Repairing a viol neck-to-pegbox break

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.
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Charlie Schultz
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Repairing a viol neck-to-pegbox break

Post by Charlie Schultz »

Hi all, I recently acquired a viola da gamba that had a broken neck with kind of an ugly repair. I believe it to be mechanically strong, but it bugs me and I'm looking for suggestions. I did not spend much for this instrument so not a big deal if I totally wreck it. Pictures below. I'm pretty sure it was repaired with Titebond and I think it was back around 2000 that it broke (dropped). The instrument was made in 1984. In the second photo you can see where dowels were added for strength.
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Clay Schaeffer
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Re: Repairing a viol neck-to-pegbox break

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

Hi Charlie,
My first choice would be to clean up and reglue the pegbox without any added contrivances (that dowel probably did more harm than good. If there isn't enough wood (gluing surface) left on the neck, you might consider grafting a new neck shaft on the old pegbox.

http://www.woodbridgeviolins.com/news/2 ... neck-graft

Mark Wybierala
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Re: Repairing a viol neck-to-pegbox break

Post by Mark Wybierala »

Oh my... If it belonged to a client wanting a repair I'd just say no. But its yours so what the hell. Maybe consider very carefully drilling out the dowel from both sides just so the dowel is no longer holding it in place and then use steam to pull it apart. I once used a sharpened section of telescoping radio antenna to carve out the residue of a drilled out dowel with the assistance of steam. I've turned away botched headstock repairs but have sometimes wondered if you could clean a fractured surface covered in titebond using a toothbrush and blowing steam to re-expose the bare wood and enable a fracture to close properly.

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Re: Repairing a viol neck-to-pegbox break

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

The best thing I've found for removing titebond is vinegar or it's stronger cousin GooGone .

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Charlie Schultz
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Re: Repairing a viol neck-to-pegbox break

Post by Charlie Schultz »

I got the nut off and noticed that I could wiggle the pegbox (not very much, but freely). So the glue was a non-issue. I did drill out the dowels and was able to pull it apart without much effort at all.
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Barry Daniels
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Re: Repairing a viol neck-to-pegbox break

Post by Barry Daniels »

Wow, not much real estate there in that joint. It needs serious reinforcement but I don't see where anything could be added.
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Bob Gramann
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Re: Repairing a viol neck-to-pegbox break

Post by Bob Gramann »

I’m not qualified to work on the violin family. When some one brings me a complicated repair, I send it to the violin guy in town who is really good. Now that I’ve disqualified myself, I think that any strength in that joint is in the strength of the bond between the cheeks of the pegbox and the neck. I would consider getting the bottom to fit perfectly and gluing it (HHG). Then, cut a slot between the cheeks and the neck on each side to get clean straight surfaces. Fit a filler strip into each slot and glue it (HHG). I would expect that the resulting repair would be as strong as it was before the break. I’ve repaired guitar pegheads in this manner when the previous guy has made a mess that couldn’t be fit back together well enough to make a good joint.

Mark Wybierala
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Re: Repairing a viol neck-to-pegbox break

Post by Mark Wybierala »

I like what Bob said. The strength is in the cheeks and I see no reason for them to not be as strong if you clean them up sharply and shim to a good fit. I think dowels are inappropriate most of the time but at the bottom of the joint, since the wood is already missing, once you get the cheeks and the joint tight and fully dried with HHG, maybe a slightly smaller bore drill, fill the hole with epoxy and insert a carbon fiber dowel displacing the epoxy??? I only suggest this because the material is already missing. A hollow dowel, carbon fiber tube -- arrow shaft material???

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Re: Repairing a viol neck-to-pegbox break

Post by Joshua Levin-Epstein »

As has been said before, I would start with getting rid of the dowels, filling the holes with wood, fit everything up and glue with HHG. No matter what you do, there is not much gluing surface.

If (when) this fails, rather than replacing the neck, how about splicing an extension so you can do a conventional peg box graft. The extension would be like a classical guitar peg head where you cut the shaft at an angle and flip and glue the cut off to form the peg head.

Notice I said "you".

As an aside, my bass had its neck replaced and the old pegbox spliced on. When done well, it is quite a piece of work.

ps My skills with HHG are lacking so I have been using the fish glue from StewMac and find it dries very hard.

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Re: Repairing a viol neck-to-pegbox break

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

If after you clean off the glue you find the pieces fit together reasonably well hot hide glue might be a good choice to reglue it. If on the other hand there are gaps I would consider using a gap filling glue like high strength epoxy. I am not a fan of dowels, but since they were used, I would probably plug the holes (matching the grain) on the sides, but replace the dowels that go into the back of the pegbox. It doesn't look like it will be too bad of a repair if done a bit more carefully than the last time.

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Charlie Schultz
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Re: Repairing a viol neck-to-pegbox break

Post by Charlie Schultz »

It was not a clean break and I cannot get a good mechanical fit, so I will try a neck graft (i.e., make a new neck and splice the old pegbox on to it) as Clay and others have suggested.

I got the fingerboard off pretty cleanly so I hope to reuse that. The next question was the body/neck joint. Yes, the two buttons in the pic below are hiding wood screws...
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Turns out to be just a butt joint.
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Perhaps I should have left the neck attached and tried to just splice on an extension, but maybe next time.

I plan to mortise a new neck on at this time (I would like to avoid using screws).

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Re: Repairing a viol neck-to-pegbox break

Post by Fred Battershell »

Charlie, would you like to sell your viol(as is?). I am a viol maker and would enjoy a challenge like that!

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Charlie Schultz
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Re: Repairing a viol neck-to-pegbox break

Post by Charlie Schultz »

Thanks Fred, if I totally screw it up, I'll contact you. At this point, I have the pegbox attached to the new (mostly carved) neck and am carving out the part of the graft in the pegbox.

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Charlie Schultz
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Re: Repairing a viol neck-to-pegbox break

Post by Charlie Schultz »

It's about done, I have to rub out the finish and tie the frets on. Then take it over to my teacher this weekend and get her assessment of it. The graft isn't horrible but not as invisible as I had hoped.
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Bob Gramann
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Re: Repairing a viol neck-to-pegbox break

Post by Bob Gramann »

That looks really good. Congratulations. Over time, the new wood ought to fade a bit to match the old. Any pictures of the splice before assembly?

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Re: Repairing a viol neck-to-pegbox break

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

The graft looks very well done. Violins that had their necks stretched were grafted to preserve the original makers scroll and even well fitted grafts were visible if a person knew to look for them. The dowel holes in the side of the pegbox look very well touched up and aren't visible in the pictures. Good job!

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Charlie Schultz
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Re: Repairing a viol neck-to-pegbox break

Post by Charlie Schultz »

I don't have a photo of the neck by itself, but here are a few of the rough in shots.
a.jpg
b.jpg
c.jpg

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Bob Gramann
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Re: Repairing a viol neck-to-pegbox break

Post by Bob Gramann »

Wow! Thank you for the pictures. I think I learned something here.

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Re: Repairing a viol neck-to-pegbox break

Post by Bob Francis »

What a great job!

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Re: Repairing a viol neck-to-pegbox break

Post by Chuck Tweedy »

that looks great!!
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