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PhilipKT

A viola Query this time

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I seem to be the only person posting on this board these days but what the hell, here’s my latest question, involving a 1938 Jusek Master Art Viola:

It is being offered by the T2 auction. I was quite surprised to see that the expected selling price is only $400 or so, until I noticed that the top has a horrible floor to ceiling bass bar crack.

 Here’s my question. Those instruments are solidly made and frequently sound quite good. would it be worthwhile to buy that viola with the intent of having a new top made for it? The crack renders the top all but useless, and because it’s just a Czech factory Viola, albeit a very nice one, replacement of the top should result in better sound. In addition to carving a good top, the varnish would have to be carefully matched as well, but it shouldn’t be that difficult to match a typical factory varnish from that era, right?

Or would it be better to just repair the crack as well as possible? I’m not the least bit interested in the instrument I’m not going to bid on it I’m just asking.

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I have not looked at the viola in question, but generally it would be preferable to repair the top well, which in the case of a long bass bar crack could be difficult and expensive.
A replacement top almost always looks out of place, and though structurally sound, it would devalue the viola too.

Lots of fine instruments have bass bar cracks, it does not "render the top all but useless".

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16 minutes ago, Wood Butcher said:

I have not looked at the viola in question, but generally it would be preferable to repair the top well, which in the case of a long bass bar crack could be difficult and expensive.
A replacement top almost always looks out of place, and though structurally sound, it would devalue the viola too.

Lots of fine instruments have bass bar cracks, it does not "render the top all but useless".

 This particular crack is not just a crack the wood seems to have separated, and I was unclear in my original comment. Because it’s just a factory instrument, even though it is a nice one, and it doesn’t have very much collector value anyway, so I was thinking that replacing the top might result in a better sound without sacrificing the value of originality which was not Not great in the first place, considering the instrument.

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55 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

I seem to be the only person posting on this board these days but what the hell, here’s my latest question, involving a 1938 Jusek Master Art Viola:

It is being offered by the T2 auction. I was quite surprised to see that the expected selling price is only $400 or so, until I noticed that the top has a horrible floor to ceiling bass bar crack.

 Here’s my question. Those instruments are solidly made and frequently sound quite good. would it be worthwhile to buy that viola with the intent of having a new top made for it? The crack renders the top all but useless, and because it’s just a Czech factory Viola, albeit a very nice one, replacement of the top should result in better sound. In addition to carving a good top, the varnish would have to be carefully matched as well, but it shouldn’t be that difficult to match a typical factory varnish from that era, right?

Or would it be better to just repair the crack as well as possible? I’m not the least bit interested in the instrument I’m not going to bid on it I’m just asking.

Quite a non-starter.

Who is going to make your new top? And what quality wood?

At the end of the day even if well done the violin would be worth considerably less than the original instrument.

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That doesn't look so bad.  The fact that it's long and along the bass bar makes it more expensive to fix than if it were short and not along the bass bar, but it's totally fixable, and looks worth fixing.

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I just looked at the lot. The crack can be repaired, it isn't anything special or problematic unless it is being held together with some sort of alternative adhesive.

Anyone who would offer to replace the top instead of repairing the crack should not be trusted with your instruments.

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55 minutes ago, duane88 said:

I just looked at the lot. The crack can be repaired, it isn't anything special or problematic unless it is being held together with some sort of alternative adhesive.

Anyone who would offer to replace the top instead of repairing the crack should not be trusted with your instruments.

 Oh nobody offered, I was just considering the possibility. On a great old instrument, keeping the top original would be more important then the crack, but on something with no collector value( a Juzek MA in perfect condition would have some value but I’m referring to this specimen)it might sound better if the top were replaced, of course assuming confident workmanship, well matched varnish, and good wood.

I appreciate the thoughts.

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5 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

I seem to be the only person posting on this board these days but what the hell, here’s my latest question, involving a 1938 Jusek Master Art Viola:

...

 I’m not the least bit interested in the instrument I’m not going to bid on it I’m just asking.

I get the feeling that someone really REALLY needs to do some shopping and get themselves a new project...^_^

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2 hours ago, Rue said:

I get the feeling that someone really REALLY needs to do some shopping and get themselves a new project...^_^

BION, my current project is getting rid of a bunch of bows, and a few violins that were gathering dust at Jay’s shop for a while. The last thing I want is to add to the pile.

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It would seem to me to be a total waste of time and money. If you already owned it and wanted to do it yourself, why not? Paying a professional maker to make you a top for a mediocre factory instrument (I grew up knee-deep in "Juzeks" in my dad's violin shop, so please don't try to convince me that there's anything worth saving in one of these things) really doesn't seem like a viable option, if you could actualy find someone willing to do it...making a new top for a violin can make sense if what's left of the the violin itself has some historical or monetary value, but I don't think a Juzek quite fits that category.

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7 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

it might sound better if the top were replaced

To make a claim like this you would need a time machine for comparing the instrument before the crack appeared with the tone of the replaced top ; otherwise it's meaningless speculation.

The pecuniary value of a "Bohemain viola" with replaced top would go down drastically in the zero direction, so there might be more entertaining ways to burn your money than to pay somebody for making a new one for this.

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Just looked at the listing. This viola looks like a decent proposition for a professional repairer, if it stays around or below the estimate. That crack can be repaired and once fixed the viola could sell for enough to justify the time spent. For a player, though, it would probably be a better idea to just go and buy a playable viola. 

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7 hours ago, Blank face said:

To make a claim like this you would need a time machine for comparing the instrument before the crack appeared with the tone of the replaced top ; otherwise it's meaningless speculation.

The pecuniary value of a "Bohemain viola" with replaced top would go down drastically in the zero direction, so there might be more entertaining ways to burn your money than to pay somebody for making a new one for this.

It seems logical that a well-made top without a bass bar crack would sound better than a well-made top with one, however well repaired. Because there’s no collector value to the instrument, replacing a badly damaged top with an undamaged top would not affect the value, but might improve the sound.

I asked the question hypothetically, I’m certainly not interested in purchasing the instrument, I was just wondering.

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1 hour ago, PhilipKT said:

It seems logical that a well-made top without a bass bar crack would sound better than a well-made top with one, however well repaired.

 

There should be no difference in sound if repaired properly.

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1 hour ago, PhilipKT said:

It seems logical that a well-made top without a bass bar crack would sound better than a well-made top with one, however well repaired. Because there’s no collector value to the instrument, replacing a badly damaged top with an undamaged top would not affect the value, but might improve the sound.

 

Integrity of an instrument has nothing to do with "collector's value", but a lot with "commercial value". The word which is used in this regards is more cultural value or the like, but most of the musician want an uncompromised violin or viola without collecting something.

Myths about sound-affecting repairs exit many, proven are few. Often they are told by dealers. I once heard "This violin has soundpost cracks at belly and at bottom, but don't worry, no bass bar crack, which would affect the sound much more". Maybe this was what you heard, too?:)

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There is no reason to believe that a well repaired crack in a top would affect the sound detrimentally.  One famous violinist once told me that a Rocca that he was particularly fond of sounded even better after it sustained two major cracks caused by mishandling on an aircraft and they were repaired.   

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3 minutes ago, Ron MacDonald said:

sounded even better after it sustained two major cracks

I think this is very common. Often I suspect it is because the instrument also was in need of fresh setup/tweeks, which it also got. From what I've seen an instrument that gets a sound post patch after a crack almost always sounds better. But maybe its all psychological.

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1 hour ago, duane88 said:

There should be no difference in sound if repaired properly.

I did not know that, that is quite surprising. Thank you.

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1 hour ago, Blank face said:

Integrity of an instrument has nothing to do with "collector's value", but a lot with "commercial value". The word which is used in this regards is more cultural value or the like, but most of the musician want an uncompromised violin or viola without collecting something.

Myths about sound-affecting repairs exit many, proven are few. Often they are told by dealers. I once heard "This violin has soundpost cracks at belly and at bottom, but don't worry, no bass bar crack, which would affect the sound much more". Maybe this was what you heard, too?:)

No I did not hear that, but yes it was my understanding that a bass bar or sound post crack did have a negative affect on sound even if well repaired.

If that is incorrect I am glad to know, but I remain quite surprised.

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1 hour ago, Blank face said:

Integrity of an instrument has nothing to do with "collector's value", but a lot with "commercial value".

Yes, that is correct, I should not use the words interchangeably but occasionally I lapse.

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1 hour ago, duane88 said:

There should be no difference in sound if repaired properly.

If that is true, and I’m not denying what multiple people have said, then why all the fuss about bass bar or sound post cracks in the first place? If there’s no difference in sound with a well prepared crack, and if in many cases the sound is better, then is the decrease in value merely because it is now structurally imperfect?

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9 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

then why all the fuss about bass bar or sound post cracks in the first place?

They are more expensive to fix than other cracks. But once properly repaired they are usually no issue as far as function/sound. If you are looking for a good 18th century instrument you will have pass up a lot good choices if you cannot live with such a repair.

I actually like old violins with SP patches (on the top). It means someone else ate the costs an expensive repair that I likely will not ever have to deal with. And you can use it as a strong negotiating point (because of the biases)

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28 minutes ago, deans said:

They are more expensive to fix than other cracks. But once properly repaired they are usually no issue as far as function/sound. If you are looking for a good 18th century instrument you will have pass up a lot good choices if you cannot live with such a repair.

I actually like old violins with SP patches (on the top). It means someone else ate the costs an expensive repair that I likely will not ever have to deal with. And you can use it as a strong negotiating point (because of the biases)

Thanks excellent information , thank you.

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I recently posted-with permission of course- photos of an old and curious violin. The consensus was that it is old French and Peter kindly did a dendro using the photos in the post and dated it to ~1760, if I recall.

The top was just removed for some interior maintenance, and I was surprised and initially a bit disappointed to see a sound post patch, but if I’m understanding you correctly, you’re saying that if properly repaired it won’t have a negative affect on the sound?

 

5A1E65F2-B41C-47FA-BBB8-BB82E0C3F515.jpeg

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