Here is a small violin restoration that I did for one of my clients a few months back. His father played this violin for him when he was just a young boy. He held on to this old violin for many years in unplayable condition to remind him of his father.
He never thought that it was possible to have it restored due to the poor condition that it was in when he first brought it into the shop to have me look it over.
I was able to share the good news that I would be able to restore the instrument back to playable condition without too much difficulty. Now I’m not saying that this was an easy violin repair by any means, but definitely a restoration that could be done!
After a few long months of some tedious gluing, cleating cracks, new upper and lower blocks, new pegs, new fingerboard, etc. This violin was ready for some final set up work to make it sing once again after all of these years.
I am happy to say that my client now gets to enjoy his father’s old violin and he plays the instrument on the regular!
Small repairs can be as tedious as large restorations. The trouble is finding the perfect piece of wood to match the original 100-year-old violin top.
Luckily when I removed the top to start the repair I found the old bass bar was carved into the top rather then fit to the top the proper way. This allowed me to split the old bass bar out, and use the piece of spruce that was original to the top! A perfect match, so the hard part is done, right? Next I was able to fit the spruce onto the edge at the broken corner leaving plenty of extra so I could match the corner to the outline of the instrument.
I will spend the next few weeks varnishing the corner to match the original varnish. Then I can fit a new bass bar before closing the top and doing the final set up.
This instrument should sound great with a well fit bass bar and proper set up!
It will also look pretty having all of its corners back!
Proper set-up goes a long way when wanting the best sound out of your instrument. It is important to keep a close eye on your bridge, sound post and strings along with a few other key parts on the instrument. You wouldn’t buy a brand new car and plan to never get oil changes or service.
This is a relatable topic to instruments; these instruments are made out of wood… things do move around! The weather is a key factor in things moving around on instruments from one season to the next!
That being said it is important to properly maintain your instrument. Bring it in for yearly check ups and get it looked over!
This year I have been doing an intense repair on a Stopka Viola, which is owned by a client of mine. It came in with an unfortunate sound post crack. We had to remove the top and get the crack glued back together. The crack ran almost the whole length of the viola top, but I was able to get it glued back together quite cleanly. Once the actual crack was glued I was able to get started on the real task, fitting the actual patch. I feathered the original top to less then half of a millimeter! And then continued to fit the patch until it fit perfectly. Tedious and time consuming this is a good example of why I only take on a few intense restorations per year because they really need all of my attention to execute properly. After the patch was fit and glued I could brace my crack with some small cleats and glue the top back on. A few weeks of some careful varnish retouch we were back in business!
Time has been flying over the past year. Almost one year ago today I decided to buy Fegley’s Violin Shop. Although at 25 it came on as no small task, I quickly learned that I have been building up to do this almost my entire life. As a kid, I was always building things with my hands – whether it was a ramp for my bike or a tree fort that my brothers and I should have never trusted to hold our weight. There was always a constant project to overcome. So ultimately, I truly felt honored when Margie Fegley approached me about taking over the business. I knew that it was in my cards at some point; I just didn’t think the opportunity would present itself so early on in my career as a Luthier.
I was terrified if I am being completely honest… Fegley’s has been in the area for over 35 years and I didn’t know if I was really ready or not to take on running my own business. Plus, quite honestly, I liked the freedom in working 40 hours per week and having the ability to sleep in on a Saturday morning if I wanted. Who doesn’t? But I quickly learned it was about much more than that – I realized that I am a “live to work” type and not the other way around. But I can hardly call what I do “work”. I love being at my workbench and creating pieces of art that will last well beyond my years. The only problem is that my art has to produce sound at the end of the day… I pour my blood, sweat and yes sometimes tears into my instruments.
I am a strong believer that some people are just meant to do what they want to do. And I feel like I am right where I belong: at my workbench with my tools and overly expensive wood. I feel fortunate to have found such a tedious craft that I can apply my personality and attention to detail… A deadly combination in striving to become a young maestro.