Musical Instruments Restoration #2: Violin

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by BertFlores58 posted 06-26-2013 03:40 AM 2911 reads 1 time favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Bandurria Picolo Part 2 of Musical Instruments Restoration series Part 3: Bandurria - Key of E »

My father being an all-around musician, bought 3 violins for us. Of the 3, mine was totally destroyed, My brother’s was already restored (I have already done it.) but the last one which was my father’s is now in my possession. This is so much special as this was loved by my father and been played much older than me. The only problem that I have seen is the glue which had given up due to time. Here is the situation after I had disassembled it.

Regret that I was not able to take photo on its original state. The photos are taken after I had cleaned all parts by scraping the old shellac finish and the mahogany brown stain that was used those days. Amazingly, the sides of the body is constructed in such a way that a dado or a groove was used. The groove is about 1/32 depth and the width is just about less than 1/16 or nearly a 1 mm. The thickness of the side is only 1/32. There was a cracked body board on the back but can be joined by a glue. Overall, I damaged the sides edges during the cleaning and dis-assembly.

Note: Side strips were damage on the edges because it was sticking strong on the groove. This is the groove were the sides are inserted.

To give you the difference of the original color (shellac in mahogany brown) here is the photo..

To give you the glue in photo used before (probably an asphalt base due to its color black.) now I already use PVA.

And finally, after cleaning the boards… here is the final look.

The tasks to do are challenging. I have to renew the body sides…. What type of finish? an how should I make it more stronger than before that will last for another 50 years…

Till now.


-- Bert

5 comments so far

View murch's profile


1380 posts in 2678 days

#1 posted 06-26-2013 08:43 AM

Very interesting. Best of luck.

-- A family man has photos in his wallet where his money used to be.

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3388 days

#2 posted 06-26-2013 01:08 PM

Nice work so far Bert. Shellac might be a good choice for the finish with several coats sanded in between. French polish would be the best, but you can get a good finish with just shellac too. The shellac would be easiest to restore again when and if necessary. I would use hot hide glue to put it together, also because it is very strong glue and it can be reversed with heat and moisture at a later date. My suggestions here are based mostly from info I have picked up from reading, but somebody with actual experience will probably come with some helpful comments for you. I realize that it might not be so easy to get hold of the hide glue and shellac where you live, so you might want some good alternatives to consider.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2539 days

#3 posted 06-26-2013 06:25 PM

I have (limited) experience in luthiery, and that’s definitely some very unusual construction. Never once seen grooves routed into the top and bottom plates for the ribs and bouts to fit into. The whole idea is to be able to separate the hide glue joint with a thin knife in order to make internal repairs when needed. Can’t do that if the ribs and bouts are glued into those grooves.

Unless they’re just not pictured, I also didn’t see any of the usual linings or corner blocks. Apparently the maker relied on the groove joints for the necessary strength?

The back and sides don’t look like the standard maple. Not sure what kind of wood the top is made from, but it sure isn’t the typical tight, uniform grained spruce (see below). Pretty wild looking stuff. There also doesn’t appear to be any purfling on the front and back plates. That’s the inlaid strips around the edge (also seen below).

Another odd detail is the lack of notches on the f-holes. (See your picture #4.)

My guess is that this wasn’t professionally made, but was probably a labor of love by an amateur (but rather skilled) maker just using whatever he had access to. Doesn’t make it any less special, considering family history and all, but it is definitely unusual.

-- Brian Timmons -

View BertFlores58's profile


1698 posts in 2976 days

#4 posted 06-26-2013 11:01 PM

Thanks Murch.

Just like what I am thinking. It is a nice way for me to wait and see if ever I can have a chance to buy (via Internet) a hide glue so I can make an experiment on this violin. Shellac is sometimes available in the hardware around. My plan is to use a VALSPAR or probably just TUNG OIL. I was able to buy a violin polish that really perks up the good finish of any varnish and shellac finish. The bad experience I have previously with shellac, if you spill or probably from hands a small amount of alcohol (rubbing alcohol for example) it turn to white. I think we have to think of sealing the shellac with a top coat. I hope I can manage in the course of this restoration. There is no rush. Thanks for the very important suggestion from you. I knew how tedious you do your work too.

Thanks so much for the reality of this violin. You have noticed that this was so specially made. This is done 50 or more years ago and I think everything was done handcarving including the groove. The earlier one made that I already restored, there was no groove. But you are right… this has been done by those old violin makers (considering that they might be experienced but not professional as they are not branded)... also there is no lining support for the rib and corner blocks. The groove was really the one that makes it so strong.

With the Philippines woods, a lot of variety of wood are selected by tradition and sound quality each one produce. The above wood is probably Philippine MAHOGANY the old specie not the one grown for 15 years. This wood probably a 100 years before cutting. The grain are so close together but what you can obviously see is the burlside.or a branch.. The cutting or ripping was not really perfect quartersawn. The sides (on the photo no. 2 and 3 can justify the strength of this wood.. that even less than 1 mm thick can still hold the strings for a long time… It was only the glue who had given up. I have an alternative one to used in the restoration without the lining and use the same groove… a narra that is rip vertically as it will be easy to bend.

Thanks you so much on the information… I like to think that when I restore this… I will consider myself amateur with the love and passion to restore our family treasure…. and this is also dedicated to my family (brothers and sisters) as well… infact they are the one pushing me to restore my late father’s legacy. Hope he will be happy too out there..

Best of luck this weekend…

-- Bert

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2973 days

#5 posted 06-27-2013 12:42 PM

I know little of this type of woodworking Bert, but I am watching with interest. This is an incredible labor of love and I am learning as I see how you go about your restoration. Thank you for taking the time to post it. :)


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics