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Seeking advice for first restoration attempt


oldmanwhaley
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Hello all! 

 

I was hoping to seek some advice from this community on an upcoming restoration attempt I will be beginning. As a long time violin player, I recently rescued a ca. 1920s-1930s German "factory violin" from the trash. I have always toyed with the idea of attempting to build a violin or guitar and this seems like an opportunity to get some "free" education and experience. I am aware that a violin such as this is essentially worthless and many professionals would say that it is not worth the time/money put into it, but I have the time and access to the tools to make me confident enough to attempt something like this and the learning experience alone would be worth it to me. 

My concerns regarding this instruments issues are the order of operations in which things might be approached.

I've attached some images that display the many problems with this instrument, such as:

-Split back plate

-Warped ribs on the lower bouts and upper right bout area

-Neck gap/detachment

Would anyone have any advice on what to tackle first? I was thinking about removing the back plates first, planing and joining and trying to reattach the ribs correctly. After this I would remove the the front and reset that. Once the body is structurally back together, I would tackle the neck reset. 

Does this sound like a good approach? Am I in way to over my head?

Any advice/comments/suggestions are appreciated!

Thank you!

Will Whaley - Rochester, NY

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I don't have any definitive answers -- just several observations:

From the gap at the neck it looks like this might be a through neck with no separate upper block.  (You can tell for sure by looking through the end pin hole.)  If it is a through neck, resetting the neck would also require fitting an upper block and perhaps adding some wood to the neck foot.

A major question will be whether to remove the back or not.  Redoing the back center joint would be a lot easier with the back off the ribs.  But separating the back button from the neck foot can be such an obstacle that work on the back is often done with the neck and ribs still attached.  Since you're also going to reset the neck, it probably makes sense to remove the back.

Fixing the back center joint looks like the most challenging step.  I would try to avoid completely opening the joint, planning it and rejoining it.  Where it is open, the sides of the joint appear to be depressed.  You might need to do some arching correction before regluing the joint.

You may find that the lower block is split and in need of replacement.

As far as I can tell, the ribs are not warped, but they do need shortening.

This is a very challenging project for a first restoration attempt.  This is a very cheap violin, so if you destroy it the world will not mourn its loss.  Good luck.

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22 hours ago, Brad Dorsey said:

I don't have any definitive answers -- just several observations:

From the gap at the neck it looks like this might be a through neck with no separate upper block.  (You can tell for sure by looking through the end pin hole.)  If it is a through neck, resetting the neck would also require fitting an upper block and perhaps adding some wood to the neck foot.

A major question will be whether to remove the back or not.  Redoing the back center joint would be a lot easier with the back off the ribs.  But separating the back button from the neck foot can be such an obstacle that work on the back is often done with the neck and ribs still attached.  Since you're also going to reset the neck, it probably makes sense to remove the back.

Fixing the back center joint looks like the most challenging step.  I would try to avoid completely opening the joint, planning it and rejoining it.  Where it is open, the sides of the joint appear to be depressed.  You might need to do some arching correction before regluing the joint.

You may find that the lower block is split and in need of replacement.

As far as I can tell, the ribs are not warped, but they do need shortening.

This is a very challenging project for a first restoration attempt.  This is a very cheap violin, so if you destroy it the world will not mourn its loss.  Good luck.

Hey Brad,

 

Thanks for the advice. You are dead on with the back center joint being depressed. I've heard using a very thin curved Japanese saw can be used to removce the button from the back of the neck. Thank you for all the info!

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18 hours ago, FiddleDoug said:

You have lots of issues to deal with there, many of those are somewhat complex. You say that you have access to tools. The question is are they the correct tools.

Hi Doug,

Thank you for the input. I know this is pretty in depth and more of a learning experience than anything - if it doesn't work out it's no great loss.

As far as tools go, I will likely need to buy/make a number of things to complete the project. I do have some general basic woodworking tools I own, along with access to a community wood shop that I think will have a number of things I can use. I also plan on making clamps and potentially getting resourceful in making/modding as needed. No doubt there are going to be specialized holes to fill, but I don't mind spending a little money on things since this is a skill I'd like to work towards.

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15 hours ago, Geigenbauer said:

I only work on new instruments but enjoy watching repair videos by Maestro Kimon on YouTube. He explains all the steps and you can also see what tools he uses. 

There is a separate video on tool used in new construction and where to buy them.

https://www.youtube.com/user/maestrokimon

Thank you for linking this channel - looks like a great resource!

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On 11/27/2019 at 6:52 PM, oldmanwhaley said:

...I've heard using a very thin curved Japanese saw can be used to removce [sic] the button from the back of the neck...

You can use a saw, but any sawing you do should be on the neck -- not on the button.  You can always add a piece of wood to replace what you saw off the neck, adding a piece of wood is often required when doing a neck reset anyway and you could even replace the neck entirely by doing a neck graft. The neck wood is considered expendable and replaceable, but we always want to preserve the button.

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On 11/28/2019 at 12:52 AM, oldmanwhaley said:

Hey Brad,

 

Thanks for the advice. You are dead on with the back center joint being depressed. I've heard using a very thin curved Japanese saw can be used to removce the button from the back of the neck. Thank you for all the info!

To do this repair, I‘m afraid one should first do a three and a half year apprenticeship, then spend a few years working in a good shop. Even then it is quite difficult. As a DIY project, it will not be successful. That aside, one should point out that it seems to have a through neck, and sawing between the neck and button would be a pointless waste of time, and would drag you further into the mire. With such a through neck violin it would be far better to remove the belly and ribs, and repair the back with the through neck still stuck to the back.

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On 11/29/2019 at 2:42 AM, jacobsaunders said:

To do this repair, I‘m afraid one should first do a three and a half year apprenticeship, then spend a few years working in a good shop. Even then it is quite difficult. As a DIY project, it will not be successful...

I'm afraid that Jacob is right here.

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I was trying to be gentle before, but Jacob and Brad are pretty much right on. I have hundreds of hours in violin workshops, under a Master Luthier, and would still consider your fiddle a challenge. If I were doing the work for someone (if they could talk me into it), it would cost in the thousands. You could buy yourself a nice restoration book and try to work from there. Here's  one:

https://www.amazon.com/Violin-Restoration-Manual-Makers/dp/0962186104

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On 11/26/2019 at 7:54 PM, oldmanwhaley said:

I recently rescued a ca. 1920s-1930s German "factory violin" from the trash.

I hope that you spent the rest of your time in the Vienna area more profitably.  :ph34r::lol:

Seriously, in the prehistory of my career as as a shade-tree luthier, I attacked several objects of this character, and learned a great deal from vandalizing them that helped me later, when I got good enough to start resurrecting decent stuff.  While everybody has given you excellent advice from a professional POV, as a learning experience, you probably couldn't have picked a better first project.  If you utterly botch it, it's no great loss to posterity.  If you manage to get it playing presentably, you'll have something to be very proud of.  It's got a lot of problems to correct, which will require much study and practice to resolve. 

Good luck, and welcome to the forum.  :)

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5 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

What prey is a "shade-tree luthier"?

I'm not prey to anything.  :P

4 hours ago, Michael Appleman said:

A twist on a US expression for a DIY mechanic, fixing his car under the shade of a tree by the house, as opposed to inside a garage.

Yup.  Working outside at my place makes sense, anyway.  Lots of shade, fresh air, gentle breezes, and my shavings can stay put and mulch the gardens.  :D

4 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

Am I correct in the assumption, that calling VdA a „shade-tree luthier“ would be taken as an intended insult? I will be careful to use quotation marks:rolleyes:

Not necessarily, but could be, depending on the source and the context.  ;):)

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9 hours ago, Delabo said:

Watch out for those gators when your working by the moat :lol:

The watchfulness is mutual.  Fried gator tail is sublime.  They're fun to watch waddling around.  The latest cold snap just sent some scurrying for their dens, making an interesting procession across the road this afternoon.  :)

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On 12/1/2019 at 3:33 AM, jacobsaunders said:

Am I correct in the assumption, that calling VdA a „shade-tree luthier“ would be taken as an intended insult? I will be careful to use quotation marks:rolleyes:

I would not interpret this as an insult on the assumption he's not a luthier.  In American vernacular, a "shade tree mechanic" is a term that implies a degree of respect for a person without automotive training but has enough mechanical aptitude to tackle basic repairs on their vehicle with success.  It refers to parking the car under a shady tree for a Saturday repair effort, often at a leisurely pace with beer breaks or neighbor input.  My dad would do this. 

It implies a novice's repair effort, but when used by the person to describe themself it acknowledges the lack of repair knowledge.

Edited by outofnames
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3 hours ago, outofnames said:

I would not interpret this as an insult on the assumption he's not a luthier.  In American vernacular, a "shade tree mechanic" is a term that implies a degree of respect for a person without automotive training but has enough mechanical aptitude to tackle basic repairs on their vehicle with success.  It refers to parking the car under a shady tree for a Saturday repair effort, often at a leisurely pace with beer breaks or neighbor input.  My dad would do this. 

It implies a novice's repair effort, but when used by the person to describe themself it acknowledges the lack of repair knowledge.

You omitted an "s" in the first line.  If you review some of my other posts, you'll figure out where it goes, eventually. :P

I ceased to be a novice a long time ago, but my formal crafts training was in wood and metal working, rather than in luthiery.  One of my core messages since I've been posting here is that, if someone has the skill with tools, they shouldn't be scared to do their own fiddle repairs, provided that they apply themselves enough to do it properly.  MN is a great place to learn how things should be done.  :)

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