Jump to content
Maestronet Forums

5mm through hole in violin back plate, worth fixing? how?


mezzopiano
 Share

Recommended Posts

I recently bought a Maggini-model violin off eBay. If the marker's iron brand mark is authentic (minor German maker), it's about 100 years old. At some point it must have had an accident and has a 4 by 5 mm through hole in the back plate, near the inner purfling (see pics). The seller could not tell how it happened.

I don't know whether the violin is worth restoring, and to find out I was planning to amateurishly fit a bridge and soundpost (I've read and seen how it's done, and got some practice on a scrap violin), and roughly hear how the violin sounds with the hole. If it sounds at least decent, I was planning to bring it to a luthier and see how much a professional restoration would cost. If not, it might become a DIY project. Does this make any sense?

Do you think the hole has a massive influence on the sound?
If so, would it help to insert a quick-and-dirty and reversible patch (wood putty or the like) for the first testing?

Thanks in advance, this forum is awesome.

IMG_0322_cr.jpg

IMG_0331_cr.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think I would bush the hole, like bushing a peg hole. Make it exactly round with a reamer, and fit a bush with a peg shaper. If you wanted to show off, you could even fit it the same way of the grain as the rest of the back. If you want to ask us if it’s “worth it” you will have to show us the rest of the fiddle

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@jacobsaunders@FiddleDoug The idea of a conical bushing/plug sounds great. I suppose painting the missing purfling would be easier than actually making an inlay on the bushing.

@Wood ButcherIndeed, it looks like the hole was drilled, rather than punched. Not sure why one would want to do that, and why the varnish has come off all around the hole, if it was drilled.

I'm happy to show you the rest of the violin.

IMG_0312_cr.jpg

IMG_0314_cr.jpg

IMG_0316_cr.jpg

IMG_0317_cr.jpg

IMG_0318_cr.jpg

IMG_0319_cr.jpg

IMG_0321.jpg

IMG_0323.jpg

IMG_0324_cr.jpg

IMG_0327_cr.jpg

IMG_0342.jpg

IMG_0343.jpg

IMG_0346.jpg

IMG_0348.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

2 hours ago, mezzopiano said:

... I was planning to...roughly hear how the violin sounds with the hole...

I think that this is a reasonable plan, because I doubt that the hole would have any noticeable tonal effect.  But a set up by a professional luthier might give a better indication of the tonal possibilities than your "amateurish" attempt.  Then, if you like the sound, you could do something about the hole if you don't like the appearance of it.

If I were presented with a hole like this, I would fill it with Plastic Wood or something similar and use varnish retouching materials and techniques to make it as invisible as possible, including simulating the purfling.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The hole looks like it could have been produced by a broken shoulder rest. That would explain all the scratches surrounding the hole.  Like the foot came off and dug thru before whoever noticed.  In fact i probably know of the culprit. Its foot would make a pretty efficient bit

57DFCCE7-BEA2-47FA-A1E0-60B8F7DAAD36.jpeg

97BE454F-D217-48CF-BEBE-67DED6CA54EC.jpeg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have seen a repair for this type of damage which was to use Jacobs idea of a peg bushing type repair followed by gouging/scraping a shallow depression slightly larger than the edges of the bushing into which was glued a glue soaked shaving of wood which matched the back. After careful smoothing the shaving was retouched to make the repair virtually invisible.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Jwillis I had never seen this type of shoulder rest before. Your explanation makes sense, though I'm not sure about why there is such a large scratched area around the hole.

@Brad Dorsey If using Plastic Wood, would you clean the inside of the hole before and after applying the putty? and if so, how without removing the top plate? If I will attempt the repair, I was thinking of bending and sharpening a thin metal strip or wire to cut the splinters by working through the hole.

The reason I want to roughly hear how the violin sounds before going to a professional luthier is that I have another instrument from the same maker (no holes or cracks, but worse overall condition), and I am not ready right now to pay for two setups just to get an impression. I will fit them both as good as I can and then discuss with my teacher and a luthier which one is more worth restoring. But I will have to practice soundpost setting on my scrap violin first.

Besides, I didn't notice yesterday that the top plate has also a tiny square patch (or nail) near the saddle (see the picture).
 
@jacobsaunders Based on the additional pictures, would you be able to say whether it's "worth it"? Note: I did not clean the violin yet, on purpose.

@nathan slobodkin That sounds like an interesting idea, since the varnish is damaged and the violin is scratched all around the hole. I suppose the violin is not worth the extra effort, though, and it has quite a number of scratches and dents all over already.

P.S. Apologies if my answers are sporadical and intermittent. That's because, being new here, I am only allowed to make a maximum number of posts per day (24h), and this number seems to be two. So I have to wait and group my replies. Thanks for your patience.

IMG_0350_cr.jpg

Edited by mezzopiano
forgot to attach the picture & minor corrections
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The violin looks like it's worth the effort of filling the hole and setting up. I would say the violin is in pretty good condition aside from the hole and the break to the button. I imagine you can get a pretty good idea of the sound of the instrument by just setting it up as is. I don't think filling the hole will make an enormous difference to the sound. I also don't think this is something you should be doing yourself if you have no experience; you can do much more harm than good. Setting the sound post can cause an enormous amount of damage if you do not know what you are doing. It's not a fine violin, but it is still a serviceable instrument well worth fixing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

15 hours ago, mezzopiano said:


@Brad Dorsey If using Plastic Wood, would you clean the inside of the hole before and after applying the putty? and if so, how without removing the top plate?...

I would open the back seam on that side of that bout and insert a spatula to clear away all the splinters.  Then, with the spatula, I would stick a piece of masking tape over the inside of the hole to prevent excess filler from running out of the inside of the hole.  If necessary, a small knife or chisel could be inserted through the open seam to clean off any splinters or dried filler.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The advantage of Plastic Wood is that it would be easier than fitting real wood.  And if the wood were fitted, as with an end-grain type of peg hole bushing, one would have the same type of retouching job that one would have with the Plastic wood.  Nathan's idea of scraping out the fill to fit a tiny bit of a wood shaving is a great idea in general, but in this case it would be complicated by the purfling.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The 1877 German cello I started with in 1949 already had some openings in the ribs that I kept patched with scotch tape for decades. It sounded fine and I learned several significant concertos on that instrument and played in orchestra, solos and chamber music around my community for years. That instrument (repaired) is still in my family.

So - I'd suggest test driving the fiddle with the hole covered with a bit of tape before doing anything else.

I also had a violin shoulder rest like the one shown. I'm not sure if it was the "Menuhin rest" or not.

EDIT:

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, all. I think I will cover the hole with tape, as Andrew suggested, and set it up / have it set up.

Indeed the setting of the soundpost it the part that scares me. There are clear marks inside the violin of where the previous soundpost was. Thanks to some excellent videos (one by Davide Sora) and a few books I have bought on violin making and restoration, I know roughly about how it's to be done and I am aware of the risks. I have made some practice with a soundpost setter on a worthless violin and I am getting a feeling on how to set it straight and how tight it has to be. But I might eventually decide to leave this part to a professional.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I still like the idea of a cross-grain tapered plug. It's not quite as simple as it might appear on the surface: Finding the right size tools might be a challenge, as well as turning the cross-grain plug in a peg shaver, but not insurmountable problems. Nor expensive. Fairly easy to touch up and match in. That would be my first approach, were it mine.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To me it looks as if someone drilled this hole for a sort of microphone cable - I’ve seen similar holes for the purpose at several places , in the ribs, or the belly, some even much larger. OTOH I can see no way how the flat surface of a shoulderrest screw should go through the wooden plate so deeply and clean.

If I would have a violin with such a hole filled by woodfiller I‘d become rather upset because it will make any proper repair more difficult than before. Just my opinion.

Mitsching in Elberfeld, supplier of the court, was a dealer in Markneukirchen violins, not a maker. One can find this stamp relatively often at several grades of trade instruments.

 The pin at the saddle is there to mark the position of the plate before glueing it, very different from the larger hole in the bottom.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Blank face
I seem to understand that Mitsching, born 1865, had a 12-years apprenticeship as a luthier, and later focused on woodwinds. I found pictures of a cello with a handwritten label dated 1895 (attached); the cello also has the "Hoflieferant" brand mark and a certificate. The attached obituary article states that in his later years, violins were produced again in his workshop. It does not say whether by him directly. He died in 1922. According to the Amati archives, the brand name was carried on until 1935.
https://amati.com/maker/mitsching-leopold
Some violins have labels with his name (attached). Mine has no label, so it might not have been made by him directly.

I have bought another violin branded Mitsching from eBay last year and that one has a fake Stradivarius label, which seems to be digitally printed or photocopied, so it must have been glued in recent decades. I might post pictures for comparison, but maybe I should do that in another thread.

@Brad Dorsey
Thanks for the offer, unfortunately I'm located in Germany. I'm apparently too new here to add a location to my profile, or I haven't yet figured out how to do this.

@Michael Richwine
I also prefer the idea of a wooden patch, so I may leave this to a professional if the violin sounds good / better than my student violin.

S. 1500 Leopold Mitsching (1500) (aus Zeitschrift für Instrumentenbau, 1922, de Wit ed.)-nur_Bio.jpg

Labeled Leopold Mitsching - Geige - Deutschland - 1920 - Catawiki - pic3.jpg

Cello 1610458367-mitsching7.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, mezzopiano said:

@Blank face
I seem to understand that Mitsching, born 1865, had a 12-years apprenticeship as a luthier, and later focused on woodwinds. I found pictures of a cello with a handwritten label dated 1895 (attached); the cello also has the "Hoflieferant" brand mark and a certificate. The attached obituary article states that in his later years, violins were produced again in his workshop. It does not say whether by him directly. He died in 1922. According to the Amati archives, the brand name was carried on until 1935.
https://amati.com/maker/mitsching-leopold
Some violins have labels with his name (attached). Mine has no label, so it might not have been made by him directly.

This was usual business behaviour during this period, when making new violins was quite economical unpromising in comparison with selling bought in Markneukirchen ware. Obviously eevery of this dealers/suppliers advertised their instruments as being made in the "shop", though they were usually just branded or labelled there. This misconception is obviously unausrottbar.:)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would try to keep it simple, and reversible. I've never really liked working with Plastic Wood type fillers, and partially opening the top to remove splinters and put in masking tape, would complicate things. I would use a wire "tool", working through the f hole, to break loose the splinters, and then shake them out. I would then make a little maple "dowel", just over 5 mm diameter, and taper it just enough to fit into the hole enough to get to the inside surface. Mark the dowel on the outside surface of the plate, remove it and pre-cut the plug to the right length. Sand the end a bit (or shave with a sharp knife), and glue it in place. That would hold things for testing and decisions. In the future, it could be retouched, have a correct grain shaving installed, or anything else.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.


×
×
  • Create New...