Thursday, 13 February 2014

Violin Repair 11/2013

This is a Suzuki (Japanese) violin that belonged to my friend's grandfather. It came in the condition that any old instrument will have come in – in need of repair!

Overall, the instrument had suffered no real structural damage. However, its seams were very loose in many places as the glue had dried out and cracked over the years. In addition, the previous owner had attempted his own repairs by gluing some of the then-loose seams shut with gum! The violin had lost its bridge and had to have its fittings and strings changed/reworked.

All seams that were not held together with gum were broken and glued shut. One point to note is that gum used was effective to the point where it was impossible to remove from the instrument! Not the proper way to repair an instrument (you can't open the instrument after that without damaging it) but functional nonetheless.

A new bridge was carved; this is the first time I have ever done this or any other fine wood carving so I selected a $16 Aubert Mirecourt bridge (second lowest grade, from France) The bridge comes with its rough shape and detail already in. A violin maker will then thin the bridge to specifications, fit the bridge feet to the curved body of the instrument and further carve out the details on the bridge. This is all very skilled work as the maple bridge will crack/break if too much force is applied at the wrong points.

All in all, luck was with me most of the way. The bridge I made was overly thin in some places due to my overzealous and impatient sanding (which will lead to it warping with time and affect the tone of the instrument). However, I was able to do everything else without damaging the bridge or cutting myself (I used a very sharp carving knife). The only other complaint about the bridge was that the angle between the A and E string was too shallow, making it easy to accidentally hit one when playing the other.

Other than that, the tuning pegs were trimmed as the ends were sticking out. One peg turned out particularly loose. A new soundpost was carved and fitted in. A new tailpiece, chinrest and strings were then installed and the instrument was given a wipe down.

The tonal quality of the restored instrument was bright. It carried a modicum of projecting power but sounded somewhat thin, possibly due to the thin bridge. I believe that adjustments to the soundpost (which was a hair too long on hindsight) and bridge position would produce a perceivable improvement to the sound of the instrument in both tone and projecting power.

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