With the top plate removed I gave the inside a thorough brushing with a soft brush to remove any dust so I could see if there were other issues that might affect how I went about the restoration.I was looking to see if there was any insect or fungal damage, and I wanted to see clearly if there were old repairs or previous unsuccessful repairs that might complicate the process.

Garini violin repair

Garini violin repair

A close visual and tap inspection of the back revealed no cracks or loose glue joints and the blocks appeared sound. The next thing was to remove residual glue from the linings and bouts so as to ensure a smooth surface for replacing the top once it is fixed. This was done with a scraper.

Garini violin repair

Garini violin repair

The instrument is nicely finished inside and will not require any regraduating. The blocks also appear to be sound, and they haven’t shrunk so the top is really the only issue.

A close examination of the top shows a number of large, but clean cracks. They will need reinforcing cleats. There is evidence of previous repair being attempted on these, but without reinforcement and the cracks have failed. At a guess I would say the damage is a typical crush injury – the sort of damage sustained when heavy luggage is placed on top. It does not appear to have been the result of a drop onto a hard surface as there is no impact damage on the plate overhangs.

The most worrying one is the one running parallel and close to the bass bar.

Garini violin repair

Garini violin repair

The bass bar itself is sound, and there does appear to be sufficient room for some small cleats that will help to reinforce the crack. It looks as though someone has tried a thin hide glue and it has not set properly, or was of insufficient strength to hold.

The next main crack is on the treble side and will also require reinforcement. The crack is about 100mm (4″) long and is clean with no wood missing.

Garini violin repair

Garini violin repair

The only worry here is that the crack extends up to the F hole.

The third is one of the more common cracks, being at the F hole, but as it goes all the way through it considerably weakens the top at this point. It will also need reinforcement with cleats.

Garini violin repair

Garini violin repair

This should be fairly easy to get glue into, but the clamping will be complicated.

The dark stain is where the original luthier pained on some hide glue as a reinforcement for the F holes – that is common practice and is fine – it does not denote  previous repair there.

The beauty of using hide glue is that it is acoustically transparent – it does not inhibit the sound the way, say, PVA glues would. The other beauty of hide glue is that as it dries it actually draws the wood together making an almost invisible join. And given both of these factors, you can see why luthiers put up  with the hassle of having to heat it for use. It is important to make up a fresh batch for each repair session as it can ‘go off’  and lose its bonding strength.

After this I will need to clean off the rosin residue beneath the bridge area and give the whole instrument a thorough clean with violin polish. I will not attempt to re-varnish the area beneath the fingerboard as that unfinished zone is part of the original construction, although I may give it a light French polish.

The biggest challenge will be to sequence the repairs and to work out how to clamp them so they hold.

Last weekend I also bought more dowel and threaded rod to make about another fifteen spool clamps for the final reassembly. I have some specialist crack repair clamps bought from a luthier supplier.

Cheers
Jerry

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