THE REPAIRING & RESTORATION OF VIOLINS.
PRINTED BY E. SHORE & CO., 3, GREEN TERRACE, ROSEBERY AVENUE, LONDON, E.C.
[Frontispiece: HORACE PETHERICK.]
"THE STRAD" LIBRARY, No. XII. THE REPAIRING & RESTORATION OF VIOLINS.
BY HORACE PETHERICK.
Of the Music Jury, International Inventions Exhibition South Kensington, 1885; International Exhibition Edinburgh, 1890; Expert in Law Courts, 1891; Vice-President of the Cremona Society.
ILLUSTRATED BY THE AUTHOR.
London: THE STRAD OFFICE, 3, GREEN TERRACE, ROSEBERY AVENUE, E.C. D. R. DUNCAN, 186, FLEET STREET, E.C.
New York: CHARLES SCRIBNERS' SONS, 153-157, FIFTH AVENUE
PAGE CHAPTER I.—Introductory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
CHAPTER II.—Slight Accidents—Modern Restorers—"Chattering"— The Proper Sort of Glue—Its Preparation and Use . . . . 3
CHAPTER III.—Minor Repairs—Cramps and Joints—Violin Cases— Rattles and Jars—Loose Fingerboards—Atmospheric Temperature—Old-Fashioned Methods of Repairing—Modern Ways—A Loose Nut . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
CHAPTER IV.—Injuries to the Head or Scroll—Insertion of Fresh Wood—Colouring of White Wood—Separation of Head from Peg-box and Re-joining—Stopping Material for Small Holes or Fractures—The Peg-box Cracked by Pressure . . . . . . 28
CHAPTER V.—Fracture of Peg-box and Shell—Chips from this Part—Filling up of Same—Restoration to Original Form, after Parts have been Lost—Worn Peg-holes, Re-filling or Boring Same . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46
CHAPTER VI.—Loosening of Junction of Graft with Peg-box, and Refixing Same—Grafting, Different Methods of Performing this—Lengthening the Neck—Old and Modern Method—Renewal of Same—Inclination of Neck and Fingerboard with Regard to the Bridge—Height of Latter, and Reason for It . . . 58
CHAPTER VII.—Finishing the Fingerboard—Fixing the Nut—Size and Position of Grooves for the Strings—Filing Down the Graft—Smoothing, Colouring, and Varnishing Same . . . . 84
CHAPTER VIII.—Injuries that can be Repaired from the Outside— Insertion of Fresh Wood in Fracture of the Ribs—The Effects of Climate on the Glue in Violins . . . . . . . . 92
CHAPTER IX.—The Glue Used by the Early Italian Makers— Insertion of Pieces of Wood for Repairing Lost Parts— Replacing Lost Rib and Repairing Interior without Opening when Possible—Securing Loose Lower Rib to End Block— Different Methods—Treatment of Worm-holes—Fixing on Graft on Neck . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100
CHAPTER X.—Ways of Removing the Upper Table and the Neck— Cleansing the Interior—Preservation of the Original Label—Closing of Cracks in Upper Table . . . . . . . . . 114
CHAPTER XI.—Getting Parts Together that apparently do not Fit—The use of Benzine or Turpentine—Treatment of Warped or Twisted Lower Tables . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127
CHAPTER XII.—Removal of Old Superfluous Glue by Damping— Replacing Old End Blocks by New Ones—Temporary Beams and Joists Inside for Keeping Ribs, etc., in Position while Freshly Glued . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 135
CHAPTER XIII.—Re-opening the Back to Correct the Badly Repaired Joint—A Few Words on Studs—Filling Up Spaces left by Lost Splinters—Matching Wood for Large Cracks, etc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 145
CHAPTER XIV.—Repairing Lost Portions—Margins of Sound Holes— Matching the Grain—Fixing and Finishing Off—Replacing with Fresh Wood Large Portions of Upper Table—Lost Parts of Purfling—Restoring It with Old Stuff . . . . . . . . 155
CHAPTER XV.—Repairs to Purfling (continued)—Filling up an Opening Extending to the Whole Length of the Violin— Fitting the Core—Fixing it in Position and Retaining it There—Finishing the Surface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 163
CHAPTER XVI.—Repairing Undertaken by People in Business not connected with that of Bowed Instruments—Removal of a Fixed Sound Post—Fitting a Fresh Part of Worm-Eaten Rib— Bringing Together the Loosened Joint of the Back Without Opening the Violin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 172
CHAPTER XVII.—Insertion of Studs along the Joint Inside without Opening the Violin—Lining or Veneering a Thin Back . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 180
CHAPTER XVIII.—The Bar in Olden Times—The Modern One—The Operation of Fitting and Fixing the Bar—Closing and Completion of the Repairs—Varnishing of the Repaired Parts having Fresh Wood . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 186
An ancient writer once asserted that "of making many books there is no end"; had the violin been invented and used as far back as his day he might have added, "and of repairs to violins," inasmuch as the number, nature, and variety of the damages that constantly occur and find their way into the presence of the repairer, are such as could not be counted and seemingly are endless. The readers of the following pages will therefore not expect to find every possible ailment to which the violin is liable, mentioned and its appropriate remedy marked out. If the more minute kinds of injuries are endless, they may yet be generalised under a limited number of headings, or in groups. It is with the hope that a sufficient number has been treated of, and the way of meeting difficulties pointed out plainly enough to enable the intending practitioner to follow on in the same lines, that this work is placed before the public. All the repairings referred to, have, with the accompanying annoyances and pleasures, been gone through by myself, and therefore the present little work may be taken as the result of personal experience and it is hoped may be acceptable to the readers.
H. PETHERICK. July, 1903.
The Repairing and Restoration of Violins.
The art of the old liutaro of Italy may be said to have become during the last two or three centuries, identified with the art of constructing such musical instruments as are played with the bow.
As was the case with other and kindred arts, that of violin making had its rise in one of the old cities of Italy, where from small beginnings it gradually spread to other places and over the borders, until there are very few places of importance where it was not practised with some degree of success, commercially if not artistically and acoustically considered.
During the early period of the art, repairing was of a rough and ready kind, chiefly in connection with damages sustained under ordinary usage and accident; while extensive and costly renovating, such as is so frequently undertaken at the present day, must have been of rare occurrence, for the reason that it was then quite possible to get equal, sometimes better, quality in quite new instruments which were being sent forth every day by the resident makers. With the onward march of time this has been changed; the art of the Italian liutaro having reached its climax some century and a half back, the masterpieces executed during that time are gradually diminishing in number and cannot be replaced by instruments having a sufficiently high degree of excellence; naturally enough the skill of the repairer has been more and more in requisition, so much so, that many who have shown exceptional ability for this kind of work have achieved a reputation for it alone, among the large circle of dealers in the principal cities of Europe. The necessities of the time have thus brought into prominence a modification of the art of the old Italian liutaro, in which there has to be displayed much more mechanical ingenuity if with very little or no originality; the high class of artisan has become strongly in evidence, while the artist has disappeared. It was in the consideration of these facts that the idea was first suggested that a work treating of the general methods adopted by professional restorers for important work, coupled with helpful hints in the management of minor injuries, would be interesting and acceptable to amateur as well as professional repairers, besides the numerous readers of THE STRAD, in the pages of which the following chapters were first issued.
In sending out the matter in book form, some alterations and additions have been, as usual, found advisable for completeness. All readers readily admit the impossibility of touching upon one half of the various accidents and ailments to which a violin is liable during its usually long life; the most likely ones have therefore been taken, and it is hoped that the suggested treatment of these cases may enable the repairer to become sufficiently adept for undertaking such others, serious, or slight, as may not have been here referred to.
Further, the author is hopeful that those readers who may feel indisposed themselves to put into practice the various hints, instruction, or advice, will be enabled by knowing how good repairing is carried out, to select the proper kind of person into whose hands they can safely intrust their cherished instruments.
SLIGHT ACCIDENTS—MODERN RESTORERS—"CHATTERING"—THE PROPER SORT OF GLUE—ITS PREPARATION AND USE.
Under the above title (dry and unpalatable as the subject may seem at first sight to many) it is proposed to bring before the reader some deductions from observations in general, and particulars in detail that may be interesting as to the past, and suggestive as to the future. In the first place, the simple art of repairing a violin—and as for that, anything that has been fractured by accident or intent—will be in the minds of many associated with the presence of some strong glue or adhesive material, the right pieces to be attached, neatly or not, as the skill or experience of the repairer may be sufficient or available.
The nose or limb of a marble statue knocked off and lying in close proximity to the main body may be thought to give little or no trouble further than the collection of the fragments, the ascertaining of their original relationship, the spreading of a sufficient amount of strong cement over the raw surface and then pressing accurately into position; easy work to a person endowed with average powers of mechanical adaptation, under circumstances where the materials being of an unyielding nature retain their form for any length of time. But if any parts are lost different faculties and powers educated for the work are requisite and brought to bear on the subject. The additions, besides the estimated proportions and form, must necessarily be composed of material differing in age, perhaps in quality, even when of the same supposed class as the original, and make further demands on the trained eye, both for discrimination of material and appropriateness for the work in hand. There will be lastly, but not least, the art of imitating old work, the consideration how far to go and when to stop in the dressing up of new bodies in an old guise so as to produce harmony of effect generally, and where possible in minute detail. Thus far concerning the repair or restoration of objects of art made from rigid materials, including hard wood carving.
Much ability, energy and patience have been expended on the reparation of ancient art work in which materials of various degrees of hardness and texture have been employed, and which require the attention of a restorer of extended knowledge and mechanical dexterity. There is in connection with all of this a kind of law keeping pace with the necessities of the hour. If the works of art of a perishable nature become recognised as more and more valuable during the onward march of time, they receive proportional attention from upper-class or highly skilled workmen. A costly work of art in need of repair or restoration is placed in the hands of an artificer whose reputation warrants the confidence of the owner. The works of art, however, with which our subject is connected, differ in important particulars from those for which gratification of the senses is to be favoured solely through the medium of the eye; they not only frequently demand the exercise of mechanical ingenuity of no mean order for purposes of restoration in regard to general appearance, but further and additionally, the no less important details concerned in a renewal, so far as may be possible, of their powers for the exhibition of acoustical properties such as were implanted in them by their original constructors. In the instance of a re-uniting of separated pieces, the insertion of fresh material to fill up spaces that must not be left open, strengthening, or even renewal of such parts as may have become worn away or—as is too often met with—"honey-combed" from the inroads of those vandals of all time known as "the worm," all the supporting, rebuilding of the interior and re-decoration of the exterior must be taken chiefly as means to an end, that of the resumption of its rightful position among friends or rivals in the same line.
This restitution becomes of increasing importance and necessity every day, a condition arising from the verdict emphatically given by his majesty the public that there are not any instruments of the violin family ready to take the place—that is, worthily—of those made by the principal masters of Italy during the two hundred odd years before the commencement of the nineteenth century, and also that there does not seem to be much probability of others arising at least for a few generations to come. No wonder then that the most energetic searching has been going on for a long time, not only in Italy but over the whole of Europe, with the hope that in some out of the way court or alley there may yet be reposing in obscurity some long forgotten, unrecognised work by an old master of the art of violin making. Should one be unearthed, if but a wreck of its former greatness or even a portion, this is not refused but eagerly grasped and placed—not yet in open daylight before the gaze of the world, but in the hands of a specialist in re-vivifying these dry bones of a bygone age, re-habilitating them—perhaps having by him or given him other portions of a similar maker, or it may be—it has sometimes occurred—the actual missing parts.
The specialist in the repairing and restoring art is now not of the same class as in olden times. When the Amatis, Stradivaris, Guarneris and the like were being turned out one after another, there was not so much necessity for preserving all the pieces or splinters of precious pine that had been separated by the fracture of the upper table from any cause, there was a better remedy at hand, the nearest maker would naturally be sought whose reputation was possibly more than local and whose self confidence prompted him to make a fresh table rather than devote time and labour for which adequate compensation could not be hoped for. As a result, we frequently find old violins and their kindred turning up with fronts and backs which, although fitting well as regards size and outline, have been made by a distinctly different workman, in some instances equal or even superior to the originator. At the present day, however, this kind of restoration is much more rarely attempted and is not resorted to unless the damage is very extensive or vital portions have been irrecoverably lost.
The modern maker has no longer within reach, pine with requisite acoustical properties, of which the old Italian masters seem to have had so large a store, or if not, the knowledge where to obtain it. As a consequence there has, in response to the pressure of necessity, arisen a class of workmen some of whose dexterous conversion of a mere bundle of splinters of an old master into the semblance of its former grandeur of aspect would have astonished the original designers. These modern restorers are not to be confounded with the minute imitators or forgers, than whom they are much more clever, hard-working and honest withal. The art of repairing and restoring has now become so distinct from that of making, that many in the foremost ranks in the increasing large army of restorers may never have made a violin throughout. The faculties, skill and experience directed on the restoration of a violin "on the sick list," differs from those exercised by the first constructor whose mechanical dexterity is an aid or secondary to other qualifications: whereas it is paramount in importance in the constitution of a first class repairer.
The construction of a violin from beginning to end may be said to be an art based on certain fixed principles, not all of them known, however. When these are, as far as possible, acted upon by a workman of sufficient intelligence and training, the progress of the work may be considered as being in a fairly straight and open course. Not so with the restoration of it after fracture or loss of parts great or small, several different courses may be open as to treatment and this will be as the temperament of the restorer will suggest or the exigencies of the moment may demand. Temporary alleviation of symptoms—how to make the thing go somehow—when there is no fiddle physician within beck or call, is a problem frequently arising and very annoying, necessity then being the mother of invention, often of a most curious sort, as most professional repairers who have had the re-consideration of the matter will have impressed on their memories. Among the most frequent of simple ailments the fiddle tribe is subject to, is that known as "chattering" or jarring, caused mostly by some parts having become dis-united, perhaps through damp or accident sometimes of a most trifling nature, and which henceforth, unless remedies are at once applied, make themselves evident in this way, accompanying every note that happens to be in unison with themselves, and lending discord instead of harmony, expressing urgently their thirst and desire for a small drink from the glue pot. Not unfrequently the exact spot where the jarring or chattering takes place is not easy to find by mere examination of the exterior, especially if the separation is fresh and at a part where very little adhesion has taken place at any time, or possibly the very slight portion of glue originally placed at the time of construction, has, with the progress of time, gradually dried away. Should this have occurred at the junction of the upper or lower tables (most frequently the first), the sides, or ribs, the exact spot must be found by gently tapping all round carefully, holding the instrument meanwhile firmly at parts that are least likely to have become disconnected or that are known to be perfectly sound. The tapping or sounding can be done in the way usual with dealers and repairers, that is, by the knuckle joints of the hand rapping round the instrument, but this is sometimes deceptive, the tendons over the bones of the hand interfering and occasionally causing a double sound, and so defeating the efforts at discovery. A more delicate and therefore better means of testing is by the use of a felted hammer of the kind and size acting on the bass string of a grand pianoforte; this will be found very handy. Should the rapping or sounding all round the border not reveal any weak spot, we may be sure the seat of the complaint is to be sought for elsewhere; possibly there is looseness in the interior and therefore something requiring deeper consideration.
We will for the present assume that there has been no uncertainty in locating the weakness, and that it is at the part before referred to as the most frequent in showing signs of disorder—the upper table losing its grip on the ribs. This is one of the many common ailments that are teazing to the violin during its troublous career; a slight accidental tap, or hastily putting the instrument to rest in a too closely fitting case being often sufficient. Sometimes, on the reverse, it is from being in too large a one, getting well shaken while being taken home after some orchestral rehearsal; the joy of having mastered Mozart or battered Beethoven for an evening is turned in the morning to grief and vexation, when in response to the gentle persuasions of the bow there are but chatters and jarrings. Under such circumstances the treatment administered by the hands of non-practical or inexperienced people is akin, more often than not, to that popularly supposed to be effectual in suppressing slight functional disorders of the human system; namely, a prompt and appreciable dose of medicine for the one, a good stuffing of thick dark glue for the other. In both cases it may well be said that not unfrequently "the remedy is worse than the disease." Glue is a good thing in its way and when properly applied, but not so if overdone, even if the kind is the best obtainable.
A few remarks may here be offered as to the qualities that should be present in good glue, especially with regard to violin repairing. Among the makers of it, the glue which will absorb the largest quantity of water ranks as the best. It will, after proper application, resist best the action of moisture in the atmosphere, or in fact take longer time before releasing the two surfaces it may have been holding in contact. There is not much difficulty in getting glue very satisfactory in most respects—as good animals die now-a-days as ever got into the gluepots of the old masters—but it must be selected. That kind used extensively in the German manufactories is said to be a fish glue, remarkably hard, very light in colour and almost opaque. This is not to be recommended for violin repairs; it holds the parts together with such tenacity that fresh fractures are likely to be caused in undoing a portion, a process often very necessary; professional repairers will tell you "it tears the wood too much." The glues mostly in favour among upper class repairers are those known as Russian, Cologne and Isinglass, all good; they are light in colour, very firm, not too brittle, and transparent. There are other varieties to be had of excellent quality and which conform to the conditions required. Thick cakes of a dark brown colour with an unpleasant odour should be avoided; they are too easily affected by the atmosphere, turn bad in the gluepot under very little provocation from damp warm winds, and spoil the look of good and refined workmanship. There are many different kinds of glue sold under various titles, some termed "liquid glue," others cement, apparently for saving the very insignificant time and trouble in warming up the orthodox solution; but none appear satisfactory in general and many of them are even detestable. There are some adhesive materials used in India where warmth and damp have their full play and make short work of an old master's joints, but these cements of the Eastern Hemisphere are likewise unsuitable for the kind of work under consideration, as when once dried, being unaffected by damp to any extreme, they are of course difficult to remove when further repairs have become necessary.
One of the special advantages of glue to the repairer is its yielding to the direct application of moisture, so that in future repairings the old stuff can be washed completely out and fresh glue used over clean work. Let all amateur repairers therefore, abstain from seeking after a vain thing of the nature of glue impervious to moisture. One word more, as preachers say, and that is as to the preparation or melting of the glue—simplest of processes—some pieces of selected glue put into a small glazed gallipot with two-thirds of clean water and left to soak during the night will only require warming in the morning by placing the pot in a larger one and surrounding it with hot water. The quantity of glue being varied according to requirement is far preferable to the old-fashioned iron glue-pot which darkens the glue and is in other ways objectionable. If the injury or want of adhesion extends only to a trifling distance round the edge and has happened at a time when good glue and proper appliances are not to hand, the routine pursued must still be the same as if they were: first by obtaining a well-worn table knife, the thinner the better (but if the household knives happen to be new and strong you may call on some artist friend, borrow his palette knife, clean it, have ready some clear water, a cushion or a substitute, and some rather thick gum). If time will allow, the strings should be taken off the violin, and then placing it face downwards on the cushion, the knife having been dipped in the water, can be inserted gently at the part requiring attention. (Diagram 1.)
You will soon tell by the sound in moving the knife about whether the separation has been recent or of long standing, if the latter, the slipping of the knife will cause a slight grating sound and when drawn out will show signs of dirt. The knife must be rinsed and re-inserted a sufficient number of times until all the evidence of dirt has disappeared, the knife coming away clean and not gritty. Care should be taken meanwhile to keep the violin on the tilt so that the water introduced on the surface of the knife does not run inside but outward to the edge; the parts should also each time be wiped by a clean absorbent piece of cotton or linen. The knife can then be charged with gum instead of water and inserted as before, the process being finished by the wiping.
But now the question will arise how about the closing up and pressing together of the parts. For this, assuming that the part to be rejoined is not of great extent, the chin-rest—almost every player now uses one—can be applied to the part and fixed in the usual way. If there is not one to be had, some pieces of ordinary deal, the softer the better—fire wood will do—cut into shape as depicted (Diagram 2) can be fitted, but very loosely to allow of thin wedges being used to tighten the grip (Diagram 3). They must be very gently pushed in, or the border of the violin will be damaged. Some paper placed between the wedge and the border will help in preserving the latter from injury or marks. The above suggestions are only intended to be applicable when the violinist may be out of reach of any professional or competent repairer. Gum arabic or dextrine are not comparable with good glue for repairs, although with care and attention to the details enumerated here I have known it answer when in pressing haste, and even for a permanency.
MINOR REPAIRS—CRAMPS AND JOINTS—VIOLIN CASES—RATTLES AND JARS—LOOSE FINGERBOARDS—ATMOSPHERIC TEMPERATURE—OLD-FASHIONED METHODS OF REPAIRING—MODERN WAYS—A LOOSE NUT.
The professional repairer is of course always provided with the well known wooden screw cramps as used in all countries for centuries, but if "up to date" men, they will have affixed the modern covering of cork or leather at the parts coming into contact with the instrument. No end of damage has been done at all times by neglect of this simple precaution. Many gems from the old masters that would otherwise have been matchless, are disfigured by an array of semi-circular dents or bruises near the border. This is particularly noticeable when the arching springs rather abruptly from a narrow channel and near the purfling, or the rise commences from the border without channelling. Here is shown the wisdom of the earlier Italian masters when introducing the channelled model, the hollowing being a preservation against damage by the impetuous repairer. Many otherwise excellent workers are heavy handed, pressing all parts together very tightly but not more securely. Good joints, cleanly and accurately cut, the surfaces kept clean and not overloaded with good glue, are the best for lasting, and of course for appearance.
Before leaving that part of our subject which is connected with damages to the violin resulting from want of precaution or thoughtlessness, it may be as well to refer to a frequent cause of disaster, often well nigh ruin, by the use of badly fitting and badly constructed cases. Innumerable as have been the varieties of style, shape and arrangement of violin cases, there is still an opportunity for a new, good and useful one that shall combine all or most of the requirements as regards utility, portability, preservativeness and nice appearance. Those in use for travelling with during the last century and the early part of this, had the disadvantage of heaviness, besides their rounded forms which prevented their being placed with a flat side downwards on a shelf or convenient horizontal surface without some unsteady rolling; also being often studded with brass nails like a coffin, a very grave objection (diagram 4). The leather cases which require the instrument to be placed in sideways have the advantage of giving good protection against rain, but there is insufficient defence against accidental violence; they are, further, more expensive than the foreign boxes made of poplar wood, which are light and of sufficient strength when carefully made. There was one good thing about the ancient cases, however, the violin being inserted at the large end, the performer knew at once whether the case was sufficiently capacious for the instrument. Not so with those in common use at the present time, opening as a box. To these may be laid the charge of causing an immense amount of irreparable injury to numbers of violins of any standard of excellence or costliness. This in the way mostly of depressions—"wells" as they are termed by repairers—where the feet of the bridge rest. These are caused by the lid of the case coming down on to the hard wood of the bridge and pressing its feet like dies, into the comparatively softer pine (diagram 5). It is a disfigurement to the violin and is sometimes in a bungling manner altered by inlaying—badly in most instances—square pieces of wood to bring the surface level. This kind of damage to the violin has been attributed to the prolonged pressure on the upper table by the strings being stretched up to modern pitch, but this is a mistake, no strings at all playable would press sufficiently hard and directly downwards to produce this result. The double-cases in use are worse than the single, as they are necessarily stronger and heavier. Both present the same difficulties in estimating whether the violin with its bridge is too high for the roof inside when the lid is closed. A good way of testing it is by rubbing a little soft white chalk over the top of the bridge and then gently shutting the lid down, which also should show no indisposition to do so; if on lifting the lid any of the white chalk is seen to have changed places and got on to the lining of the lid, put aside at once and for ever the condemned case as being an unfit receptacle for your cherished Cremona. Further, if the fit is at all tight, do not use pressure but get another case, your violin would be a very bad one indeed for your sympathies to fall in with a horrible suggestion once made by the maker of a too closely fitting case for his friend's instrument, that he should be allowed to take a shaving or two off the violin, it would then go in nicely. As some excuse for this maker he was not an amateur in this line, but a professional undertaker.
We may now shift our ground and notice another source of the complaint—rattles, jars, chatters, or grunts, which ever may appear the most appropriate title for another variety of annoyance to the performer. Having found out with our felt-headed hammer, or if that is not easily obtainable, a slender stick may be covered at the end with almost any soft material enclosed within a piece of chamois or soft leather, and tied so as to form a knob like a small drumstick. Having tested the violin with it in the manner before referred to, and there being no bad reports from the body of the instrument, the hurt, seat of injury, or lesion, may be in the neck, fingerboard, or even the scroll, any part being liable to give out its undesirable note, or interfere with the proper emission of musical tone from the strings. There is no portion of the violin that will not under certain provocations join too willingly in the production of unwelcome sounds if the exciting conditions are present—those of checked vibration, or vibration that should be checked. An unsuspected cause may be discovered by the tapping test to be lurking unseen, and often unfelt, till one note being struck in unison or sympathy with the affected spot, may cause it to speak in a decided manner. This is at the part where the fingerboard parts from the neck over the instrument towards the bridge—the rather thin glue, as it should be—may, through damp or other causes, have lost its hold for but a short distance, and not be evident while the fingers are pressing the strings over the part; but when notes are struck nearer towards the nut, the pressure is relieved and the fingerboard free to take its own part. This, although a trifle in itself, requires for its cure proper attention with suitable appliances.
After the removal of the strings, the first suggestion naturally occurring will be to insert, with the blade of a knife, some glue and leave it to dry. This is more likely than not to make matters worse, as it should always be borne in mind that glued surfaces always require pressing together, however well they may fit. Glue contracts as it dries, and in the process apparently disperses and clings to any other bodies rather than to itself. To put this in another way, if air is allowed to insinuate itself between the two surfaces which it is desirable to bring into closest conjunction, the contraction, particularly if good, while in progress, will cause a separation in the central mass of the glue, while the two surfaces will be left as before, independent of each other, but more clogged. Pressure must therefore be invariably brought to bear behind the opposing parts, so as to drive out the air from between and prevent its re-admission—the necessity of an exact correspondence of the parts will be obvious—at the same time the glue is to some degree forced into the pores of the surfaces, and when the moisture has dispersed among the myriads of cells composing the structural growth of the wood and finally evaporates from the external ones, the glue, having hardened, will hold the parts together with a tenacity that can only be overcome by prolonged application of moisture or actual destruction of the parts.
There is one very important consideration in connexion with glueing operations that must not at any time be lost sight of—that of atmospheric temperature. Much trouble may be brought about by inattention to this help or obstruction, for it will act both ways according to circumstances. In the glueing of important parts in the construction of pianofortes, the operators are careful to have the temperature of the surrounding atmosphere sufficiently elevated, as well as heating those portions of the structure which are to be accurately and lastingly joined, and particularly where hard woods and smooth surfaces are brought together. The violin repairer must strictly follow the same rule. The degree Fahrenheit at which glueing operations are best conducted may be roughly estimated as nearly seventy. The reason for this is that the nature of good glue is to coagulate or "set" rapidly in a cool atmosphere and in this state—not perceptible at once to the eye—it will resist a considerable amount of pressure, the surfaces that should exactly cohere, slipping aside and the whole work having to be done over again, perhaps with fresh damage.
To return now to our loose fingerboard, an old fashioned and very clumsy, inefficient way of fastening it after glueing, was to tie some string round it, which of course getting much glue upon it during progress had, when dry, to be torn or washed off. The modern, simplest and best way is to have ready a soft wood mould with a square or flat back for the under or circular part of the neck, and a similar but flatter one to fit above on the fingerboard. These can be easily adjusted, and the requisite pressure obtained by several screw cramps along its extent (diagrams 6 and 7). It is not very often that the nut or small block over which the strings pass on to the pegs gets loose, if it does, it is the result of bad fitting and careless glueing. If it should happen to come away, wash it, and when dry see that the under part to be stuck to the fingerboard and the neck is quite square and level; warm it and apply some strong glue to the two surfaces, and also to the parts with which it is to come into contact, you can then place it in position; press down and rub backwards and forwards once or twice, then leave in the exact position required; if clean, accurately fitted and warmed, it will not require any further pressing or clamping. If this part should have been knocked off and lost, then a new one must be made. For this purpose the hardest piece of ebony you can obtain is the best; sometimes a nut of ivory or bone is used, but it has a staring effect, although if properly done as above described, it holds well and wears slowly. Some of the hard dark woods, cocoa wood and lignum vitae, or dark horn are adapted for this purpose. Rosewood is not so well suited, as the ruts or grooves are soon made deep by the friction of the strings in being wound up, and renewal is found obligatory sooner than with the other.
Having selected a suitable piece of wood it must be cut or planed square and equal in thickness. It should be as nearly the right length as possible before being placed permanently in position, the ends being very tough in cutting. If by miscalculation they are found to project over the width of the fingerboard, they should be—when the glue is quite dry—cut through with a small bow saw close up, a gentle, careful filing will reduce them down level with the side of the fingerboard; the surface should run easily with that of the peg box, which is not always of the same width as the other, the arching can then be proceeded with, a chisel being first used, then a rather close grained file for further levelling and the finishing off with the finest glass-paper or emery cloth, having a drop or two of oil in it; this will give a smooth, dull polish agreeable to the eye. The grooves in which the strings will have to rest must be marked out or pricked to measurement so that the spaces may appear regular when the violin is strung up. The distance apart being occasionally done to the caprice of the player, measurement should be kept of this matter of detail from some well regulated instrument as a standard to go by. When the exact spots for the grooves are marked or pricked, a very small, round or "rat-tailed" file may be used to work the wood down at the spot, care being taken that the file is constantly held in an exact line with the direction of the fingerboard, otherwise when strung up the appearance at the part will be that of distortion and the string will even be checked in its freedom in passing through the grooves, each of which should be made to receive the string not too tightly nor too loose. Of course the width of each groove must be in agreement with the thickness of the string, the widest being the D, the G a little less, the A less still and the E least of all; the E should be a trifle closer to the fingerboard than the D or G, the last, having the widest swing during play, should be raised further off the board than the others. The arching of that side of the nut may also be left a little higher. The nut should also be made to slant down towards the peg box (diagram 8), the grooves being of a regular depth on this and not deeper at the top (diagram 9). When all is ready for the stringing up, a soft lead pencil may be used for blackleading the grooves, they are otherwise liable to arrest the progress of the string towards the pegs when tuning up and suddenly letting them go with a click, making the tuning uncertain and difficult; if the wood is rather obstinate—it is not always alike—a touch of beeswax of the size of a pin's head where the lead is placed will be an effectual cure.
We may now leave this as finished, going to the other end of the violin where another nut is used for supporting the tail-string as it comes over to the end peg. This part is frequently done in a slovenly way, even by some repairers of good repute; there is no reason why it should not be as neatly done in all respects as any other part. It may be that the supposition is uppermost in the mind of the repairer that, like the nut at the fingerboard, the pressure of the strings will retain it in position. This is a mistake, there is a great pull forward, especially if the wood is hard and dry. The material should be selected for its solidity and hardness like that for the other nut. In olden times, say those of the early Italians, this part, owing to the small amount of strain in consequence of low pitch, low bridge and short neck, seems to have been treated with almost indifference, a very slight piece of ebony, cherry, pear, or other variety of hard wood found in Italy, sufficing for the purpose (diagram 10). It was left level with the surrounding soft wood, or nearly so; there was no occasion for raising it at the time, as the tail-string projected from the underneath of the tailpiece instead of that almost universally now known as the secret tie (diagrams 11 and 12). This latter necessitates the use of a higher and more substantial nut, otherwise the tailpiece would be close down to, if not touching, the table, causing a rattling. Further, in accordance with mechanical law, the strain or pull forward increases with the height of the nut. It is therefore obvious, that unless well fitted and held strongly, the nut will be liable to be wrenched forward out of position. This is more frequent than would be suspected, and is sometimes a secret source of damage or bad influence leading to disaster in other parts of the instrument. The same observations concerning the preliminaries apply to the fixing of this as to the other nut. The modern arrangement of the part leaves but little to be improved upon.
The length and thickness of the nut required having been determined upon, we will suppose ourselves in the presence of an old worthy from Cremona requiring a fresh attachment, the wood selected—Mauritius ebony for preference—and the measurement as follows, 5/16 in length and thickness according to the width of the border, as the nut looks best when the inner edge runs in a continuous line with that of the purfling (diagram 13). In highly finished work and when the end of the violin has a perceptible curve instead of being nearly straight, the nut should be made to follow the course of the purfling, this will require some care in the cutting and finishing of it. For this a piece of almost any veneer cut to the exact flow or drawing of the line may be used as a guide or template. The block from which the nut is to be made having been cut quite level, the line can be traced with a fine pointed pencil, or better, a fine pointed knife, and then shaped with a sharp chisel. The block or nut can now be laid on the border, care being taken that the tail pin comes immediately in a central position in relation to it, and then with the sharp pointed knife a finely cut line can be traced all round. The space now marked may be cleared away down to the top of the end block with a clean, vertical wall on three sides formed by the pine. If carefully done, the nut, at present only a solid, squared block, will fit exactly, if too tight, a little shaving off here and there of the pine will correct it. The nut, supposed to be an exact fit, may be warmed and some fairly strong glue applied (diagram 14). The raw surfaces of the pine and the exposed end block are of course very absorbent and require an extra feed or two in order that the final glueing of the nut and place of reception may have a good holding. The nut, now squeezed into position, will not require the clamp, but if time is no desideratum an application of that useful tightener will ensure a firm hold, and moreover the superfluous glue is forced out.
When the glue has had time to thoroughly dry and harden, the clamp may be released, and a part at each end of the nut marked off for levelling down to the surrounding forces by filing and glass-papering. The manner and care with which this is done declares the excellence and characteristics of the workman or firm by whom he is employed; almost every repairer or house of reputation having their individualisms in this respect, as also in that of the fingerboard nut (diagram 15). A line having been ruled with precision along the upper central part with the pencil or knife as before, a small gouge can be run along a hollow which will face the bridge. To give this the best kind of finish a piece of pine or soft poplar, such as is used for champagne wine cases, you may look out for one about Christmas time, cut it to the shape of the part to be finished thus (diagram 16), and with a piece of fine glasspaper, slightly oiled, a few rubs backwards and forwards will be necessary. The top of the back part can now be shaved gently down by a small metal plane, a little filing will give the evenness and rotundity required. The same treatment will be necessary for the under part, which in good work is a continuation of the line of the edging of the upper table. A section of the nut in its finished state will be as in diagram 17.
The whole of the surfaces may now be finished with the finest emery cloth and oil. This latter may be linseed, nut, poppy or castor oil with turpentine, but do not use sweet or olive oil, it never dries, but lurks about in the pores of the wood and turns rancid.
Before leaving this part of the instrument, it may be as well to take a glance at the peg itself and its insertion at the centre underneath the nut. This is in no respect an unimportant detail to be seen to in the fitting up and regulation of a violin. In olden times the peg was small, not half the size of those inserted in new violins of the present day. The increase in the size seems to have been gradual and to compensate for the hard wood of the peg pressing against the inner, softer substance of the end block with the thin slice of maple used for the ribs, both being insufficient to withstand the strain of the tail-string. Consequently the peg is pulled upwards, sometimes considerably out of position. This is especially likely to occur if the hole has been bored too large or the peg is too thin or short. The accurate fitting of these should have strict attention. Some modern repairers, when they find that there are indications of a softer piece of pine than usual having been used, enlarge the hole with a tool specially made for the purpose, having two cutting edges, or with a number of grooves having sharp ridges, others a rat-tailed file. The latter is perhaps the best, as being less likely to split the fibres of the soft pine. The tool is inserted, not directly in a line pointing exactly midway between the upper and lower tables, but slightly upwards or contrary to the tendency of the peg to accommodate itself to the strain. When the parts under strain have settled down, the peg is seen to be as near as possible horizontal with the length of the violin. The best way, undoubtedly, is to make the peg an accurate but not too tight fit, it should be sufficiently long to go right through the block. In cases where the hole has been enlarged, badly directed or even made ragged by a bad tool, it should be a stopped up very carefully with a plug, neatly glued in, and a fresh hole bored. Sometimes this has proved necessary from the carelessness of the original maker. The old masters were not always exact with their mechanical fittings in connection with the violin. The moderns, for obvious reasons, have paid much attention to them. I remember coming across an Italian violin that had changed hands frequently for the asserted reason of insufficient tone. The maker having a renown for considerable power, it appeared to me that the tone was possibly there, but that from some undiscovered cause it was not properly emitted. On examination I found that the maker had joined the ribs, not at the central part as usual, but too much to the left, perhaps a pupil or assistant had bored the hole at the junction. There were besides, some tinkerings by modern regulators endeavouring to counteract the uneven strain over the instrument. The right spot, or it may be called the axis of the instrument, having been found, the peghole was neatly and permanently plugged, and a fresh one bored, which allowed the strain to be better distributed. The result was satisfactory and delightful; the tone of much power and purity had free play in manifesting itself, and the violin was enabled to take its rightful position among its brethren. A few words as to the right spot for the peghole. This was treated by many of the old Italian liutaros as a matter for mere guess work apparently, when there was no join in the upper table, nor in the lower one, sometimes the lower rib being continuous. The best spot, and therefore the right one, may be fixed upon by finding the centre between the two inner edges of the purfling on the upper table at the lower part, the same between that of the upper, and drawing a faint line through the points with a piece of soft white chalk cut to a point, and guided by a flexible rule or straight edge down to the nut. If this line does not touch at the centre of the nut, then the latter is out of place, and it should be rectified. The line should pass through the centre of the nut, and immediately underneath this and midway between the edges of the upper and lower table will be the spot for the centre of the peghole. The line thus made will not always be found to agree with the centre joint of the pine; many of the old Italian makers may have not, from lack of wood of the right sort and in equal widths, been able to do otherwise. At times it may have been carelessness. Some of their roughly made violins have the joint line over a quarter of an inch from the centre, occasionally it will be not only wider on one side than the other, but the thread or grain will diverge instead of running parallel with the centre line. The judiciousness of careful measurement for the centre, instead of relying on the joint line, will therefore be obvious. There is not much to be said in preference of one kind of hard wood over another for the end peg, it being a matter of fancy as to appearance. Ebony being black and very hard, should perhaps take the preference in wear, and acquiring a polish from the gentle friction it is liable to. The old Italian end pegs were mostly of cherrywood, with lines neatly turned round a centre of ivory or bone.
INJURIES TO THE HEAD OR SCROLL—INSERTION OF FRESH WOOD—COLOURING OF WHITE WOOD—SEPARATION OF HEAD FROM PEG-BOX AND RE-JOINING—STOPPING MATERIAL FOR SMALL HOLES OR FRACTURES—THE PEG-BOX CRACKED BY PEG PRESSURE.
Leaving this part now, we can turn our attention for a time to reparation of injury to the head or scroll. This interesting and often highly artistic part of the general structure of the violin, and in which no man since the time of the old Brescian, Gasparo da Salo, has succeeded in effecting any permanent change of fashion, is subject to as many knocks as any other part. A piece out of the ear or first turn from the axis is, with a delicately carved scroll, so frequently seen as to be almost fashionable; little pieces out of the edges further off from the central part, are common disfigurements. Modern vandals rub these parts down with a file or glasspaper, to make it nice and even to their vision, saving themselves time and trouble. Many a graceful scroll, carved with loving care and enviable dexterity by a master of his art, has thus come to an untimely end. Should your cherished Guarneri or Stradivari scroll got chipped or fractured by accident and the piece drop, search for it at once, and when found, if you have not good mechanical ability and experience in fitting such delicate parts, it should, while fresh and free from soiling, be entrusted without delay to the care of a professional repairer of repute, but not to a provincial amateur or rough carpenter who would probably make matters worse. On setting to work after a preliminary inspection, the careful repairer will fit the parts together as they are, to ascertain that there is nothing to prevent a close join of the surfaces, sometimes a splinter will prevent a close fit of the surfaces; this must be pushed into its right position or, if in the interior, it may be better to remove it altogether. If the part is lost, then the bare space must be carefully examined and the direction of the grain and quality of the surrounding wood matched as closely as possible; otherwise the most accurate fitting and finishing off will not make a good restoration. The repairer of experience will have at hand a large quantity of odds and ends of different kinds of maple, curled or plain; perhaps old worn out necks or otherwise useless fragments of relics of a bygone age, and not necessarily of musical instruments. But sometimes these are not to be obtained, nothing but new or modern wood, and it may be of good appearance and applicable excepting for the colour. What is to be done? There is the drawback to new white wood, that it is difficult to colour down to match the surrounding wood, when it has been fixed, and besides, if the part happens to be where there is any friction, the white wood soon makes itself apparent, if not very conspicuous. It is advantageous, therefore, to colour the wood artificially before placing in position. There have been many ways adopted at times for meeting this requirement. It must be remembered, however, that there is no perfectly successful mode of artificially colouring wood so as to defy detection, but small portions such as are under consideration at the present moment may be treated so as to look tolerably well. Firstly, a well known, often tried, but very bad method is to steep a piece of white new wood in a solution of nitric acid and water. When dry, old age will seem to have crept over and through it, but of a delusive and unnatural kind. The corrosive properties of the acid still remain and gradually disintegrate the fibres until the whole mass becomes rotten. It may be fairly termed premature old age, as the lowering or toning down of the colour in wood and other materials seems to be caused by similar, if not identical, constituents of the ordinary atmosphere, but under different conditions. Another way is lay the pieces of wood upon a stove with a regulated heating power and watching for the exact degree of change in the colour with continued heat. There is very little to be said against it for small repairs, the degree of heat required for the desired tint is insufficient to damage the wood but enough to harden it, and if not too hastily done the colouring will go quite through.
Among other methods is tinting the wood by any of the various stains sold for the purpose. Few of them are of any good to the violin repairer, some choking the softer parts and leaving the harder ones or threads standing out lighter when they should be darker. Their colour, if it were not for this drawback, is sometimes good. Some of the manufacturers of new musical instruments on the continent lower the colour of the wood before varnishing by staining it with a solution of bichromate of potash. Sometimes when dexterously applied the colour is very good, but the stain is liable to make itself too evident in parts where the wood may be a little more spongy than at others. Most of the instruments treated in this way may be recognised at a glance, the curl of the maple is brought out strongly, in fact overdone. With small portions of wood for repairing this stain may, with much caution, be used to advantage. It has the property of throwing up the threads of the pine and the nutmeggy parts of the maple without impairing seriously the clearness of the grain under the varnish. The preparation of the solution is as follows—some pieces of bichromate of potash can be put into any ordinary bottle of a convenient size and water poured on to them. The water will take up a certain quantity in solution which will be too strong for the repairer's use; some of it, say a gill, can be put into an equal quantity of clear water, and then painted over the wood to be coloured down. There will not be any perceptible colouring for half-an-hour or so, but further exposure to good or strong sunlight will gradually bring about a change from the slight orange tint to the dull light brown approaching that produced by the slow secret process adopted by "Old Father Time." It must be kept in mind that bichromate of potash is a poison. There are other stains that will bring a good colour to the surface of the wood, but are likely to change colour when the varnish is applied. The whole work of careful restoration may thus be upset in a moment. All stains should be carefully and repeatedly tested before being applied to any work of importance. Some repairers use a hastily made solution of powdered colour such as burnt umber, and paint or rub it into the wood. This process is to be condemned as resulting in opaqueness and giving a tinkered aspect to the wood and work.
There are doubtless many substances or liquids capable of imparting a tint resembling that alone caused by age, but experience only will enable the repairer to decide which is best. It may be as well to point out that some tinting substances are more suitable for colouring wood of a dense quality than for a more open grained or spongy one. Much will depend on the judgment exercised and skill in matching tints. When it becomes absolutely necessary to use fresh white wood, this will require more colouring than an older piece, but a rather strange thing in connection with this is that if some of the varnish has been removed from the parts adjacent to the freshly inserted wood, the old material will require colouring down as well as the new, but not so much. This seems like some indication that varnish does get lowered in tint as age progresses; it may be, however, that the top surface of the wood gets darker than the under parts from the action of light.
The final touching up or finish of the newly inserted wood and its varnishing will have to remain over for the present, and will be taken up after the mechanical work is concluded.
Having thus far got to work upon a fractured or lost piece that may have been knocked off a projecting part of the scroll, there are other injuries likely to occur to this part of the instrument and caused in a variety of ways, some occasionally seeming mysterious in their origin. Thus from a weakness or flaw in the grain of the wood, or it may be from a blow having first started a crack and successive ones gradually increasing the fracture, the scroll itself will come away bodily, separating at the weakest part just behind the second turn. This is a delicate matter for manipulation. If the fracture is quite new, the raw surfaces uninjured and some properly prepared rather strong glue is handy, then an almost instant application of it to both surfaces and pressing them together, exactly fitting, will result in an effectual and lasting junction of the parts. But supposing the breakage to have occurred some time back and the parts to be separate and soiled, the difficulties are much increased, as in the majority of cases no purchase can be obtained whereby a good pressure can be directly applied. Cramps cannot be applied, therefore, with any degree of safety, even if a good grip can be obtained and with the safeguard of some padding, as the first is bound to injure the wood around, leaving an ugly imprint of the grip, and thus making things worse in appearance instead of better. The other is likely to be productive of slipping out of position, the hold not being retained, and vexatious results ensuing with the accompaniment occasionally of unprintable language coming from the repairer. The best way on all occasions will be found to be that in which patience is not taken as a virtue but as necessity, and the presence of Old Father Time altogether ignored, which may often mean time saved. Constant practice may give facility in keeping pace with that steady old party with the hourglass, but a good result is seldom obtained when the clock is much consulted during the progress of the work in hand. It is this which has caused the complete ruin of many a damaged gem from Cremona's workshops of the olden time. We will therefore suppose the repairer to be unfettered by time and that he will be properly paid for work that will tend to restore the commercial value, as well as the usefulness and beauty.
The main consideration will be the manner of getting a proper attachment of parts that cannot be wedged or forced together at once, in fact, to get a good purchase or leverage. This must be either obtained indirectly or dispensed with altogether. For the former, building up or "making," as it is termed, must be resorted to, and which may include temporarily glueing fresh wood on to the old parts to be separated or cut away afterwards. Many inexperienced repairers are too apt to look upon all glueing as for permanency, but practice should soon make it plain that all joinings are effected only for such length of time as may be desirable. In making or building up a part from which we can obtain a stand or commanding point from which to get a more direct purchase, it may be necessary to glue one or more pieces of wood, cut to a proper shape and stuck with a dab of thick glue and left until dry. For this purpose the soft white wood or poplar referred to at the beginning will be found useful, it is so easily cut with a chisel or knife keen edged—this condition is an essential at all times. By the bye, some readers may be thinking of the best means of getting a nice clean edge to their knife or chisel. There are several kinds of oilstone or hone in repute for giving a finishing or sharp cutting edge, England, America and the European continent supplying them, the "Chalney Forest" being the commonest known in England; the American "Arkansas" or "Washita" are expensive when very good, but there is nothing that can beat a well selected piece of "Turkey stone" with a nice even surface to begin with. For obtaining a clean cutting edge, a few drops of oil before rubbing will be sufficient. Olive or good mineral oil will do, the latter preferably as it gradually evaporates; whereas vegetable oils acquire a siccative property from contact with the minute particles of steel; the stone then gets clogged and unworkable till thoroughly cleansed. Mineral oil disappearing gradually leaves but little residue, which can be now and again wiped off. In cases where the utmost delicacy of surface cutting or close fitting is required, and where no other tool but the chisel can be used, it may be as well to have at hand a stout, smooth leather strap fixed at each end over a piece of wood about twelve inches in length. The residue on the Turkey stone can be taken off with a knife—care being taken that no dust or grit is with it—and smeared on the strap with a little olive oil. The chisel or knife used briskly and gently on this will after a few passes become as near perfection of keenness as possible. After getting everything in readiness, which will include the carving to shape, of any wood that is to act as a support or fulcrum, these parts must be made to fit as accurately as possible, and may not require glueing but at one or two places and those selected to come in contact with those of the original structure least liable to be affected or damaged. Thus the interior of the peg-box will be found a convenient position from which to build a support that shall reach up underneath the volute or under turn of the scroll. Having well tried the parts as to the fitting, the support or prop may be secured or glued in roughly to the lower surface of the peg-box—presuming of course that the pegs have all been removed—and left to dry hard. When so the parts had better be tried for fitting again, and if any little inaccuracy shows itself, or the pressure in glueing the fracture is likely to be uneven and the junction be untrue, a little paper or card may be inserted or even glued in between, or where judgment may dictate, to enable a good distribution of the balance of pressure necessary. There can be no certain description given of the size or form of the supports or made up parts to be temporarily fixed; all must depend upon the estimation of what is best to be done under the circumstances; it can be likened to engineering on a minute scale, quite as interesting, but less dangerous, while more comfortably conducted in your own home without exposure to the baleful influence of unsympathetic elements.
The next and most necessary proceeding will be the cleansing of the surfaces that are to be permanently joined. In most instances the application of clean cold water in a sponge will be sufficient, but where much grime and grease have accumulated different means must be resorted to. Soap is not to be recommended but, and especially if the surfaces are irregular, some pure benzine, applied or slightly scrubbed in by a stiff brush, not too large, and the parts then wiped repeatedly on a clean cotton or other absorbent rag. Pure benzine, if not rubbed in too hard or too long, will not injure the adjacent varnish, be it the delicate film on a thousand pound gem of Cremona or the flinty covering of a less presumptuous output from Naples. When evaporation is complete, it will be so in a few minutes, some clean water brushed in and wiped away, will leave the surfaces in a state for receiving glue.
The glue should be of good strength—the junction being intended to be permanent—and applied in a warm atmosphere or the parts warmed a little, as, under different conditions the glue will coagulate or "set" (diagram 18). When the parts are placed properly in position, and the outside blocks or buffers adjusted for opposing pressure, the cramps may be applied and screwed fairly tight. If the surfaces meet well and the pressure is properly distributed, the glue will ooze out at the juncture of the fractured parts. This can be wiped off with a cloth, but occasionally mended parts cannot be got at easily, if so the glue must be rubbed away after cramps and moulds have been removed, by a damp sponge or cloth and then wiped dry. Sometimes differently to the above mentioned simple fracture, it may be of the kind described by surgeons as comminuted or split into small fragments. This will be found to be much more troublesome than the former; after cleansing as usual, if the injured parts are actually separated from the main structure, judgment must be exercised in selecting those portions—the largest if possible—that when glued in, will act as a support for others to be afterwards inserted. The same attention in kind and amount will mostly bring about a satisfactory result, but frequently with this class of fracture minute pieces may have been lost past recovery, leaving a small gap here and there to be filled up somehow. These places, if large enough, should have pieces let in according to the manner before described. If they are too small for this treatment—a little experience will enable the eye to judge at a glance—then the only course will be to fill them up with some kind of paste or improvised mixture. For this purpose a good "stopping" must be made. This has, in olden times as well as the present, been a difficulty to meet. Many kinds of material have been used, most of them having some objectionable quality; some repairers keeping some kind, others generally making further experiments. Among the various materials plaster of Paris or common chalk worked up in glue has been frequently used; it is certainly strong for some time after use, but gradually, as age creeps on, contraction takes place towards the central portion, and a small fissure all round is seen more and more evident, and which gets filled with grime causing a very distinct black line, which draws attention to the spot, the substance also being so much harder than the surrounding wood, gets polished with a little friction and usage and declares its unsympathetic nature; further, it is difficult to colour successfully, or even well, and for these objections it should never be used. Wax is another material that has been extensively in use among the older English repairers, but it has very little to recommend it except handiness, and that quality ought not to be placed in the balance against much more important ones. It is not easily colourable; with usage the top surface gets wiped off, leaving a hollow. Powdered wood with shellac, or the latter with some heterogeneous materials have also failed, as the alcoholic solution destroys the surrounding varnish.
Sealing wax has also in turn been used with no better result. Other substances are met with whose precise nature is not known, odd mixtures made up in a hurry at the moment of requirement, but no material or mixture has been found to excel that made with wood and glue. Many, perhaps the majority of instances in which this has been used, have also been failures; not from any inherent defect in the substance, but from lack of proper management. Different varieties of wood have been tried, a great drawback being the contraction when the glue dries; this is markedly the case when a hard wood, powdered by glass-paper, is used. The granulations and their hardness are also objectionable, and if ground up too small, contraction to a greater degree takes place, and the repairer's object is defeated. Long experience has shown that the disintegrated fibres of soft pine, not powdered, offer the best security against contraction, it can be made strong or weak according to the thickness of glue used, is always at hand, and on the whole gives the least trouble. It requires little or no colouring, and moreover approaches nearest in character—or can be made to do so—to the surrounding material. If there is a selection possible, the well known soft grained American pine should in preference be used. There is a good and a bad way of managing the process to ensue. To roughly seize a chump of wood and begin filing it away anyhow, collecting the residue and making a rough paste, will bring disappointment, as sure as houses built with wrongly mixed mortar. To put method into the matter, a piece of clear, knotless, soft, grained wood should be obtained and cut to a cylindrical form (diagram 19). A flat file of rather fine texture—this may be according to the size of the instrument to be repaired—should be worked against it at right angles. The file (not glass or sand-paper) must not be of the toothed kind, but grooved. The shower of particles sent off during the action of filing, will consist of a number of minute silky fibres, which, of course, must be collected together, placed upon a clean porcelain dish, or palette, and worked up with glue—strong—for filling spaces in the maple, and weaker, if used for the pine of the front table. It can be tucked into the crevices as required by the end of a small, worn, or pointed knife. Some portions will remain above the surface and, in fact, will not go in completely, owing to the fibrous, or threadiness of the mass, but this constitution is the safeguard against its contraction, the glue in drying clinging round the fibres instead of to itself. When dry and hard the projecting portions can be neatly levelled off. If, as will sometimes happen, a little hole or two can be perceived, perhaps under magnifying power, the process can be repeated on a minute scale. By attention to the above there will be but small risk of contraction, and if cleanly done there will not be much trouble in colouring the part to match the surroundings.
We can now advance another step and notice a frequently occurring fracture that is caused by the constant pressure and tuning up of the A peg, at a part which in many violins, owing to the peculiarity of design, is a very weak one, the grain of the wood above the peg being short and liable to overstraining by impetuous performers. Being one of the most inconvenient positions on the instrument for working upon, if the repairing is not effected in a methodical manner, it is nearly certain to come undone again. The crack is more often than not unperceived for a considerable time by the performer, and meanwhile grease and dirt work their way secretly into the pores of the wood. A repairer may take a glance at the state of the fracture, whip out some glue, paint a little on each side, wriggle the whole well at the risk of extending the wound, get in a little more glue, and let that harden under pressure from the cramps, which—unless extraordinary care and skill is exercised, damage other portions of the work—replace the peg and send the instrument home again apparently as sound as new (diagram 20). This treatment, if resorted to immediately after a sudden and clean fracture, may be effectual for some time, but if, as above mentioned, it has begun secretly and enlarged by degrees, the kind of repairing described will serve but a few turns of the peg, when crack it goes once more. Off to the fiddle hospital again, where it may be possibly subjected to a repetition of the treatment, especially if the owner is of an economical turn of mind as regards "bill of costs."
Under the above circumstances of combined age and dirt, some repairers would dare to increase the fracture or pull the scroll quite off in order to get at the part, cleaning it well before glueing it on again. This is making things worse, particularly as this part of the violin is one of the most awkward at which to apply direct strong pressure on a good and neat junction.
Sometimes the first mode is resorted to with the addition of what is called bushing the peg-hole, that is, after the glueing performance has been gone through, it will last strong enough while the hole is being enlarged, a cylindrical plug of wood being inserted, and glued. This is levelled down and re-bored, to suit the peg or a fresh smaller one. This treatment is to be avoided if possible, as it is accompanied by a more or less disfigurement of the "cheeks" of the peg-box, and at the best is uncertain. A much more sure and neat method is, in the first place to clear all dirt and grease away possible, and gently work some clean water into the crack, repeatedly wiping with a clean cloth. When sufficiently done, some strong glue may be worked in, in like manner, cramps and pads applied and the parts brought neatly in contact.
When the glue is thoroughly hard and dry, on the inside of the peg box extending each side of the crack and beyond the peg hole, a space must be cut away having straight sharp sides to the depth of about 1/16 of an inch, perhaps a trifle less. It must be done with keen edged chisels—size according to requirement—and the walls made as even as a piece of plate glass. Sometimes, in consequence of the shortness of the peg box, it will be necessary to make the cut away space extend further upward, and into the solid part. In all instances it will test the mechanical dexterity and patience for cutting in confined spaces. When this has been accomplished to satisfaction, a piece of maple without curl or knot must be cut a little thicker than what has been removed, but as to superficial area, fitting to a hair's breadth if skill will allow.
Some old scrolls, particularly among the old Italians, are made of beech or other tough woods; in these instances the material must be matched according to the means at the disposal of the repairer. In cutting the small veneer of wood to be placed in position, care should be taken that when fitted in, the grain should run as nearly as possible at right angles with that of the part to be repaired. If this is attended to, with all other necessary precautions, there will be little cause for fear of the part going bad again, in fact it should be actually stronger than before.
It may occasionally happen that both sides of the peg-box have been strained and split, with accompanying conditions of previous bad repairing and dirt. The same treatment will suggest itself for the "double event" as sportsmen say. But the two fractures are really as easily repaired—that is, with proper care and skill—as the single one. This is because the same cramps can be used for joining the two fractures simultaneously. For this operation the cut out space referred to close by, if not covering the peg-hole, will have to be repeated on the opposite side with great exactness, so as to allow of a single fitting up and filling the intermediate space, the grain running as described before, and which will therefore be—when placed in position—with the end of the grain towards the spectator—looking towards the front of the peg-box. It should be neatly and very closely fitted (diagram 21). In carving the blocks that are to be used outside the peg-box for evenly distributing the pressure, precautions must be taken not to cut them of equal thickness, or when the pressure is applied, they are likely to slip, particularly when the peg-box diminishes rapidly in width under the volute. They must therefore be cut more or less wedge like, according to the modelling or proportion of the parts, so that when placed on, the screwing of the cramp will be direct. When this is done to satisfaction, the usual process advised for the glueing may be proceeded with, and being carefully seen to be in proper order, the cramp with pads against the outside cheeks of the peg-box may be screwed on rather tightly. When quite dry, the cramp being unscrewed, the side block of wood will be found firmly adhering, with the superfluous glue squeezed up from between the surfaces by the pressure.
The next proceeding will be to level down the projecting parts of the block in front, to the line of the throat. This being accomplished with great neatness—the line of old work and new wood being exactly level, a line may be drawn with a pencil or cut with the point of a knife over the block as a continuation of the inner surfaces of the peg-box. If carefully managed the knife point is preferable, a piece of stiff card or very thin veneer may be cut to the width, bent over and the point run down each side. The advantage of the knife line is that you have already a cut to work up to. After this the chiseling out or mortising can be proceeded with. The tool must be very keen edged, and as the cutting has in great part to be done against the grain, no violence must be exercised; rapidity will only come with regularity in taking off thin shavings. When all the surfaces have been carefully pared down until, as regards thickness and evenness of line and surface, the peg-box is just as it left the hands of the original maker, there will remain to be done the clearing of the wood at each of the peg-holes which will have been covered by the block perhaps wholly or more than half way. In the case of the double fracture this will be found to be in the same condition on both sides. The hole will require continuing through the fresh wood, in fact re-boring so far as this is concerned. It will be a more or less delicate operation to prevent splitting the wood, especially if from shaving down to the surrounding levels, it is not very stout.
To guard against catastrophy, a small hole should be bored exactly in the centre. Particular attention must be paid to this, or the whole work may be spoilt and a fresh block or bushing of the hole be found necessary, and much of your work to be done again. The small hole may be drilled if you have the necessary means at hand, if not a small brad-awl may be used, not of the usual round kind, but square. Such brad-awls are, I believe, known as chairmender's brad-awls. If one cannot be obtained, an ordinary round one can, with a little trouble, be filed square. The advantage of this form of awl is that it does not split the wood and can be used with safety and certainty where one of the ordinary pattern would be certain to split and spoil the work. Several sizes may be used to enlarge the aperture, the square edges breaking away the sides without causing an extended crack in the direction of the grain. When sufficiently enlarged, recourse may be had to the rat-tailed or circular file. Here again much care must be taken, as the toothing of the file is arranged somewhat in the fashion of a screw, and if the tool is used one way it soon buries itself, becomes tightly wedged and will inevitably split the surrounding wood. It must therefore be turned in a direction that may be called backward, the revolutions to the left instead of to the right. It will take a little more time than might be expected, but the result will be more satisfactory, free from danger of splitting and the interior surface of the hole be made smooth. The use of one, a degree or two finer in tooth will give enough finish. A constant look out must be kept that the tool is working properly in the centre; should it be found working a little too much to one side, it must be removed and the opposite part gently cut away by a slender sharp knife so that the equality may be restored.
Caution must be exercised that the action of the tool is arrested at the right moment, that is, when the opening made in the fresh wood is worked closely up to that of the old; the tool should not be allowed to work against the walls of the old aperture, as there is much risk of damage or enlargement and the necessity of a fresh peg, which is to be avoided, if the set of pegs have been doing their duty well and are free from splits. In the fitting of the peg, a degree of tightness into the new wood will be found advantageous; the surface being fresh and softer than that of the old, soon accommodates itself during the insertion and revolution of the peg, whereas the process will have been going on a long time with the old walls which have become hardened. After a few turns with the inserted peg, the fitting of it will have been tested, and if satisfactory, it may be taken out; a piece of soft chalk stroked down and followed by a piece of very dry old soap in the same manner at the parts coming into contact with the interior walls of the aperture and will stop any squeaking or catching. The proportion of soap to chalk must be varied, the one, soap, being increased according to the catching or jerking and lessened if there is too much slipping and no grip. It may be as well to note at the same time that the peg should be quite circular, or it will revolve by fits and starts notwithstanding soap and chalk, or any other mixture.
FRACTURE OF PEG-BOX AND SHELL—CHIPS FROM THIS PART—FILLING UP OF SAME—RESTORATION TO ORIGINAL FORM, AFTER PARTS HAVE BEEN LOST—WORN PEG-HOLES, RE-FILLING OR BORING SAME.
We may now take another degree lower down and study the treatment best for a fracture similar to that last described, but which, if at one of the lower peg-holes, may appear quite as difficult to manage, if not more so, as at the upper part, in consequence of the curved form of the shell or lowest part of the grooved back of the scroll. Firstly, the cleansing must be effected and drying, as previously with the upper fracture, bringing or pressing the parts together for testing their accuracy of fit. The cramp must be again brought into use. Owing to the wider and deeper hollowing of the back at this part and the longer and often very unequal continuation of the line of contour, the shell or tail end sometimes curling up more abruptly than usual, an increase in the substance of the padding against the cramp will be found necessary. A piece of cork cut or filed to the shape will prove handy and effective. The superficial area of the interior walls of this part of the peg-box being much greater, the thickness ditto, there is seldom a necessity for fitting a block of wood in the manner before mentioned, unless as sometimes it is found, the part has been so worm-eaten as to be too weak for its work of supporting the pegs and sustaining the strain of the strings. In that case, excision of the "honey-combed" part is obligatory and a slice of wood must be let in as before explained. Sharp shaving with a minimum of force will be required. Should the worm-eaten portion extend to the outsides or "cheeks" of the peg-box, it would be well to insert here also another slice of fresh wood as before, the length according to requirement, but in these instances, the portion of the head piece under consideration being lower down and broader, the grain of the inside slice may run continuously with the original wood. It will also be inserted first, and not until the glue is quite hard will the arrangements for the outer one be commenced.
Especial care will be required in the management of the cramps—one or two may be necessary—as, if mere padding is placed between the iron and the wood, the latter, being in a state equivalent to rottenness, will be crushed together and the shape will be ruined. As a preservative against accident a piece of soft wood, perhaps a quarter of an inch in thickness, and cut in width and shape equal to that of the "cheek" of the peg-box, and placed over the part with a piece of paper against the varnished surface, will enable the rotten portion to keep its form, the pressure being distributed; care must be exercised in carving the block of wood that it reaches over and quite on to the sound parts. When the glue has hardened perfectly and the cramps have been removed, the careful shaving down and finishing of both the inner and outer blocks or slices may be proceeded with. If the burrowings and tortuous course of the obnoxious depredator give indication of its having been of huge proportions for its species, for these creatures vary in size from a small pin to nearly an eighth of an inch in diameter, and the tunnellings are not very close together, then pieces of fresh wood matched carefully and fitted in the manner before described, must be inserted and glued in. This will, if the wood is much riddled, be much like mosaic work, the fitting in of the pieces running here and there over the surface. The contour, however, is preserved by this treatment, it being difficult, unless the repairer has considerable artistic knowledge, to keep or reproduce the exact form if the half or more of the peg-box and adjacent portions are cut clean away as is often done.
Scrolls of masterly design and execution are frequently met with mounted on a peg-box, selected or carved, without the least reference to the style of the original, imparting to the whole a hideously mixed and vulgar aspect. Save then, every morsel of the original work that you possibly can, especially if it be the work of old Italian makers, as it will be sure to have about it some points of interest, or that will call for your admiration of its artistic merits. Bear in mind that at the present day utility and low price are "to the front." Unfortunately for art, a very large section of the public called musical, ignore the artistic aspect of the violin, apart from its individual authorship and monetary equivalent, and think almost solely—not always in the right way—about its working or sounding capacity. To them one sort of curled heading to the peg-box is as good as another, if strong enough, the whole of this part of the mechanism being simply dedicated to the winding up of unwilling "catgut." The old masters, their pupils, and modern imitators, have thought otherwise and treated this portion of the structure as that in which they could concentrate much of their best artistic talent. To them it has been the crowning head piece of the work, and requiring for effect the closest attention in detail. Every part of it has received, by each master, a distinctive touch of tool, or conception of design, that the modern repairer should earnestly "read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest," so that if a small portion is by carelessness, or unavoidable accident, chipped off, the contour may not by restoration (?) be spoilt, or the flow of line ruinously disturbed. Some remarks might be made by some admirers of high finish in its simple sense, about the bold unfinished gouging of some of the old Italian makers, and queries whether the irregularities should be studiously followed up by the repairer, as it should unquestionably be with work of high refinement and minute finish. The answer is at once simple and conclusive, every part that can be preserved should be so, and well studied, that the new work may be a continuation of the old to the minutest detail, even to the accidental emphasis of tooling left by the maker.
The fact must not be overlooked, that rough as some work looks at a glance, it has been, by masters of their art, properly thought out beforehand. Rapidity of execution, coupled with fine artistic style, is not to be acquired within a short space of time. In most of the apparently rough hewn scrolls of the Italian masters there is to be seen the result of experience in cutting, perhaps, hundreds of them previously. If we examine closely the mannerism of the different schools with regard to that seemingly insignificant termination of the back grooves called the shell; the different ways, breadths, depths and direction of the gouging will be found to give, not only an accurate indication of the country, or city, in which it was carved, but with it the school, or style to which the maker belonged, besides his own individuality. As a landmark for distinguishing these interesting particulars, every part of the scroll of an old master, with its belongings, no less than any other part of the instrument, should be treated by the repairer with much reverence for its age and respect for the talent expended on it in course of its construction. That this is not always acted up to I am reminded by an instance that came under my personal knowledge many years since.
A repairer and maker of some experience was examining a violin by one of the old Italian makers, that had, underneath the shell a rather sudden demarkation at the part where the graft had been fitted in. He remarked to the party who brought the violin, that if it were his own, or had been requested to put it in good order, he would file or glasspaper down the edge round the lower part of the shell, so as to make it conform with the modern work. The violin was not entrusted to his care, nor do I think many others were, judging by after events. Trust not any violin of value or interest to this class of repairer, or grief will count you for its own and mortification that of the fiddle.
Occasionally small pieces get chipped off the lower rim of the shell; the latter under these circumstances, as before observed, should never be rubbed smooth with glasspaper or cut down. It is not a difficult position to get at and small pieces can easily be inserted. This part also is so fashioned that a comparatively small loss of the edge, especially at the sides, will alter the whole character and reduce a most elegant and masterly form to that associated with mere rubbish. Three or four scrolls of Stradivari's are in my recollection as having been under such treatment and the contour being destroyed there was little about the general shape to remind the spectator of the beautiful design as it left the maker's hands. But, it may be remarked by a fortunate discoverer of an old gem, my Amati has lost all this part, cut away perhaps because of its being quite past recovery, and the question arises what had better be done under these circumstances? The answer, seek some party who has an Amati with this part perfect or in excellent preservation. Take some moderately firm veneer and after careful measurement cut pieces to fit as exactly as possible the parts answering to those of your own instrument that are missing. The line from the lowest part or edge of the shell and reaching right over the top of the scroll will require earnest attention and accurate fitting. For the next stage the pegs must be taken out as a matter of course. Number each one with a pencil for identification when reinserting; lay a piece of veneer flat on the outside of the peg-box reaching up a little past the top of the scroll; to do this nicely a segment should be cut away where the volute intervenes, and with the pencil, mark carefully on each side a line neatly against the back and front. With a sharp, narrow knife cut away the veneer up to the outside of the line, leaving, if cleanly done, an exact pattern of the throat or exterior of the peg-box (diagram 22). Next, as the veneer will not bend sufficiently, cut a piece of rather stout paper, and after laying it against the back of the scroll, a rough tracing can be made and cut to exactness by degrees, trying it against the model and correcting until satisfactory. As this part of an Italian violin is not cut so mechanically as many people imagine, another and perhaps quicker way, if means are to hand, is to use thin paper and with some heelball, used by shoemakers, rub the edges that may be felt through and under the paper held in position against it. If the paper is kept from shifting a very good clear line can be obtained. The process may be adopted for the other parts instead of using the veneer, the latter would, however, be useful as a permanent guide or template, keeping its shape. This would not apply of course to tracing of the back part, which must of necessity be of a material that will bend or fold over.