Old violin -renew fingerboard?

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Old violin -renew fingerboard?

Postby Jane Lord » Sun Jan 08, 2012 6:17 am

I have been cleaning and revarnishing an old violin - 19th century German, I guess. The ebony fingerboard is seriously worn down halfway through just at the top where the bow wears the top string.
It has a lovely deep red varnish which has pooled rather beautifully on the back - kept over a fireplace for some years- but the front was a mess of melted rosin and polish that I have stripped and am repolishing a deep natural yellow/brown. I like the 'reliced' [ sic - electric guitar talk.] look on the back, and would leave the worn nut and board by choice but I am not a violin player and I imagine that a nice new nut and fingerboard might make playing easier.
P.S. Thanks for nice new forum. Heartfelt thanks for keeping MIMF going!
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Re: Old violin -renew fingerboard?

Postby Jane Lord » Sun Jan 08, 2012 6:20 am

Have I got too serious too quickly?
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Re: Old violin -renew fingerboard?

Postby Charlie Schultz » Sun Jan 08, 2012 8:22 am

Hi Jane and welcome! You may have, I'm afraid. Might be better to post this question over on mimf.com until we switch over.

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Re: Old violin -renew fingerboard?

Postby Barry Dudley » Sun Jan 08, 2012 10:19 am

Hey Jane, if you plan to play the violin then certainly putting a new nut and fingerboard will make playing the violin much easier. If you only want to display the violin then it makes no difference other than your preference.
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Re: Old violin -renew fingerboard?

Postby Jane Lord » Mon Jan 09, 2012 4:10 am

Thanks, Barry.
I'm doing it up for a friend who will definitely play it -my slowly growing field of 'expertise' is guitars, but violins keep turning up and the fine working with wood needs the same mindset .
But this is the first attempt to refurbish and restore a violin and I have been surprised at the difference in thickness between a new fingerboard and the much thinner original - 1/4" vs 1/8". Also the original is 1/2" longer. I could solve the problem by just cutting off the top 1/2" and sanding gently back the sides to fit.
How much change would reducing the fingerboard's length make to the individual voice?
And what differnce would a new, heavier board make?

The violin was valued at about £300, costing about that to repolish and restore by a local violin whizz - not an expensive violin but nice enough to bring back to life.
Thanks for any more ideas.

[I can't quite reduce photo to required size to test out the image facility - using Picasa.]
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Re: Old violin -renew fingerboard?

Postby Clay Schaeffer » Mon Jan 09, 2012 10:36 am

Hi Jane,
The original may not have originally been 1/8". If the fiddle was played a lot it may have had divots sanded out of it several times in the past. With violins the break angle, and down bearing, as well as bridge height for playability, are more important than the thickness of the fingerboard. You should set the fingerboard to the bridge, and not the other way around. You can taper the underside of the fingerboard if necessary to get the proper clearance under the strings. I know these things in a general way, I'm sure Barry could give you more particulars on these matters. Good luck with the fiddle.
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Re: Old violin -renew fingerboard?

Postby Doug Polk » Thu Feb 02, 2012 6:10 pm

A decent fingerboard will have an edge thickness (along the sides) of 5.5mm, and a "scoop" in the middle of the board (relief for string viabration). You did determine that the value was low before you removed the varnish...right?
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Re: Old violin -renew fingerboard?

Postby Michael Richwine » Thu Feb 02, 2012 9:59 pm

On a full sized violin, the fingerboard will be about 270 mm, exclusive of the nut. Thickness of the fingerboard does affect the sound a bit, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Fingerboards are planed and dressed (resurfaced) as routine maintenance: remove nut, plane out the worn spots, set radius and scoop, reglue and re-cut nut, sand and polish. Fingerboard has to be pretty thin before you have to replace it.

To replace a fingerboard, you flatten the back, mark and plane the edges to fit the fingerboard exactly, chalk fit to get a good joint with the existing neck (old necks are usually distorted in some way), and then shape the top of the fingerboard to the desired thickness, radius, and relief. Glue, scrape the edges to a final fit and contour, and polish. Those are the basic steps; it would take pages to describe all the steps in detail.

BTW - Not a good idea to try to refinish a violin that has any value at all. Sometimes you see one that has been painted green or badly refinished that's worth the work, but generally you want to try to preserve and restore the existing finish. The signs of wear and use are badges of honor on a fiddle. Amateur refinishing removes most of the value. Hope yours wasn't worth much.
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