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EJ's Huge Violin Restoration Project
Requesting advice on Restoration, Repair and "Paying Forward" a good deed.
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EJ-Kisz
Midwest, US
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October 28, 2014 - 11:14 am
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Hi Everyone!

Yes, it's me!  It's been several months since my last post and I do apologize, but it has been a busy, yet interesting period in my life.  

As many of you regulars already know, I have a spinal cord injury that affects my daily life.  In August, I also suffered a stroke related to my pain levels.  But never fear, only very minimal damage affecting my nerves in my right leg, not my playing arms! ;-)

During this period, a friend of mine (after learning that my doctor won't allow me to return to work) told me that I need to keep my hands busy and that I needed to find a path in life that allows me to eagerly get out of bed every morning.  He told me of a task that he had for me. He had some old violins that needed work.  They are in varied conditions and most of them are damaged, much like me. :D  

I though it was a great idea! I thought it would be a great experience to learn how to work on 1 or 2 violins! Well, I was in for the shock of my life.  I arrived to his house and he told me to pop the trunk on our car.  This is what came out:

IMG_0607.JPGImage Enlarger

 

In total, 22.5 violins in various states (yes, there is half of a violin in another "parts" box).  Most of them are Cremona's from the late 70's, early 80's.  There are a couple of older ones including one Stainer copy.

Needless to say, I really have my work cut out for me.  I can only stand for maybe 15 minutes at a time before I have to lie down, so it's going to be a long process!

I'm in much need of some advice on......well, where the heck to I begin?!?  I figured that my best step was to acquire an advanced level violin so that I know what a well built, well setup violin plays like.  .......just got my FM Soloist! So, check!

I'm going to start a needs list, but I'm not sure what else I should be checking for.  Any suggested starting points?  

I plan on repairing these violins and then giving them away to people who want to learn but either can'd due to financial reasons or are afraid due to a disability, much like I was.  

Any advice would be much appreciated!  

Thanks in advance!

~EJ 

   

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“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” ~Benjamin Franklin

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coolpinkone
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October 28, 2014 - 11:53 am
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EJ..

It is a joy to see you here.  You are a ray of sunshine despite the accidents, trauma, pain and disabilities.  I am so glad you  have this beautiful project.

So will you be labeling them violin 1,2 3.. etc?  Will you be working on violins with like disabilities at the same time?   Will you be doing any of the lifting off the top and glueing back?

I am eager eager.   I hope we get to join you often on this journey.

Congrats on your Soloist.  It is a beauty and sounds lovely.

It is so great to see you.

Toni

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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EJ-Kisz
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October 28, 2014 - 12:13 pm
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Thanks Toni!

I'm thinking about ranking them by condition.  Unfortunately, some may not be repairable but will be great for donor parts.  

I'm able to work probably closer to 30 minutes at a time, but I have to alternate between sitting & standing.  The longer I stand or sit, the longer I have to lie in order to recover.  When restringing my other violins, I've been known to lie on the floor with it.  It's definitely a labor of love! 

I also have a few crafty friends who are great with woodworking and who are willing to help with the labor intensive stuff! 

Earlier this year, I was playing at a Civil War event when a little girl in a wheel chair (she had a birth defect that kept her from walking) came up to me and just listened for several songs! Her parents told me that she loves violin but was afraid that she couldn't play because of her disability. I basically said, "I'm going to let you in on a secret," and I slowly stood up with my cane, which was really hard because I had been sitting for a while.  Then, I saw the look on her face.  It was that moment when I knew what I wanted to do with those violins.  I let her try mine out and told her parents to look up the likes of Itzhak Perlman and how he has difficulty walking due to polio.  I also referred them to the Fiddler Shop for lower cost violins that are set up properly.  

When she told me about why she thought she couldn't play, it just reminded me of how I felt after my accident.  I don't ever want anybody to feel that lost and hopeless.  

I only wish I gave them my number or email to keep in contact.  But I've had several people come up to me and ask about learning to play.  Most have never been exposed to violin in person before.  

I do want to focus on people with disabilities as I know how much it helps!  But I'm not leaving out low income families as well.  Everyone deserves a chance! 

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” ~Benjamin Franklin

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MrYikes
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October 28, 2014 - 12:31 pm
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Welcome back.  You are going to have a ball.  You have a really good friend and a really good goal.

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coolpinkone
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October 28, 2014 - 1:31 pm
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Eric:

What great motivation and inspiration. Thanks for sharing and caring.

Cheers.

Toni

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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Tyberius
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October 28, 2014 - 5:30 pm
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What an amazing story of inspiration. I love the fact that you are striving to help people who have no belief or confidence in themselves, that this action is completely and unequivocally from the heart and spirit, and that your only wish is for people to enjoy something you found comfort in.

People don't need to go hunt down to find out what a blessing they can be to others, they only need to open their eyes.

I rebuilt a Stainer (Circa 1885) about 10 months ago. I am by no means a luthier and wish to stress that I have only experience with my single repair on that particular instrument. I can give you some advise on what I learned during my process and a few pitfalls toavoid. If need, we can go via Skype or some other avenue. Again, I am not even close to being an expert, but I can offer a kind word or two......once in a while  ;)

"I find your lack of Fiddle, disturbing" - Darth Vader

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
October 28, 2014 - 9:52 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 11717

You're the man Eric. Many people will appreciate your great offerings. Look forward to hearing more about it.
If I can help in any way, let me know.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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rockinglr33
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October 28, 2014 - 10:42 pm
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what an amazing thing to do! I can't help with anything related to repairs as i'm just getting decent at playing some simple tunes but i just wanted to say how awesome it is that you plan on doing. You are truly an inspiration. I really hope you get the advice you need! 

ok I dunno if you do good with repair books but i found these on amazon and it seemed to be right up your alley and they don't seem very pricey.

 

http://smile.amazon.com/Violin.....lin+repair

http://smile.amazon.com/Violin.....lin+repair

http://smile.amazon.com/Violin.....lin+repair   (ok this one is a bit pricey, but has some amazing reviews...didn't notice the price at first sorry)

 

Hope this helps and good luck on all your adventures. I hope you'll continue to update ups on your progress!!

Lead me, Follow me, or get out of my way!

             ~General George S. Patton

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EJ-Kisz
Midwest, US
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October 29, 2014 - 10:32 am
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@rockinglr33  Oh wow! Those are great!!  Thanks for the book info!  Those will definitely help! I'm pretty sure, with some research, I can find some good prices now that I know what books to look for.

 

@Tyberius  One of the project violins is a Stainer as well as one of my personal ones.  Both have that traditional "bloated" look which makes me very nervous about adjusting the sound post. I'll definitely call on your experience! My personal one (aka "Laz"), was made in the late 1800's! 

 

Okay, I think I came up with a starting point outside of rating the condition of these violins.  So:

1. What common tools are necessary for basic repairs? 

2. How do I evaluate the condition of the various pieces of a violin? (Fingerboard, nut, tail piece, bridge, sound post, etc.)

3. What do I look for when evaluating the condition of the violin's body? (cracks, chips, separation, etc.)

4. How hard is it to replace bow hair? I've found multiple sites sayings its both easy and a pain in the frame. 

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” ~Benjamin Franklin

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cdennyb
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October 29, 2014 - 5:54 pm
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Well, here's a couple of articles I made a couple of years ago about making a bridge and another about re-hairing a bow. They are not technical in nature, more home grown so you and me think alike.

Give them a look and maybe they'll help take away that reluctance to proceed on some things.

http://fiddlerman.com/forum/th.....ridge-pdf/

 

http://fiddlerman.com/forum/fi.....ject-done/

 

hats_off

"If you practice with your hands you must practice all day. Practice with your mind and you can accomplish the same amount in minutes." Nathan Milstein

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Uzi
Georgia
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October 29, 2014 - 9:05 pm
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Rehairing shouldn't be too bad and can be divided up into shorter tasks which might work out well for you.  Here's a couple of videos to give you an idea about what's involved and what's needed.  The first one is in 8 parts. 

 

Hope this helps. 

 

 

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright

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Tyberius
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October 30, 2014 - 12:29 pm
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I would say do the bows last. I played with one way early on and it ended in disaster. There's a lot more going on in a bow then meets the eye.

 

Separate them by physical damage. Setting a sound post is relatively easy. Adjusting it takes some time and effort. It is not hard, you just have to be really careful when you start to nudge it, pull it, slide it or tap it.

 

I would look for ones that have seam separations first. they are easiest to do. Peg box breaks or crack will be the most difficult (unless you have one that was run over by a street sweeper). Finger boards, pegs, bridges, end nuts all about the same difficulty - by that I mean if you are shaping or replacing from a stock blank. Then move on to the blocking in the corners, the end pin block and re-sizing the peg holes. The Peg holes are not bad to enlarge, but to repair a bored out or cracked one is just shy of replacing the whole box and scroll.

Finally, I would move onto body cracks and splits. Have a really good stable work bench, strapping, clamps and some cork board. Use the cork under the clamps to prevent surface damage to the wood.

 

All hide glues are not the same. The age of the glue, the moisture content, the length of time it has been mixed, the temperature it was "brewed to" , the amount of time from application to final piece position and how long the glue is out of the heat (as in starting to cool). ALL of this will affect the final product. The 192 gram hold seems to be a very popular strength. It is very easy to separate if you need to fix an error. I would recommend to NOT get really small bags of the dried glue crystals. Go for the 1lb or larger. These bags will be sealed and not repackaged into zip lock bags. It also will be less likely to have been cut with older or unspecified glue granules to save the distributor money.

 

As a final note - be sure your work area and hands are clean and dry. Little bits of debris and all that glue make for a small child's art project. Things will be stuck all over then at the end all you can do Is smile. ;)

"I find your lack of Fiddle, disturbing" - Darth Vader

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BillyG
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October 30, 2014 - 1:34 pm
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@EJ-Kisz - wow - you have a "labor of love" there !   I have no advice whatsoever to offer on violin repair / reconstruction - but in many other ways I am a very practical person and I LOVE the sound of the challenge !   Go for it !

Don't believe we've chatted before on the forum (I only joined back in April this year) - however - I wish you all success in the resurrection of these poor, damaged souls.  I'm sure you can wake them up, save them and bring them back to to life ..... oh heck...  WHERE DID I GET THAT from ....  oh right... Evanescence...  

How weird is that - I haven't heard/listened to that in like 5 years....  but the lyrics obviously "stuck in what little memory I have remaining..."  man...

Anyway - I wish you and your resurrection project well !!!!!

Cheers, Bill

EDIT: Meant to say - quote : "I plan on repairing these violins and then giving them away to people who want to learn but either can'd due to financial reasons or are afraid due to a disability, much like I was."

Brilliant, 100% spectacular - that's the way to do it ! 

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes.  

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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happyjet
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November 2, 2014 - 12:07 pm
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I hope the Restoration Project goes well.

Playing a piece is easy... Playing it right is not...

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Tucson1
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November 5, 2014 - 1:08 am
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Hey EJ ,

Nice picture and projects ...good fer you ...i might be able to help a bit as you go along ...just be aware that the way i work is not the only way to do things and you'll find yer own methods yer comfortable with using ....

ya can check in the members area fer pics and threads on some of my repairs fer reference if ya want ...

For getting started , i personaly would seperate out into three groups from most complete to least complete and in an effort to return as many to playable condition asap , fix the most complete first as many will just need strings and a good set up ...

Latter when fixing cracks , i recommend no less than a 400 strength rating for crack repair with hot hide glue ...feel free to pm me for details as you progress in any area ...get / read books ...they hide information in books ...watch vids and keep an open mind ....most of all ...have fun ....be happy  ...violin-1267

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EJ-Kisz
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November 6, 2014 - 8:32 am
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Those links and videos are GREAT!!  Thank you everyone!!

I've had some more time to look over the carnage of violin parts and to my surprise, only 1 violin had a crack.  .....well, the ".5" violin.  It's missing the finger board and top body piece! LOL  The bodies of them look to be in great condition aside from varnish and some dings.

Currently, I'm going to focus on 5 of the best conditioned ones.  The rest, I'm going to somehow winterize them and prep them for storage.  

Of those 5, it looks like I need new tail pieces, sound posts and bridges.  I may have to touch up some exposed wood parts on the varnish as well.  However, there are no cracks or seam separation.  

I am concerned about some of the other ones though.  It looks like some of the pegs are too far into the peg box.  Are there over-sized pegs you can use or is there a way to repair oversized peg holes? 

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” ~Benjamin Franklin

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Fiddlerman
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November 6, 2014 - 1:50 pm
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Eric,

All pegs are oversized before you shave them so the answer to that question is yes.
Also, it's possible to redo the holes by drilling them to the exact size of a dowel and gluing in the dowels. You then varnish/match the new wood with the rest of the peg box then drill your pilot holes for the reamer.
You're way better off shaving new pegs. Simple and effective. :)

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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cdennyb
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November 6, 2014 - 7:56 pm
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Wow, can't wait to see your progress. You have work for all winter.

If you get overwhelmed you can throw one or two my way and I'll help ya work on 'em a little. I have time during the winter to make soundposts and set them using my sound analysis software and the results are pretty decent.

I can do pegs and tailpieces and other accessories and strings of course so the finish part is completed. but you probably want to do that part as it's the "icing on the cake" after the hard work is done.

Just an offer.

hats_off

"If you practice with your hands you must practice all day. Practice with your mind and you can accomplish the same amount in minutes." Nathan Milstein

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