Is it repairable?


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It's older than 1998. Scherl & Roth, Germany. 

Two piece back, not a student cello. It was a few thousand $. I use it for teaching.

:(

Any hope? The entire neck has come unglued from the block (still lodged but loose), and the button is cracking. 
I don't live anywhere near a luthier (3-4 hours at best, if they're still in business). I have repaired violins. Not this bad. Cosmetic repair isn't a high priority at this moment, but structural is (because I still want it to play). It has a fair amount of my history within its grains.

Yes, it fell. And yes, I'd left the endpin extended because, heh, I didn't want the neck supporting the instrument. The height of the chair back I'd rested it against (where I was somehow sure it would be safe temporarily) was such that I needed to raise the height of where the neck met the chair. Yes. I know.

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Edited by thatcleverwind
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What level of teaching is it being used for? If it's for total beginners and all you need is for it to hold together (and still be usable I mean).

Maybe you can clamp it together with a lot of hide glue - to make do, until an opportunity for a proper repair happens?

If it's totally not worth repairing properly, could you screw it together? Yes I  know...total blasphemy. 

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14 minutes ago, Rue said:

What level of teaching is it being used for? If it's for total beginners and all you need is for it to hold together (and still be usable I mean).

Maybe you can clamp it together with a lot of hide glue - to make do, until an opportunity for a proper repair happens?

If it's totally not worth repairing properly, could you screw it together? Yes I  know...total blasphemy. 

waste of time

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I have fixed several dozen plywood cellos, suffering the same problem as yours, by the following procedure:

Get the neck out.  Glue the block back together and reglue rib bits to the block as needed.  Remove old glue from the neck foot and from the neck mortise in the block.  Slide the neck back into its original position.  (This might require trimming the ribs and/or removing fractured wood from the button.)  Get a 3 inch long drywall screw.  With the neck positioned, drill a hole through the neck foot and the block.  The hole should be positioned about 1 1/2 inch from the button.  The hole diameter should equal the shank diameter of the threaded portion of the screw.  Take the neck out.  Enlarge the hole in the neck foot to the major thread diameter of the screw thread.  To allow the screw head to be countersunk, further enlarge the  varnish side of the hole in the neck foot to the diameter of the screw head for a depth of about 1/4 inch.  Apply hot glue to the neck mortise and the neck foot.  Quickly slide the neck into the mortice and drive the screw into the hole.  Cover the screw head with a wood plug.  (I use an old ebony peg shaved down to fit in the hole.)  Trim the plug flush with the varnish.  Done.  It takes me an hour or two.

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I like Brad's idea. Sometimes having nothing to lose can be a great excuse to do something that others could consider a waste of time. I have a student cello that suffered a terrible top smashing (like stomped on) and I humpty-dumptied it back together with Titebond and it has held up for several years, stays in tune fine, sounds great, and is kind of my favorite cello because of its flaws. This is one that Jacob said should have been dustbinned even before it was broken. :)

edit: I would agree with checking with any insurance policy that may cover this before doing anything. 

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I agree with Jacob( happy dance)

However, remember that your students first exposure to good instruments is yours, and you owe it to them to show them good quality so that they can regularly hear how a good instrument looks, feels, and sounds. eventually, they will want their own instrument, and the more aware they are of quality sound and workmanship, they more they can avoid a purchase they will regret. Depending on where you are, you can get a much better cello for not a lot more then the too-much price you initially paid.

Lose the tape, too. Music is aural and not visual, so train the ears and not the eyes.

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Hum.... 

I think I'd like to know whether the opinion is if it would hold if I repair it. (See images; I removed the neck, it's a clean break.)
  - Brad, given the clarity of the break, do you still think I will need hardware, or can I glue it successfully. I have (and know how to use) hide glue, will make clamps if need be, etc...

It's worth it to me to fix, for my reasons. The general opinion may be it's not a great instrument, but it's resonance is deep and it is consistent. It wasn't $40k. But frankly, even if I'd spent $40 on it 20+ years ago, or 2 hours ago, if I had enjoyed it as I have, it would be worth repairing if it's possible.

Additionally, thanks for input on the tapes, I have to assume the general perception of musical ability is at play in that comment, presumptuous as it is (along with a few other comments here). As a lifelong musician, an instructor, a composer, a producer, and person who can play just about any instrument set in my hands, in any environment, without the need for a piece of paper or otherwise, I feel rather confident of what works for me and those with whom I interact in learning environments (including this instrument). Especially since I am continually refining... Much like with this repair, I create a path that results in joy and wonderment in my life, especially where music is concerned (which is everything). 

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2 hours ago, thatcleverwind said:


Additionally, thanks for input on the tapes, I have to assume the general perception of musical ability is at play in that comment, presumptuous as it is (along with a few other comments here). As a lifelong musician, an instructor, a composer, a producer, and person who can play just about any instrument set in my hands, in any environment, without the need for a piece of paper or otherwise, I fe

Of course, do what works, I am also a musician and teacher of several decades, and the best way to use tapes is to not use them. Instead train the ears from day one. Every correct sound has a place, and we find that place using our ears. And if we can use our ears, we do not need our eyes.

As a competent performer on multiple instruments, no one should be more aware of that than you.

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3 hours ago, thatcleverwind said:

..Brad, given the clarity of the break, do you still think I will need hardware...

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I think you need a screw, because the button is no longer securely attached to the rest of the back.  (The button is the hump at the top of the back where the neck attaches.)

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I will not take part in the discussion of competence regarding cello technique on this forum. However, I'm a cello teacher and not a lutier, but very interested in instrument making. So I guess I'm as qualified to answer your question as you are to teach the cello ;)

Your problem is the joint between the neck block and the neck. One can see that some wood was ripped off the block, whereas other parts of the surfaces do not seem to have been in contact at all. This means the fit was never ok to begin with. There were a couple of discussions of the topic in the past; wether the glue joint between block and neck or the glue joint between button and neck was more important in celli. I believe the general consensus was, that, if the fit is proper, the neck block-neck root joint takes the brunt, and only in badly made instruments, the button joint takes the brunt of holding the whole contraption together. In this instrument, it looks as if the button was holding most of the construction in one piece, which is probably why the neck broke out.  Anyway, this means for you, that you have to find out wether this instrument was glued with animal glue or something synthetic. If its animal glue, you can soak the remaining fragment of the top block off the neck, and painstakingly reglue them onto the block, after which you should improve the fit of the block and neck joint before doing what Brad suggested. If it is a synthetic glue that was used, then never mind, glue the whole thing up with copyous amounts of epoxy glue and otherwise still adhere to Brads suggestion. Don't forget to dry fit first.

If you ever paid several thousands for this instrument, I'm sorry to say that you were ripped off. This quality instruments (plywood instruments with nitro varnish) can be had for 250 $ online.

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I apologize for going off on a tangent, question was about repair, and I veered off into pedagogy. Mea culpa.

I do, however, feel very strongly that a teachers job is to teach about instruments almost as much as it is to teach about how to play the instruments, and exposing your students to the best possible equipment is a responsibility.

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15 minutes ago, baroquecello said:

...Your problem is the joint between the neck block and the neck...s the fit was never ok to begin with....

I usually see a poor fit between the neck and the block on plywood instruments.

 

15 minutes ago, baroquecello said:

... you have to find out wether [sic] this instrument was glued with animal glue or something synthetic...

I have always found animal glue.  I soak it with water and scrape it off when it's soft.

 

15 minutes ago, baroquecello said:

...soak the remaining fragment of the top block off the neck, and painstakingly reglue them onto the block, ...

I wouldn't bother to do this.  The fit will still be bad.

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4 hours ago, Rue said:

...I  feel vindicated...:rolleyes: *smug smile*

I am not an expert but I can't help thinking that if the choice is between throwing the cello away and having no cello or the owner repairing it themselves, in a structurally sound, carefully thought out but not ideal way to keep it going, especially if it is of some sentimental value to the owner and will still be of use and enjoyable then I would think the second option has got to be better than the first.

Even if it is no longer ideal for teaching purposes, if the owner can keep an old 'friend' going even if for their own use instead of putting it in the bin seems the right thing and the suggestions for repair given by Brad and others seem to me a great help. If the owner can claim on their insurance and get to keep and then repair the 'written off' cello then they can get a nicer one for teaching with and keep the old battle scarred one for playing at home? I have to admit, though, I am very sentimental to the point of foolishness!

It is interesting how everyone views and uses their instruments in their own very personal ways. On page 130 of the Yehudi menuin Music Guide Violin and viola Mr. Menuin writes, "Above all remember that a violin may be held only at the neck and the chin rest, and no finger may touch the body anywhere else." This is probably understandable given the precious nature of the instruments he was accustomed to since youth. Many years ago I saw an advert for an aluminium double bass on ebay, the seller had bought it as he said "he wanted to take a bass white water rafting". I have an old violin, I got for around £40 on ebay, which has an extra peghole bored in presumeably because the scroll had broken around the A peg and the owner needed to keep it going. I have not bothered to try to fill the hole as I regard it as part of the character of the old instrument. Also I may make it worse? When I got it the scroll was held together with metal plates, here it is with the metal plates. I have to admit to holding this violin by parts other than the neck and chinrest and have taken it to pubs and carried it for many miles in its fibreglass case on my back on my bycycle but I would draw the line at white water rafting with it!

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 here is what I would do.

But regarding to your instrument in plywood, it worth a try to make a cheap repair by your own.

use hide glue.

 

1. Take a chisel (medium size ~10mm)

remove carefully all the wood scraps. Do it On all surfaces. Take your time

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Glue them back with hide glue at they original place if possible. I doubt it is feasible  . If the pieces of wood are too small to glue them properly then scrap them.

 

2. glue the broken piece of plywood on the surface. Do the same for other big ribs pieces if any.

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let dry 24h

3. Stick a sand paper (grain 80) with a piece of square wood (20x20mmx200mm) and make the sufaces flat : only the wood that you glued must be flattenned. Dont reduce the size of not damaged wood. Dont sand to go as deep as are the scratches.

Scratches will be filled with the glue.

 

4. Prepare a big clamp (20-25mm) and a big strap (25-30mm wide).

The big clamp is for the button - fingerboard

The strap for the whole body.

Put everything in place without glue and make sure that the clamp does not move. if it moves, then adjust your set up. 

protect the surfaces with foam - The clamp is not easy to adjust due to the fingerboard shape - but it is feasible - you can also buy specific luthier tool for that on internet.

 

5. Put the strap (20mm wide) all around the instrument to make sure the neck is properly in contact with the body.

Check your fingerboard angle, the fingerboard must be well aligned with the saddle.To remove the scrapped wood might had influence on that and if yes, then it would require you to adjust properly again the surfaces to get the right angle (it is not an easy step).

 

6. If everything is in place, then dissemble and train youreself several times to make this assembly fast and securely again.

 

7. prepare glue, put hot glue fast on all surface. Be sure you put enough glue every where.

Set the neck o the body. Adjust the strap all around the body, then the clamp. When everything isin place, remove excess of glue with a scraper or knife.7. let dry 1 day. remove everything. .

 

8. the process might have influence on String angle. It depend how much wood was removed.

 

You can do it only once , so take care.

To unstick a neck after that is very difficut

It is feasible to succeed.

 

If it breaks , again, maybe add a big screw as decribed above. 

 

Maybe some will correct or complete with better advices.

 

David.

Cello #1 : https://youtu.be/Ik1T6smpTFc
Cello #2 : https://youtu.be/rBX_9LnsoQM

 

 

 

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On 12/19/2020 at 4:43 AM, thatcleverwind said:

It's older than 1998. Scherl & Roth, Germany. 

Two piece back, not a student cello. It was a few thousand $. I use it for teaching.

:(

Any hope? The entire neck has come unglued from the block (still lodged but loose), and the button is cracking. 
I don't live anywhere near a luthier (3-4 hours at best, if they're still in business). I have repaired violins. Not this bad. Cosmetic repair isn't a high priority at this moment, but structural is (because I still want it to play). It has a fair amount of my history within its grains.

Yes, it fell. And yes, I'd left the endpin extended because, heh, I didn't want the neck supporting the instrument. The height of the chair back I'd rested it against (where I was somehow sure it would be safe temporarily) was such that I needed to raise the height of where the neck met the chair. Yes. I know.

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If you want to repair it yourself use Titebond glue it has all the advantages of hide glue (cleans up with a damp cloth, and can be disassembled with heat) without the inherent mess of hide glue plus it gives a generally stronger join than hot glue. 

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Jacob,  I repaired many music store plywood rental cellos with broken buttons using my glue and screw method.  When a neck broke out of a cello, the music store could have either discarded it and bought a new replacement for something like $1000 or paid me $50 to screw the neck back on and return the cello to its rental fleet.  I doubt that you rent plywood cellos, but do you understand why the music store didn't want to throw them away?

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FWIW...my friend, the Excellent Cellist, bought a plywood cello for the 3 years she was in Canada (she didn't want to bring her good cello with her from England).

I would have thought it was "too cheap" too...but she was able to make it sound like a million dollars - without too much effort. Yes, I asked about playability.

So - she either lucked out with a good one, or maybe they're not all "that bad". ^_^

She did end up bringing her good bow with her though, from a trip home. The Glasser that came with the plywood cello wasn't cutting it.

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5 minutes ago, Brad Dorsey said:

Jacob,  I repaired many music store plywood rental cellos with broken buttons using my glue and screw method.  When a neck broke out of a cello, the music store could have either discarded it and bought a new replacement for something like $1000 or paid me $50 to screw the neck back on and return the cello to its rental fleet.  I doubt that you rent plywood cellos, but do you understand why the music store didn't want to throw them away?

As a wood conservationist, I have found that using conservation techniques plus a few tricks of my own, it is quite possible to return even basket case instruments to a playable condition. I'm currently engaged in a 10 year project to restore a 1776 Tomaso Carcassi violin back to its original playing condition. When it arrived it was almost too fragile to touch and each individusl piece had to be treated and its integrity restored. 8 years into the project and we have been able to fit all the bits of the spruce top back together and remove all the cleats. The glues are a special mix of wood and other natural resins and water. 

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