 16 to 20, the other 5 mm needed would require a clavette. Is one more important than the other (overstand/fb projection), or should I have both 19-20mm overstand with 81mm fb projection? 

Often when removing necks from cellos for a reset, the gluing surface at back of the heel can be bent. This is often observed on cellos with a very low elevation, and will obviously need to be addressed.

The other possibilities are that the neck was set low right from the start, and has dropped a little more over time. Or it has been out before and put back incorrectly, this I can’t tell as there are no pictures of the neck joint.

In order to raise the overstand (as you put it), a lot more will need done than gluing some wood to the bottom of the heel. When doing this, the root becomes too narrow for the existing mortise of course, as the neck goes up, so will require the mortise to be blocked up and re-cut, and the ribs extended. If the cello was open for other work, some may choose to replace the neck block. On top of that, some careful retouching will be required.

I’m sure your luthier will be able to point all of this out once he or she has examined it in person. Fortunately it will need a new bridge, so you won’t have to worry about the gaps under the ends of the feet on this one.

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11 minutes ago, Dave Slight said:

Often when removing necks from cellos for a reset, the gluing surface at back of the heel can be bent. This is often observed on cellos with a very low elevation, and will obviously need to be addressed.

The other possibilities are that the neck was set low right from the start, and has dropped a little more over time. Or it has been out before and put back incorrectly, this I can’t tell as there are no pictures of the neck joint.

In order to raise the overstand (as you put it), a lot more will need done than gluing some wood to the bottom of the heel. When doing this, the root becomes too narrow for the existing mortise of course, as the neck goes up, so will require the mortise to be blocked up and re-cut, and the ribs extended. If the cello was open for other work, some may choose to replace the neck block. On top of that, some careful retouching will be required.

I’m sure your luthier will be able to point all of this out once he or she has examined it in person. Fortunately it will need a new bridge, so you won’t have to worry about the gaps under the ends of the feet on this one.

Thanks, Dave. Even with a blurry photo you can see my poor bridge work. :) So even if this cello was originally built to have such low projection, it is not suitable?

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I think I will start by releasing the table from the neck block and see what kind of projection is lifted. There is the chance that the table was tightly clamped with the neck block angles inward at some point. This may just give me a better idea of the magnitude of the next step. 

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10 minutes ago, Dave Slight said:

Unless you plan on having the ribs poking out past the belly edge, it’s unlikely you will be able to gain even close to 10mm.

Yes, good point :) 

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I pretty much have the fb projection issue taken care of. Luckily, thanks to Dave’s most recent comment, I realized that the rib/top overhang near the neck was way too deep, indicating that either it sank over time, or was previously reglued with the neck improperly “pulled back.” I have gained nearly 9mm and there is still overhang. I expect it will settle a few mm with tension. There is the gap from the top plate to the neck foot, about 3mm, or so. What are you using to fill this area to retain aesthetics? A small spruce wedge cut to size? Or something else? In the past, the reveal was far too small, even with a clavette, to be concerned that a bit of leveled hide helped disguise. Wax colored to match?

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59 minutes ago, Michael H said:

I pretty much have the fb projection issue taken care of. Luckily, thanks to Dave’s most recent comment, I realized that the rib/top overhang near the neck was way too deep, indicating that either it sank over time, or was previously reglued with the neck improperly “pulled back.” I have gained nearly 9mm and there is still overhang. I expect it will settle a few mm with tension. There is the gap from the top plate to the neck foot, about 3mm, or so. What are you using to fill this area to retain aesthetics? A small spruce wedge cut to size? 

3mm gap, that's a decent amount of stress one the back (at the bottom of the Neck block, and that joint itself). "What are you using to fill this area to retain aesthetics?" Definately not for aesthetics..but for structure.  Especially 3mm.  But, this should really be done before all being glued back together (hopefully, that hasn't happened yet).  If so, then with a cello overstand, you probably have enough room to clean it all out and get a good fit.  This fit is important (IMHO).  When doing this on a violin (the area is skinnier)I use ebony and I have the grain running perpendicular to the top(good luck trying it the same direction), I don't want this to compress.  I use ebony because I WANT the future repairman to see this.  If you don't get a good fit here, all the tension of keeping the neck from moving forward(down) will be dependent on the sheer glue joint between the block and the belly.  With pulling it back like this, you no doubt have a compromised fit here.

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