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ffraley

What is (not) sorth fixing?

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I couldn't resist a $29 old violin on Craigslist. Very plain label just says copy of strad, made in Germany. From the fragile old cloth imitation leather on the case I'm guessing ~1900? No blocks, a thin lining looks almost like cardboard. Two 1.5" spots to reglue on the back plate. Tailpiece and endpin are there and seem to fit well, no bridge, soundpost down but there appearing to be pretty fine grained.  Missing nut, but a blank is in the case. Bow looks thicker than my "modern" bows, frog moves OK, straight stick.

I'm assuming it is a factory German import. Is it worth getting fixed up? How far should I go? Wild guesses at costs? Are these bows worth rehairing?

Fred

I am a 68 YO beginner with a couple of useable ex-rental student violins, specializing in open string and first finger exercises

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You got a nice Markie for $29, prime "usual rubbish", circa 1910. Congratulations!

You'll need minimal tools and supplies to:

1} reset, or, cut and set a soundpost when the old one doesn't fit right, (2 "cloverhead" setters, 1 pliers-type setter, Exacto knife or scalpel or sharp chisel [also for bridge and nut], soundpost gauge, soundpost retriever, razor saw, a length of violin soundpost stock, 1 stiff business card),

2} fit/cut a bridge (10 cheap Chinese bridges to practice on, 1 good Aubert bridge, carbon paper, metric vernier caliper, bridge template or French curve, General Tools 16ME or equivalent ruler/protractor, #2 pencil [for nut also]),

3)  make a nut for the top of the fingerboard (warding files, fine sandpaper, super glue)

4) glue open seams (hide glue and means to heat and apply it accurately, a glass syringe with 18 to 22 gauge needles to get glue into cracks and joints, some spool clamps ).

5) refit the pegs (a bar of soap, chalk, pumice, or rottenstone, fine sandpaper, a 1/4" dowel as a punch and a nice chunk of oak for a mallet [for removing stuck pegs])

6)  add strings (set of stings such as Warchal Karneol or Infeld Dominants, some sort of fine tuner for the E string)

Because, otherwise, you'll easily spend more than $500 on repairs.  Directions for doing all that stuff is readily available, here and all over the internet.

Good luck, and welcome to MN! :)

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Thank you, Violadamore! "Markie" was what I needed - a little searching shows tons of information, and an opportunity to learn more about violins. 

There were two possible good outcomes. This one - It's worth about what I paid, a good piece to practice minor repairs on, and I can then either play it with some sense of satisfaction at my accomplishment or feel no great grief at any failure. Or else, it's worth quite a bit, sell it and buy a very nice upgrade and use the leftover for an instrument and tools to do the first. I suspected the former. I guess I could have accepted the latter, with minimal disappoint. 

I'm looking forward to maybe sharing my misadventures with this. It looks like most all the information I might need is here. 

 

Fred 

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4 hours ago, Violadamore said:

 

3)  make a nut for the top of the fingerboard (warding files, fine sandpaper, super glue)

 

Do you super glue nuts on? tut tut!

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39 minutes ago, Strad O Various Jr. said:

It appears the bottom block has split in half, this will require major surgery and removing the top, I'd ask for your money back

I'd call that a questionable observation.  :P

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10 minutes ago, jacobsaunders said:

Do you super glue nuts on? tut tut!

I was figuring that most beginners cut the notches too deep, and CA with a filler such as baking soda is a quick fix for that.  :P:)

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Some words on gluing open seams.

You an buy usable wax warmers for about $20US to heat up the wood glue. Get one where the pot can be easily removed and has a lid if you can. A simple heat knob with temperature settings makes it easier to use. I tend to set mine between 140F to 150F. Cooler and the glue sets up too fast. Hotter and you approach temperatures where oil and spirit varnishes can break down.

You can buy ground, dry hide glue online from various suppliers of violin and guitar tools, like StewMac. For a hobbyist, a $30US cannister might be a lifetime supply. >grin< You might be able to find less expensive and smaller lots.

Avoid liquid hide glue. Although very convenient to use, these glues do not hold well in shear/tension loads which are common at the plate/rib joints. Joints that are entirely in compression, like the nut/neck surface, will hold OK with the liquid hide glue.

Add a tablespoon or two of ground hide glue to the pot and add enough cool water to just cover the glue. Let it sit until the the water is absorbed and then heat to 145F. The glue should eventually achieve the consistency of a thick liquid.

For open seam repair, I like to add a little water at a time until the glue flows almost as free as water. The idea is to reconstitute the fractured glue that is already in the joints by applying a very thin layer of hot glue.

Buy a thin 1" wide spackling knife to apply the glue to the open seam. Dip the knife into the glue to get about 1/2" of the tip wet. Leave it in a bit so it reaches the temperature of the glue. Then push the knife into the open seam, gently move it back and forth to spread the glue in the joint, then while gently pressing on the plate, slide the knife out. Repeat until you have put glue along the entire length of the open seam.

You want to avoid "forcing" the knife into either side of the open seam where the old glue is still holding the seam together. Dried hide glue will fracture with a focused load trying to pull the seam apart, which is one of the reasons it used in violins where the plate might have to be removed to do repairs.

You can find lots of ideas online on how to make clamps for violin plate repair. You can also just use some inexpensive,  thin elastic cord and wrap it around the violin body. Place a small block of wood on the plates on either side of the open seem to get the cord to add more downward pressure on the joint. Practice this before gluing so you can do it rapidly.

You do  not need a lot of pressure on the plate. Just enough to visibly close the seam. 

Have a bowl of hot, clean water and a rag available to wipe off the excess glue that will spread out of the joint. The rag just has to be damp, not dripping wet. Do this as soon as possible after gluing. Typically, the glue will not damage the varnish before it hardens, but if you allow it to harden on the surface it becomes difficult and time consuming to remove.

Jacob had posted a formula for a cleaner that works well for removing years of dirt and rosin build up. If I can find the post I will repost it here. Otherwise, a rag that is slightly dampened with warm water that has had a tiny bit of liquid detergent added to it will work wonders.

There is a simple method for polishing up wood surfaces with a very thin mixture of amber or clear shellac and denatured alcohol that you might want to consider. But that is a topic for another thread.

Also, some method to add a little color to exposed, white wood surface can add to the appeal (if not the tone >grin<) of the violin. I like to add a drop of yellow food coloring to a little water, then dab it the exposed area. A little amber shellac or colored oil varnish completes the touch up for a cheap violin. Almost looks like the worn out varnish areas on a Stradivarius!

If the violin has any real monetary or historic value, best to leave the touch up to an experienced professional.

 

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The violin is about 100 years old, from the Markneukirchen area industry, and seems to be free of cracks. It would be worth repairing properly at a violin makers. I would charge you about €600. Ignore siren encouragement to do a DIY bodge.

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If your goal is to tinker with violins then this is a good buy. 

But if your goal is to have a better, more enjoyable fiddle to play, then put the repair costs towards another violin, purchased from a shop. Its unlikely that this is going to be good player and  at a shop you can chose  based on playing it.  There are many really nice sounding affordable Chinese instruments,. You're getting up there in age, why muck about?

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46 minutes ago, baroquecello said:

I agree with Jacobsaunders on the violin. The bow is crap and should be thrown away.

Agreed. The violin doesn't appear to need major work, unless the lower block is split. More information on that could be gained by looking at the lower block from the inside with good lighting and a mirror.

But don't under-estimate the difficulty of making a new upper nut,  to anything better than hack-job standards. A really nice upper nut remains a huge challenge for  even those who have good training, and a lot of experience. It can go downhill from there.

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38 minutes ago, baroquecello said:

I agree with Jacobsaunders on the violin. The bow is crap and should be thrown away.

Nice that someone agrees with me for once. I agree with you re. the bow

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47 minutes ago, Jo Stephens said:

I second the diy repair option. Not worth spending hundreds but plenty of fun to be had learning to fit pegs and bridges. 

 

I am certainly not the only forum member who gets sick of being asked to rescue what otherwise would have been a perfectly serviceable school violin, that someone has lived out his/her DIY fantasies on. It is cheaper to take it, as is, straight to a competent violin maker

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To fix it up and play it, yes you are right Jacob, a luthier would be the cheapest option. But the OP was asking about worth, and this violin is fairly lacking in that regard so would ultimately be worth only the cost of the professional repair.

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6 minutes ago, Jo Stephens said:

To fix it up and play it, yes you are right Jacob, a luthier would be the cheapest option. But the OP was asking about worth, and this violin is fairly lacking in that regard so would ultimately be worth only the cost of the professional repair.

wreck it then?

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6 minutes ago, jacobsaunders said:

wreck it then?

I've been asking this for a while - and I don't remember ever getting a pragmatic answer.

When is a violin worth having repaired by a professional.  When is a violin 'rubbish' enough to risk learning on?

No point in throwing them out if they can be repaired - by someone who is interested in learning, or giving them away to schools, etc, versus tossing them.

So far, all I have for options are:

1.  Have it repaired by a pro.

2. Throw it out.

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2 minutes ago, Rue said:

I've been asking this for a while - and I don't remember ever getting a pragmatic answer.

When is a violin worth having repaired by a professional.  When is a violin 'rubbish' enough to risk learning on?

No point in throwing them out if they can be repaired - by someone who is interested in learning, or giving them away to schools, etc, versus tossing them.

So far, all I have for options are:

1.  Have it repaired by a pro.

2. Throw it out.

Good question, another option is to do nothing, which is not a bad choice, And if the OP is really interested in just getting a better playing instrument, then doing nothing is probably best. It wont get wrecked by a hack, and it wont be $600 in repairs down the tube for an instrument that could suck. It will just be a $29 conversation piece.. 

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Sure...but why do we need a bunch of wallhangers, that are worth nothing, collecting dust?  What apocalypse, featuring a shortage of broken violins, are we waiting for?

...and if you do want to DIY...what are you supposed to learn on?

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19 minutes ago, Rue said:

I've been asking this for a while - and I don't remember ever getting a pragmatic answer.

When is a violin worth having repaired by a professional.  When is a violin 'rubbish' enough to risk learning on?

No point in throwing them out if they can be repaired - by someone who is interested in learning, or giving them away to schools, etc, versus tossing them.

So far, all I have for options are:

1.  Have it repaired by a pro.

2. Throw it out.

It is a later Dutzendarbeit with no major disabilities, but needs all of the set up renewed. Such an instrument in fully rdestored condition would retail at about €1300/€1500 incl. VAT here. To return it to new condition would cost about €600. If you DIY it to death, it won’t even be worth the $29 he payed for it. Is that pragmatic enough?

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No.  Because that's an awesome answer for THIS example, but can we also have an awesome general guideline for 'any' violin?

And I mean 'low end' violin...obviously I don't want people experimenting with any violin of historical significance or value as a playable orchestral instrument, etc.

I'm talking about the ones that are in the rubbish pile already...

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12 minutes ago, Rue said:

but why do we need a bunch of wallhangers, that are worth nothing, collecting dust? 

Another good question. I think we all have a few such things hanging around in limbo. I have sprung for repairs on instruments that "weren't worth it"  and have been happy, but it doesnt always work out.

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