Dramatic fall leads to a painstaking repair

img_1025img_1026img_0971img_0984img_0985img_1002img_0966This nice Italian violin from the 1940’s hit the floor from shoulder height….causing the neck to erupt at the button are and the center seam of the back to open up. (There were also cracks on the top and ribs which I restored but won’t be part of this post)

The button is a very delicate spot….at once, stressed by the string tension pull on the neck and compromised by the purfling channel which cuts through almost half the thickness at that area. It looked like this violin hah been repaired here in the past … but not patched to span the weak area of the purfling channel cut. So its no wonder that it erupted….

The first step is to carefully remove the back and free the damaged button from the top block.img_0980 Once the button is carefully re-assembled and precisely glued back t the back a cast is made of the upper back to aid in the delicate cutting of a channel to fit the patch and eventually glue it in without distorting things.

Once the maple patch is fit and glued in the channel ( which has been worked down gently to 2 mm thick) it is planed flush with the platform that will be glued to the top block.img_1013

Once the back is re-glued to the ribs and the neck reset …. the only evidence of the accident is the the sliver of the patch existing as a layer between the button and the neck stock…. until with patient varnish restoration everything disappears…the only slight reservation in this instance are the lines on each side of the button repair that are from the previous repair that can’t be removed …. also on the side photo of the upper rib ….there is a 2″ crack in the mid part between neck and the rib miter …coming up diagonally from the back ….see if you can see it

Mr Moennig was quite a master of varnish touch up and restoration …and working with him has had a life long effect. You learned by doing the wood work and handing it to him to restore the varnish ( all the while carefully examining my work!). Eventually you were able to do the whole repair and then hand to him to cast his eye over it….an eye that was very at home with looking at the finest instruments and the finest restoration….just the eye you want looking at your work

Pristine Vuilluame viola

img_0688img_0693img_0694img_0699This dramatically beautiful viola is by the great J B Vuilluame made in Paris in 1847 and is opus #1773. It bears the handwritten number 47 on the interior¬† ( the upper back) surrounded by an ornament. It is a Strad inspired instrument that is a quite rare example both because of its perfect condition … but also its small size at 396 mm ( just over 15 1/2″).

It is owned and played by a man who studied with the great William Primrose as a young, ambitious player. He eventually dedicated himself to becoming a world class chemist… but still plays this inspiring instrument daily….at an unimaginably early hour for a nightowl like me!

Vuilluame is clearly the greatest maker of the 19th century outside of Italy. He has the most intimate knowledge¬† and collection of instruments of the great masters of Cremona….and he puts it to great use. This lovely viola captures Strad’s powerful, ruggedly beautiful turns of the scroll….and the delicate grace of the F hole. The viola bears an original “wear” pattern on the back … beautifully executed by someone who has seen the natural effects of time and use on instruments that are played as well as cherished.

Everything about this fine instrument and player speaks of deep time….he has owned /played/cherished it for 50 years…and I see it yearly to keep it at its finest…. in addition to all the things I will (carefully!) do ….this year I will cut a new bridge for it…. the last one lasted 50 years! …. so I am thinking thoughts about deep time while I cut this bridge…..