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Posts Tagged ‘classical music’

While not technically a sign of life, it is a small milestone on the way to looking and feeling like a healthy violin.

Here’s our poor little fiddle again. If there is a technical term for this part of the scroll, I don’t know it. It doesn’t have a structural role so much, but it is the terminus of a divinely inspired design. I have heard it called, among other things, the monkey butt. How droll.

Whatever it’s called, in this condition it was a poke in the eye every time you picked this fiddle up.

So here’s what I did about it:

The most crucial part of this operation was finding just the right piece of wood – something that would match the original in color and grain orientation. If ever there were a repair I would like to “disappear”, this would be it. The damaged area is excavated, removing as little of the original as possible, to create a viable gluing surface. The new wood, actually a piece of very old wood, is oriented properly, fitted exactly and glued. It is then carved down in the manner of the original, and varnish applied to match.

Halfway there… and now:

Voilà! How’d I do?

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I started getting to know this instrument about a year and a half ago. One thing I noticed early on was that the neck was rather hefty. I noticed too, that it’s owner was rather small in stature. I suggested that she might consider having the neck reshaped. For a player that requires smooth, fast and accurate shifting into high positions, the shape and feel of the neck can have great consequences. The neck on this instrument measured wide, with quite a bit of excess wood in the neck heel area. We could reduce both measurements, while still working within standard violin parameters, and come up with something much more comfortable for my client to play. Here’s what the  process looks like (you can click to enlarge):

Mostly I work with a knife and flat bottomed finger plane to carve away excess wood.

I use strong directional light to visually check lines and curves. Discrepancies are marked with a pencil. A template is useful as a reference and everything is carefully measured. Files and a scraper help refine the shape. The grain is raised with multiple applications of moisture followed by progressively finer sandpapers.

Next, the wood must be recolored to match. First I use a water stain derived from walnuts. It gives the newly exposed wood a nice brown color and accentuates the grain. I follow that with a vigorous burnishing with a polished boxwood stick. The neck is already very smooth and silky at this point.

An application of boiled linseed oil with a powdered burnt umber earth pigment further deepens the color and starts building a protective coating. After this is dry, I apply a light french polish of shellac. I’ve mixed a small vial of a custom colored retouch varnish and I use this, and my retouch palette to apply some serious varnish coats to the neck heel area and near the scroll. The rest of the neck gets a second french polish.

The difference is noticeable as soon as the player picks up the instrument. With the neck shaped properly, the entire fingerboard should feel more accessible – especially important for players with smaller hands!

Thanks to Debrah Devine, performer and teacher in Oneonta, NY, for participating in this episode of Restorersmind!

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This is an image painted on a sidewalk in Budapest. It directs pedestrians to a nearby violin shop. It also reminds me of what just happened here this week. It’s actually been really quiet for a month or so, which is it’s own kind of nice. This week, all that changed.

Musicians are always going somewhere. But this time of year, it seems they move en masse. As professionals, students, and amateurs, they participate in summer residencies, music camps, summer concert tours and seasonal music venues. Sometimes it means some serious traveling and the accompanying climate related woes. There is always the  general anxiety surrounding the possibility of developing a problem and not knowing where to have it remedied.

I am situated about halfway between Boston and the Berkshires, just north of Connecticut and on the way to Vermont and New Hampshire. So far this week, I’ve fielded calls from faculty and students at BU Tanglewood Institute http://www.bu.edu/cfa/tanglewood/ including one young cellist that came from Paris and discovered the seams on her cello had opened up in filght, rendering it impossible to play (she picked up her happy cello this am). I’ve had people get off the plane at Bradley Airport and stop here on their way to Greenwood Music Camp www.greenwoodmusic camp.org or Marlboro Music Festival www.marlboromusic.org.

And then there are my regular clients, also preparing to perform, study and teach – you got it – elsewhere! Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music  www.applehill.org, Monadnock Music www.monadnockmusic.org are among the places they will be going this summer. By the way, all of these places have musical events that are open to the public. I hope to get to at least a few.

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