The estate sale find looked somewhat like a violin. Except it was a jumble of dusty components which fell further apart when its chin rest was removed. Quick work for our handy Kershaw pocket knife. A bit of practiced slip-n-snap, the last remaining parts released their failed hide glue after a century together.
Inked with fountain pen upon the inside top, E. Guthwaite of Leeds (England) left his repair mark in 1886. The hive buzzed that I had a French 1850-1870 Mirecourt. Gut strings plus patterns of grime from playing along with dust from laying tell us this violin may not have been functional since about 1920.
Back apart, repairs begin anew. Its old glue is tacky, with a sharp, astringent smell. It is picked and scraped out of a groove along the back’s perimeter. The ribs are reattached with fresh Behlen Hide Glue. The neck heel looks different than usual, sporting a culvertail joint at the heel. Odd, even uncommon? We carve an end block to receive the dovetail and are rewarded with extra tensile strength. The top is an issue, but we’re making a player, not a museum piece. Joined, cleated, glued, we’re almost done. Fingerboard dressed, polished, reattached, nut corrected, saddle soaped, bridge finalized, and we find used but serviceable D’Addario Kaplan strings on our windowsill for testing.
Superb! At a gig, Steve cannot put her down for a full four hours, grinning like a kid as the tone opens up. Chance favors the fortunate and lucky, as its set-up receives raves – although he says it feels more German and Italian than French. But there was so much immigration and resettling after Napoléon Bonaparte.
Now for the final bit of finish. A wipe of varnish here, pegs to trim and polish, a composite tailpiece for student trial. Off with our used tester strings. We’re going with adult fare, a D’Addario Helicore H310 offering. Without knowing what the final owner will want, we choose a dependable string far higher in quality than most students will get. Two or three times more expensive than economy strings, maybe half the cost or a little more than strings a professional might favor. We’ve taken the high road of serious string choice.
Fit as a fiddle. Her voice is back after a century of slumber. D’Addario is doing the talking.
All D’Addario strings are designed, engineered and manufactured in the USA to the most stringent quality controls in the industry. – D’Addario