Electric violin repair

If you have a string instrument of any kind that needs fixing, a mistake you made in building a new instrument that you need to "disappear," or a question about the ethics of altering an older instrument, ask here. Please note that it will be much easier for us to help you decide on the best repair method if you post some pictures of the problem.

Electric violin repair

Postby Beate Ritzert » Wed Jun 29, 2016 7:51 pm

13 years ago i build the prototype of an electric violin. It was intended to be just a proof of concept, but i was so happy with the result that i decided to keep it as an instrument. It is a skeleton violin cut from a ultra cheap and unplayable violin (80% of the time to build is was dealing with the quality of the materials and the way the fiddle was put together...

After some years the neck started to move causing the instrument to become unplayable. AFAIK the cause was that i used the wrong glue - white glue, and a relatively elastic type.

This evening i took the instrument apart and checked what to do. I tend to a fairly minimal fix, mainly because i would like to avoid to fully remove the top and limit that to the least possible (very brittle plywood).

Here a few pictures of the problem:

Image

Image

Image

BTW, here the construction:

Image

I have mainly two questions:

a) Should i use a larger neck block (I'll probably use either maple or spruce)?

b) Which glue should i use to glue the neck block and the dowels to fill the holes?
I have fish glue at hand and also hide glue. The glued area will have to withstand a strong torsional force. Are fish glue and hide glue equivalent under such a load?
BTW: i have very little and limited experience with both types of glue.

Thanks for any hint.
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Re: Electric violin repair

Postby Clay Schaeffer » Sat Jul 02, 2016 8:20 am

Hi Beate,
Hide glue would be my choice but, fish glue might work fine - I've never used it. A longer neck block might help some, but if you glue a piece of wood to connect the body and fingerboard extension that might help a lot more. A brace 1cm wide and just short of the end of the fingerboard (painted to match) wouldn't be too noticeable and would add a lot of strength.
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Re: Electric violin repair

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Sat Jul 02, 2016 10:58 am

I'm looking at my old violin, and seeing that the fingerboard does not connect to the body except right at the edge.
All those old vioins were assembled with hide glue. Some of them are hundreds of years old, and are still tight.

It looks like the glue joint at the neck failed, as well as the fingerboard separating from the neck. Take it all apart, clean it up and re-glue. You will have to get it very clean. A longer block would give a bit more gluing area, and after cleaning you may need to make one anyway to get the joint nice and tight.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!
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Re: Electric violin repair

Postby Beate Ritzert » Thu Jul 28, 2016 8:24 pm

I am making slow progress, just fitted a new block and slowly put all the pieces together. It were many pieces, especially from the top :-(
The top split so much, that i'm not able anymore to put all pieces together perfectly. But i am looking forward to get it singing again.

Image

Before i proceed (i am not going to bore You with too many details...) a few pictures from the build process. The "quality" of the original instrument was so drastic, that it is impressive again. Accordingly the sound was nothing more than a dull caw.

After opening the box i knew that it would take more work to correct the problems of the construction than to make a new body.

Image

strung up the first time (the built took me one whole night...)

Image

and my pickup made from piezo wire:

Image

Finally i am still looking for ideas to make such a top - with full arching - without waisting too much material. Do You think pressing 3 or 4 layers of veneer in a mould will work?
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Re: Electric violin repair

Postby Barry Daniels » Fri Jul 29, 2016 3:27 pm

I have made archtop guitar plates by pressing veneer with a two-part form. So it could certainly work for violins. But making a two-part form is a bit of work. I carved the bottom part out of MDF and then laid up several layers of fiberglass cloth and resin on top of the form to make the top half. Clamping the veneer was accomplished with a vacuum bag.

When you lay veneers onto an arched form you will get buckling and wrinkles. These can be eliminated by cutting a pleat (a wedge shape piece) out of the veneer which can be hidden if you have a center joint.
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Re: Electric violin repair

Postby Beate Ritzert » Fri Jul 29, 2016 5:35 pm

Thanks. Which to me as an amateur with lousy skills means further thinking...
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Re: Electric violin repair

Postby Jim McConkey » Fri Jul 29, 2016 5:56 pm

Off topic, but I made a similar electric from a cheap Chinese fiddle a few years back for one of our contests, and I am curious what you used for the pickup. It that piezo wire I see under the bridge in your picture?
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Re: Electric violin repair

Postby Beate Ritzert » Fri Jul 29, 2016 9:08 pm

Yes, that is piezo wire.
The stuff from which its manual tells us that it is forbidden to make guitar pickups from it ;-)

It is nearly "HiFi". With the consequence that such a pickup will reproduce the acoustic sound of that violin. The problems with the neck joint prevented me from doing an equalizer.
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Re: Electric violin repair

Postby Bob Francis » Sun Jul 31, 2016 3:02 pm

Is it possible to place too much pressure on that wire?
I was thinking of an EUB I have with a straight flat bottomed bridge..
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Re: Electric violin repair

Postby Beate Ritzert » Mon Aug 01, 2016 6:35 am

Bob Francis wrote:Is it possible to place too much pressure on that wire?


Of course, it is :-)

AFAIK, You can put it into the slot of the bridge of an acoustic guitar. I did not try, but i am pretty sure that it will withstand the pressure of the guitar strings. I made a small step/slot into the feet of the violin bridge which just holds the wire under moderate pressure. That should be possible with any larger bridge as well - actually be easier.

Meanwhile i fitted the neck, and after some error corrections i could glue it:

Image[/quote]

Lesson learned: in the future i should use connections where my lack of precision is hidden (and of course try to improve the latter).
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Re: Electric violin repair

Postby Charles Wheeler » Tue Aug 02, 2016 5:04 am

Good one.
Thanks for sharing this with us.
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Re: Electric violin repair

Postby Bob Francis » Tue Aug 02, 2016 10:09 am

Thanks Beate!
This is an interesting repair.
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Re: Electric violin repair

Postby Beate Ritzert » Tue Aug 02, 2016 12:36 pm

The final major step - glueing the bottom - has been prepared. Here in my small appartment i am a bit in lack of clamps. So i need to figure out how to proceed best...
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Re: Electric violin repair

Postby Beate Ritzert » Thu Aug 04, 2016 5:31 pm

Ok, finally the heel after reglueing and a first bit of touchup of the finish with shellac:

Image[/quote]

On the first view (and test) it seems stable. The neck angel also seems to have come out correctly as it was initially; if i am lucky i can even use the old bridge without adaption.
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Re: Electric violin repair

Postby Beate Ritzert » Tue Aug 23, 2016 7:11 pm

Did some finishing work: reaming the holes for the pegs (i did that previously with a knife...), adapting the pegs to the now larger holes and putting it all together. The neck heel still needed a bit of touchup. A bit of isolation added to the solder connection of the pickup cable.

You see that the strings are a bit close to the fingerboard. I'll wait some time and let the instrument settle under tension before i change this. First of all i am satisfied that the violin is playable with the old bridge.

Image

Of course i could not resist to play it. And i was disappointed. Very disappointed. Thin, harsh, with mid emphasis and bad attack. By far not as open sounding as previously (and worse than initially 13 years ago).

Well, i forgot something: the instrument needs to be tuned. It needs a voice (actually three sound posts), and i forgot to install it. Here after reinstalling the sound post - the one which is movable:

Image

The position needs to be different from the previous position due to the longer neck block.
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