Musical Instruments Restoration #11: Octavina

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by BertFlores58 posted 08-06-2013 08:05 AM 4879 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 10: Finally the violins are restored completely Part 11 of Musical Instruments Restoration series no next part

Octavina is a family of bandurria. Just simply an octave lower than a bandurria. It belongs to a 14 strings family that consist of Octavina, Laud, and Bandurria.

Though, nothing so special compared to an acoustic guitar construction, except that this should be a little bit stronger and smaller than that of a normal guitar. The frets are exactly spaced as the guitar depending on the total span of the frets. However, the notes are not so arranged to make chords but rather to produced a vibrato melody. The alto of a rondalla.

The time I received this 40 years old octavina, there is not hope in restoring it but to make repairs. Here are some of the condition when I found it:

1. The head is split into pieces. The tuning mechanism are still there but not moving anymore. Needs to be reconstructed.

2. Bouts in the ends are still in good condition but there was spliting on one piece at the tail portion.

3. The frets are in good shape since these are made of brass. The good thing is the fretboard can be unglued to the neck easily. Probably because of the glue quality used years ago.

4. The back plate and front plates were split on each joint. I cannot find the other half. These I have to make my own back and front plates. Luckily, I have pieces of jackfruit board that I have sawn manually and used it.

5. Other pieces that needs to be replaced: Tailpiece, bridge and the trimings and brace for the plates.

Based on my assessment, it is better to buy a new one rather than restore it. The neck, head and fretboard are just made of ordinary wood. It is a cheap! But the sentimental value of it being a family heritage, I have to restore it. In making it, I will be making nearly 80 per cent of the materials renewed. What will be left and be used back are: Bouts, frets and the neck.

Despite of the hardship and difficulty, I have made the process as simple and scientifically composed of trial and error. I have to make a jig to form the exact shape and trim. This work is redundant with the violin making and no need to go back to step by step explaining. So below are the photos of how far I am now in the restoration.


Notice the shape exactly as guitar but only smaller.

The flipside… you will never see this again when assembled.

The head… totally repaired. I made a plate that has to become the backing then reconstruct the middle part and the end part. (Take a close up view.. you can see the wood differences in the color and grain near the neck. Also, there are no holes yet on the middle ridge for the tuning pins.) What I used is only the two sides where the tuning mechanisms should be attached. Near the neck, I use 4 dowels of brass materials (1/8 diameter) to make it strong. I cannot use a wood or screw because the diameter are so big while the brass pin are just enough acting like nails on it. The glue helps also in it. If this was not restored, I will not post through with the restoration.

Here is the basis of how cheap those early people to do such extraneous job using a low quality of wood. They use thinner board to make the neck and head then extended a piece to complete it on the post section. What a nice saving technique. Well, the good story about this octavina… it played for nearly 10 years in our family rondalla.

The fretboard… again this is softwood.. not ebony or any hardwood. It was just painted.

The new plates are made from the jackfruit that I was the one who seasoned it for nearly 2 years staying in my file of lumbers just waiting to be a part of an instruments. The wait is really worth.

The backplate…

The new backplate… I made it.. I am happy with it including the sound. The test I use is to just knock and then find if there is a cracking sound… Well sounds good… Notice the beauty of the grain pattern. The black spots are normal with the jackfruit but don’t worry is is really solid and not cracking.

The front plate…

The strength of this board will be tested when the 14 strings are tightened and the push on the bridge will push it. My design as you noticed, I make a bulging effect on the middle (camber).

Up to here only… The bouts will come next then the final test…

Hope you enjoy reading and learned something about restoring and repairing musical instruments.

Have a nice day!!

-- Bert

5 comments so far

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2946 days

#1 posted 08-06-2013 09:25 AM

Good morning Bert. It looks like it is going to be lovely. This is a great informational series. :)


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

View littlecope's profile


3071 posts in 3528 days

#2 posted 08-06-2013 10:27 AM

It will be a brand new instrument when you are done with it Bert
and you will be an Instrument Maker, not a restorer anymore…
I’m amazed at how quickly you have worked on these various restorations!
You have said that you don’t have a lot of time, but you only started these blogs
41 days ago, and you are already on your third or fourth project!
You are a Natural my Friend, Very Well Done!!

-- Mike in Concord, NH---Unpleasant tasks are simply worthy challenges to improve skills.

View BertFlores58's profile


1698 posts in 2948 days

#3 posted 08-06-2013 12:37 PM

Thanks Sheila. Some of my officemate said that I need to rest for a while to express fully how the process of doing things. The truth is I do write when I have the right mood and not stresssed. I also think what the readers would get out of it. Actually, it is hard to get a person to like ….
Have a nice morning start.

Thanks Mike. I do it with the strenght from my family.. To make it quick… I avoid mistake. There will be no turning back on this kind of job. You cannot repeat and redo. Got only one chance… but you need a lot of trial and error. I dont want to check on those scrap pieces just for making the trim. It is true that i do it on Saturdays and Sundays however there are times that my mind is into it thinking on what should be done next.
Have a nice day.

-- Bert

View DocSavage45's profile


8599 posts in 2868 days

#4 posted 08-06-2013 02:12 PM


You said “it’s old and cheaper to buy a new one” but making these things as you are will produce a new instrument, maybe better than others? As you gain knowledge through experience, your name on an instrument will be a special piece. Thanks for sharing your journey. :)

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3360 days

#5 posted 08-06-2013 02:39 PM

Nice work Bert. After all of these restorations I can imagine that building new instruments would not be a big challenge for you. Do you intend to build any from scratch?

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

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