Instruments and bows need regular servicing to keep them in good working order, and to prevent any minor damage from wear and tear deteriorating and causing further problems. Regular maintenance work includes the following:
In order to keep your instrument clean you should dust off rosin dust on the varnish with a soft duster after playing. If it is difficult to remove, use a slightly damp cloth. If this doesn t work, it should be cleaned by a professional restorer. We recommend that you do not use commercial varnish cleaners or oils as they leave residues and can run into any open cracks or seams, causing unnecessary further problems.
Gluing open seams
The glue used in violin making is reversible, so that instruments can be taken apart to be repaired. The seams (where the front and back are glued to the ribs) are prone to opening. This can result in a change of sound or response, or even buzzing. It is important that they are glued while they are still clean and without tension.
Regular playing causes small dents to be made in the fingerboard by the action of the fingers on the string. Over time the surface of the fingerboard can become very uneven, which can cause the strings to rattle against the board and also make it difficult to play double stops in tune. The fingerboard can be evened out by planing along the surface (or shooting along it) to correct the curve.
Pegs are affected by changes in humidity as well as general wear. In general, a regularly used peg with an adequate lubricant (peg paste) will fit for longer than a seldom used dried out peg. When the adjustment of the lubricant (we generally recommend a mixture of very old dry soap and chalk) is no longer sufficient to hold the peg, the peg needs to be refitted, ie. reshaped to fit the holes in the peg box.
Worn or Chipped Varnish
Hand-wear or a knock from the bow can remove varnish and expose bare wood. This should be retouched as soon as possible to prevent dirt and moisture penetrating the wood itself. Some players find that they wear through the varnish on the shoulder of their instrument very quickly, in which case a plastic shield to protect this area is advisable.
Whether your instrument has suffered only a small chip off the varnish or severe damage to the body, it is essential that the repair is done in a way that respects the integrity of the instrument. Wherever possible, repairs should be reversible and the original wood and varnish preserved.
Depending on the position, length and condition, a crack can be anything from a minor problem which can be repaired in minutes to a major disaster that can result in weeks of work. In general, cracks are easier to repair when they are fresh, and the exposed wood hasn t become dirty or distorted out of shape. Where cracks have been badly glued in the past - out of register, or with a synthetic glue - most of the time will be spent on doing the old repair before the crack can be glued properly. If the instrument is open or the position of the cracks allow it, they should be reinforced from the inside with a wooden stud, a piece of parchment or silk.
These can occur on the front on the back of the instrument. The downward pressure of the bridge and the upward pressure of the nearby soundpost make this area very vulnerable to damage. To repair this sort of crack, gluing alone will not suffice, and it will require reinforcing from the inside with a patch made from matching wood which replaces the cracked wood.
Bass Bar Cracks
As in the soundpost area, the pressure of the bridge foot and the resistance of the bass bar cause tension that can result in a crack along the bar, if the area meets with some force. The most common repair involves removing the bass bar, gluing and studding (reinforcing) the crack and fitting a new bass bar to the repaired area.
Button Graft/Button Doubling
The string tension puts a lot of strain on the neck. A severe blow to the instrument (often from the case falling over or being dropped) can result in the neck being forced out of the top block, removing the button with it. Simply gluing it back is insufficient as the fibres linking the back and button remain broken. New wood needs to be added from inside to reinforce the area and give it extra strength (button doubling). If the button is also damaged on the outside, it may need to be replaced as a whole (a button graft).