How do you handle this - economy violin repair

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How do you handle this - economy violin repair

Postby Mark Wybierala » Mon Feb 20, 2012 7:20 pm

This modern student quality violin retails for $175. There is a crack in the top extending from the tailblock 1/2 the distance to the bridge. The crack follows the outer edge of the bass bar. There is a distortion along the crack that resembles what it would look like if the inside of the top shrunk and outside didn't. Because the crack is adjacent to the bass bar, a traditional cleat or patch is not going to join both sides. To do a proper repair is beyond the value of the instrument.

My thought is to just wick superglue into the uneven but unseparated crack and have the student continue to play it until it dies or they get a better quality violin. How do you handle such situations and serve your clients while not doing hack-like repairs?
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Re: How do you handle this - economy violin repair

Postby Clay Schaeffer » Mon Feb 20, 2012 11:52 pm

If the top is warped and beyond doing a professional quality repair within the limits of the value of the instrument, you might explain that to the owner, and suggest they buy a new instrument. If they prefer a quick and dirty repair, let it be a "home remedy" and not one that will reflect on your work.
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Re: How do you handle this - economy violin repair

Postby Jim McConkey » Tue Feb 21, 2012 1:23 am

Doing this repair "right" will probably cost more than the violin is worth. But if you feel like doing it anyway, how about removing the bass bar and installing a new one half its width over, so that the bass bar itself becomes a long cleat along the crack? On this level instrument I doubt it will screw up the sound too much (and may even improve it!). You will not make anything on that repair.

Explain the situation, put some hot hide glue in the crack, and tell them to start looking for a new fiddle. Especially this time of year, with generally low humidity, make sure they own and use a humidifier in the case! And it would probably be best to pre-humidify the instrument before gluing. Put the fiddle in a plastic bag with a humidifier and let it sit for a couple days. I saw someone suggest here the other day to just blow hot, steamy breath into the bag, but I doubt that would work as well as a violin humidifier.
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Re: How do you handle this - economy violin repair

Postby Mark Wybierala » Tue Feb 21, 2012 11:14 am

I'm going to go the route of the home repair and just tell them to wick the super glue into the fracture. The suggestion to replace the bass bar is something I didn't think of and its an excellent idea that I would use on a violin worth a bit more. These are the types of violins that I see most. We provide great warranty coverage on them because we can replace the entire instrument at minimal cost and our supplier supports us also. One bad one out of 25 doesn't break the bank. But for one of these that is three-years-old or purchased somewhere else, there is a time when they become a wall decoration or I install a clock in them. This one will still function quite well for a 12 year-old.
Thank you for the suggestions.
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Re: How do you handle this - economy violin repair

Postby Jim McConkey » Tue Feb 21, 2012 1:22 pm

You probably made the best decision, Mark, but I will reiterate that you really need to educate them on the need for humidity control, or this will keep happening. Better to get them in the habit now, than long after they buy a better instrument.
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Re: How do you handle this - economy violin repair

Postby Mark Wybierala » Wed Feb 22, 2012 10:00 am

Update, It turns out that this repair was a repair forwarded to us from another shop that uses our repair services for their clients. The violin is under warranty and they tried to insist that we do the superglue application. I told them that we would be happy to sell them some superglue...
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Re: How do you handle this - economy violin repair

Postby Clay Schaeffer » Wed Feb 22, 2012 12:14 pm

If the violin is under warranty and they insist that you repair it rather than replace it, you could send them an estimate for the cost of a proper professional repair. This might inspire them to replace the instrument and honor their warranty. For them to want you to do a quick and dirty repair to get them through the warranty period is despicable.
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Re: How do you handle this - economy violin repair

Postby Arnt Rian » Wed Feb 22, 2012 12:36 pm

Regardless of this situation, even for a quick and dirty repair like you propose, I'd rather use a thin wood glue instead of CA, and avoid additional finish work. Hide or fish are excellent, Titebond also works.
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Re: How do you handle this - economy violin repair

Postby Michael Richwine » Wed Feb 22, 2012 9:01 pm

Might want to measure carefully. If it's a saddle crack, it may well be far enough outside the bass bar to allow cleats.

If it were mine to do, humidify the instrument to close the crack, then work thin hide glue into the crack, probably pushing up from underneath just a bit to open the crack up to the glue. Then I'd put a couple of cleats in through the F-hole, one at the end of the crack, and one about in the middle. I'd also cut a kerf with a razor saw at each end of the saddle to allow a little movement.

If you measure, and the crack is right on or next to the bass bar, working hide glue into the crack and cutting a kerf at the ends of the saddle is still a possibility. Not something you could guarantee, but I've seen repairs like that, that are decades old. And hot hide glue is fully reversible, so the repair can easily be redone.

I don't know what your shop rates are, but it still might make more sense just to replace the violin......
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Re: How do you handle this - economy violin repair

Postby Brad Dorsey » Thu Sep 06, 2012 7:59 pm

As a traditionalist, I would prefer hide glue to superglue. I would glue it from the outside without removing the top. To get the glue into the crack, I would open the top/rib seam on the bass side of the lower bout to be able to flex the crack enough to wick the glue in. I would clamp it with a crack clamp that spans the bout, then reglue the top to the rib and maybe shorten the saddle.

But on a lot of cheap violins, there is a big fillet of varnish covering the top/rib seam, and opening the seam would chip out a lot of this varnish and leave an ugly scar. If this is one of those violins, I would forget about opening the seam and run some thin superglue into the crack instead.
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