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Dear Maestros,

My number one question: should I remove and replace the "integrated bass bar" on an old, very useable violin?

Here's the situation. I have made 15 violins, but done zero repairs. A man approached me to see if I could revive an old violin he bought for $66 on the internet. It is a beautiful instrument, in remarkably good shape, but the peg holes were huge and no longer aligned, and the back seam had opened at some time in the past and had been filled with a long splice of wood and some kind of filler. The seam was intact, and had been covered with a new coat of "finish" so I thought I would leave that alone... I agreed to do the pegs holes and "whatever else was necessary to get it playable," with the caveat that I might end up killing it with my inexperience. He agreed to give me cart blanche and $200 plus materials if I finished the job. "Not bad," I thought!

So... I bushed the peg holes and touched up the peghead. Then realized the neck was set 4 mm too low, and the stop length was half a centimeter too short. I thought I might cant the fingerboard, but while attempting to remove it the neck popped out of the joint, all in one piece. So now I'm going to reset the neck at the proper angle, and have dressed and reglued the fingerboard. It was going to be such a nice violin when finished that last night I got thinking... "It would be a shame to do all this work and still have that ugly seam in the back..."

This morning I took a deep breath and removed the back (can't learn how without trying!) and spent the day figuring out how to reglue the cleaned up seam (see photos) with what I had available. Now I'm looking at the top plate, and the bass bar that was carved out of it (see photos). It is short and skinny and appears to have split partly off when it was originally made and glued back in place. It also runs perfectly straight with the grain of the top.

So, back to my number one question: the sound box is open -- should I remove the original integrated bass bar and put in a proper one, or leave it be. Is it likely to significantly improve the sound/projection?

Replacing it is well within my skill-set, I just don't want to damage the authenticity of an antique if it doesn't make it better. The owner bought it because he needed a full size instrument for his kid who is getting bigger. He also likes the idea of rejuvenating an antique instrument so it can be played for another 100 years.

Your thoughts, Maestros?

Craig Danner 

Crispin/Hammer Violins

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it would be interesting to see what the plate thicknesses are.. especially the top. If you had the top off .....there we go further down the hole... then some plate analysis could happen in terms of weight and stiffness. barring that (no pun intended) I would agree with Rue and say let it be... the juice may not be worth the squeeze.  I am currently going through an old factory Hopf ( a freinds heirloom for his daughter).  It sports a bass bar carved into the top. The overall work on the plate was very rough and required quite a bit of attention.. your violin appears to be more cleanly executed however. 

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12 minutes ago, chiaroscuro_violins said:

Call me a hack, but I'd probably replace it.  If those were the ideal dimensions for bass bars, I'd build them that way on my new instruments.  Replacing it isn't going to hurt the sound.  OTOH, you are certainly losing money on this job, so you may be wise to put on the blinders and leave it alone.  

You're a hack!!  :P  :lol:

3 hours ago, spruce or pine said:

Dear Maestros,

My number one question: should I remove and replace the "integrated bass bar" on an old, very useable violin?

Here's the situation. I have made 15 violins, but done zero repairs. A man approached me to see if I could revive an old violin he bought for $66 on the internet. It is a beautiful instrument, in remarkably good shape, but the peg holes were huge and no longer aligned, and the back seam had opened at some time in the past and had been filled with a long splice of wood and some kind of filler. The seam was intact, and had been covered with a new coat of "finish" so I thought I would leave that alone... I agreed to do the pegs holes and "whatever else was necessary to get it playable," with the caveat that I might end up killing it with my inexperience. He agreed to give me cart blanche and $200 plus materials if I finished the job. "Not bad," I thought!

So... I bushed the peg holes and touched up the peghead. Then realized the neck was set 4 mm too low, and the stop length was half a centimeter too short. I thought I might cant the fingerboard, but while attempting to remove it the neck popped out of the joint, all in one piece. So now I'm going to reset the neck at the proper angle, and have dressed and reglued the fingerboard. It was going to be such a nice violin when finished that last night I got thinking... "It would be a shame to do all this work and still have that ugly seam in the back..."

This morning I took a deep breath and removed the back (can't learn how without trying!) and spent the day figuring out how to reglue the cleaned up seam (see photos) with what I had available. Now I'm looking at the top plate, and the bass bar that was carved out of it (see photos). It is short and skinny and appears to have split partly off when it was originally made and glued back in place. It also runs perfectly straight with the grain of the top.

So, back to my number one question: the sound box is open -- should I remove the original integrated bass bar and put in a proper one, or leave it be. Is it likely to significantly improve the sound/projection?

Replacing it is well within my skill-set, I just don't want to damage the authenticity of an antique if it doesn't make it better. The owner bought it because he needed a full size instrument for his kid who is getting bigger. He also likes the idea of rejuvenating an antique instrument so it can be played for another 100 years.

Your thoughts, Maestros?

Craig Danner 

Crispin/Hammer Violins

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IMG_1253.jpg

IMG_1251.jpg

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"Don't fix what ain't broke". Well carved integral bass bars are fine.  Leave it alone, and reassemble carefully.

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Are there signs of the top sinking on the bass side?    If so, you might mention this to the owner and see whether he would pay for a new, stronger bar.   Maybe he would also be willing to pay for the neck reset  and the seam repair?    By the way, what is the neck overstand measurement?

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Thank you, Maestros!  You're the best!

Top plate is 2.5mm-3mm in the upper and lower, and thick down the middle at about 4.5-5mm. The "uni-bar" is a whopping 9 mm tall at its summit. Neck overstand is 8.5, and the neck is quite thin. Correcting the overstand and the angle of the neck joint should make it playable. There's no significant top deformity. I'm leaning toward leaving the "uni-bar" alone. "Don't fix what ain't broke." The center joint repair came together really well. This should be a pretty violin when reassembled. 

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1 hour ago, Brad Dorsey said:

You are a hack.

Yes I did ask for it... But to set the record straight, I'm still just a student/amateur violin maker, making no claims to be an expert.  

I do wonder though.  If OP had opened an unlabelled trade fiddle with a glued in bass bar, that was only 9 mm high, 3.5 mm wide, and 200 mm long... how many here would have said he should replace it?  I have nothing against integral bass bars, just against poorly executed, inadequately sized bass bars.  And if this is deemed acceptable... then why bother with standard measurements in the first place?  

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57 minutes ago, Strad O Various Jr. said:

It comes down to whether you are a restorer of historical instruments that represent a piece of history, or a tinkerer that wants to put your footprint in everything with no concern for being historical at all.

A $66 dutzendarbeit does not have historical value.  A standard dimensioned bass bar would likely increase its worth as a musical tool.  I'm not advocating for modification of legit violins.  

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So they don't have historical value when some poor schmuck posts a "violin ID" of their family heirloom, but they do now that y'all can dump on me?  

To my knowledge, far more invasive repairs, on far more valuable instruments, have been standard practice up until recently.  The only instruments I would modify, and then only to help the sound, are those that most people on this forum would relegate to the burn pile.  

I'm not under any illusion that I know more than our experts here, and I certainly don't mean to disrespect anyone.  But please, can someone provide any evidence that a bass bar such as the one pictured is tonally superior to a standard one?  

At this point in my career I kind of embrace the term "hack."  I don't want to get too cocky.  But, without naming names, everything I say here has precedent from famous and respected experts.  If I have deviated from my training, it is in the direction of the maestronet consensus.  As always, I am here to learn and if you can educate me (with evidence!!) I will be very grateful.  

 

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...and we're back to attempting to establish the value (be it historical or monetary) of rubbish. :rolleyes:

There's no point in replacing a functional bass bar, especially if you don't know how the violin, if all else is the best condition, plays/sounds to begin with.

It would be very sad if an unnecessary "improvement" was anything but and ruined the instrument.

If that happens you have lost:

- time

- money

- a historical artefact/a playable instrument

 

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I was thinking that about the bass bar Rue and the other who mentioned to check the thickness of the belly.  The barr does seem good from here.

The examples that Spruce or Pine hasn't probably seen yet are the insides that were gouged out while retaining the integral bar but have the gouges unplaned and scraped - just hillocks on the inside bigtime.  Don shows an example of that every few years or so but I don't mean to drag him into this.  I had one like that {unfinished inside} with an integral bar dangling from the back end along with having an overly, overly thick belly plate.  Regraduation with a new bassbar enabled easier playing but did not change the tone/timbre of the soundbox.

This particular example here is really clean looking - just check the belly thicknesses and then make some sort of decision.  

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This violin may have a very good sound and you could destroy that fooling around with a new bass bar. I would not gamble on making it sound better. Fix it, put it together and let the owner play it. That bass bar and table have probably had over 100 years to get used to each other. When you get done please let us look at it. 

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59 minutes ago, Greg Sigworth said:

This violin may have a very good sound and you could destroy that fooling around with a new bass bar. I would not gamble on making it sound better. Fix it, put it together and let the owner play it. That bass bar and table have probably had over 100 years to get used to each other. When you get done please let us look at it. 

Good point, I would play it first if possible.  

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Again, Thank You Maestros!  This has been very gratifying!

This morning I decided to go with, "No harm, no foul," and left the "uni-bar" intact and closed the box. I figured I've fit a few bass bars already, but I've never heard an old violin with an intact carved-in-place skinny little bar. I'll learn more this way!

Tomorrow I'll reset the neck. I'll post pictures when it's strung up, and let you know if it sounds :) or :( !

Cheers!

Craig

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9 hours ago, chiaroscuro_violins said:

A $66 dutzendarbeit does not have historical value.  A standard dimensioned bass bar would likely increase its worth as a musical tool.  I'm not advocating for modification of legit violins.  

This is very wrong headed.  

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9 hours ago, chiaroscuro_violins said:

A $66 dutzendarbeit does not have historical value.  A standard dimensioned bass bar would likely increase its worth as a musical tool.  I'm not advocating for modification of legit violins.  

The valid reasons for replacing an integral bassbar are:

1.  You have to regraduate the top or perform some repair where the bassbar gets in the way.

2.  The bassbar is a stubby "conning tower" whose only purpose is to be seen from the bass F-hole, and isn't doing a proper job structurally.

Many a discussion has established that, just like a "Saxon" violin doesn't need corner blocks for any structural or acoustic purpose, neither is an inserted bassbar any structural or acoustic improvement over an existing well-carved integral bassbar.  It's simply a different traditional way of making.  :)

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