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Advice on strings misaligned with fingerboard please


John_London
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This violin is probably what it says on the printed label ("Carel", nothing else, i.e. a Mirecourt workshop instrument) because I think my father bought it new before the war, probably in Manchester or Preston. The bridge was fitted by Horace Riddlesden, Leeds, probably in the 1970s (I met him). The fingerboard is misaligned in the following sense. When I put on strings, loose, the bridge and the strings naturally line up far closer to the E-string side than the G-string side, as shown in the second and the last image.

I think I have three options:

1. get used to it;

2. force the bridge to the bass side, and tighten the strings to hold it in place (what I do now); or,

3. hire a luthier to fix it.

What would you recommend?

I am happy to hire a local luthier. That would be Innsbruck, or could take it to Munich or Mittenwald nearby as Austrian prices often seem higher than Germany; or I could fly with it when I visit London / South East. I default to supporting the local economy if the quality is OK and the price is reasonably comparable.

Clearly as a workshop instrument the violin has no commercial value, but is rather nice to play. It appears free of cracks apart from a small stable treble F-hole crack. It has sentimental value, but not "money no object" sentimental value. If it did not cost too much, I'd ask the luther to tart up the damage to the wood and varnish at the same time.

Any advice I can get here on what to do about the strings not lining with with the fingerboard would be useful, before I walk into my local violin shop with it and ask their advice. Any thoughts about viability of cosmetic work or other comments would be a bonus. I don't know the local violin shops. As far as I known, the well-known luthier in Absam, which I visit often for country walks, has closed.

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In the last picture, it's easy to see that the bridge isn't centered by about 4 grain lines on the wood. If you loosen the strings slightly, you should be able to move the bridge over a bit. If you're uncomfortable doing that, take it to a luthier.

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24 minutes ago, FiddleDoug said:

In the last picture, it's easy to see that the bridge isn't centered by about 4 grain lines on the wood. If you loosen the strings slightly, you should be able to move the bridge over a bit. If you're uncomfortable doing that, take it to a luthier.

I can centre the bridge. I just wonder whether it is correct setup, or a only a minor problem, that the bridge is always under sideways pressure, and will revert to off-centre as soon as the strings are loose?

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3 minutes ago, FiddleDoug said:

It's incorrect now, and you would be correcting it.

That is what I do all the time. The sideways force on the strings, pushing the bridge to the treble side, is strong. That worries me. Once strings are brought up to pitch the bridge will stay in the middle, becuase the friction of the bridge feet keep it in the middle. But it is always under a lot of sideways pressure, and will snap to right if the strings are loosened. That is not normal, but perhaps is not an issue.

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"Once strings are brought up to pitch the bridge will stay in the middle, becuase the friction of the bridge feet keep it in the middle. But it is always under a lot of sideways pressure, and will snap to right if the strings are loosened. "

Don't loosen the strings, and if you do, just recenter the bridge.

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1 hour ago, Michael Darnton said:

Bridges often have unequal forces on either side, relying on friction to keep the bridge in place . Self centering actually is NOT the norm. There may be a problem, but they way you are doing it is not how a problem is discovered.

Thank you. That basically answers the question.

My thought was the the sideways pressure would have some acoustic consequences. But apparently not, or at least not enough to need fixing.

It can produce a clear sound rather easily, bright but not brash. As a workshop instrument for learners, it is very nice indeed. I suspect that no amount of investment will alter the fact it is somewhat limited when compared with a "fine" violin.

 

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3 hours ago, John_London said:

That is what I do all the time. The sideways force on the strings, pushing the bridge to the treble side, is strong. That worries me. Once strings are brought up to pitch the bridge will stay in the middle, becuase the friction of the bridge feet keep it in the middle. But it is always under a lot of sideways pressure, and will snap to right if the strings are loosened. That is not normal, but perhaps is not an issue.

Usually it pushes to the bass side because the a and e string  are pushing stronger than d and g string. 
 

To my experience this has no direct impact on the sound. 

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44 minutes ago, jacobsaunders said:

You need to measure out exactly where the centre line of your fiddle is, also if the end pin hole is on the centre line

The f hole eyes and the fingerboard look centered over the top plate's center joint.  But there isn't a photo to show if the end pin hole is also centered on the plate joint.   

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1 hour ago, jacobsaunders said:

You need to measure out exactly where the centre line of your fiddle is, also if the end pin hole is on the centre line

Measuring was an interesting exercise in itself.

The lower bout join is on the centre line where it touches the back plate, but left of the centre line when it reaches the top plate. The tailpin is displaced 1mm to the left of the centre line.

The button is 3mm to the right of the centre line.

The neck is 4mm to the right of the centre line at the nut, and 3-4mm to the right of the centre line at the top of the fingerboard. The scroll is about 4mm to the right of the centre line. So the neck appears to be close to straight, but not in the centre.

 

16 minutes ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

The f hole eyes and the fingerboard look centered over the top plate's center joint.  But there isn't a photo to show if the end pin hole is also centered on the plate joint.   

The back plate join is aligned with the centre join in the lower bout, where the tail pin is. The back plate join drifts to the treble side of the back when it reaches the button. As for the top plate centre join, I'd have to take the tail piece off to show it, which I will only do if it would add useful information to the measurements I have attempted to take above.IMG_0085.thumb.jpg.0d65ed3d06b6f2ab2d9d3abe2d373236.jpg

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32 minutes ago, jacobsaunders said:

I couldn’t care less where the middle joint is, you need to establish the geometrical centre line. Also if the end pin hole is off-centre, you can get the famous “Wandersteg” which is quite capable of driving you mad

My measurements related to the geometrical centre line, indicating that the neck and fingerboard are about 4mm to the right of the centre line at both ends. And the end pin is 1mm to left of the geometrical centre line. Is either worth fixing?

Though I do speak German, as you might infer from the location in Tirol, I don't know what the Wandersteg is!

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What's a "geometric center line" ?  Is this the line that connects the center point of the upper bout, the center point of the middle bout, and the center point of the lower bout?  

What happens if this is not a straight line when the violin is bent all over the place when taking it off its inside mold.

Is it the line that connects the center of the finger board at the nut, and at the bottom plug.?

I didn't realize that the center joint line the two top plate halves wasn't really the straight center line of the instrument.

 

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There is what I call the structural center, the visual center and the the combination of the two which is the actual center

It's best to have both the structural center and visual center the same{the invisible line that connects the upper and lower blocks if they are perfectly divided in two } which should be a guide for the location of the neck block and the end pin and their respective centers, as well as the guide line for the top and back plates which create the "visual center" when looking at the top, which  is a reference for the ff's

A cheaper fix would be to glue a bung into endpin hole {bush it } and then re drill a new end pin hole off kilter to the left bass side. I wouldn't call it "right" but it would get the strings more over the fingerboard for less money than a neck reset.

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I measured "geometrical centre" by placing the fiddle on a flat surface and measure perpendicular from flat surface to various points, then flipping it on the other side and taking measurements.

The centre join on the front plate is not easy to see with everything in place. The centre line on the back plate almost on the "geometrical centre" as determined above. But the neck is not in the middle, as the image in the comment above suggests.

I am reluctant to spend money on changes, even just moving the end pin, unless at least one skilled person tells me the instrument is likely to sound better, or the misalignment is a significant problem. I can  keep pushing the bridge back into place. In the end it is a workshop fiddle which "works" at least as well as one can reasonably expect, and a lot better than most of the student instruments which were knocking about when I was at school in the 70s.

Thinking through this with the professional advice here has been very instructive, so thanks to all contributors.

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8 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

I suppose it depends on what you want it for, or if you actually need it at all

I don't really need it. Only for the association with my late father. And there was a hope that a family member would learn enough in retirement to play duos! It probably needs a better bow in the case than the aging one stamped Czechoslovakia.

But it does get played a little most days when I am in Innsbruck, as well as the ex-Hubermann copy I bought new and love to bits, which Paul Harrild told me was one of his best instruments and probably his last.

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1 hour ago, John_London said:

 

But it does get played a little most days when I am in Innsbruck, 

Next time you are in Innsbruck, you should visit colleague Bernhard Costa in the Museumstrasse with it, and work out the best course of action with him (and pass on best wishes from me)

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