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Rubbish cello


Hierony
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So, um, anybody want to advise on how to stumble through complicated repairs? Mockery, in good taste, also welcome.

I picked up a cheap cello & bow (no photos) & soft case (promptly discarded) from a local antiques/collectables shop--this already attests to the value of the thing. Yes, it should just be consigned to become decor/discarded. But in the mean time what fun might I have "repairing" it? It played decently but when I removed the strings (tailpiece and endpin swap) the neck was loose. It easily tipped forward/back & button cracked on the sides, so I pulled it out and cleaned things up. Seemingly not the first time... Label reads "Reconstructed by Benjamin J. Roy". Reference material on hand is Weissharr & Triangle Strings tutorial, plus half the assortment of the necessary tools.

Anyhow, looking closely it's a mess. Aside from a neck reset the second most worrisome bit is an open crack in the table, on the upper part of the bass f-hole (not touching the bass bar). The crack seems clean and takes a little force to open (at current humidity). I did not notice it prior to relieving string tension and removing the neck (most of the apparent cracks are glued up).

Is there an acceptably good technique for gluing the crack without removing the top? It's possible to place a cleat near the sound holes from the exterior? Or should I just risk the table disintegrating during removal along with the temptation to mess with the sunken cracks once the top is off?

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3 hours ago, Brad Dorsey said:

Why not?  Do you think it is worth a professional-quality restoration?  If it's not, then why shouldn't he or she have fun with it?

The cello is a run down “the usual”, which one could put through the mill to make a reasonably attractive school instrument. From the inadequate out of focus pictures it has plenty of out of register cracks, and the ribs, bass side, seem to be coming apart, and goodness knows what other injuries. In short hundreds of mistakes waiting to be made. As it is, I might risk a couple of hundred euros on it, after someone has fulfilled himself on it, I wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole.

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Opening a cello may not be the most difficult job in restoring instruments.

On the other hand: I know a colleague (Double Bass) maker who developed a method with strong magnets inserted through the F hole of the instruments: a cleat with glue is held in place between two magnets. I tried this method on a cheap new cello myself, with a small strong magnet attached to a piece of wire and the other magnet (protected with soft material to prevent scratches on the varnish).

Edited by Mr. Bean
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1 hour ago, Mr. Bean said:

I know a colleague (Double Bass) maker who developed a method with strong magnets inserted through the F hole of the instruments: a cleat with glue is held in place between two magnets.

That's a very common method. Downside is that one can neither fit the cleat to the inside surface nor finish them afterwards.

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2 hours ago, Brad Dorsey said:

Why not?  Do you think it is worth a professional-quality restoration?  If it's not, then why shouldn't he or she have fun with it?

As long as he/she doesn't bring it to me for correction after they have "bodged" it up! I charge at least double for that kind of work.

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38 minutes ago, Strad O Various Jr. said:

If you're gluing from the outside, I would think no cleats at all would be superior to poorly fitted ones, that's a buzzing nightmare waiting to happen

It works halfway ok at instruments with flat plates like guitars (and a nightmare to open anyway), possibly also at very big instruments like double basses.

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51 minutes ago, jacobsaunders said:

An “out of register crack” is one where one side of the crack is higher than the other, so that one feels a step should one rub ones finger across it.

Oh, I understand, I would’ve called that “out of alignment” but now that I know what the experts call it I will adopt that phrase.

Is there a term for when the cracks have pulled apart laterally?

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Yeah, tons of glued out-of-register cracks on the table. Along with some poorly retouched ones that are also sunken a bit. And the table edges are chewed up. The ribs look pretty good--the overhang is just nonexistent on portions of the lower bout (front & back). Forgive the limits of my cellphone's optics...

Ha, I'm surprised it isn't one entirely for the poubelle! Maybe it was worth the $300. I did take it to one of the local shops after cleaning up the neck--he suggested a few hundred USD just to reset the neck. (I hadn't noticed the crack yet then).

Jacob--would you be willing to share how many (hypothetical) hours you'd guess worthwhile putting into some of the repairs?

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It is difficult to answer your question, since I don’t know who you are. However, I will make an attempt. I try to avoid such “projects” belonging to third parties like the plague. I would rather buy it cheap and do it on my own account. $300 would have been on or above my pain threshold. Doing it for someone else would involve having some nagger on the phone constantly wanting to know when it would be finished/what it would sound like, and other such questions which one can’t really honestly answer. The “out of register” cracks I would do one at a time, first soak it open with a strand of wool, then clean the dirt out, then leave it overnight to dry, then glue it in register. If you add all the cracks together, that can take a couple of months, even if only a few minutes every day. I also see at least one “out of register” rib crack and you haven’t shown us most of the cello. Rebuilding the corner where the purfling is smashed off as well is also a time consuming exacting job. Altogether it strikes me as a job a violin repairer would do for himself, rather than for somebody. It is much nicer to present someone with a nicely restored cello, than something they have in their memory as road kill

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Thanks Jacob! That gives me a pretty good idea of how much work this cello would need. Road kill is a very appropriate title... I thought it a risk in purchasing; the bow is at least decent for my amateur playing purposes. Glad to know it could be a decent student instrument.

Here's more pics, for what it's worth. The back seems in pretty good shape (just one crack, decently repaired). Yes, there are several (3 or 4) out of register cracks on the ribs; the overhand on the lower bouts is minimal (both front & back). The front has a lot of, um, interesting features. There's two 'holes' (insect bores?) near the center seam (upper bout and c-bout), plus at least one spliced in bit of wood... I can get close up photos later.

I'm tempted to work on this, slowly and methodically (understanding the likelihood of bodging some bits). It would be a thorough education in repair (I may know a shop or two willing to advise on occasion). Once the libraries here restart full interlibrary loan services I'll start studying the books--anybody have particular recommendations?

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