Fiddle repair

Fiddle repair

I have come accross an old fiddle that’s badly cracked around the f hole. I’m wondering if having the crack repaired will make it sound better or will it be a cosmetic improvement only? (it needs to sound better and it’s not just my playing!). Also the back is starting to come away at the bottom, what kind of glue do fiddle makers use?

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Re: Fiddle repair

Good God, Kenn, it’s not the repair around the f-hole that’s going to make the most difference, but sticking the back back on! I’d take it to a good tech, myself, because if there’s cracking and the back coming off, it’s likely that there’s other stuff wrong with the thing too. At the very least, have a tech tell you if it’s worth having the thing repaired, there’s a lot of old fiddles out there not worth repairing unless they’ve sentimental attachment.

Re: Fiddle repair

Cracks in the belly, especially by the f-holes, are always bad news, and should be repaired by a competent person, if the fiddle’s worth it. A proper repair of a belly crack will get rid of a prime source of rattles and buzzes and improve the tone significantly.

If the fiddle is that badly cracked then the chances are that a lot more needs to be done - pegs, sound post, bridge, etc. My fiddle, when it came to me as a family heirloom, hadn’t been played for 60 years and was in a dire condition. After skilled attention by an expert fiddle maker it is now a fine instrument with a tone that is improving by the day (the tone of a fiddle will deteriorate if it is not played).

I believe the glue used by luthiers is bone glue - it smells vile but is easy to apply and remove and enables the instrument to be assembled and disassembled. Whatever you do, never use modern artifical adhesives!

Re: Fiddle repair

I have a great repair story… I "inherited" a case that contained what at one time had been a fiddle. This box had been in a garage in Key West Florida for about 10 years. If you are familiar with the Keys, you know the heat and humidity this poor fiddle endured.

When I got it, all parts had come unglued, the top plate was badly cracked, and the varnish had run so badly it was like a glob of sticky goo in one corner of the case. I took this sad soul to a repair man in New Orleans to see what kind of miracle could be worked. After about 6 months, I received the case back in the mail. Imagine my surprise when I opened it up and there was a beautiful dark red fiddle ready to be played and loved! Because the entire thing had to be re-glued and re-varnished it has taken a couple of years to settle down. Now she is my pride and joy. There are no markings to indicate how old or where it is from, but the repair man said it appears to be French and from the early 1800’s.

Moral to the story - you never know what a little TLC on some old pieces of wood will bring you!

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Re: Fiddle repair

Hmm, maybe I can make a silk purse from a sows ear. I’ll take it to my nearest fiddle repairer (long drive to the big city) next time I’m through and at least get the back glued down, with ground bones!?!
I suspect it’ll end up as a wall ornament though. Instruments make nice wall ornaments, in fact many of my friends have encouraged me to make more use of them this way…

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Re: Fiddle repair

Kenn:

Don’t be so hasty to put that fiddle on the wall, even if your friends say to. I had a filddle that had a back separation once and it turned out the bottom end block was split. The end pin was stuck but I never assciated that with a cracked end pin. Anyway the repairman put a new block in and reglued the back, and now it’s a wonderful fiddle.

-dogma

Re: Fiddle repair

The glue used by fiddle-makers is hide glue(made from horse hide or rabbit skin) that is liquified from pellets in a glue pot. The glue is water soluble to enable opening the instrument up without destroying the wood. Over time hide glue crystalizes and loses its adhesive qualities which would account for the problem with the back of your fiddle coming loose. Never use any type of phenolic glue( Elmer’s, Titebond, etc.) or polyurethane glue(Gorilla Glue) on a fiddle. The bond is stronger than the wood and will not release without tearing the surface.

The crack in the top shouldn’t be a problem unless the wood has chipped or worn away around it. It needs to have the top removed and series of small wooden cleats glued across the crack. This a standard repair. Many of the finest old violins have had multiple cracks repaired over time and still retain their sonority. A good fiddle will be completely reglued any number of times during its useful life. Get it fixed by the best craftsman you can afford. I’ve found that calling the nearest professional orchestra or college music conservatory will lead you to the most competent instrument repair shops in your area.

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Re: Fiddle repair - or, in this case, guitar….mutatis mutandi….

Re: Broken Headstock

I have two words for you: Gorilla Glue. I give you these words with some caution, however. If you use the stuff, PLEASE make sure you have things lined up properly and clamped well. Gorilla Glue has NO KNOWN solvents, and once it is glued, it is GLUED. Tight clamping is supremely important because GG swells as it cures and you want it to swell OUT from between the pieces, not spread them.

I have a Hamer I received with a splintered headstock. I carefully put the puzzle of mahogany back together with GG and careful clamping. Oh yeah- I did some reinforcing by GGing some doweling here and there through the repair. It has been together for TWO years now with no problems, and that is after a lot of heavy use/abuse.
I currently am using GG to repair a block on the long F key of a wooden flute. Superglue didn’t work and the next step would have been to pin the block. I’m hoping GG will do the trick. I clamp it with rubber bands, building the clamping force gradually..

Note from GuitarAttack: GorillaGlue is pretty awesome, but it is not for the beginner. It can be a real mess to use…use at your own risk.

Re: Fiddle repair

Please let me explane to you a little about this I have been building fiddles and banjos a long time. Never use any type of glue that is not made for insterments. Insterments has to breath and move with the weather,expand and contract. If it can not do this it will split crack break or so on. I have seen people that say there repairman on insterments and there just bandade butchers. Anyone who just puts a patch on top of cracks is a bandade. First you have to cut a layer of the wood out and put a patch and make it bond back to the wood with bone glue, not hide, there is a diffrents in the glue some say there is not but one is made from bone, and the other is hide from boiling the hide and getting the fat out for the glue. I have never seen a insterment that could not be fixed even one that his wife ran over with her car because she was mad at him. Money should be no problem if you want a good sounding insterment. I’m going to say never use varnish on a old cured out fiddle because it will take at least 20 years to cure back. I use the same varish that was on the insterment by making it to reflow like it was just put on when it was first been build. Sorry I’m not going to tell how I do that it has been pasted down from my Indian grandfather I make my own glue varnish from tree sap dryed and flaked. I will tell you one teaspoon of flake will do 4 fiddles compleat that is fiddles from scratch or new built. use dry stain not the kind with water or oil because once the wood is cured and season why would you want to have it to recure but remember it is all together now it has to redry and there is shrinkage going to happen from drying time and seams going to open or there will be crakes. You just need to find a good fiddle person someone that love there wood insterments and NOT over charge for fixing insterments. I love working building and repairing fiddles if you really want to get it done right shop around and talk to them how there going to fix it just ask me and I will explane if it is the right way or not banjofiddleman