Here is the promised collaboration with Sherly Chan from Malaysia.

The tune is a Scott Skinner tune ‘Welcome to Inverness’ – and is a video response to Natalie McMaster’s rendition of the same tune.

Cheers
Jerry

I promised to present the international collaboration piece with Malaysian musician Sherly Chan (Chansherly212) playing a Scott Skinner tune called “Welcome to Inverness”

Cheers
Jerry

I’ve been asked a number of times about how much one should practice – especially in the early stages.

I’ve heard lots of people try to compete on numbers – 2-3 hours a day being set as the challenge. I personally think that’s hogwash.

At the risk of sounding a bit controversial, I would say practice little but often – don’t do 2 hour marathons, better to do three lots of ten-fifteen minutes a day – that adds up to 30-40 minutes a day, but it spreads the load and gives much better reinforcement of learning by concentrating in short bursts and doing something completely different in between.

Happy new year :-)

It occurred to me that once the top is on the violin, I will need to make a new sound post as the repair will have slightly changed the profile of the interior. There are two ways to ensure the correct length of sound post: firstly, you can guess and risk wasting precious sound-post timber, or you can measure the space and cut to size.

My book on violin repairing – which has precious little on repairing cracks! – recommends buying a sound post gauge. Luckily Atria’s book illustrates the principle quite well. And just recently I replaced the windscreen wiper blades on my car…

violin sound post gauge

You see, the spine of the old wiper blades consisted of two thin strips of mild steel about 1 mm thick and 3 mm wide and about 300mm long. I decided to get dangerous with a pair of pliers.

Once I bent the two pieces so they would nestle into each other with opposing ends (already rounded so they won’t scratch the violin timber) I found a piece of clear plastic tubing (fuel line) – although you could use a drinking straw – and bound the two strips together with the tube, and then bent the ends over so they would be easy to grasp and slide the two pieces against each other to make the measurement. I also inserted a small timber wedge from an offcut so as to provide a good friction fit that would retain the measurement while extracting the tool from the F-hole.

And here is the result – a functional sound-post gauge.

violin sound post gauge

And it works well. Happy luthiering :-)

I ordered and received some spruce 3mm sheets – perfect for making repair cleats. There is probably enough to last me for a lifetime of violin repairs!

The extensive cracks on the violin top certainly required reinforcement. I cut a series of 5mm squares and lightly sanded them to fit the curve of the inside top plate and glued them in place along the largest cracks with hide glue. Then I shaved each of them down to a low pyramid.

This process took a couple of hours as I needed to get each one in place and clamped and set, then when the glue was set, I began shaving them down with a very sharp chisel.

Here is the result

violin repair cleats

This last one is a little different, and is known as an ‘eyebrow patch’ which involves removing some of the original timber and inserting a piece of spruce and carefully shaving it down to be flush with the surrounding wood. This makes for a strong repair, and as it is still spruce – the same as the rest of the top, there should be little impact on the sound. It is the strongest way to repair an F-hole failure.

violin repair cleats

With spool clamps made the next job was to begin the process of gluing the cracks ready for the reinforcing cleats. First I had to mix up some fresh glue. Elsewhere I noted that I had converted an old coffee drip machine as a double heater for the glue.

coffee pot as glue pot

coffee pot as glue pot

The glue granules were dissolved in water for about an hour, then heated by immersion in the coffee pot which held plain water on the hotplate. The glue was mixed to the consistency of honey – and that is when it is ready to use.

A further examination of the back revealed a separation between the lower bout and the back. The best tool for this is a thin palette knife.

The knife both found the gap and was used as the means to convey the glue into the gap.

Garini violin repair

Garini violin repair

The excess was quickly wiped off with a damp rag and the gap was held closed by a few spool clamps. Four hours later and the back-ribs seal is complete.

Garini violin repair

Garini violin repair

With that job done, I set aside the body on its cushioned surface and set to work on the top.

There were several issues to address which had to be handled quickly, so photos are sparse.

The first one was the F-hole crack that would otherwise prevent proper clamping of the other cracks. I made a temporary cleat from a popsicle stick and glued and clamped this one with a spring clamp.

At that point I went off and had some lunch and a coffee and came back to find it had held well and was nicely aligned.

Using the palette knife for the most open part of the first major plate crack I worked quickly under a warm lamp to get glue into the join as far as possible. But to avoid opening the crack further, I then pained glue on the rest of the crack and tapped it into the crack with my forefinger.

Then I used the edge-closing clamp to hold the edge and applied a full top-plate clamp to close the rest of the crack.

You can see both clamps here – they are specialist luthier clamps bought from Pilgrims Projects online.

Garini violin repair

Garini violin repair

Having sealed the bass-bar crack I did the same with the upper plate crack and glued that up too.

After several hours the top plate is almost solid again. But the top plate will be weak. And the F-hole repair is only temporary as I really need to do a full ‘eyebrow’ cleat – which entails removing some of the original wood to about half the thickness of the plate, and inserting a spruce cleat to match it and then shape it to fit so that no timber stands proud when it comes to rejoining the top to the ribs.

At this point I will have to put the repair on hold as I need to order some spruce material for the cleats online – it should be about a week or ten days coming from the USA.

In the meantime I hope to make some detailed drawings traced from the violin so that I can use the measurements on a new one.

Cheers
Jerry

Violins under the name Michel-Ange Garini were made around 1900- 1920 in Vosges, France in the Mirecourt region. This violin came into my hands via a luthier friend in Canberra who had decided it was uneconomic to repair.

Garini violin as it came into my shop

Garini violin as it came into my shop

It was clear to me that I had some challenges ahead. The violin is nicely constructed and finished with good attention to detail – some of which is only evident after disassembly.

The violin has a dark red oil-based varnish and appears to have been varnished after the fingerboard was added, so the top remains unfinished beneath the fingerboard. This appears to have been a hallmark of some Mirecourt violins, notably the one restored in 2005 by MysticViolin in the USA. That one was made by Justin Amédée Derazey or his factory in Mirecourt. There are images of that restoration at stringrepair.com. Over the next several weeks I shall blog the restoration process of the Garini violin.

The first stage was a visual and tap inspection of the instrument. There may be other issues, but the black arrows on the image point to the four major cracks in the top plate. One of the cracks is close to, but not touching the bass bar, and two of the cracks run about one-third of the length of the plate.

Garini violin damage. The arrows point to the major cracks

Garini violin damage. The arrows point to the major cracks

It was clear I would have to carefully remove the top plate. First step is to heat the seams with a heat gun in order to soften the hide glue.

Applying the heat gun to the upper seams

Applying the heat gun to the upper seams

This process was alternated with the careful insertion of the paint scraper – it is strong, flexible and has a very thin blade. The scraper was inserted using a walking motion using just enough force to keep the blade moving against the heated part of the seam. Slowly the plate separated cleanly from the ribs.

Inserting the scraper to separate the plate from the ribs

Inserting the scraper to separate the plate from the ribs

It took about half an hour, but finally the plate was fully separated from the ribs.

Inside the violin

Inside the violin

The back is of one piece nicely flamed maple and was undamaged. The top plate will have the cracks glued and reinforced with small sycamore buttons. And that will be the subject of subsequent posts.

I’ll leave you tonight with a pic of the label – if anyone has any more information about the maker I would love to hear from you

Garini violin label

Garini violin label

Cheers
Jerry

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.