How common is this type of repair?


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I was reading this article about the restoration of a Stradivari cello that was stolen, then recovered and restored. The article includes a photo of the backside of the table and There is an extensive network of braces that go all the way across the top. I've never seen this before. Would this be one way of dealing with multiple cracks in the table? To my eye it resembles the kind of support used on the back of paintings painted on thin panels of wood to keep the panel from warping.

https://www.seattletimes.com/entertainment/classical-music/strad-on-the-run-rare-instrument-restorer-rafael-carrabba-accomplishes-task-of-a-lifetime/

77921f08-f1fa-11e5-b774-a9c0776f5c77-1020x726.jpg

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This is not a final situation. It probably is temporary scaffolding to put the top into closer to a normal shape to prepare for making a plaster cast. The closer you can get the wood to its final position before pouring the cast, the less you have to modify the cast later, and this speeds up the job, preventing possibly several intermediate negative and positive casts. This kind of thing is common in making a mold, but not always to this extent.

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1 minute ago, Michael Darnton said:

This is not a final situation. It probably is temporary scaffolding to put the top into closer to a normal shape to prepare for making a plaster cast. The closer you can get the wood to its final position, the less you have to modify the cast later, and this speeds up the job. This kind of thing is common in making a mold, but not always to this extent.

So that would be the function of both the braces that are contoured to fit the arching as well as the stretchers at the top?

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Yes. One would never make a strip running cross-grain all the way across the top and leave it. That's begging for more cracks in the future.

Notice the row of blocks running on the left side under the elevated braces, and on the right side in the area by the f-holes--those would be to push up on the top at that point to elevate that area. The glued in strips you are referring to are probably making smaller local corrections, temporarily.

A top is relatively flexible and so this kind of preliminary reshaping isn't difficult. A plaster mold for a cello is large and VERY heavy, so you want to avoid making a bad (negative) mold, scraping in corrections, making a (positive) mold of that, more corrections, repeat, repeat. And each cast needs weeks to dry. Lots of plaster, time, and weight. There are shortcuts, but casts are still a PITA. Better to get as close as you can before you start. Plus, it's easier to see what the top will look like when it's a piece of wood--working on a plaster negative is visually more difficult.

Really, the objective would ideally be to get the top finished with no additions of new wood at all, if that can be managed.

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7 minutes ago, Michael Darnton said:

Yes. One would never make a strip running cross-grain all the way across the top and leave it. That's begging for more cracks in the future.

Notice the row of blocks running on the left side under the elevated braces, and on the right side in the area by the f-holes--those would be to push up on the top at that point to elevate that area. The glued in strips you are referring to are probably making smaller local corrections, temporarily.

A top is relatively flexible and so this kind of preliminary reshaping isn't difficult. A plaster mold for a cello is large and VERY heavy, so you want to avoid making a bad mold, scraping in corrections, making a mold of that, more corrections, repeat, repeat. Better to get as close as you can before you start. Plus, it's easier to see what the top will look like when it's a piece of wood--working on a plaster negative is visually more difficult.

Really, the objective would ideally be to get the top finished with no additions of new wood at all, if that can be managed.

Thanks for the explanation. That makes sense, especially with an instrument worth as much as this one where you need to take as much trouble and time to do it right and do it well.

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Raphael has worked for the Kenneth Warren, Carl Becker, and London Charles Beare shops. Maybe Meonnig too... I can't remember now. :blink:

It looks like the cross braces may be low enough to make the plaster cast with the braces and wedges in place. Or they may have tried to correct the arching without using a cast. Some other Beare people have been fond of doing that, when possible.

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8 minutes ago, Strad O Various Jr. said:

That's only one possibility. Another possibility is that the owner, the LA Philharmonic, did not have the budget for the full restoration the first time.

Sure. Then they could go to their benefactors with deep pockets and show them the estimate for restoration.

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2 hours ago, Craig Cowing said:

So, I have a cheeky question. After the instrument is back to the customer do luthiers keep the molds for repeat customers, the way cobbers had shoe lasts that were custom fitted for their customers? Or do the molds go into the dumpster?

 

Various things. Some go in the dumpster. I would often try to get a client to take possession of, and hang onto the final cast, in case an instrument needed to come back for future work. I recall few if any takers. A lifetime of plaster casts can be quite a burden for a prolific restorer to store and keep around themself. Some restorers will keep, or make positives of instruments they consider to be particularly interesting.

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1 hour ago, David Burgess said:

Some restorers will keep, or make positives of instruments they consider to be particularly interesting.

I can see how a positive cast (done in lighter weight material, hopefully) would be useful to hold on to to build a library of instruments for reference.

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4 minutes ago, twcellist said:

Out of curiosity how much would a major restoration job like this cost? :unsure:

Given the value of the cello, I expect restorations like that will reflect it, and will cost enormous amounts of money.
I doubt restorers would divulge this sort of information, but I think $100,000 would not be anywhere near enough.

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On 10/31/2020 at 3:53 PM, Craig Cowing said:

So, I have a cheeky question. After the instrument is back to the customer do luthiers keep the molds for repeat customers, the way cobbers had shoe lasts that were custom fitted for their customers? Or do the molds go into the dumpster?

 

Plaster casts finish in the dustbin when a restoration is done, otherwise I would have to rent a large storeroom to keep them in

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On 10/31/2020 at 12:55 PM, Craig Cowing said:

I can see how a positive cast (done in lighter weight material, hopefully) would be useful to hold on to to build a library of instruments for reference.

When the first garage is full of old casts it's time to rethink. I keeps casts until the instrument is sold. I do trust that my repair last and I won't need the cast again. I do keep a selected few very nice instruments casts though.

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the top block area let think it is not a strad one.

should this top block area not be straight ? as described by Sacconi.

At strad time the neck was not inserted in top block, so the front should also not have a so large top block area. Or at least we should see some repair.

 

these are just assumptions. But probably I completely mistake

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I've been thinking about this repair technique and am wondering about a few things I probably simply misunderstand, maybe someone can enlighten me. By the looks of it, like is often the case with old cellos, the bass bar side has been pushed inward, as most of the arching correction seems to take place there. Im just wondering, ba glueing these "suspended" bracings in, the wideness of the top becomes rigid, inflexible. So bulging the top outward at the bass bar will have as a result, that the arching on the treble side of the cello will go down (inwards), because the wood/material necessary to allow for a higher arching needs to come from somewhere, right?  So is the restorer assuming that the treble side of the arching rose as the bass side of the arching fell? Is that the common pattern for such distortions? Is is not possible, that the distance between the c bouts in time got comparatively (to upper and lower bouts) wider due to the loss of arching and that a reasonable approach would be to somewhat bring those closer again, thus allowing for a higher arch on the bass side without lowering the treble side? In other words, will this kind of arching correction not lead to a more balanced arch, and therefore a better arching, but one that still is lower than it originally was?

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1 hour ago, baroquecello said:

 Is is not possible, that the distance between the c bouts in time got comparatively (to upper and lower bouts) wider due to the loss of arching and that a reasonable approach would be to somewhat bring those closer again, thus allowing for a higher arch on the bass side without lowering the treble side? In other words, will this kind of arching correction not lead to a more balanced arch, and therefore a better arching, but one that still is lower than it originally was?

Yes, that's possible. Since nobody knows what the arching on that particular instrument originally looked like, a restorer will probably need to rely quite a bit on the better-preserved examples of other instruments they have seen from that maker. They also might take some cues from how well the plate fits the ribs, unless the ribs are to be reconfigured.There also might be some measurements from long ago.

Another minor cue might come from comparing the width of the top with the back, but I wouldn't expect this to be a major consideration, given that the outlines of the top and back were different to begin with.

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On 10/31/2020 at 2:44 PM, Craig Cowing said:

 

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For me. this looks like an attempt to shove the arching out on the bass bar side, in order to get a plaster cast with a more symmetrical arching. Otherwise it seems fruitless to second guess the restorer, particularly since I’m entirely ignorant of the pickle the cello was in when he started

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