Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Humble repairs

I've been busy with repairs the past couple days, which is good for immediate cash flow, but takes time away from making. Today, for example, I took the tops off two cellos and one violin, not one of them really worth working on. The two cellos are modern Chinese-made instruments, but even so retail around $1200. Since these belong to end-users, who pay retail, they decided to get the repairs done. Both are being used by school orchestras, and tend to take a fair amount of abuse.

This one was badly damaged.


You can see where the soundpost penetrated the top. But, the pieces are all there, I believe, and the breaks are clean. I told the customer if I could get the top off reasonably, I could probably put it back together, and put a surface patch over the soundpost area. Not the greatest for sound, but these things don't sound that great to begin with. It's something of an experiment for me, to see how it works, but so far so good.

The interesting thing to me was all the Chinese characters written in pencil. Some story or something. Done before the bassbar was installed. I haven't seen much of that in modern Chinese instruments.

The violin whose top I removed belongs to a 'mature' lady. It is a very modest factory instrument, that she wanted to get put back in working condition for her grandson. It belonged to her father. I could tell by the exterior arching, collapsing, that something was wrong. Inspection with a mirror and light showed that the bass bar had failed. This seldom happens, though it is often blamed for errant buzzes and the like.


Note the lack of corner blocks. The top has been off at least once before, at least to repair cracks, including the installation of massive cleats. This instrument may have had an integral bassbar, meaning that wood was left behind when the top was carved. The top shows some rather non-subtle tool marks, characteristic of an integral bassbar instrument. Sometimes, when the top is off, these integral bassbars are cut out, and replaced with a real bassbar. She wanted it repaired due to its sentimental value.


Here, I've slipped a piece of paper towel under the free-end of the bassbar. It appears that it was never fit well, which is probably why it failed. I removed the bassbar as well, and once I clean up the glue, will decide whether I can salvage this one, or, more likely, replace it with a new one.

Next-day edit: A YouTube video came up on a forum I read, which I'd seen it a few years ago, but didn't think of when writing this post. In it, you can watch a cello top being removed -- This Old Cello

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